Pretty planters and pots

As soon as the weather gets warm enough, I look forward to putting together my own hanging baskets and pots for the front steps. While in the past I’ve used whatever pots I’ve had on hand, Tim prefers symmetry. To humor him, this year I bought matching hanging baskets and got rid of the mismatched plastic pots I’ve been using.

I like mixing different colors and textures in my baskets, contrasting dark and light, large and small blooms. I’m pleased with how things came out this year. As a bonus, I used some stock, which smells wonderful.

Let the basket-making begin.

Let the basket-making begin.

Yes, that photo is blurry. Taking photos with an iPhone while wearing gardening gloves = less than ideal.

Pots on the front steps.

Pots on the front steps.

My new baskets.

My new baskets.

More stripy petunias.

More stripy petunias.

The front steps.

The front steps.

In the background here, you can also see the clematis I planted. I love the big, dark wine-colored flowers on these – I can’t wait until they climb higher up the trellises on either side of the porch.

Front and center.

Front and center.

peony buds

The prettiest time of the year.

This time of year is when our yard looks the best. I’d love to see photos of the house when it was first built to get a sense of how much the rhododendrons have grown over the years, and what the place looked like without the screen porch.

front of house

The front of the house – almost everything’s blooming.

screen porch

I can’t imagine our house without the screen porch.

Coreopsis, salvia, and Siberian irises.

peony buds

My peonies are finally going to bloom this year–they came from the house I grew up in, so I’m sentimentally attached.

hanging basket

The curse of the previous homeowner: episode 2

It’s finally nice outside and not raining–that means Tim and I have been able to get out in the yard and do some much-needed clean-up.

relocated shrub

The mystery shrub has reached well over 6.5 feet tall. Hopefully it will thrive in its new location.

I dealt with another curse from the previous homeowners: an unidentified shrub. The previous homeowner had planted it in the butterfly garden, next to a butterfly bush and a large yellow daisy. When we moved in, it was about knee-high. Even then, I knew I didn’t want it in the butterfly garden competing with two other large plants, so I moved it to the side of the house. Where it thrived. Scarily. To the point where Tim was concerned the roots might damage our foundation. It was also encroaching on the fill pipe to our oil tank. That needs to be easily accessible – especially during New England winters.

So on Saturday, I moved the mystery shrub to part of the back yard next to the fire pit where we keep our compost bin and let things grow wild. So far, it seems to be doing well. I filled in the space on the side of the house with some forget-me-nots from my friend Amy. The side yard looks much more open now, and it will definitely be easier to mow without Mr. Shrub poking us in the face.

forget me nots

Forget-me-nots on the side of the house

I also planted another hanging basket and some pots for the front steps. And I bought a GIANT fuschia for the deck – we get very little sun back there, so I need things that do well in shade. My grandmother used to have fuschia in the front of the house and I always thought the dark purple looked garish next to the hot pink. But this one is white. Much better. And still makes me think of my grandmother.

hanging basket

Petunias and nemesia. In a few weeks they should trail over the sides of the pot.

front steps

I already had the pansies–I added pots with verbena, more nemesia, and tall things that look like fireworks when they bloom.

Giant fuschia.

Giant fuschia. Beautiful.

Mint condition

We’ve had a spell of warm weather the last few days – finally. Tim and I got out in the yard over the weekend and did some much-needed raking. I also did some serious maintenance in one of my flower beds.

One of the things I love most about my flower beds: the majority of my plants have been gifts. When Tim and I bought the house, both our mothers offered us tons of things from their gardens. Tim’s mom gave us some wonderful hostas and Solomon’s seal and astilbe from her yard. My friend Helen gave me day lillies, Siberian irises, lungwort, lamb’s ear and thyme. My friend Lisa, who can grow anything anywhere, gave me tiger lillies and more hosta and paperwhites.

My mother, who my family has long nicknamed the Garden Ho, let me run rampant in her yard, digging up things willy-nilly. Hostas, thyme, wild onions, peonies, phlox, foxglove, liatris, myrtle, a pretty thing we later learned was called rose campion…all kinds of plants.

And mint.

A word about mint:

INVASIVE. That’s the word about mint, all right. Argh.


The mint invasion.

You’re probably thinking that my invasion doesn’t look so bad. Consider that it’s only April – the start of the growing season. If I don’t tend to that now, it will get two feet tall and consume everything in its path. Which is great if you’re a mojito factory, which I’m not.

I spent some time digging out rogue mint. Digging, ripping, extracting by any means necessary. Mint sends out runners, so when you pull one plant out, you can chase the root back to another plant several feet away. It’s really amazing. The whole time you’re ripping it out, you’re thinking, how the hell did that get over here? And then you find the root. Oh. That. That’s exactly how it got all the way over here. Yikes.

Anyway, I cleared out a ton of it, potting some for myself and some for friends. Who have been warned that the wee little fuzzy thing in that pot will transform into Audrey 2 given the chance. With the mint out of the way, I was able to move a foxglove that had self-seeded in the middle of some phlox, giving both the phlox and the foxglove more space. And put in a pansy left over from my window box – hanging basket – front steps flat. I’m pleased. Next up: the back yard.

mint tamed

After the purge. Room for new plants.

The curse of the previous homeowner: episode 1

Tim and I bought our house in the summer of 2006. A cape built in 1944 and expanded over the years, it’s got great character and really suits us. But like most residents, we want to make the space our own. Our tastes differ from the previous occupants.

Our next door neighbor has been in her house for 50+ years and she’s told us all sorts of things about our home’s history, such as when the previous owner added on the dining room or replaced the windows. She’s also told us about each of the three previous owners: Arlen, the original owner and longest resident, the old lady that lived here next, and the family who sold us the house.

While we love our house, we frequently stumble across quirks that require repair or some sort of attention. When we encounter things like ungrounded electrical work we shake our heads and mutter, “Why would they DO that?” Usually Tim’s the one shaking his head and muttering.

But yesterday, it was all me. The last woman to live here fancied herself a gardener. She started a lovely butterfly garden in the back yard, which I’ve expanded over the years. She also planted a few things in the large beds in front of the house. Again, I’ve added to those and moved things around to suit myself.

The problem: The trellises by the front door. I believe she started with good intentions, planning to frame the doorway and draw attention to the entryway. Bright orange trumpet vine was a good choice.


Uneven growth and sparse flowers. Not ideal.

But then she added some white clematis. The two vines competed for space, choking each other out. As they fought harder, they flowered less. Rather than bright color framing the front door, I had a viny green mess.  In addition, the white clematis got lost against our blue-gray siding (another previous homeowner decision we’ll remedy someday). Yesterday, I finally took action and dug the vines out.

I plan to replace them with another climbing thing, but this time, the vine will have its own space. I’m looking for something that blooms all through the summer, preferably with a bright purple flower that will stand out against the siding. I want a perennial hardy enough to withstand New England winters and thrive on neglect, without becoming unruly. Hopefully I’ll find something that won’t make the next homeowner shake her head and wonder what I was thinking.