Monday, May 1, 2023

May Day! Mayday!

Good May morning, everyone! Today I am going to share my first 2023 update of my landscape garden. This is our second spring in this home. We moved here in October 2021, and my biggest undertakings have been in overhauling the landscaping.

If I never see another lily-of-the-valley it will be too soon. An invasive, poisonous flower which was originally planted in my shade-loving side garden beneath a [now gone] pin oak tree, this 'pretty' little flower has given me much grief over the past two weeks while digging it out. Like my mother always said, pretty is as pretty does. It wasn't pretty. Once they started invading my newly planted grass, it just wasn't pretty.

Here is a before and after picture of my side landscape with lily-of-the-valley project undertaking (and my before is actually after 7 hours of digging out the leftmost strip).
Whew, it may not look like a lot, but that's over 20 hours of digging. And I know I'll still have more cropping up next year until I can get every single little stolon (those white, eye-like part of the plant that grow horizontally) and rhizome out! What is normally known as a May Day basket token flower was more like a cry of Mayday! Mayday! for me.
So, as a PSA for those who are still convinced this is a great little planting, just know I share my saga of ridding them as a warning to contain them, either by a deep edging or even a container. Or else, you will need to dig deep and make certain you rid every little stolon and rhizome. I had over 30 bags of heavy yard waste, often playing beat-the-clock, right up until my sanitation workers would drive by and pick up. I only had two takers for pass alongs.

In other landscape news, my concern over last fall's Hinoki cypress came to be the ultimate demise of the one plant specimen I'd hoped to keep in this side landscape (north-facing). 
In August of 2022, the tree was healthy, by mid October, it started showing signs of yellowing on the side facing the house. By mid November, it was rust colored throughout. I had it removed on March 1st this year. What to do?
Well, last year I had a crepe myrtle volunteer on the western edge of this part of my landscape. I dug it up a couple weeks after the Hinoki was removed, and planted it. Whether it makes or not is yet to be seen. While I am seeing leaves on most crepe myrtles in my Zone 6b -7a region, I still have no leaves. But that's okay. I will try again with a new plant from the nursery. And have you checked prices of plants in your local nurseries yet?! Talk about sticker shock.

Let's talk about pretty things now. Peonies! The collage below are my Itoh peonies (a hybrid blend of tree peony and herbaceous). Looking at the bottom frame of the collage below (L to R): Cora Louise (transplanted last fall where it was formerly smashed behind and between the other two); Coral Sunset, and Bartzella.
A big shout out to Mary from Home Is Where the Boat Is, who advised me on a great suggestion in supporting my herbaceous Karl Rosenfield variety peony. Last year it totally flopped to the ground after the first rain when the buds and blooms were heavy.
With Mary's suggestion of an obelisk support late last fall, I was able to find one in January. Once the eyes started emerging on the new growth, I secured the base of the obelisk around the plant (late March). It's now ready to bloom.
Another variety that grew but did not bloom last year has yet to surprise me this year. Could it be a Sarah Bernhardt? Only time will tell, but it is a herbaceous variety.
Transplants I dug up last year and planted for early spring color included these woodland hyacinth (bulbs). I mistakenly identified them as Spanish bluebells last year. 
I'm still assessing winter damage (mostly to my Dee Runk upright variety boxwoods that were more exposed), but my in-ground pansies surprisingly bounced back. The picture below shows the difference between late March and April, respectively. I didn't wait for the container pansies - they looked awful, so I replaced those in March, shown above.
This year I placed my wreath on the outside of my storm door. Big mistake. This was the second day of cleaning up the nest mess (no eggs), so I ended up placing the wreath between the storm glass and wood door. You can see the reflection of my leaf blower. I had to blow away a lot of debris on the doorstep too.
Early spring blooms: the daffodils, snowdrops, woodland hyacinths and Star of Bethlehem are all still sort of randomly growing, soon to be transplanted for a more mass planting for 2024. The fothergilla (bottle brush) and boomerang lavender plants have already bloomed.
Last year my sister gave me pass along poppies (which I also had in my landscape we downsized from), as well as a few buttercups (evening primrose) mixed in. Just a few buttercups bloomed last year, but the poppies have started blooming, and the buttercups will soon follow this year. I have two clematis intertwined in the center of these. One came from a friend (the white with raspberry stripe), and the purple one I found in this landscape last year. The latter is a double bloom, but so far just the outer part has opened.
My first iris blooms came out yesterday (April 30). They are also pass alongs, which came to me originally from a 76 yr old friend's grandmother's garden. When we downsized I transplanted some to my daughter's home, and once we moved back here, I took a few starts in fall 2021.
Lastly, I've bought a few new plants to add to beds which I waited just to see what would grow within last year. I added a couple bee balm, coneflowers (the magnus is to replace one of two which got waterlogged and died last year). The Hidcote lavender replaces a Grosso variety that grew great guns last year but died with the Christmas arctic blast in late 2022.The purple gem rhododendron was planted in the north landscape. I've reserved two skip laurels to also plant in that north landscape, to camouflage our HVAC units from the street view.
Most of my landscape plants in the north bed will be moved, possibly this week since our weather remains somewhat cool and the dirt is turned from removing the lilies. Mr. P. wants more grass, so I may try to make that happen now. Otherwise I will wait till fall. The line drawn below is what I'm thinking for grass to be planted below, plants  moved upward to adjust. The skip laurels will be planted near the fence line at the top right.
I try to impress this landscape is a process of patience, but I think Mr. P. understands that. What he really deplores is the look of mulch. The plants I have have yet to really re-establish and fill out. There have been so many changes since moving in in late 2021 (and a few more transplants since). One thing's for certain - even a downsized landscape is a lot of work! 

Thanks for stopping by. I'd love to hear your input on any and all of what's happening. We gardeners love sharing our dirt (and plants). Here's a photo of our lawn, after the first cutting in mid-March, which has really come in beautifully where we took down the tree and removed all the boxwoods. (Note: the house and landscape behind ours is currently being renovated, so it is changing right alongside my timeline).
If you'd like to see prior posts to on what we've done to this landscape, the links below are good for that:

Btw, I've been thinking about changing my gallery wall grouping of vintage botanicals I have above our landing bench just inside the house from our garage. Do you think it would look weird if I take away the lily-of-the valley botanical??😉
UPDATE:  I'm so excited to include the 8 hours spent the day after (May 2, 2023) this blog post published that I wanted to share it here. I've already transplanted many plants and sown grass seed in this section of my landscape. From top to bottom: top frame shows vision for grass line (follows gravel path). Middle frame shows squiggly lines for various plants to be moved. The two X's are where new skip laurels will go. Bottom frame: Most plants moved, grass sown. A hard day's work! (ps: house behind ours is currently under home & garden renovation).
Rita C. at Panoply


  1. That is a lot of garden work! I'm sure it will be lovely when you get it the way you plan.

  2. Oh, Rita, if you lived in my neighborhood I would have come by your house and taken those bags of Lily of the Valley and planted them all in my back yard, like ground cover! They'd look great, then get mowed down and life would be good! I have a small plot I wish would grow more! Alas.... But I admire your fortitude (and gardening strength) at being able to get down on all fours and dig those babies out! And it does look terrific. The changes you made to the landscaping really did improve it. I'm a little envious of your other blooms -- they're gorgeous. You have a great talent for this!

  3. You have been a busy bee my friend! It is looking wonderful. Do you use plant tags to identify things? Because I am always amazed at how you can remember the names. Especially of your Peonies! I have to go back and look at the tags on my computer because I take a pic of them. Or I try at

    Sad loss, your Hinoki...that is my all time number one fave for a dark green evergreen, and I can't get them to grow either. I have lost both 2 I tried to grow.

  4. Oh my gosh you have been very busy in your landscaping. That was a lot of work. Sorry about your Hinoki. Your yard is looking so pretty for Spring. Hope all is going well. Big Hugs. Kris

  5. Rita, I so admire your hard work. It all takes time and patience to work in the garden. We are rewarded later. The lawn looks lovely all freshly moved. Loving your peonies. The obelisk is a great look for supporting those peonies. You have lots of different 🌺 flowers.
    Kudos to you on shaping up your lovely gardens.

  6. Rita, you have been so busy! I had no idea Lily of the Valley was invasive. Your yard is lovely.

  7. Rita, Our red painted cottage had lily of the valley when we bought it years ago. I love see them come up. Fortunately, they’re contained against our cottage in back, along with a small patio and short decking. At our age, it’s getting harder to do landscaping. That’s why we’re in a condo and at the cottage we plant flowers into containers. It’s easier to handle. Your hard work is definitely paying off!

  8. A beautiful garden is truly the definition of a labor of love! I can't believe you did all that hard work yourself, and can certainly understand how you feel about Lilies of the Valley. Your yard is really a work of art and I know your neighbors must give you many compliments. Your peonies are stunning! You have a lovely variety of blooms in your garden, I admire your determination! 🌺

  9. Happy May Day and Mayday Rita! 😊
    Everything is shaping up so beautifully! You’ve certainly been busy, especially with digging out the lily-of-the-valley, what a job. I admire your persistence. A garden is so much work, especially when reestablishing one or making a new bed. What a shame about your Hinoki cypress, wonder what was the cause since it was ailing in November, prior to December’s arctic blast. Did you ever determine? You have a gorgeous selection of peonies, and what a handsome obelisk! (thanks for the shout out :) We have some common variety early peonies that are blooming and the rest are just now budding. I had sticker shock too my first trip the garden center a few weeks ago, especially over the price of annuals, wowser. Love the corner shot of your house with your verdant green lawn! ♥

  10. Happy May Day and the chuckle at the end of your post, Rita! Wish you could find a replacement botanical for the Lily of the valley. When we lived in Ohio, a neighbor had them growing and I just loved their aroma. However, they were contained in the spot that she had them. You’ve done so much work! Our Mary gave you a great suggestion for your peony! I love to see progress and transformation. Although my yard is so little, I so love working in it and loving the space and beauty. I planted three more oak leaf hydrangeas that I’ll have to show. Great job on all your hard work, especially in getting rid of the lilies of the valley.

  11. Your gardens look wonderful! I didn't know about Lily-of-the-valley. I love them, but we don't have any! Katie has been diligently working on our flower gardens. She is weeding and putting down mulch so her job will be easier going on. That's so much work, but she and I are enjoying the results.

  12. Amazing!! I just planted Lily of the Valley - my husband wasn't too happy as we had it in our last home and it went wild.....i hope to keep my eye on it this time! You are certainly a gal with a plan!! Keep sharing your pics!

  13. Good evening Rita. I saw this post on my phone this morning and thought it would be better to view on my laptop after work - and I was right. Oh my goodness - what a lot of work you have done and my back aches for you. I had no idea that lilies of the valley were invasive, and worse, poisonous, so good to know. It sounds like they were a real pain to remove. So sorry to hear about the Hinoki cypress. It's probably not funny about your wreath (at least to you), but I did chuckle. On the flip side, the peonies are gorgeous and you have a lovely variety of shrubs and flowers. Your place looks awesome from the street. Happy gardening and happy May!

  14. Rabbit, Rabbit, and Happy May Day! I'm in awe of your garden, Rita. It's obvious you have put much time and effort into creating this beauty. I've spent many hours in the past few weeks, weeding and cleaning out dead plant material after our severe winter storms. I'm happy to say the garden is thriving and looking very nice again. Helpers are coming this week to mulch the garden. Then it will really look neat and tidy. Sorry you lost your tree. Happy gardening!

  15. Rita I so enjoy your gardening, tips and tricks. I LOVE your plantings and feel for your back and arms while removing the lilies....they remind me of a time long ago when I did the same with peppermint! UGH! I didn't think I would ever be completely rid of it, but eventually I conquered the little buggers. I now have it contained in a pot and trim it closely. LOL Have a Happy wonderful May!

  16. Rita, I started with the links and tried to follow from the first year, second year and by the end of this year I was bedazzled by all the changes, beauty and what seems like 100s of plants that we can't grow in Illinois or Wisconsin or that I've never seen before. The peonies are stunning. I love them all. I will get the product (I have to go back and write down the exact name.) and maybe it will work or my grandmother's peonies that I moved here. First time they have ever had black spot is when I moved them here. I am not surprised that they popped up this year. Any plant that is one of the first to come up while winter is still hanging on is a strong plant. Speaking of pansies...the birds building a nest in your wreath is astonishing. I think it looks fabulous where they put it! But you didn't need the droppings on the wreath. I love what you are doing where the Lilies of the Valley were; that looks so good from the street. I don't know if that was where the big cypress was or not. Probably not, because I think you said it was on the north side and I don't think you'd be setting up a flower garden on the north side. Yes, the big tree was a real loss. Mr. P saying he wanted more grass is the first time I've heard a man say he wants more grass so I got a kick out of that. Maybe you have someone hired to cut the grass though. Well, I wish we were sitting down with a cup of coffee overlooking your yard so we could talk in depth about landscaping. It's enjoyable to have a friend who is interested in the same things a person enjoys talking about. It took me 5 straight days of digging to get my vegetable garden in shape for this year, so I feel your physical pain...I could hardly straighten up after that. And, I completely enjoyed it. My sister, Denise, lost her new fence and all of her landscaping (3 acres of fruit trees, bushes, trees, flowers, etc.) with Hurrican Ian in Florida. She said it was about 20,000.00 in plants. None of it covered by insurance. Before the hurricane hit, she said she hoped she didn't lose her landscaping. After 16 hours in a closet including the time when the hurricane hit their house on one side and then came back and hit the other side, she said, "Who cares about the landscaping? I'm just happy that we still have a roof over our heads!" which I try to remember when I'm discouraged about my yard. It was so nice to see a post from you in my mailbox.

  17. I meant that your pansies popped up. That was a long comment, but I had more to say actually...but I'll tell you another time. Don't ever buy a Walmart "Special" 149.00 laptop to watch movies in bed like I did last Christmas. It is constantly deleting words and the cursor jumps around like a jumping bean.

  18. You just cracked me up about removing the lily print from your gallery wall! My coworker gave me a couple lily plants and they aren't spreading at all. Three years and still two plants. I'll keep my eye on them. Kudos on getting your property to your liking. That's backbreaking work!

  19. Gosh I love Lily of the valley, its scent is lovely and I love the bell shaped flowers but I know it can take over which can be frustrating! You’ve done a lot of garden work! Are you soaking that tree transplant. Sprinklers don’t water long enough for it. You’ve got a lot of work laid out for yourself!

  20. You are an inspiration Rita and I need a lot of that now! I can't tell you how much I admire all you've done inside and out, especially out now. I see your vision for a well rounded garden and it's amazing how much you've accomplished. Wow, you meant business with the Lilly of the Valley! I am enjoying watching your dream realized.....PS, put that lily-of-the valley botanical back! LOL 🤣

  21. so, who knew that Lily of the Valley was such a naughty little creeper?... I wouldn't have thought it! I'm constantly amazed at your wonderful skill and knowledge about plants and landscaping. Things are a bit of a mess here since so much nearly died because of the winter weather. I need to get out there and do some work but, well, hopefully I can get it together to get some things done. LOVE your wreath, even with the bird nest "perched" on top. There is something to the term "birdbrain"!

  22. Love that you are so committed to your gardening, Rita! It truly is a labor of love. You have educated me about Lily of the Valley and I now know to be weary of it's pretty face! Sorry you weren't able to save your Cypress. It seems there's always one type of plant or one area of the yard that struggles, no matter how much care and attention you give it. Looking forward to your continuing progress in your beautiful yard. Sending you much sunshine ~ Suzanne.

  23. I enjoyed reading about your garden updates. Funny about removing your lily of valley botanical ~ lol. Thanks for sharing at the #HomeMattersParty!

  24. I came back to see your next day update, Rita! How very wonderful it all looks. I love seeing progress.
    Happy Mother’s Day 💐

  25. Wow! You have been busy and your garden is looking wonderful! You have accomplished so much and I especially love the new spaces appearing and the numerous varieties of Peony and the purple Japanese Iris. It will be fun watching your garden space transform into your vision and it shows that you love what you are doing, even though it is a lot of work! You certainly are an inspiration. I’m tired after just pruning my hydrangea!