Cultivating My Garden

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.
 ~ Cicero
I can’t believe I’ve never come across this quotation before today, but I’m beginning to believe it.  Certainly few things give me as much pleasure as do reading and working in my garden.
I haven’t shared any pictures since the beginning of May.  I was waiting to be “finished” with the garden.  Not that I won’t plant anything else this summer–I expect I will–but I wanted to get more dirt, mulch the whole thing, and get the grass mowed before I photographed it.  That was last weekend’s project, and I should have taken pictures of myself as well as the garden, because I was a sight to behold.  I just can’t wear gloves when I garden, so my hands are always dirty, but this time I had dirt just all over me.  And I was so sore the next day!
Last year, I would only garden for an hour at a time.  I just didn’t have the energy.  That’s not true this year, but I’m still not as limber as I’d like to be.  Maybe that, too, will improve, as I lose more weight and exercise more.
Shall I show you some pictures of what I’ve accomplished this year?
I was so excited that my peony bloomed this year!  I planted peonies years ago and grew them for three years without a bloom, so I wasn’t expecting this to happen.  I love peonies so much.  They are old-fashioned and the smell just says “May” to me.  They were some of the flowers we used to take to school for the May Procession when I was a little girl.
Remember me griping about the trouble I was having with the climbing rosebush in my last garden post?  Here’s a picture after we fixed it–at least for now.  I wanted an arbor to go over the sidewalk, and I used some of my Mother’s Day money to buy one, but when we got it home we discovered it wouldn’t fit across the sidewalk.  So we took it back, having measured the sidewalk this time, and soon discovered that anything that would be wide enough was also prohibitively expensive.  So we got a taller trellis, but even it had to be tied to the porch post due to the heaviness of the roses.
hot garden
I’m not really a fan of cut carnations, but growing in the garden they are another story!  Most of the other plants you see here are annuals.  I plant a few to fill in, especially blue ones, because blue perennials seem to be rare.
purple garden 2
These lilies were planted before I came up with the color scheme for the garden.  They don’t really go here, but I hate to disturb them.
Garden 2
Here are the rest of them, on the side where they go!
Garden 4
These purple coneflowers–echinacea–are in full bloom right now.  I planted them last year and they are enormous.  Y’all, you really should pay attention to the tags that come with the plants that tell you how big they are going to get.  I’ve got things growing all on top of and in front of each other.  It’s a mess.
Garden 3
garden 12
We need our little friend to pollinate our flowers!
garden 5
Garden 3
I planted two of these salvia plants last year.  I moved one because they were way too close together.  This is the one I left, and it is HUGE.  And it’s got little babies next to it, too.  I did not know it would do that.  Next year I will have several of them to spread around the garden.
salvia angel 2
Garden angels are nice to have.
The plant in the center is Mexican heather.  It’s an annual in this climate, but it gets really big and if there is no polar vortex this winter it might come back.  And even if it doesn’t I may just plant it every year because I like it.
garden 2
In these pictures you are seeing gazania, zinnias, and daisies, and a bunch of other things that either already finished blooming or haven’t started yet.  I have to be honest–I must prefer the other side of the garden.  For one thing, I like the cool colors more.  But more important, this side is hemmed in by the sidewalk so there is only so much room, and there is a lot of shade, which limits what I can do.  Plus the cats use it as a litterbox, and I think that kills some things, frankly.
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I saw this coreopsis just last weekend when I was at Lowe’s buying mulch and dirt. I wasn’t supposed to be buying any more flowers but I couldn’t resist this, and it bit just perfectly in that spot where something else had died.
garden 4
Here’s the mint side of the mailbox garden.
Mailbox Garden 4
And here’s the cooking herbs side.
Mailbox Garden 2
I really do cook with them, but isn’t it nice they are pretty too?  I have sage, oregano, several kinds of basil, oregano. rosemary, and lavender, among others.
Mailbox Garden 3
Here’s the back view, with this little friend:
Mailbox Garden 1
And here he is again, with daylilies all around him.
garden 6
I don’t know whose bright idea it was to plant just one of these lilies here, but it’s so tall and majestic it makes a statement of its own.
garden 7
Here’s the whole “hot” garden as it looks today.
garden 9
Here’s the “cool” one, and you can see all the mulching I did!
garden 10
And here’s the whole thing, with the grass super-short, to make John happy.
garden 11
If you want to read more of my gardening posts, visit these links:
In the Garden
In the Garden II
A Work in Progress
And if you have any easy perennials to recommend to me as I continue my quest to go lawn-free, tell me in the comments!

A Work in Progress

Every morning, when I get home from driving William to school, I get out of my car, start, walking toward the house, and then stop and stand staring like an idiot at my garden.  My neighbors probably think I’m crazy (actually, they already have plenty of other reasons to think that).
What am I doing?  Well, to be honest, I’m admiring it, because it’s pretty and I’m just a little proud of what I’ve accomplished in just one year.  But more than that, I’m analyzing it, thinking about what needs to be moved around, what I’ll add later in the season or next year, what’s too tall, what was a bad idea.
If I were a methodical gardener I would have made a plan before I started.  I didn’t.  In late winter I downloaded some kind of planning grid thingie and got bored after a few minutes.  If I were a methodical gardener, I would have properly amended my soil.  I didn’t.  Instead, I dig out lumps of clay and rock, throw in a handful of potting soil, and hope for the best.  Sometimes I don’t even bother with the potting soil.  The rocks should help with drainage, right?  If I were a methodical gardener, I would have investigated how big the plants would get before I planted them.  I would have put little tags next to them to say what they are.  I might even have kept a garden journal.  Instead, I’m like: “This is the pink-blue-purple side of the garden, so let’s put any pink, purple, or blue things we like over here wherever we can find room for them!”  People ask the name of a particular plant and I say, “It might be salvia.  Or maybe sage.  Who knows?”  I can look on google images if I ever really need to know, right?
What kind of gardener am I?  A lazy gardener, clearly, which is why I plant mostly perennials.  Some day my work will be done, right?  And a lucky one, judging by my lack of effort and the passable results.
The photos below are from what we call the “hot” garden, where I attempt to plant only things that are orange, yellow, and white.  There are also red roses here (about which more further down) but I don’t want any more red things.  Why the color scheme?  Because the first summer we were here, the nice gardening lady across the street gave me a bunch of lily bulbs and some other perennial thing, which I just haphazardly stuck over here because I had no plan whatsoever and they turned out to be yellow.  So.
morning garden
The lilies aren’t blooming yet but you can see where they are in the picture below.  Those other yellow things, which are really tall, will be right behind them, unless the shade from the roses kills them.
Let’s talk about the roses, shall we?  If you know anything at all about roses, then you can see that’s a climbing rose.  If you know anything about gardens, you’ll know that only an idiot would put a climbing rose in the middle of a flower bed.  I am happy to say I was not that idiot.  But I also don’t know much about roses, so I didn’t know that this was going to happen when I let it (it being basically a couple of thorny twigs when I started this) stay there.  It’s outgrown the trellis I put in place last year–in fact it is pulling the trellis out of the ground and leaning forward.  It stubbornly refuses to get blackspot like every other rose I’ve ever grown and instead is vigorous and healthy and growing like kudzu.  I want to get an arbor thing to cross the walkway in front of it, and maybe also attach a trellis to the porch overhang behind it.  But do you know how much arbors cost, y’all?
Below we have the mailbox garden.  Gotta have one of those, don’t we?  The daylilies were already there–Stella D’Oro, I believe (see, I do know something!).  There is also one lone gigantic lily that looks kind of stupid there all by itself, but I can’t kill healthy plants, so it will stay.  The red plant is a mandevilla which my neighbor gave me for my birthday.  The pot said it was good to plant by your mailbox and who am I to argue?  You might also notice a variety of herbs in this picture.  Yes, this is my herb garden and we used the herbs to cook all through the winter even.  The basil dried right there on the stalk.  More laziness that paid off!
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This side has mint.  All varieties of mint.  And yes, I am aware of what mint does, and it’s already doing it, but I don’t really care because it smells good.
Now here’s the “cool” side of the garden and I’m probably going to post too many pictures because this is my favorite part and I just can’t leave any of them out!
Please excuse the long grass at the edges because 1) My lawn mower is (still) broken and 2) I’m not finished yet.  There won’t ever be a clearly defined border at the edge because the eventual plan is for this side to take over the whole front yard, doing away with its crappy veneer of grass over clay a couple of feet every year, depending on my time, energy, and financial situation.
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My garden doesn’t look like the other gardens in this neighborhood.  That’s what John said, and I consider that a compliment, because who really needs another boring suburban garden, all symmetrical and defined by clumps of liriope with measured distances between them?  We are going for the wild look here.
If you want to read more of my gardening posts, visit these links:
In the Garden
In the Garden II