Having taken a look at how the front yard fared in 2021 as far as TGGR, let’s check out the back.
The Four Seasons Bed
This was the Four Seasons Bed at the end of September last year. I think that I got all those Japanese anemones out (fingers crossed.) The caged plants are the Fatal Attraction echinacea that ended up having aster yellows this year and having to be destroyed. The daylilies at both ends of the bed were all spring 2020 additions.
Among the plants added this year were Astrantia ‘Star of Fire’, Heuchera ‘Black Taffeta’ (which is much redder than I expected), Thalictrum ‘Black Stockings’, and Azalea I-Refuse-To-Call-It-a-Rhododendron ‘Koromo Shibiku’ (winner of my 2021 Florence Nightingale Award.) This photo is from mid-October; two weeks later, I decided to play Musical Daylilies. And why?
Because I absolutely fell in love with the color of ‘Jedi Blue Note’ which I had originally put around the conifer but now wanted them on the opposite end of the bed instead of the daylily cultivars that I’d planted there. So, I dug all those daylilies up, put them into other planting beds, then moved all the Jedi, and may the Force be with them!
The Bridge Beds
These are the East and West ‘Bridge Beds’ as they were last autumn.
Please try to ignore the ten bazillion weeds in these October 2021 photos; my face is red with shame! I take photos ‘on the fly’ for my own record keeping, forgetting that I may need to use them in a season-end blog post. Duh. New plants this year are Cryptomeria ‘Dragon Warrior’, Cephalotaxus ‘Golden Dragon’, Rhododendron chrysanthum ‘Exbury Form’ (which I fear may not survive), Edgeworthia chrysantha ‘Snow Queen’ (one of two; the other is in a front walkway bed); dwarf Siberian iris ‘Fisherman’s Fancy’ and ‘Richard’s Joyous Love’; Itoh peonies ‘Love Affair’ and ‘Sequestered Sunshine’; herbaceous peony ‘Purple Phoenix Feather’, and a miniature tall bearded iris called ‘Pixi-Wan Kenobi’ because seriously, who could resist that name? Two groups of off-white daylilies were moved here from the Four Seasons bed (‘Lime Frost’ and ‘Starman’s Gift’) as well as a supposedly-September-blooming and very fragrant yellow named Olfactory Evidence. The two Japanese maples (‘Mikawa Yatsubusa’ and ‘Ikandi’) and the flowering cherry ‘Kojo-No-Mai’ must be caged against rabbits until they get bigger. These beds badly need filler plants. And much more weeding!
Finally there is some progress in the Silverbell Bed which is the largest in the backyard other than the side and rear borders.
In October 2020 it held three plants: a large (inherited) red crape myrtle, a small dwarf spruce (‘Ruby Teardrops’), a young Halesia carolina ‘UCONN Wedding Bells’ from which the bed gets its name, and four clumps of the white daylily ‘Clarity of Purpose’ which were moved from the white planting because – of course – there is no such thing as a truly white daylily.
The ‘Ruby Teardrops’ was moved to the Echo Bed in the front yard. This was the fourth move in two years, if anyone’s counting; it’s a wonder the poor thing is still alive! Amsonia ‘Storm Cloud’ now occupies that central spot. Two groups of tall bearded iris (blue ‘Babbling Brook’ and white ‘Skating Party’) were moved here from Patio Bed #3 in September. So were a dozen Geranium himalayense ‘Irish Blue’ which turned out to be the wrong shade of blue for the conifer bed (my fault, not the nursery’s). They look awful now but will recover; hardy geraniums are tough customers. ‘Clarity of Purpose’ was relocated to the Driveway Bed; several tall, large, red ‘Heavenly United We Stand’ replaced them. Those have a yellow throat, and so at the opposite end of the bed I put a couple of the bright yellow ‘Spider Miracle’ which supposedly has flowers that are more than 8 inches wide! At the risk of sounding like Dr. Peter Venkman: “Well, there’s something you don’t see every day.” (But I hope to.)
Clover Trunk Bed
This bed got its name from the shape of the stump left after a triple-trunk oak was cut down in early 2018, leaving this sorry-looking tangle of euonymus, Virginia creeper, poison ivy, a nondescript hosta, some orange daylilies, and weedy grasses that grew beneath it.
So, all was cleared out later that year.
In 2019, I decided that something had to be done with this spot, which meant that it got edging that autumn…
…and some Geranium macrorrhizum ‘Ingwersen’s Variety’ in summer 2020. Well, if nothing else, that plant could cope with the oak-roots-filled side of the bed.
This spring, the geraniums were joined by Cornus sanguinea ‘Compressa’, Leucojum ‘Gravetye Giant’, Porteranthus ‘Pink Profusion’, two Thalictrum ‘Nimbus White’ (since moved elsewhere) and two white Echinacea that had to be disposed of later due to aster yellows. Obviously, a pink-and-white color scheme.
In October I decided to lengthen the bed, prompted by the (now fired) lawn service constantly driving through the gap between the Clover Trunk bed and the large conifer, thereby squashing the edging and leaving tire ruts in the bed as well. The bed had already acquired the non-vining dark-foliage/white flowers Clematis ‘Midnight Masquerade’ to spread over the stumps, a pink dwarf crape myrtle ‘Brew Ha Ha’ (a gift from a friend), white Phlox ‘David’ (to replace the echinacea), and border bearded iris ‘Pink Kitten.’ This bed looks much better now, I think. Of course, that new area needs to be filled in with more of those geraniums, and a large pot will probably sit in the middle of the ‘clover’ next year.
Jewel Box Bed
The Jewel Box bed got finished in one fell swoop, from scratch, this year: dark lapis-lazuli-blue Aquilegia ‘Melba Higgins’, rubellite-magenta Geranium ‘Ann Folkard’, citrine-yellow daylily ‘Entropic State’, and sapphire-blue Clematis ‘Rhapsody’ which didn’t really bestir itself until late August and then had to fight for its life against the pearl-white moonflower that I’d sown at the base of the trellis in May. The September newcomers are a ruby-red peony (‘Hot Chocolate’) and some amethyst-purple Siberian iris called ‘Darkness Comes’. This photo is from August.
Dwarf Conifer Bed
The Conifer Bed was another blank slate that got its initial planting-up this year: Pinus thunbergii ‘Thunderhead’ as the centerpiece, surrounded by Erica x darleyensis ‘A.T. Johnson’, four Thuja ‘Morgan’, three ‘Montgomery’ spruce, three Deutzia ‘Chardonnay Pearls’, and ten dwarf Siberian iris ‘Sugar Sprite’ which are white with a pale-yellow signal. The dozen ‘Irish Blue’ hardy geraniums shown in this photo were later moved to the Silverbell Bed but will be replaced by ‘Derrick Cook’ (also G. himalayense) next spring. Those flowers are white with dark pink veins, which will appear either white or very pale pink from a distance. The heather will have pink flowers from January to April, supposedly; this photo was taken during the first week of August.
The Asian Woodland
This area has been one continuous 2021 frustration. Starting this spring with only an existing yew and a small and rather spindly evergreen azalea, I wanted this spot to be a collection of woodland plants native to Japan and China. It is east facing but only gets direct sun for a few morning hours; the soil is, of course, clay. Almost everything put here has been unhappy, including plants that theoretically should love it. A group of Primula sieboldii that I put here in early May said “You’re kidding, aren’t you?” and either went prematurely dormant or died outright; I’ll find out next spring.
This photo is from early July. Two of the five Mukdenia ‘Karasuba’ from Joy Creek Nursery (front row) were ridiculously small and weak, couldn’t cope, and disappeared after two weeks. The two variegated Ajuga ‘Bikun/Frosted Jade’ are circled in yellow. What’s in the anti-rabbit cage? Glaucidium palmatum. The hostas in front of it are ‘Waterslide.’ The hosta at the left is ‘June’, a cultivar that did great in my previous garden but has done almost nothing here except act as a slug magnet.
Fast-forward to August. The remaining three Mukdenia died, so three hostas (‘Regal Tot’, ‘Parisian Skies’ and ‘Maui Buttercups’) were moved here from another bed that was proving too sunny for them. Notice how much larger the variegated ajuga have NOT got; in fact, they’ve gotten smaller. The only two things doing well (i.e., not dying) are the Western maidenhair (Adiantum pedatum/aleuticum) and Dryopteris erythrosora ‘Compact’ – and it is pretty hard to kill either of those ferns, anywhere. So much for the “Asian plants” theme.
And finally, mid-October. The three hostas did even worse here, if you can believe it, so they are now elsewhere. One day in early September, the two ajuga simply were not there anymore. Yes, you really can kill an ajuga; I didn’t think that was possible. The Glaucidium isn’t dead, just dormant (I hope.) I am thinking about some variegated Japanese forest grass along the front edge next year. I planned to put some Erythronium ‘Pagoda’ in this bed but my order from Brent & Becky’s was cancelled due to crop failure. Which just proves that, as always: Girl plants, Garden Gods laugh.
Patio Bed #1 got stripped of everything except one small evergreen azalea, then acquired four dwarf crape myrtles (whose story is told here) but I am considering moving the two white ones to the Front Walkway Bed next spring and replacing them with daphnes. It is the only bed in my entire garden that a daphne would be happy in. An overenthusiastic group of dwarf bearded iris ‘Pinkster’ at the top edge of the bed had to be divided and relocated elsewhere, at least temporarily (I seem to be doing a lot of that lately.)
The Pinetum (formerly known as Patio Bed #2) got two new residents: P. koraiensis ‘Gee Broom’ which will stay small, and P. parviflora ‘Aoi’ which can get quite large if allowed (I won’t) and is a truly blue pine. Blue as in “spruce blue” rather than “blue-green.” A group of daylilies (Lavender Heartthrob, a totally inaccurate color name) was moved here from the Four Seasons Bed during the Musical Daylilies madness. Because I had to put all the way-too-many-after-division ‘Pinkster’ iris somewhere, they now run along the top edge of two of the three patio beds. I’m not crazy about the look, but there was nowhere else for them to go, color-wise. An order of ten miniature blue Siberian iris ‘Too Cute’ instantly fell apart, upon arrival, into 42 teeny-tiny fans which I planted individually and lost a good 20% of during their first month in the ground. I might have maybe 50% of them left at this point; they’re those brown grassy looking things in this photo. I realized the other day that the survivors, if any, will have to go elsewhere next year because I put them in far too soon vis-à-vis the vicious mat-forming-weeds population which has come rampaging back with a vengeance over the last couple of weeks. I thought I’d eradicated almost all of them last year. Nope. Not even close.
I know I sound like a broken record, but because of the ongoing delay in the paving work, the only things that happened in the Courtyard Bed were that the Loropetalum ‘Zhou-Zhou Fuchsia’ got larger and the big white pieris behind it was covered with mealybugs (?) and heavily-yellow-speckled foliage almost all year. I have never had that happen to any pieris I’ve ever grown, in any garden, ever before. *sigh*
The North and South side borders got some groundcover Epimediums added to the few areas that are even remotely dig-able (tree roots), and some small divisions of a few relocated hostas, daylilies, and hardy geraniums. My two young Pieris ‘Katsura’, both of which were put into the South border last year, are exhibiting the same yellow-stippled leaf appearance as the mature pieris in the Courtyard. I strongly suspect mites, but have no idea why. Because I spray Bifen around the house foundation during the year to control clover mites that otherwise would infest the house itself (and did, before I discovered Bifen) I may experiment with also using it on the large pieris next year.
The Stone Bench Bed looks exactly as it did at the end of 2020 except for the demise of ‘Blue Surprise’. I have apologized profusely to daylily ‘Late Summer Breeze’ for my bitter complaints that it bloomed in early June last year and this year instead of in August as I’d originally expected and was why I had bought them, because guess what? This year, they put up rebloom spikes all through September and well into October, as shown here. Thus, all is right with the world. 😊
The Great Garden Renovation (TGGR) Year-End Progress Reports:
I enjoy reading about your adventures with your plants and yard. You must spend a lot of time outside. I had many flower beds when living in Maryland and loved the time outside. A great time to “think”. I was happy to get things in the ground so rarely transplanted. I worked a plan on paper with pink & white blooming trees and pink to purple ground plants & azaleas in the spring. I had 100’s of bulbs which I got from Holland which I never found time to divide when needed. I admire you and the time you are taking to move everything around, some more than once. It will be beautiful when you finish, and I can’t wait to see all the beds when they mature.
Merry Christmas and a successful garden year in 2022
Usually my moves are prompted by either (a) discovering that what I thought would look good, actually looks horrid or (b) what I thought would be happy in that spot was making it clear that it was very UN-happy, for one reason or another. Of course, in the case of (b), the move is because I can’t stand to see the poor thing(s) suffer and/or die outright, lol. Patience is not a virtue that I was given multiple bucketfuls of, in the DNA lottery, it seems. 😉
It is certainly starting to look as if your improvements are taking hold! What a struggle to get to this point though, and so many tenacious weeds and uncooperative plants. Yes, the Asian bed still needs some help, but wow do your dwarf conifers look happy. Also is that a witch hazel in your four seasons bed? I’d like for it to have a talk with mine because none of them put on more than a few inches of growth each year.
Oh and my pieris always get that stippled look from lacebug infestations. I think they attack the new growth and leave you with damaged leaves to look at all season which I just ignore, since mine is far back and nothing special as far as fancier pieris go.
All the best for the holiday season!
Yes, that is a witch hazel but nothing exotic: just ‘Arnold Promise’, because I figured that with this troublesome soil of mine, I needed something with a looooong track record of success, LOL. Thanks for the lacebug idea, I will definitely need to examine things more closely next year if the “fuzzies” return! Have a healthy holiday!!