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my side garden

my side garden Posted on April 10, 20204 Comments

these Crocuses have greeted me each year since I bought the house almost 13 years ago – I’ve never touched their little spot and they have never been late for Easter

Gardening is known to be very therapeutic and has gotten me through some pretty rough spots. If you are feeling a little helpless these days it might give you some sense of control while things seem to be spiraling.

I’m lucky enough to have a fenced in yard and a side garden, but if you don’t have as much space rest assured there is all kinds of container planting you can do.  And if you don’t have that, you can even grow herbs in sunny windows so please do not despair.

Me and my girl Macy after a swim in the ocean last August – summer evenings are often spent chillin in the garden with the posies and a local brew

My little friend Macy likes to be outside in the yard when I’m out there of course. She has the backyard mostly to herself, and the side garden is double-fenced so she can’t be in there unless I bring her in with me.

You can see the two moods of Macy depending on which side of the fence she is on. If only she understood I’m really trying to keep her from eating bees!

Happy Macy in her part of our yard.
Sulky Macy wanting to know why she isn’t allowed to do anything other than sit and watch, or lie down in the garden. Admittedly my old feller, Nelson, really didn’t get it until he was 15. Training is a work in progress I suppose.

Anyway, I’m a bit of a taskmaster when it comes to household lists for myself so naturally, I have a long list of things to do in my garden which is very welcome at the moment. We are all fighting pandemic angst, and this is my panacea of choice.

There is the list of “never do again” plantings which are based on complete failures from previous years.  The list for “try again with improvements” for things that failed with good reasons, such as not observing our full moon in June planting rule for last frost.  Last year was completely unforgiving to anyone who relaxed that rule in the past few years.  Noted and oops!  Finally, there is the “do more of” list, which is full of successes to expand and improve on.  The easy for me veggies like Beans and Peas and Garlic go here along with flowers from Bulbs and easy seeds like Cosmos and Marigolds. 

It’s chilly out there so I like this time for heavy work like digging and pruning.  I dislike grass as a ground cover (boring, does not improve soil, gets full of weeds, requires way too much maintenance and has to be mowed!) so have been working slowly over the past few years to decrease the amount of grass on my property.  It’s not easy as you really need to plant something non-invasive that will spread (with a healthy speckling of big thirsty Hostas in spots that tend to be damp or mossy) and stay healthy and durable in its place or you get weeds moving in very quickly.  I have some Bugleweed in the backyard which is great for a dog yard, but the front lawn is very sunny and there is a lot of shale under the sod. I may have to make a raised bed for my perennial dream.

Wild Parsnip or some similar nastiness is trying to take over the dream slope near my curb I’ve been trying to do something with so it might be time to completely dig it up and replace it with Clover.  I planted 4 large Hostas there, and some Spurge and recently added some Honeysuckle which flower and feed a neighbor’s hive residents all summer I think.

The slope is a tough area to mow. Clover doesn’t get very tall.  It’s great for the soil, and the bees love it.  It’s thick and pushes out Dandelions and other lawn invaders. Going to be great filler for now, and will be on the next Halifax Seed order.

My dream for “the slope” is a perennial rock garden but I will have to build that slowly because I don’t have the rocks, and I don’t have the perennials.  Seems I forgot that the beautiful flowering ground cover I love the most like Phlox and Dianthus and Aubrieta should have been started inside months ago or planted last summer to bloom this spring.  Nursery transplants are expensive so I will take it in baby steps which means cover in clover now and gradually create small rock garden components adding more over the years.  Well that’s how I do things anyway because I can’t afford a landscaper and a bunch of materials, so I take things slow and move little bits and bobs around over time.

These are three of the “hardy perennials for zone 5” I tried to start indoors last year, or to seed directly in spring, but failed miserably. I hope to have some started outside late summer/fall this year that might look like these photos next year. In the meantime, at least I’ll have Clover and no Wild Parsnip. Baby steps.

Sundance bicolor -I tried starting these indoors last year didn’t have a lot of success I think they need peat seedpods to germinate – the few that worked out I planted too early and lost in the late frost
Dianthus Pinks (not my yard it’s the dream)
Aubrieta / Rainbow Rock Cress (tried to see these direct last year and failed – partially because we had a late frost but then tried again and think I didn’t water them enough)

The side garden is the main event now anyway.  Last year I installed some natural flagstone and started planting in the spaces.  I couldn’t have known at the time how much I would appreciate it this year.

Many friends donated perennial treasures for the spaces, the most fun ones being Hens and Chicks.  I did a bit of Irish Moss from seed.  Some of that I started indoors, and some direct to soil.  Not as successful as I had hoped but cheaper than nursery pots.  If you get those, they spread quickly if you split them though so either option will work.  Creeping Thyme is much easier to grow and spreads quickly.  Mother of Thyme works well too and smells divine.  I inherited some of that with the house too and split some off and planted more.

some of the donations – love these Hens and Chicks Karen thanks and thanks for the Phlox Eloise!

On a side-note, I recommend if you get donations from friends gardens you rinse the roots and use new dirt so you don’t get invasive rhizomes. A bit of a learning experience. That being said, take all the gifts your friends will bring from their gardens and please return the favor.

the start of plantings in the spaces I expect this to be a constant project

The side garden was a large part of the reason I purchased the house 12 years ago as there were several established shrubs and perennial flowers:

this is when I first bought the house – the first thing I did was dig up the Rhubarb and send it to my sister in Cape Breton who has a large country property – not really my idea of a city garden plant LOL
  • Azalea (probably Chinese Golden Sunset variety)
  • Rhododendron
  • Pink Beauty Potentilla
  • Euonymus, Emerald N Gold aka Japanese Spindle Tree
  • Euonymus fortunei ‘Variegata’ – aka Wintercreeper
  • Red-tip-photinia
  • Poppies
  • Sundrop Primrose
  • Grape Hyacinth
  • Geranium
  • Bleeding Hearts
  • Mountain Cornflower
  • Columbine Aquilegia
  • Heather (Winter Heath)
treasures I inherited with the house – every year for 12 years they made this show in time for the Summer Solstice save for 2019 when it was late due to the bitter late frost that was the bane of many gardeners (and farmers!) existence – note that the Poppies are not in the photo and should be bright orange in the missing spot they were the only thing that bloomed on time and the rest followed 2 weeks late – we’ll see what 2020 holds
each April the Heather comes to life with the Crocuses much to the delight of the bees but it is all gone by June (it’s the brown spot in the previous photo)

A good start indeed and I’ve been busy with them every year since.

my little piece of heaven 2019

For a good number of years, I only did maintenance, but one day my old Lab/Setter cross, Nelson, got into the garden unattended for a while and dug up a bunch of the perennial flowers.  No point crying over spilt milk they say so I planted veggies in their place in the empty spots.  Mostly just Peas, Beans, and Tomatoes to start.  Over time Garlic was introduced into the mix, and some salad greens.

I actually bought my house especially for Nelson in 2007 as renting with a big dog in Halifax is difficult and expensive and I would do anything for my dog – RIP you king of mutts love ya!
the start of veggie gardening in 2014 after Nelson did some “landscaping”

These days I’m more careful about keeping the gate closed with my Border Collie, Macy.  Here she is with one her best friends, Herk, demonstrating yet another reason that dogs are not allowed in the garden unsupervised!

Herk checking on the garden while Macy gives an example of why they aren’t allowed in unsupervised!
summer 2019 – there is a whole story about pots on the fence but you’ll have to talk to me about that one personally

Last year I decided I would do all the veggies in containers and start flowers from seed.  That was pretty much a disaster.  I tried some indoors and some direct to the ground and the only things I had success were Lobelia (started indoors), and Marigolds and Cosmos (which I’d planted from seed lots of times and are super easy and forgiving).  I did have some success with Alium Bulbs, and the drumstick variety attracted a Monarch Butterfly who stuck around for a couple or weeks.  As well I did well with Begonia Bulbs for summer plants. 

Begonias done as summer bulbs for the first time in 2019 – this year I will take my plants indoors I think but not committing to anything

Based on that I decided no more posy seeding for me, but I did plant 4 varieties of Tulips which are coming up nicely and will bloom at varying times over a 6-week period close to the end of April. 

Monarch Butterfly loved my Drumstick Alium

For the first time in my life, and because I was so pleased with my flagstone hardscaping, I splurged and bought some perennial plants from a local nursery:

  • Bee Balm
  • Geum
  • Butterfly Bush

It’s too early to tell if they will come back this year, but the Geum is greening up already so that one’s a winner.

I’m a bit of a frugal gardener so tend to relocate weedy type perennials such as Forget-me-nots and other things instead of turfing them. I’m not sure what these little mossy guys are that pop up around the garden but I take the teeny pieces and put them between stones and concrete blocks. The leftovers go into a spot to thicken up until I need more. They look a bit like Irish Moss but they are not as they never flower. If you know what this is please let me know, it’s fantastic stuff.

What is this little Green Moss? It’s great to stick into spaces where you don’t want weeds or grass (which is happy to grow anywhere you don’t want it) tend to grow like in between concrete blocks.

Since veggies have traditionally done the best for me, I started some seeds indoors late March / early April this year – Tomatoes, Sweet Peppers, Broccoli, and Brussels Sprouts.  There is no guarantee, but seeds are cheap, and if I get my 8 bucks back out of the crop I will be thankful and welcome the diversion either way.

This is a must have book if you want to grow vegetables in Nova Scotia. Niki is the best!

Flowers are still the stars of any garden, so I just picked up some summer bulbs from Halifax Seed.  Two I’d never heard of but looked pretty enough to pop into my online shopping cart (they are doing local pickup orders) – Freesia and Zephyranthus.  And being the eternal optimist, I’m going to try Sweet Peas from seed which will hopefully tumble out of pots on the fence.

I took a video on November 9th so I would know what I planted and what to weed in the spring.  It’s keeping me busy so far, but I can’t wait until I can show you a video of some things coming to life.     

My little video from last November told me to clean up the weeds in this spot (see below), and thankfully alerted me not to dig up the Alium that is shooting up. Not sure what I will plant here this year it’s the old Garlic patch (and the dirt still smells like Garlic!)
Some of the weedy stuff I dug up in the old Garlic spot. I rescue those little green mossy things and in the past I’ve transplanted some of this other assorted semi-invasive stuff, but have risen above them now with alternatives now (like the 3 varieties of Lamium my friend Carolyn gave me) so into the green bin the rest goes.

My blog is a bit of an online journal/diary too so it’s as much for me as it is for you and it’s a bit windy I hope that helps you to understand.

thanks for the Lamium Carolyn!

This is my front door from July 2019. There are things to look forward to if you plant the seeds and tend your gardens, I promise.

Stay tuned.

The Weigela also came with the house but have really gotten big over the years – and I have never learned to properly prune them but it’s okay I’m not the type for a manicured garden

4 thoughts on “my side garden

  1. Absolutely fabulous gardening blog, Angela! Totally enjoyed reading it. You have a gift not only for gardening bit for writing. What a great way to keep track of your spaces.
    The Freesia is a lovely flower. Very fragrant blossoms but not winter hardy at my house (zone 5). Your Sweet Peas can be planted now as they like the cooler temperatures. I just put them right outside & plant them in a trench so that it can be filled in bit by bit as they grow. This helps keep the roots cool when the warmer weather comes.
    You inspire me do do better with my long neglected gardens.
    Keep growing !

    1. Thank you Carolyn and I get inspiration from your garden too. Can’t wait to see what you do this year 🙂

    1. Thanks very much Scott. Nice to see what we are doing in different parts of the world. Thanks for sharing your great tips too!

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