Monday, May 23, 2022

My New Garden: Surprises, Delights

Y'all! My landscape garden has been surprising and delighting me at our new home each week since the start of Spring. I want to show you some of the highlights and successes, and even the fails (luckily, not many). I haven't posted a garden update since last fall, so this is a photo heavy post. Grab a drink!
For a look at where we started with this little borderline Zone 6b - Zone 7a landscape*, you can click on this post from November 2021. Things were so overgrown when we moved here that I literally walked through with both the tree and landscape contractors I hired and said, "take it out", or "cut it to the ground and we'll see if it survives. It was a mess. (*Note: our Zone is borderline 6b - 7a, as we are situated in a river valley area more temperate than higher elevations which surround us). 

After random daffodils sprung up in places that appeared to have been covered up by the shrubs previously smothering them, other unrecognizable plants started popping up. Google Lens became my friend over photos I'd snap as the slightest emergence of growth came through the mulch.
Pulmonaria - or Lungwort - in what was considered the "shade" garden (where the pin oak was) came in early March.
Spanish bluebells started showing up in totally random places in early April. I started digging these and another plant which did not bloom at all (I believe were snowdrops). I tossed most of the snowdrops, and relocated some of the bluebells, in hopes that next year the randomness will be a little more tame.

By the first of May, Lily of the Valley and a woodland fern (Sensitive Fern) started popping up in the shade garden. These were all surprise inheritances in my landscape garden on the "shade" side.
At the entry of what is labeled as the "sun" garden (see photo below), three coral drift roses, with [spent] bluebells in front of them, and  a "Heavenly Bamboo" nandina shrub is partially visible at the top right of the photo below. Juniper plants bookend the drift roses (partially visible). All of these were existing plants. I transplanted iris behind them last fall, which were passalongs from our former home by way of my daughter's flower bed when we downsized.
I was pleasantly surprised at the blooms from the iris transplanted just last fall.
The coral drift roses are gorgeous, and fragrant! I have five in total at the front of our property, the other two you'll see in another photo to come.
The photo below is looking into the gate of  the "sun" side and garden (taken early evening). You can see peonies in bloom inside the gate. Let's take a look at those beauties. 
I have four different peony varieties that were already established in this garden. The first to bloom was Coral Sunset. Its blooms start as a deep coral, and as the bloom opens, it gradually fades to peach and, ultimately, cream. These are my favorite! They have sturdy stems and do not require staking, and have only a slight fragrance.
Next to bloom was Bartzella, a sunny yellow Itoh (tree) peony with a slightly red center stain. It also has a sturdy stem like Coral Sunset, but with a delicate fragrance.
My third peony variety to bloom was a bit of a surprise. It is Cora Louise, another Itoh peony, also with a delicate fragrance. Its bloom is white with dark lavender center, and also has a sturdy stem.
I thought originally the Cora Louise plant was part of the Bartzella, as it was crowded in the landscape bed as I watched the plants grow day-to-day (like a hawk, I might add).
Looking at the circles and arrow in the photo above, the Cora Louise was so close to the Bartzella in the foreground, I thought they were the same variety. I plan to transplant it in fall in the space where the cherub statue is situated. 

The fourth (and last) peony variety to bloom is a Karl Rosenfield. This one fell over after the first set of blooms and the rain that came after. I'm not thrilled about having to stake this one, but will  - next year.
If you notice in the two photos preceding, there is also a lilac bush. This was also part of the original landscape, and I kept its large structure through winter because everything else in that bed was either cut down (the peonies) or removed (a barberry bush). 
After the lilac bloomed (it's a rebloomer), I cut it to the ground to start over. All the growth was on the exterior, and it was quite leggy on the interior. Lo and behold, there was a Rose of Sharon growing in the middle of it! Needless to say, out it went. I am not a fan of those ROS plants, and I had two removed last fall (one was a double bloom - pretty - but this plant is invasive in my opinion).
So here is how that bed looks now, with the lilac hard pruned (and ROS gone).
Opposite this bed, I had nearly a blank space to work with after removing most of the existing plants, other than three small upright boxwoods in the far back corner. They are situated opposite the Karl Rosenfield peony that you see in the background of the photo above. One of the upright boxwoods can be seen in the photo below.For this bed, I bought and planted three new dwarf butterfly (Pugster Blue) and four lavender (Grosso) plants. I transplanted some of the Spanish bluebells among the butterfly bushes, and also transplanted what appears to be a small hydrangea on the left side (above). It was one of the plants I said "cut it to the ground and we'll see if it survives" that I found growing randomly.  It seems to be surviving in this bed too.Another view (above), showing both sides of the sun garden, and the refreshed gravel path.

Speaking of Rose of Sharon, my neighbor, whose yard adjoins at the fence on the sun garden, had a Rose of Sharon tree which she let me trim last fall. That was great, until I started weeding in my landscape bed next to it this spring and saw her ROS was covered in poison ivy. I asked permission to have it removed, and hired it taken out by the root. I am highly allergic to poison ivy, and no love was lost on the ROS.Along with refreshing the gravel paths on three sides of our property, I also had a stone path (Pennsylvania bluestone) installed from the front door, extending to the small patio in the front of the house.
I planted pansies last fall and they are considered bi-annuals in my area. They do well throughout winter, bouncing back in early spring, and last until consistently hotter, daily temperatures. I just switched out my annuals the second week of May to coral geraniums, white angelonia and vinca. In the lower portion of the collage below, you can the new stone path and also see where we are extending the grass line. One of the coral roses was transplanted a little further up  (see in bottom half of collage below), in front of the cherub statue to extend the grass and lessen the mulch bed. While all the existing grass was sod, all the new grass is by seed. It will take a while to get them to both look good together.
In the photo below you can see the coral drift rose in bloom, and the one which was transplanted (directly in front of the cherub statue below) suffered shock, so I cut it back to the ground.
Containers flanking the garage door were also switched out from pansies to a geranium mix.
On the side (north) landscape bed, I also added a couple of perennials  to flank the annuals - Magnus coneflowers. Existing daylilies were transplanted to flank the statue. The latter blooms will be a surprise.
A delight in the garden included seeing three Baptisia (False Indigo Blue) emerge and show their beauty in spring. They look like asparagus as the stalks grow and develop their flower pods. The blossoms form pea-like clusters, which is not by coincidence, as they are part of the pea family.
One fail to note: last fall we pulled boxwoods that were smothering the entry, and used them as a natural barrier fence on the corner of our property where the large pin oak tree was removed.
I said I didn't care if the boxwoods lived or died, they were a temporary solution. I lied. Each time it snowed, I was outside, brushing heavy snow and ice off the boxwoods. We had a late snow with bitterly temps and wind in mid-March, and I did not remove the snow/ice. One boxwood suffered winter burn as a result, so it was pulled.
So, the bad news is there's a break in the corner barrier fence of boxwoods on the property. The good news is the grass within is growing where the tree was taken out! There's a lot of boxwood on this small landscape, so I'm still considering these transplants as temporary. However, given the price of mature plants, I'm rather getting attached to them.

Another delight is a patch of Spiderwort that came up behind the house and camouflaged various system vent pipes out of the basement.
Various surprises came up in the "shade" garden. At least two hydrangeas, a spirea, and a couple weigela are coming back after being cut to the ground. There's also a fothergilla (bottlebrush plant ), and more. I don't know how this side of the landscape will fare, given the absence of the pin oak. There's a Hinoki cypress in the middle of this side of my landscape, plus there are trees in neighbors' yards which cast some shade at various times, so perhaps some of these will last.  I do know it's all a bit messy right now, so I'll be working in this area in the near future. Lily of the valley can be (and has become) quite invasive (and poisonous, I've learned). 
Oh, one last photo. There's a bed of gladioli behind the garage that I'll be surprised by if and when they bloom. I'll keep you posted. 😊
If you've stuck with me this long, I appreciate it. This post was long overdue (and long!) as a means of journaling my new garden. Until we've been here a full year, I'll still be making lots of notes with how the light and elements affect the existing plants (and the few new ones). 

Thanks for your visit. Leave me a comment with any reaction(s) you may have. A lot of these plants are new to me, so I welcome you sharing the dirt!

Also, I'll be hosting a summer tablescape blog hop on June 7. Stop back then and see how the garden has influenced my summer table design. 


  1. Wow, I knew your new yard/garden was going to give you (us) surprises, but WOW. I don't know where to start! I (at first) was surprised you took out the Snowdrops, but then I remembered, I get asked a lot every Spring if I want some by garden friends. They must spread kinda fast after they're established. So I can't say I blame ya! So far the only things I love that Naturalize are Hellebore and Peony. LOL

    I am with ya on the boxwoods, I have a love/hate relationship with em. I love the Winter color they bring, but the constant pruning or the way some get a brownish color for Winter? nope!

    Awesome garden tour! I am still doing clean up on mine in between rain storms. I need to find my camera and try and document all my new plantings! Thanks for the wonderful tour, You've put in a lot work and it isn't even Summer yet! lol How ya liking your neighbors?

  2. Rita I am not surprised at your new garden. I know you are really enjoying it even though you’re having to remove and transplant a lot. It is right up your alley and I love your confidence at remove this or cut back that …when you don’t know what’s underneath. But how else would you find out? Anyway so beautiful, I need to go out and have our landscaper pull a lot of plants because here in Florida everything grows 24 seven. And the flower and planting beds are really crowded. Even though people stop and say how beautiful it is, when I look at it…..they do not look neat and tidy… no matter how much the bushes are trimmed and I’m sure you know what I mean . what a great post and inspirational. Always Hugs my dear friend

  3. Rita, your knowledge of gardening is extensive and impressive! I know your heart is happy you have your garden back...I was truly worried when you moved into the condo that you would be missing one of your favorite pleasures. Your blooms look amazing, the peonies, wow! I love the drift roses and geraniums, the stone paths, it's all just beautiful and I'm sure your neighbors are enjoying it too!

  4. You definitely have your big girl gardener pants back on and I love what you're doing with your garden and landscape. Truly gorgeous, Rita. You have knowledge and experience of a true gardener and I really admire that. Amazing what you've found and cultivated this spring. I'm so glad that you have a garden and yard back with your new home; it's a lot to do but you're up for it. The stone path is perfect. I love a defined walkway and flower beds. Thanks so much for sharing it with us, I've been waiting to see what you've accomplished. stay away from that poison ivy!!

  5. I am so impressed Rita! You are a landscapers dream client, you know exactly what you want and how to achieve it. I am so happy to know you have a garden to lovingly tend again, I know how you missed that once you moved into the condo. I love the boxwood at the corner and I'm sorry you lost one during the last freeze and snow. They provide such a lovely addition of privacy between the house and street. Love the Iris from your old home you've added and wow, all the peonies!!!! I will enjoy watching your garden grow, it is already beautiful!

  6. Such a lovely garden! So colorful and varied! It is always great to see it grow. My garden is so amazing now and it will soon be someone else's as I am moving! The peonies are my favorite!

  7. Your garden looks beautiful! You have such a variety of plants! Katie has redefined our gardens and put a stone border around them. I'm very proud of the job she's done. I wish you could see them.

  8. What a delight Rita. I am so glad you have large garden to tend to. So much beauty and transformations. I am also impressed with you knowing each plant's name. The peonies are fabulous. Your stone walkways look great! I happen to love boxwoods. We have them as a border on both sides. Of course we don't get the extreme temps you do. I usually sculpt them once a year. I am admiring your drift roses. We don't have any. A gardner's delight.

  9. I so ENJOYED your post!! How lucky you were to purchase a home that is so beautiful and has so many landscape surprises! It certainly must have been fun for you to research what some of the plants were and then decide to keep them or purge them. I have great confidence in you that you will transform your new gardens into a "sea of beauty!"

  10. Great post Rita and I loved your landscape tour! it must be very satisfying to see the fruits of your labor - and it sounds like you have been working very hard! The roses and peonies are beautiful and I was glad to see that you rescued the lilac from the ROS. Love the stone walkway! Thanks for sharing your lovely gardens and happy Monday to you!

  11. Hi Rita...don't know why my comment (2nd from the top)came in as "anonymous"...(don't ever rule out operator error)!!! I guess I assumed all my info was within your comment sections. LOL but alas, the anonymous culprit was me...Kari @ Me and My Captain and I will add that I have garden envy, Hugs

  12. Rita, I sense that you are back to being a happy gardener. I would think it was fun to see what was going to come up and bloom. I love the sweet fragrance of coral drift roses and yours look really healthy. How exciting it must have been to have four peonies all blooming. We had to stake all four of ours because we deal with so much wind living between the mountain and the river. I have two of the Karl Rosenfield and they bloomed prolifically this year. I am loving the Cora Louise peony. I was so excited to see you had a garden post, so I waited until I came home from keeping the grands before reading. I wanted to take it all in. I love it all and you have done a fabulous job!

  13. Oooh Rita, I’ve been waiting to see how your garden is growing! What gorgeous peonies, your hit the peony jackpot in your inherited landscape…so many gorgeous blooms! I need to consider some tree peonies if I can eek out some space or eliminate something to plant them. I wish I had your ability to hard prune…I looked at your lilac and actually flinched. 😊 While I know it will be better for it (especially finding a wayward ROS growing inside) I wouldn’t be able to do it. Love your new handsome bluestone path and your coral drift roses are beauties! Looking forward to your next update and seeing your summer table.♥

  14. Beautiful gardens (I wish I enjoyed gardening but would rather just sit back and enjoy someone else's work!!)

  15. Rita, Your peonies and coral drift roses are fabulous! Both are show stoppers! I'm anxious to see the gladiola colors. They look healthy. The boxwood hedges really made your property corner pop! Our cedars got burned by the extreme winter weather but are bouncing back thank goodness. You've been busy and it shows. Thanks for sharing! Looking forward to the next post. Clara ❤️

  16. You are the Master of the Garden, all right, and I am in awe. We are in the soup again with the ARB for having gotten rid of ALL grass, and have done sections of gravel and others of just pine straw for now around the trees and plants. We are mostly container planting, since the dirt is atrocious in this yard. So it is interesting to see how you have sectioned off the different beds. I like your idea of cut it down and see what survives. We did that too, and some of the roses did make it. We moved a lot of bulbs, and some made it, some didn't. The back yard had become a rain forest so that has been getting some intense cleaning up, too. You always inspire!

    1. Oh those dreaded HOAs (and ARBs, by extension). I like the way you took your stand, especially if the soil was bad. Thanks for your visit!

  17. I bet it just makes you smile to have a garden to walk around in again. I miss my peonies and lilac bushes in the spring. You are having such pretty color all around your new home. Have a good week. xoxo Kris

  18. Wow, you've done a lot of work! It is looking more lovely as it goes, gorgeous flowers.

  19. Your garden is a feast for the eyes! You've really made it shine! I love all of your peonies!

  20. I finally had time to view your post this morning, Rita. I was at my grandson’s graduation yesterday. I took delight in scrolling and reading through each picture. Those coral roses are sooooo pretty and the peony varieties are amazing. I loved seeing all your surprises and seeing what you’ve done. You’ve accomplished so much. The statues look so pretty in the places that you’ve placed them. I’ll look forward to seeing more pictures of your ever changing yard. Thank you for sharing!

  21. Rita, your garden is lovely and you have made great strides for the first year. Your drift roses are glorious. I am happy to see you kept your Baptisia. Once the blooms are gone and the seed pods have formed you can dry them, should you be interested. All weavers usually have a plant or two of Baptisia. You can place the pods in boiling water and will have the most beautiful indigo dye. I think a stem or two is beautiful with peonies. Also, my mom would dry them and then spray paint the pods with whatever color was to her liking and then place them in her flower arrangements. Your irises did do well for the first year. I have had them pout after being moved for a year or two.
    You have been a busy lady - but your work does show. That is something I love about gardening you can always see where your days were. Enjoy!

  22. Everything is so pretty, and I love the peonies! But I have to ask: How did you get the drift roses so full??? They are stunning!

  23. This is a fabulous post. You have done so much and it shows. I love all the decisions you made. You could be a landscape planner.
    I have been working hard in my garden and still have so much to do so I relate very well to all you have accomplished. I want to reread your post several times. It was so lovely to see and think about what you did and are planning.

  24. Such a fun tour Rita! You have done so much already! I will be visiting your blog often since I no longer have my own gardens to tend. These days, I have to be content with containers here and there. I look forward to watching yours become as beautiful as they were in the pictures you've shared of your last home. It looks like it is well on its way to being the envy of your neighborhood. Thanks so much for sharing. Have a wonderful holiday weekend!

  25. Rita, your garden is absolutely gorgeous! Love those corral drift roses! Thanks for sharing at Vintage Charm!

  26. I'm so impressed with your gardening skills, Rita! What a difference you've made in less than a year to the landscaping. Your neighbours must be enjoying and appreciating the curb appeal. The corral drift roses and peonies are so beautiful!

  27. You and your gardeners have been busy! There's no stopping you. =) I did smile at your comment of taming the bluebells.....says one who is quite happy to have bluebells here, there and everywhere. =) But then, the garden here is wildly disobedient. In your setting though, the garden you have designed is a perfect overture for your lovely home. I must say I have enjoyed reading your thoughts, and design of the placement of the variety of plants. In a couple of seasons I can just imagine how full and lush the garden will be. Those coral drift roses are beautiful, and all those peonies, exquisite. I will be interested to see how the hydrangeas fare without a tree providing shade from the hot afternoon sun. Do the temperatures where you live get to extreme heights?? From my rather chilly and drab, wintry-like world, I have enjoyed strolling along the garden paths, stopping here and there to smile at the gorgeous plants and flowers.....intermittently peeking into some of the windows of your lovely home. Oh....I forgot, those gladdies are going to look fabulous when in flower.

  28. Rita, your garden is looking so lovely! And those lilacs!!! Gorgeous! I'm delighted to be sharing your garden at Tuesday Turn About this week! Pinned!

  29. Rita, your new garden looks lush and fabulous. You are indeed a master gardener. I'd love to spend time here. Thanks for sharing the stroll.

  30. Rita,
    Wow, your garden is so beautiful. What lovely flowers. Congratulations, you are being featured on Thursday Favorite Things.

  31. I'm so impressed Rita! I had a feeling you would miss gardening, I know I would. Lucky you having the three Baptisia emerge and brighten your garden. Mine are 12 years old and I look forward to them blooming each spring. I bet ya those gladdies will bloom.

  32. LUCKY!!!!!!!!! When we moved here 8 years we inheritied a few things but no showstoppers like you have. Those peonies! Those boxwoods! It's all looking lovely!