This May I moved to Southeast Passage overlooking Cow Bay Lake. It is my dream home, 3rd time’s a charm they say.
The property is part of a larger parcel that was subdivided, and a rock wall runs along the back of both existing properties. It used to be a farm, and there is an offshoot of Smelt Brook running between the existing lots. The lane was originally owned by a Greek woman I believe, and we all know I am Greek in my soul.
The pups and I are surrounded by tall trees and nature. The property has many Apple trees which are a favorite of our nesting Northern Parulas and of course the Cedar Waxwings came to strip them toward the end of the bloom.
There are also Sumac and Mountain Ash and many other berry trees I will be able to identify later in the summer. As a birder it’s amazing to watch it all unfold and have so many birds nesting on the property and along the brook. A few of the birds that are nesting here are Black-throated Green Warblers, Black and White Warblers, Magnolia Warblers, and Winter Wren. We even have nesting Canada Warblers (species at risk) just outside our fence and there may be 3 nests, at least 2, and likely more along the brook.
We inherited a good deal of mature perennials and shrubs which the bees and Hummingbirds also love, and of course I am adding many more. I brought some from the garden at my last house too such as Creeping Phlox, Heather, Rainbow Rock Cress, and Hellebores.
The plant I am most delighted to have on the property is Peony. I inherited these beautiful mature Peonies and the first bloom opened on the Summer Solstice.
Also, a lovely pink Dianthus that smells like Cream Soda, Cranesbill Geranium in purple, Tiger Lilies, Poppies in orange, and some red Astilbe. There are more things that haven’t bloomed that I’m not sure of yet and I don’t weed anything until I’m positive of the identification.
The Astilbe was in two sunny spots, and I relocated them to shady spots along the foundation. Astilbe is a wonderful shade plant, so along with some Hostas I planted along the foundation they can help to soak up moisture in that area. Dad will bring me up some Spurge too, which is another thirsty plant that thrives in shady areas.
My mind was set on planting a shade garden at the front of the property until I realized it is actually a pretty sunny area. Well, the spot I put the future Garlic bed in is a bit shady so there will have to be some adjustments made down the road. But I found another spot for a little shade garden in between our two outbuildings. There was a broken up old chimney there, so I kept some pieces for colour and added plants to match so all peach and white plants.
- White Bleeding Heart (what will the Hummingbirds think of that?)
- 2 Astilbes – one white and one peach
- Coral Bells (Heuchera) in terracotta
- Sweet Woodruff (Gallium)
- Ferns – digging up from other side of the yard. There are two different kinds on the property, and I chose the one I thought was the prettiest, which is Sensitive Fern (Onoclea Sensibilis)
I will probably add some ornamental grass and Daylilies down the road to a partial shade area along the back of the house, but for those really shady areas the above work best. Will have to check the Daylily bulb selection at Halifax Seed when I go Tulip shopping this fall.
Second week in June I hit up 4 garden stores for a mix of things I had to pay full price for to get expert advice and particular plants I was after (Lakeland Plant World has awesome staff and plants), and also some great sales, so in the end was able to plant 15 new trees/shrubs. The goal in some areas is more cover along the border of the property, some for colour to hope for more bird photo opportunities, some for foliage to attract birds and bees, and some just for my joy. Most of them will grow between 4-8 feet didn’t want anything with large roots near the septic field. The Rhododendron could be very large so it’s well away from that area and far enough away from the house to grow as big as it wants.
- 2 Common Ninebark Amber Jubilee variety (my new favourite will add more next year once I get a better understanding of the property and how things fill in)
- 4 Boxwood (2 varieties green velvet and green mountain)
- 1 Wintercreeper (Euonymus)
- 1 Silverleaf Dogwood
- 2 Dappled Willow
- 1 White Rhododendron (had never seen one and it needed some love so got a great discount – it says zone 6 and we are zone 5 in Nova Scotia but I’m told Halifax is now zone 6?)
- 1 Snowbound Spirea
- 1 Pink Beauty Potentilla
- 1 Maroon Swoon Weigelia
- 1 Dwarf Burning Bush
There is a lot to mow here, and also a lot that has not been mowed in a long time and kind of gone wild. We mowed a path around the edge but left it tall in the middle which worked out well as the Ring-necked Pheasants can take their babies through safely (that was the cutest thing of this week I think). It’s great habitat for many critters so we will keep a balance of wild and tame and refine the plan over the years as we learn more about our surroundings.
Starting some hardscaping as well and dug up weeds and put down cardboard and pea gravel around the patio stones by the steps and will fill with Irish Moss and Creeping Thyme down the road. There was a batch of Creeping Thyme out front which I divided and planted around the septic as shallow rooting ground cover is great for a septic field. Also put down tons of Dutch White Clover seed which is filling in nicely.
We had to get the septic replaced when I bought the house, and I did a bunch of research for what to do about the risers and field area. So, there are pots on the risers and pea gravel and creeping Sedums (4 varieties of Stonecrop brought pieces from my old garden) so we will always have easy access and some more ground cover and lots of clover to absorb nutrients and keep mowing down to a minimum. It’s best not to have a lot of foot traffic over the septic tank if you can avoid it.
I brought my Butterfly Bush from my old house, and I was pretty sure it was dead but dug it up a few days ago and saw new growth on the roots so it has time to get established at the new homestead before the fall comes.
The dogs are hard on the birds and bees as you can imagine so the more delicate additions are just outside the fence so I can enjoy them, and they will be safe.
- Ruby Star Coneflower
Inside the fence I am also starting to plant some hardier shrubs with a stone path and ground level seating in mind, so picked up Blue Steel Russian Sage and planted between the back step and back deck.
The back deck is all rotted out so removing it this week and will start building a stone patio with walkdown from the French doors. I think we can salvage enough from the old deck to build the walkdown and maybe a bench or raised bed or two. It’s the sunniest most sheltered area on the property so my vision is some vertical veggies like Tomatoes and Cukes and Peppers who love the sun, and lots of hardy shrubs and ground cover. Decks rot, stone and plantings are far more practical and beautiful in my opinion. And lets face it, wood is way out of budget for most of us these days! I built a really nice area at my old house with flagstone and groundcover for that reason, so have some practice thankfully.
It’s all an investment for the property and for the future and was a ton of work digging. Holy shale! Some rocks were as big at the Border Collies I swear.
Expecting a good rebate on the new hot water heater that will cover all the plant shopping as it was a bit outside my repair/reno budget but had to get it in there.
Frugality returns and I’m back to seeding (Black-eyed Susan and Pink Coneflower) and dividing and relocating existing plants. Of course when I first moved in, as I do every year I planted some seeds too early so will try to be more patient next year because not much made it from that seeding (seeds are cheap thankfully). Some will pop up later in the summer I expect, so whatever survived that trauma I will plant more of because I’ll know the conditions are good and it’s hardy.
It should all look pretty good this summer, but next year is when I will really see the results. Things to look forward to. This is why I garden.
I use the website as a journal for myself so look forward to updating about a year from now and see how things have progressed.
Happy Solstice, blessed be.
Angela (and Macy & Milo)