Grass to Meadow

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A while back I wrote about this.  Practically all summer I was waiting to start this project.  While I have been lamenting the loss of summer’s heat and long days, looking forward to this project has been the only good part of the cooling weather.  We ripped out our small, needless front lawn and replaced that space with native plants.  The plan was to make it look something like this:

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I love the look of the cone flower coming out from the grasses.  So much prettier than trampled grass scorched brown by the neighborhoods’ dogs. While I couldn’t source prairie dropseed or little blue stem for this project, I still managed to acheive the effect.

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Everything has a bit of transplant shock right now… most everything was divided from existing perennials and grasses around the yard.  Echinacea purpurea pop out around the grasses.  Rudbekia are interspersed.  Baptista dominates one corner (I think I have it in blue and white, time will tell!).  Shasta daisy and columbine are in the shadier parts.

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I put some butterfly weed in the sunniest parts.  I divided my stonecrop & hens and chicks- they hold the soil very well.  The yard has a slight slope, so the stonecrop serves to hold it all in place.

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I edged it with repurposed brick from an old bed.  This brick is easily 50 years old and now lines the garden at the edge of the sidewalk.  When placing the plants, I threw a handful of compost into each hole, then top dressed around them.  The soil was fairly compacted and as we ripped out the sod, organic material was lacking.  I finished off the whole production with several inches of composted leaf mulch.  This stuff breaks down fairly quickly, and is almost more like a compost than a mulch.  Next year I may need some more mulch, but I hope that it’ll fill in enough that mulch will become obsolete- the plants will serve as their own living mulch, and I’ll only sprinkle handfuls around when I have to divide something or pull out under-performers.

And boy do I still have plans for this space!

I have some bulbs to add (not native, but after a long New England winter I need daffodils.  Need).  I would love to add an extra bird feeder and maybe a bird bath.  I have plans to add some native bleeding heart.  – I have already put in some Dicentra cucullaria (dutchmen’s breeches) bare roots.  I will probably also transfer some Geranium maculatum (wild geranium) from the backyard in the spring.  I’ll probably also crumble some seed heads around and see what ends up popping up.  I like to shake out the Physostegia virginiana (obediant plant) and Monarda fistulosa (wild bergamot) and let them spread themselves as they please.  I’m not above annuals either.  Mexican sunflower will for sure make an appearance next year.

Can you tell from my rambling that I’m still exited about my new garden bed?  But now I need a brake.  I moved 2 yards of mulch around today and for that I need a breather.

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The Late Summer Garden

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Really I should call this the atypical late summer garden.  No, the toys above are very typical… what’s not typical is how green everything is.  I mean the grass is lush, verdant, and in need of mowing (I mowed a few hours after this picture was taken).  Halfway through August here in Boston-adjacent land we found ourselves already with more than our typical monthly allotment of precip and it is still coming.  I’m writing this post right now from my covered back deck while a steady rain comes down.  It certainly has led to some atypical garden behaviors this summer- but some pretty average observations as well.  Mainly- this time of year things get a little out of hand- a little explosive- and whether it’s the August heat or the declining light (it’s getting fairly dark by the time the kiddo is in bed, which is when I can find time to tend to the garden) the garden can get a little derelict…a little gangly.

Not that I mind.  Something about the profusion of life is very gratifying.  The squash vine that grows 3 feet while you’re at work.  The sunflowers covered in bees.  The Monarda that started as a small plug just months before that is now something that sprawls every which way.

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And this super-sized and sprawling perrenials look is going to really benefit me come September.  As I mentioned not long ago, we are ripping out our small front lawn and replacing it with a garden.  Many of the plants from this process will come from dividing existing plants from around our yard.  So robust growth will enable me to split things more ways, or transplant larger splits.  The plants above, which include Columbine, Shasta Daisy, Dianthus, Rudbekia fulgida and coneflower were started 4 years ago from small hacked off bits from my mom’s garden.  Before that, when we moved in there were three mostly dead azalea.  It’s time for these guys to be divided for their health and to make way for the Ceanothus americanus (New Jersey Tea) that I planted from Prairie Moon early this summer.

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The one aspect of garden gone wild that I don’t like is when plants flop into the grass.  It makes mowing hard and lots of times the best blooms become hidden.  The floppiness of plants is very apparent this time of year.  You can see it in this picture and the one below.  The hard rain beats them down (our raspberries are now sprawling like a giant octopus across the yard after the rain), but also lack of support plays a role.  Early in the season I staked some goldenrod & aster that always flop.  That has kept them looking fine.  Trying to stake floppy plants, like those Gaillardia after the damage is done is losing battle.

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And while I love looking out my dining room window to this wall of sunflowers, I probably don’t need this many next year.  The flop makes this narrow side yard impassable.  The sunflowers in their voracious reach for sun are shading out some of my new milkweed varieties that I planted this year like Asclepia incarnata (rose/swamp milkweed) and Asclepia viridis (spider milkweed).  But nothing bullies the common milkweed.  It is the very definition of a weed.

Right below my feet in the above picture were several juicy mushrooms.  That is an atypical late summer garden feature.  Especially in this side yard garden that is usually baked and crispy this time of year.  These mushrooms were massive.

Massive perennials?  Flopping plants every which way?  Totally a normal summer garden.

Green grass?  Mushrooms popping up?  Not a regular occurrence.

And thus why we do it my friends.  The ever changing newness of each year.  Our plants generally adapt year after year and so, do we.