Category Archives: Pruning

Boxwood Bounty

My mother-in-law is in the process of downsizing and her first priority has been, naturally, to leave no beloved plant behind.

Because she’s downsizing, that means many of those plants are finding a new home in our backyard. The vast majority of these plants are mature boxwoods. Nearly 20 of them to be exact.

My eyes nearly bugged out of my head when Chris began wrestling some of these massive plants out of the back of our car. Currently we have a small fortune in plants sitting on the side of my driveway as we frantically figure out what to do with this new prize.

Biggest Boxwoods Ever

I’m aiming to spread them in a couple of different areas, figuring they will become a unifying feature across the yard. The problem is that several of the areas where we plant to them aren’t exactly ready.

Fortunately, I had a brainstorm about how (I hope) to keep these gorgeous shrubs happy until next spring when we tackle our next major outdoor project. The little pit out front where we’ve been shoving leaves in the fall – the source of all of my fantastic veggie garden soil – is going to host the shrubs for a few months before we dig them back up again.

SONY DSCWhen I shared this idea with my mom, she commented, “Oh yeah, you’re heeling them in.”

Apparently I wasn’t the first person with this brainstorm. This article from explains a bit better the process of temporarily storing bareroot plants in the ground, a process that we’re adapting for our purposes.

I wish I’d thought of this ages ago. There are two long-dead fig trees I owe an apology.



Summertime Check-in

The biggest update of the summer is that the baby can now go 10 full minutes of helping me weed before putting dirt in her mouth.

I’ve been lax in posting updates, but now that I have a walking toddler on my hands I’ve had less time–but more help in the garden. And what a garden we’ve been tending!

The vegetables have far outpaced my expectations for them.

The zucchini looks like something out of Little Shop of Horrors as it prepares to take over my yard.

The zucchini looks like something out of Little Shop of Horrors as it prepares to take over my yard.

The tallest of the tomatoes have just uprooted their temporary stake, meaning I have to get working on their new cages.

The tallest of the tomatoes have just uprooted their temporary stake, meaning I have to get working on their new cages.

The Anaheim pepper, which has looked like it's on its deathbed since Day 1 has produced a beautiful little pepper.

The Anaheim pepper, which has looked like it’s on its deathbed since Day 1 has produced a beautiful little pepper.

The cucumbers have been sending out tendrils everywhere, requiring the quick addition of a trellis.

The cucumbers have been sending out tendrils everywhere, requiring the quick addition of a trellis.

There’s lot growing, but it’s all still green at this point. I imagine the tomatoes will bloom into their beautiful red about three hours after I leave for vacation!

Montana WildflowerMeanwhile, on the other side of the yard, the wildflowers are not only elegantly tall but beginning to bloom. Their feathery stems are beginning to unfold with the sweetest array of who knows what. I recognized this morning a single wild rose, an adorable yellow bloom tucked beside the big pot of roses the way my Rose curls against me when shy, with her face to my leg. I’ve been tardy in putting out mulch as I waited for these flowers to bloom and the grass has taken that opportunity to grow more rampant than ever in the turned soil.

The little Rose and I have been out in the evenings with our respective shovels, pulling out the grass and stroking the soft leaves of everything that remains. Even the fish have been enjoying the nighttime ritual as they swim to the closest rock and sit there with fins waving.

Flowers for Fun

It’s happening! It’s been so long since I’ve had a gardening vision take physical shape and I can’t believe it’s really happening. I’ve been floating on clouds (sinking in mud?) all week, every time I look out the window.

To start, here’s what I was working with:

Before photoThe long explanation is that I’m tired of planting foundation plants and watching them get eaten by deer, burnt by sun, lashed by wind, situated in poor locations then put in proper locations where they look even punier, and worse. This year I gave up (not completely: fertilizing is done, I’ve been researching when to prune, and I am trying to pay closer to attention to where the plants want to be. Just not focusing all of my energy here). I decided I wanted pure fun, a place to grow my Montana wildflowers and where my roses could shine. I decided on this particular spot because it gets great sun, I have a wonderful view of it from the nursery and I am sick of doing 100 little circles trying to get this area mowed – now it’s just one big circle to work around.

Chris and I started the garden last week by creating an outline with a hose to establish our borders and agree on the general size of what we wanted. Next, we¬† took spade to dirt and began clearing out the grass and loosening up the soil as we worked. We slapped a wide-brimmed gardening hat on our little Rose, but after the first minor leaf-eating-vomiting incident, we invited her grandmother to come visit and keep her giggling while we worked. So as of yesterday, voila, here’s what we have:

Rose's GardenMy goal was to have a sitting area where I could enjoy the pond, kids at play, the smell of flowers, the shade of the dogwood. In the background several new India Hawthorne were added to expand on the ones I already have (those dead-looking but not dead-acting plants on the right. Deer-resistant does not mean deer-proof, clearly, and I’ll be dealing with that this winter). Behind the bench is my potted rose, which it turns out has sent tendrils of root well beyond the pot. On either side is mounding artemesia, which I chose because it is incredibly soft and adds a fun dimension to the garden. In the foreground are my incredible fall daisies.

Pond ViewThere’s still a lot of empty space, but that’s another factor I was aiming for. My goal is to ultimately have color in this garden from at least March to November, from the first crocus to the last pansy. I’m going to try to control myself and add a little more each month until I have a complete firework, from initial spark to the big bursting bang and the last awe-inspiring fizzle. On the list: butterfly-attracting lantana for the height of summer, as well as sunshiny coreopsis and coneflowers, asters for fall, .

Sitting SpotThe one thing I am going to rush out to buy is a fun staked drink holder … and a couple yards of mulch.

Return of the Dirt People

I know, I haven’t posted in quite a while. Well, I haven’t gardened in quite a while either. Perhaps you remember my pitifully short garden to do list from last year? I do. It haunts me. Daily. And in my mind it has grown exponentially.

But I’ve been a tad bit busy. Since my little Rose (what else?) was born in July, I have managed to get into the garden roughly four times. You see, there are many (surprisingly many) things one can do with an infant tied strategically to one’s chest but if gardening is one of those things, well I haven’t figured out how. But the little Rose did sit in her bouncy chair in September for a few minutes while I pulled weeds (until I realized I was pulling with a tad too much enthusiasm and the little one had a head full of dirt). Then in October I spent half an hour doing my winter pruning in a mad effort to take down the roses; in November I finally moved the daisies; and in December I emptied three of the five bags of mulch sitting in my driveway. Ta-da.

By New Year’s Eve I had drawn multiple plans for next year’s garden and had a head full of dreams.

Some of those dreams involve a tiny trowel and pail for my little helper. Others involve the daisies.

I was very excited for this particular transplant.

The daisies had been growing radically taller than the juniper and Japanese maple bordering them, embarrassing my little tree and shrubs in their white-petaled exuberance. Finally I decided on a spot to move these hardy flowers: just outside the tidy borders of the mulch that surrounds the pond. Right now the remains of the daisies look like little renegades, just toeing the line of mulch. But to my way of thinking, this was the first step to what will be a glorious cut-flower bed later this summer. I’m mentally picking out mass plantings in such a way that I’m hoping to ultimately have blooms from the first yellow daffodils and tulips in March and April to the last pansies of December. Lantana. Coreopsis. Black-eyed Susans. Thick lamb’s ear around the feet of a little white bench… ahhh. Just saying the names is a mantra more relaxing than any yoga class (as if I had time for that either).

Will it work out? Who knows. But on days when the clouds are hanging so low that even the dog will only hang half her body outside her little door, this girl’s gotta dream about the garden.

My Summer To-Do List

Being a mom has already proven to be hard work, and I still have several more months to go before my garden-helper-to-be is out in the world. The hardest part for me has simply been that every time I bend down to pull a weed, it takes five minutes, a backache and a bad batch of heartburn before I can struggle my way upright. And digging holes? Forgetaboutit. Urgh.

For the time being, I’m stuck making lists, planning ahead, and pointing (much to the chagrin of husband and every strong-backed individual who has the misfortune to wander too close to my garden paradise). I think I’ve found a few small things I can do, though, and I thought I’d make a to-do list so that by fall I can look back and say, “Well, I accomplished something.” (In addition to giving birth and all that jazz, of course.)

1. Lawn care. Ok, this one falls into the point-and-plead arena, but I thought it would be worth putting on the list simply because Chris has taken lawn improvement into his own hands and I thought it would be worth remembering in October to compare the views and see of our weed and feed regimen has made a difference.

Lawn Improvement Project

2. Control the roses. My knock-out roses may think they’ve won their way out of their pots, but I’m determined to prove them otherwise. I have plans for a simple lattice, using 1×1 wood, screws and a couple cans of spray paint that I’m sure I can do mostly sitting down. I love the enthusiasm of these roses, but their growth is getting out of hand and any day now I’m going to come down the stairs to find they’ve toppled over on themselves and are growing aggressively across the grass.

Knock-out Roses

3. Edge the gardens. While my scraggly plants¬† are still struggling to grow (less of a struggle this summer, I’m hoping, with this over-hungry Siberian irises out of the way), the grass, clover and other weeds are having no such problem. Chris and I have been talking since day one about edging each garden with stone to create a finite boundary that the mower can easily run over, determining lawn versus garden once and for all. I’m hoping this is the year. I’ve decided if I just pick up a handful of landscaping stones at Lowe’s a month, I could have half the backyard edged by 2022 (partly kidding). Moreover, I figure hand digging and settling in stone is something I can handle while seated on my happy little weeding mat. On top of that, I found a fantastic inspiration piece on Pinterest for how I would like my edging to look.

Let's hope this fall's "after" shot of this scraggly azalea and company is all-around neater.

Let’s hope this fall’s “after” shot of this scraggly azalea and company is all-around neater.

This list is depressingly short right now, but overall I’m not expecting to make many dramatic changes this year. I suppose number four on the list might be to start drawing out the idea I have for extending the garden around the pond, but I have a feeling that will undergo many changes before fall digging time. We’ll start with this for now and see how it goes.

Veggie Gardening Colonial Style

As I mentioned in my last post, the Lower Garden at Mount Vernon was among my favorite inspiration points at George Washington’s impressive estate, in part because there was no separation between the practical and the pretty, the vegetables themselves were beautiful. The rows of purple-topped chives added interest among the cabbage. Rosemary created a fragrant, beautiful, and simple-to-maintain hedge around the peas.

Lower Garden

Around the fenced-in dipping cistern was a beautifully patterned arrangement of vegetables to benefit from the handy irrigation.

Dipping Cistern at Lower Garden

However, the most unique addition was the apple, pear and peach trees trained to grow espalier along many of the fences throughout the garden. It was mind-blowing how these trees had been trained and trimmed to create a low-lying living fence throughout the garden.

Apple Tree in the Lower Garden

The entire arrangement made me eager to rush home and start digging the perimeter of my veggie-garden to be. Fortunately for Chris, I don’t rush much of anywhere these days and instead am making plenty of to-do lists for the summers ahead. More on that later as well!

Is there anything more beautiful than an edible feast awaiting harvest in the garden?

Is there anything more beautiful than an edible feast awaiting harvest in the garden?

Fall Overhaul

Yesterday I began my fall overhaul of the garden. I still have a handful of shrubs in pots, but things are already looking better.

It turns out my azaleas did grow this summer, we just couldn’t tell because of the overgrown Siberian irises – so out those flowers came. After Chris significantly widened the border of that bed around the deck, we filled it with two flats of pansies. I love the result.


It’s so nice to finally be able to focus on color, and not just background texture.


There is one little problem though. I love my irises, I really do. Maybe a little less after an hour of struggling to get them out of the ground, but still. We planted a handful around a spindly camellia in the corner, which looks after three years as if it just might make it. I figured the tenacious irises might take root in that poor soil area, and help remind me to water.


As for the rest … I’m still working on that.


Drop me a line if you’d like a bundle of irises!