Windhorse Way

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More gardening!

I’ve been working double-time on the garden, trying to plant foundation shrubs and the free perennials from my generous neighbor before it gets too hot.

The Icelandic Poppies were the first (and only, so far) to bloom.

Jeff has been on demolition duty. We need to make room for the fence to come through here, and the poor tree on the left was getting swallowed alive. For reference, Jeff is over 6 feet tall– that is one huge bush!

We planted two dogwood trees:

My vegetable and herb garden is coming along nicely.

Our septic field got dug up before we moved in. I sprinkled a bag of wildflowers that I had left over from a couple years ago and it seems like a lot are sprouting.

We also had a nice fire in our new fire pit!

A Few Weekend Things

Vegan cinnamon buns for Sunday brunch.

Sushi & tempura dinner Saturday night.

We thinned out the branches at the bottom of the pine trees so we could clear out the maple saplings growing under there. We still have a lot more work to do!

And I went on a walk through the hills behind our village.

Houston, we have shrubs!

I did a LOT of gardening this weekend! Jeff is unfortunately sick with allergies or the flu or something, so he stayed inside sleeping all day. I spent the whole time outside puttering around. Yesterday I decided I was going to divide some of the daffodils out front. I spent about three hours digging up maybe 5 inches of the 5 foot row and replanting the 40 or so bulbs that were crammed in there.

See that little messy part on the left where there are limp leaves? That’s all I managed to dig up in three whole hours! Obviously these daffodils have been dividing themselves for a very, very long time and are way overdue to be divided. I have a lot of work ahead of me here! The bonus is I get a million free bulbs to plant all over the garden!

Yesterday I also found some 2 year old wildflower seed mix and sprinkled it over the septic patch. Probably most of the flowers will never sprout, but I figured it was worth a shot.

Today I finished the curved garden bed in the back. I dug out another 5 inches of width, dug up and loosened the soil, and added five wheelbarrows of mushroom compost and mixed it all together. Then I went to Groff’s Plant Farm and bought some plants! My very kind neighbor and gardening mentor is dividing his perennials and is going to give me a bunch, so I focused on buying things I know he won’t give me.

This is “Spring Fever” Iceland poppy. It grows to 12”s tall and is a beautiful mix of pastel flowers.

Over in the middle of the main bed I planted Oriental poppy “allegro”. It grows 16-20” high 18-24” across and is bright red.

This is a white clematis, but unfortunately I didn’t get the name of it. I removed the arch it was climbing up and trained it to grow up our arbor that Jeff built. It’s on the left.

I moved the arch to the herb patch where I had planted a couple of snap peas just to see if they would sprout. They were from a few years ago and had been kept in very less-than-ideal conditions, so I really didn’t know if they would or not. They did! I thinned the six seeds out to just two. I also have some lettuce growing (from the same seed box), a pot of mint, and the herbs I picked up from our CSA which unfortunately got planted the day of an unexpected late frost, so they may not make it.

This is a common elderberry bush, which is native to our area I believe. It grows 5-10 feet tall and wide. I placed it in the bed directly in front of the back patio to partially block the view of our neighbor’s sad dog. Also, I absolutely adore elderflower pressé and the fruits are edible too (if the birds don’t get them all first)!

Over to the left there is Bigleaf hydrangea “Let’s Dance Big Easy”. It grows 24-36 inches and has beautiful pink flowers with peach centers. It was my stepson’s favorite of the million choices they had at Groff’s, so I got it.

I didn’t want anything too big in front of that window, so this seemed like a decent choice. When we get our fence installed, I’ll probably buy another, larger hydrangea.

Out back again, I bought four “Temprano” bright red ivy geraniums. My grandmother always had geraniums on her front porch, so I think of them very nostalgically. I think our front porch is too shady for these, so I lined them up along the back door.

Over in the septic field wasteland is Lavender “Hidcote”. It may look small now, but it grows to be up to 20 inches tall. It’s the typical silver-leafed, purple-flowered lavender that you see in dried flower arrangements.

In the back, I added two blueberry bushes. They apparently grow well under pine trees and are native to our area. Above is Vaccinium ‘duke’ highbush blueberry, which grows 4-6 feet tall with medium sized fruit early in the season.

Further towards the barn is Vaccinium ‘chandler’ high bush blueberry, which grows to 4 feet and has good fall red color and large berries. I mulched them both with pine straw as I read that they like mulch.

In the shade garden is “Lady In Red” fern, which grows to 36” high and across! I hope to fill this whole area with stones, moss, ferns, and other shad-loving plants.

I also planted tufted hair grass by the side door which grows 2-4 feet and blooms in early summer. Jeff is a big fan of grasses, so I’ll be adding these throughout the garden.

We also have some mystery plants coming in from the previous owners, but I’ll leave those for another post!

DIY arbor and clothesline

This weekend was the first warm, sunny, perfect weekend of spring, so we dove right into a handful of outdoor projects.

I spent a good chunk of the weekend working on that flower bed in the back- it was a pile of dirt which was very poorly graded and messed up from a crew digging up the septic system before we moved in, and now it’s even and ready for wildflowers. Weather reports are showing that it may still get down below freezing a few times this week, so I’m waiting to plant until the temperatures are safely high enough to prevent frost. I did plant some grasses along the fence, donated by our kind neighbor, as they are rather hardy. I also found some seeds from last year (and the year before) and put them in pots. The seeds weren’t stored anywhere near optimally, so I don’t have high hopes for their chances of sprouting, but I figured they’re worth the experiment.

Jeff built the beautiful garden arbor out of our pile of pine branches. I plan on training some clematis to climb up it. We still have lots of pine branches left, so I’m going to have to dream up some more projects so we can reuse them instead of just throwing them out or burning them up.

Jeff also built these amazing posts for a clothesline. We used DIY Diva’s tutorial and they came out perfectly. We’re waiting on the clothesline tighteners to complete it, but they should be arriving soon. Of course, Jeff had to buy a bunch of fancy tools for this job (a cordless drill! a miter saw!) but I’m sure they’ll be put to use in the future. Again, I can absolutely come up with plenty of projects for him to take on, and maybe I’ll try some myself as well!

The pictures look as though we have a good chunk of our yard filled up by flower beds and clotheslines now– the back bed looks like it’s almost at the pine trees already– but from this angle it looks a little different:

Yeah, we’re only about halfway down the length of the yard. This also doesn’t include the full section in front of the barn, the side yard, or the front yard! I still have a LOT of digging to do, and a lot more planning if I want to reach my goal of only 1/3 grass.

Some Spring Projects Started

I added my hex to the barn and it’s looking pretty great! I’m going to work on another one, and maybe see if I can get some larger circles to work with.

We also have soil! We live very near the mushroom capital of America and are lucky enough to have access to local mushroom compost. Also shown: the giant piles of pine branches from the ice storm we had recently. We’re still trying to figure out what we’re going to do with them, but I at least want to build an arbor out of some of them.

I have my beds planned out and spray painted, ready to be dug. The forsythia is almost ready to bloom.

Here’s the new garden plan. The main difference is that I am planning on cutting two beds right in front of our back patio (the two beds spray painted above). This will accomplish two goals: 1) it will create different ‘zones’ within the garden (the kitchen garden zone and the back play zone); and 2) it will block the view of our neighbor’s dirt-patch-and-chained-dog and replace it with lovely flowers. I do want to plant some tall evergreens in the far back area but I want to put up a fence and see what the sun situation is back there first. In this diagram, the dashed outlines are my phase two plans, for next year. I’m just focusing on the filled-in beds this year.

Finally, these daffodils are about to bloom! As soon as they’re done blooming I’m going to dig them up and replant them in bunches, instead of this awkward straight line. They look so much better and more natural in small clumps.

Putting a jump on Spring...

I bought some flowers for the front porch and driveway. These touches are nowhere near enough for the scale of our house and garden, so it feels a little silly having them out, but it’s enough of a start towards spring that I had to do it anyway.

Starting a Garden

It’s officially spring (although it does not quite feel like it yet) and I’m obsessing over garden design. Our house is on a half-acre plot, which I think is the perfect size. It’s large enough to have several different ‘zones’ but it’s small enough that it’s not too much to maintain.

Here’s my plan-in-progress. At the moment all we have are three very large trees in front, the world’s biggest forsythia hedge to the left, and a row of four pine trees in the back. There’s one small bush to the right of the driveway and a bunch of patchy grass. We want to fence in the yard for our dog, so that’s the first real project we’re going to tackle. My goal is to have 1/3 grass and 2/3 plants and hardscape. We’d like to cut down on mowing as much as possible so I’ve been reading lots of books on no-lawn yards.

Our house is a Pennsylvania Dutch farmhouse, built around 1850 or so, with a 1940’s addition in the back. The two front doors are a unique design to Pennsylvania Dutch farmhouses in and around Lancaster, Chester, and Bucks counties. The house has always been a single-family home, and the reason for the two front doors is apparently to maintain the symmetry of the architecture. I’ve been trying to keep the style of our house in mind when designing the garden, and am pretty excited that I get to start with an almost-blank slate here. At the moment, the house looks like it’s just plopped in the middle of a yard, and it’s quite exposed to the road. Our street isn’t too busy, but we do get a lot of farm trucks going by, and a lot of bikers going for springtime rides (our street is nice and curvy). I’d love to develop the garden so that our house looks like it’s part of the grounds instead of sticking out.

Here’s our barn. I love that we have a barn! We also have this weird gravel driveway that has a handy turnaround spot but sticks out like crazy. You can also see our neighbor’s poor dog in the back behind the barn. He lurks out there on a chain all day and night and not only makes me sad but also sets off our own dog. We’re going to put a fence back behind the barn and the pine trees and then around the other side of the barn, around the driveway, and meeting up with the patio you see at the bottom of the photo. It will then meet up with the side of the house, so the driveway isn’t fenced over, but the whole back yard is.

Jeff loves brewing beer, and wants to have his brewing gear in the barn. I had the idea of decorating the area right in front of the barn like a German beer garden, with picnic benches, strings of cafe lights, and umbrellas. To the left of the barn we might put an small garden shed or a chicken coop.

Here’s the side yard. It will be fenced off from the far side of the house across to the back of the forsythia. This is the southern side of the house, so it gets the best light. Unfortunately it’s also where we keep our trash cans so it will always be a bit of a utility porch. I’ll probably put a small raised bed by the house, and a path from the side porch across to the front yard, for bringing the trash cans out to be picked up.

Here’s a pretty good view of the whole yard, from the top of the barn steps. The muddy patch in the middle of the yard is our septic field that got dug up and repaired before we moved in. I’d love to build a pergola or porch roof for the back porch. There used to be something like that but the previous owners tore it down because it was really rickety. The back of the house looks so strange with no windows and no porch though! The house paint color and the door are also a total eyesore, and I’ve been thinking of other colors to paint the doors. As much as I love barn red, it does not work with this yellow-green at all!

And here’s the other side porch, where visitors come in. This is the north side of the house, so it doesn’t get the best sun, but I’m planning on planting a nice shade garden here.

And finally, the fence of doom. Our neighbor put up a super high fence and has it facing in towards his house. As you can see, the grass isn’t even doing so well here, so I’m not sure what I can plant. Maybe some hydrangeas? I hear they do well in partial shade, and they certainly can grow high enough to disguise the fence. Also they remind me of my grandmother’s house in North Carolina, so I’m very fond of them.

I’ll leave you with some inspiration photos from my cottage garden pinterest page. Almost all these photos are of gardens smaller than ours, but all the amazing plants make them look so much larger. Maybe in a few years my garden will look like these beauties!