Saturday, June 1, 2013

A Monty Rebuttal

Several garden bloggers I follow periodically show off the whole of their gardens, the big picture (Garden on Sherlock Street's monthly tours being the most regular).  I always enjoy these posts, but don't seem to do it myself. Most of my photos are close-ups, partly because there are specific plants I want to show off, but mostly because the wide-angle may not be pretty.  It is much easier to pull a few weeds from around a subject plant or plant-group than to clean out an entire garden bed. 

Today, Tammy at Casa Mariposa posted her annual "Full Monty", showing off her whole yard.  Tammy's gardens are lovely and even her Full-Monty posts are picture-perfect, making me think she must be still hiding something.  This year she flaunted in video form: proof that we really are seeing the whole thing.

Part of this post is responding to an implied (but probably unintended) challenge ("I'll show you mine if you show me yours"); part is a "rebuttal" of the perfect gardens.  Here's the down and dirty most gardeners don't want you to ever see.

My space is a two-tenths-of-an-acre corner lot in a semi-suburban neighborhood within the city limits.  Much of the area is taken up by building footprints:  my 1950s ranch-style house with a 1980s rear addition and a detached garage.  The remainder is mostly front lawn.  The actual gardening takes place mostly in the side yards and the little bit of terraced rear yard remaining, but that's plenty.

(please pardon me as I cope with an awkward late-afternoon sun-angle in many of the photos that follow)

Let's start in the front.  Here's the view from the corner:

I'm not big on lawn care, preferring to spend my limited yard time on the more vertical plantings.  Hence you see a spotty front lawn with bare patches, clover, and other assorted weeds.  At least the spring dandelion bloom has passed.  You can see some of the terracing that turns what would be a sloping yard into a series of relatively flat spaces.

My most recent garden addition is the parking strip, which is filling in nicely with moss phlox and creeping thyme.  A redbud anchors the far end.

But if I'm showing everything, I have to also show off the parking strip around the corner:

I haven't tackled this one yet, so it is clover and assorted other weeds covering a bricked over strip.

Back to the front, here's the yard as seen from the other end:

That's a big maple on the left that loses giant limbs in every storm.  The unidentified rose bush is in full flower, and I've no comments about the rest of the foundation bed on this side.

Behind the maple is the side garden, which nearly always has something to look at.

Plans grow and reseed so well that the path tends to disappear, as you can see here.  Not the worst problem to have, I will admit.  This end is a butterfly bush and daylilies on the left, rose campion (obstructing the path), blueberries, and iris on the right.

Here's the same garden viewed from the other side:

In the middle, rosemary and lambs ear encroach the walkway.  Last year's flower stalks are still on the tall sedum on the left.  More iris, lamb's ear, and geranium are also on the left.  The right is where many of the daffodils make their spring show.  Also Echinacea (a big reseeder!), lilies, more sedums, some small shrubs, and three honeylocust trees.  Lots of other things in there, too.

The above photo was taken from the driveway.  Let me back up to show that driveway (which opens up to an alley):

I like to show off the driveway bed on the far right in this photo, filled with blackberries.  What I don't normally show off is a cracked driveway full of weeds, some leaf mulch that hasn't been put in the gardens yet, a big brush pile on the right (I could use my garden-time bundling up branches for haul-away, or I could do some much more urgent task ...), a new brush pile on the left (today's pile, all the limbs cut to the required four-foot size, because today's the day I'm actually going to clean up the mess I make.  Yeah, right.)  Oh, and behind that new pile (in front of the grill) is a dead rhododendron, still in its nursery pot.

To my right when I took the photo above is the garage, and this:

One of two piles of bricks that I pulled up when I make the parking strip bed (the other is on the other side of the garage).  I've been meaning to freecycle these for two year now ..... (anyone in NoVa need bricks?)

On the other side of the garage entry door are the deck and the garage garden:

Perennial herbs (thyme, oregano, sage, tarragon) in the near end, near the door to the house, perennials in the rest of it.  It is nice and full, probably too full.

On the other end of the garage is the patio:

Not just any patio, but a home for the rain barrel, compost bins, lots of weeds and volunteer plants.  The terrace wall in the foreground is collapsing.  About half the penstemon blooming in the background and the butterfly weed in flower are actually growing up through the patio stones.  And if I'm really going to show off everything, behind the glider are:

... more bricks!  These are ones I've collected from throughout the yard, and use here and there for various purposes.  Yes, that's a volunteer tomato plant growing in the patio in front of the compost bin.  It's doing better than any tomato I've started from seed this year, so for now it stays there.  I've cleaned out one bin segment and started on the second:  eventually I'll move the bin to another location and reclaim some of the patio.

One of the gardens at Casa Mariposa has been dubbed "the yuck side", but I think it is as beautiful as anywhere else in the yard.  For a true Yuck Side, take a peek behind my garage:

Two and a half feet wide, full of old fencing, weeds, pieces that have fallen from my neighbor's porch roof (you can see the roof gutters above the fence), and whatever else blows in here.  Yuck.

Past the patio is the terrace garden:

Four bed surrounding a central square.  The center is the plum tree underplanted with daylilies.  The near bed is the edibles garden.  Strawberries on the right (with some of the random bricks used to hold down the squirrel netting), lowbush blueberries, peas, a metal arch for climbing food (beans and cucumbers), onions, peppers, tomatoes, etc.  Potatoes are just out of view to the left.

The left garden is perennials, mostly natives.  From here you can see butterfly weed just about to bloom.

Here's the terrace garden as seen from the side yard:

Front left is the little pond.  Then steps that are covered with clover.  Front right is the Neglected Bed, also with a crumbling terrace wall.  To the right are the ugly compost piles, held up with chicken wire fencing.  Eventually my good bins will go here. 

In this side yard, out of view to the right, are two birch trees with lovely exfoliating bark.  I haven't figured out how to plant anything under them due to their shallow roots and water-sucking nature.  Out of view to the left is a kousa dogwood, currently in full flower.  I couldn't put it in the photo because that's right where the sun was.

I'll end with a view of the side foundation bed:

The tree is actually two growing together:  black cherry and crepe myrtle.  Somehow they cohabitate nicely. This area is home to hellebores, hosta, a big aucuba shrub (behind the tree), and whatever else I plop here.

And that's the tour, the "real" full monty. 


  1. You absolutely crack me up!!! You have tons of garden and those beds are wonderful! My video is so awful I'm shocked anyone even watched it! Ya know, we could take care of that "too much lawn " problem in a weekend! We could use those bricks to edge new beds or create a walkway. I already have a design forming.... :o)

    1. So you're not mad? I'm glad. I often think I'd like to rip out the lawn, but the reality is I don't have time to take care of the gardens I already have. I really can't justify adding more.

    2. Mad? No way! I thought the whole thing was really funny. :o)

  2. I personally think your garden looks lush an d healthy, and I especially was admiring your compost bins. That's a good set up!

    1. Thanks, Dorothy. I'm pretty proud of that bin system (a DIY project a few years ago that I never reported on), even though I never got the fronts finished. But they don't belong on the patio!

  3. Good gravy, you and Tammy both make my garden feel very inadequate! I will have to console myself with my cornbread, i guess.

    1. Hey, that's some mighty fine cornbread. Plus you have peas. And a stone circle. And ....

  4. Hello!! You have a lot of great garden spaces. Loved the tour. Piles of bricks...there's a great project coming.

    I started the tour photos so I could see where gaps were during different times of the year.

    Please post tours again. Very lush looking at your place. OK, except for behind the garage. I don't know if you can really consider that garden space anyway.

    That side garden with the path is perfect. No mowing and interesting!

    1. Thanks! I'm going to try really hard to keep up with tour photos, but I'm sure I'll be no match for your monthly tours.