Plants Gone Wild

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Gardening is an adventure and a journey. No two gardens are exactly alike and no two journeys are either. I’ve learned over the years, as a gardener, from successes and mistakes.

One of the first things I learned is that some plants thrive, to the point that they can overtake a garden, crowding out other plants and hogging water and nutrients. This is my list of plants gone wild!

 

Plants Gone Wild title meme

Be Aware

Planting is purely a matter a choice, which is why my subtitle is “be aware of these invasive perennials” rather than “beware”. I choose to include a few invasive perennials, because I appreciate their beauty. I control their prolific spread. Others I dug up and removed because the effort to keep them in check proved too great.

With awareness, you can decide what works best for your garden. Check out your gardening zone. And then be aware that the following plants may spread into other areas of your garden or yard.

Liriope

This plant officially counts as my first big gardening mistake. From east and southeast Asia, this low growing plant is often used by landscapers to border a walkway or edge a flower bed. Liriope produces green or variegated grass like leaves, and stalks of purple flowers. And it thrives…in full sun or partial shade, in a wide range of soil conditions and it’s drought resistant. Perfect, right?

Liriope is optimistically called a “vigorous grower”, meaning it quickly overruns its boundaries and invades other areas. Using landscape edging or other barriers can help restrict it, however I found it too difficult to control. Even after years of weeding it out of flower beds in the front yard, it still shows up.

Plants Gone Wild liriope
Plants gone wild – liriope

English Ivy

And this classic beauty was my second big gardening boo boo. My grandson and I purchased one small ivy plant, years ago, and lovingly tucked it into a corner of a flower bed near the front deck. That ivy plant became a monster, covering all other plants in the bed and consuming them. Well, it didn’t literally eat them. However, ivy chokes other plants, depriving them of sunlight. They die.

Ivy is an evergreen woody vine. It is extremely aggressive, vining and climbing over other plants, shrubs, trees and even buildings. It took me a great deal of time to remove the ivy that spread from that one tiny plant. I’ve learned that the safest way to grow ivy is in a container…indoors!

Plants Gone Wild ivy
Plants gone wild – my glacier ivy in a pot

Creeping Jenny

Any plant name that contains the word “creeping” implies a warning…this plant spreads! Creeping jenny is considered a ground cover that tolerates both shade and sunlight. It’s a pretty yellow green in color and it’s commonly used to fill in areas where other plants won’t grow.

I added creeping jenny for exactly that reason, in a shady area with shallow soil. It thrives there and has indeed filled in the area. Because it’s in a contained space, I simply watch for it to encroach into the neighboring area, and pull it up when it does. For me, this easy to care for plant is worth having in my garden.

Plants Gone Wild creeping jenny
Plants gone wild – creeping jenny

Goldflame Spirea

Commonly called Japanese spirea, this mounding shrub is simple to grow. The goldflame variety produces showy leaves and clusters of pink flowers. It tolerates full sun to light shade and handles heat well. Spirea bushes are aggressive self seeders, however, and can escape a garden if not tended. They’ve naturalized in areas of the eastern US.

I love my goldflame spirea though. The leaves are brilliantly hued, from bronzes, golds and reds in spring to to yellow-green in summer to finishing with copper and crimson shades in autumn. Plus, the flowers attract butterflies. I keep my spirea in check by pruning it back to the ground during the winter. I admit, it does get a little bigger each year!

Plants Gone Wild spirea
Plants gone wild – goldflame spirea

Lemon Balm, Peppermint and Bee Balm

These herbs, all members of the mint family, are prolific producers and can overrun the garden. Extremely easy to grow, simply plant them in a sunny location and forget about them. They return year after year, often showing up in other flower beds, containers and the lawn. Lemon balm is one of the first plants to appear in my garden each spring and thrives until a hard frost nips it in late fall.

I love these herbs, for their wonderful health benefits, and happily tolerate their wildness. Their flowers attract bees. I keep mint in a contained area, however I give lemon balm and bee balm free reign, pulling up the excess plants.

These herbs do well in containers and that is the best way to keep them from spreading. Also, shear off the flowers before they go to seed. That practice not only helps prevent new plants, it encourages the existing herbs to produce more leaves.

Plants Gone Wild lemon balm
Plants gone wild – lemon balm

Lamb’s Ear

These gray-green plants with the soft fuzzy leaves are fun to include in the garden. They make perfect additions to sensory gardens and their stalks of purple flowers attract bees and butterflies. Native to Turkey, Armenia and Iran, lamb’s ear is considered an ornamental plant that tolerates various soil conditions. It thrives in partial shade to full sun.

I added three small lamb’s ear plants to my garden in 2014 and realized quickly that they aggressively fill in an area and pop up all over the garden and yard. I’ve even found new plants in the alleyway, pushing up through gravel. I’ve kept the plants under control by rigorously pulling up seedlings as they appear. It also helps to cut down the flower stalks, before they set seed.

Perhaps because we had so much rain last summer, most of my lamb’s ears did not return this spring. However, three plants appeared at the edge of their usual space. I know what three plants can do!

Plants Gone Wild lambs ear
Plants gone wild – lamb’s ear

Ornamental Grasses

When I planned out my garden in 2014, I knew I wanted ornamental grasses. I love the way they wave in the breeze and their tassels in the fall are so gorgeous. And leaving the dried grasses up in winter creates interest in an otherwise drab garden.  What I didn’t take into consideration is that those tassels are seeds. And the seeds go everywhere.

Ornamental grasses come in a variety of colors and sizes, with different shaped tassels. I still love having them in my garden. And…no other plant creates as much work for me!  Because my garden area covers more than half of my backyard, there is a great deal of disturbed ground for those grass seeds to sprout up in.

While the clusters are small, ornamental grasses are relatively simple to remove. And remove them I must, or grasses would spread throughout the garden, choking out all other plants. If I miss any, they reveal themselves in the fall, as other plants die back to the ground.

Knowing what I know now, would I still have ornamental grasses in my garden? Yes. I’ve learned to walk the garden frequently and remove baby grasses. Plus, a heavy layer of mulch greatly reduces their numbers as well.

Plants Gone Wild - ornamental grasses
Plants gone wild – ornamental grasses

Have Your Plants Gone Wild?

There are other plants considered aggressive invaders. I’ve only listed those I’ve personally dealt with. Bamboo, for example, should never be planted in a garden. It is the most difficult plant to contain and even more difficult to remove. And pretty little periwinkle, a ground cover, can certainly run amok!

Truthfully, most perennials possess the potential to spread beyond their borders. That’s why I choose to plant them. They return every year and continue to fill in.

That’s okay. I love a little chaos in my garden. A profusion of flowers, herbs and plants and a bit of wildness makes my heart sing. How could it be otherwise, for a woman who continually seeks to “go beyond”?

Tell me about your garden. Do you have a story about plants gone wild?

Plants Gone Wild night garden

Check out these posts in the Backyard Garden Series:

Spring Garden Tips

Create a Meditation Area in Your Garden

 


 

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Create a Meditation Area in Your Garden

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It’s true that April showers bring May flowers! The plants in the garden flourish during this month, offering colors, scents and beauty. In fact, May is Gifts from the Garden Month, with a different emphasis on each day.

May 3 is Meditate in the Garden Day and I celebrated the occasion with afternoon tea, journaling and a time of meditation in my contemplative corner. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and re-entered the house refreshed and full of joy.

It’s easy to create a meditation area in your garden. Think of this space as a place to daydream, write, relax, reflect, draw and pray or meditate. From a simple chair in a corner of the garden, to a hammock filled with pillows, to a fun, themed corner, the meditation area soothes the body and feeds the soul.

Create a Meditation Area in Your Garden title meme

Elements of a Meditation Area

I first fell in love with small personal garden spaces as a child. In my own backyard I found a large bush to crawl beneath, when I craved alone time. And the wonderful couple across the street, whom all the neighborhood children loved, gave me permission to use their little corner backyard garden spot anytime I wanted. This area, with a single bench and honeysuckle covering the fence, became my own secret garden. I spent hours sitting in that space and as a result, I love honeysuckle.

Use some or all of the following elements, to create a meditation area in your garden. Simplicity is key. You don’t want a high maintenance area that creates more work and stress. This is your personal spot to de-stress, unwind and breathe deeply. Make sure that the environment supports those intentions.

Create a Meditation Area in Your Garden chairs
Create a meditation area in your garden – seating

Water

Water features soothe frazzled nerves and relax tense muscles, encourage reflection and mask noise if the water is moving. They encourage butterflies, dragonflies and birds to visit.

Add a koi pond, fountain, tabletop fountain, bird bath or a simple shallow bowl filled with water to the meditation area. If the water is still, change it frequently to discourage mosquitoes from using it as a nursery.

Create a Meditation Area in Your Garden water feature
Create a meditation area in your garden – water feature

Natural Elements

Add natural elements such as brick, stones, wood, bamboo, grass, pebbles or sand to your area. These materials complement plants, flowers and trees, providing a restorative space for grounding and centering. They also offer a deep connection to nature.

Add a couple of large rocks for interest. Or create a privacy screen from wood. Brick, sand, cedar mulch or paving stones make an excellent floor that helps to define your space and provides a solid foundation for chairs or benches.

Create a Meditation Area in Your Garden natural elements
Create a meditation area in your garden – natural elements

Seclusion

This is perhaps the most important element to keep in mind, when creating a meditation area. Find a place that is separate from the rest of the garden. A simple chair in a corner or alcove works well. A bench at the end of a pathway or a hammock strung between two sturdy trees is ideal also. If you have a structure in the yard or garden, such as a gazebo or a covered back porch, create your own little private nook there.

Partition off your chosen area with fencing, repurposed gates, pig wire covered with flowering vines or lightweight fabric. Make use of existing trees or shrubs to provide privacy. And consider how much sunlight the area gets. Too much sun can be uncomfortable during the summer. Tent the area with a water proof, lightweight fabric or grow vines on an arbor to provide shade.

Create a place that delights the senses, where you can be alone.

Create a Meditation Area for Your Garden hammock
Create a meditation area for your garden – hammock

Beauty

Beauty inspires creativity, uplifts the spirit and brings joy to the heart. And beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder. What makes you smile? Include those things in your meditation area.

Plants, flowers, herbs, ornamental grasses, trees and shrubs are excellent choices. Water features fall into this category too as do small boulders, pathways and garden art. Gather items that spark joy, to borrow a concept from Marie Kondo. This is your personal space. Let it be a reflection of who you are.

Create a Meditation Area in Your Garden beauty
Create a meditation area in your garden – beauty for my eyes, next to my meditation corner

Personal Touch

Finally, because this is your personal retreat area, add items that showcase your unique personality. Add garden statues for whimsy, flowers in repurposed containers and inspirational signs.

You’ll need a place to sit. Add a chair, or a pair of chairs if you’d like to occasionally share your space, and a small table. The table is perfect for holding a journal, a candle, a glass of cold water or a tray with afternoon tea.

Choose a playful theme or include your favorite colors. Add interesting textures by way of cushions, pillows or snuggly wraps. If you’ll practice yoga in your meditation area, create space for a mat. Add twinkling lights, battery powered or those that plug into an outlet, so you can enjoy your meditation area during warm summer evenings.

Use what you have on hand to personalize your space. Make your own pillows. Repurpose items. This project does not need to be expensive to create. This is all about enjoying peace and solitude, even if only for a few minutes a day.

Create a a Meditation Area in Your Garden bicycle
Create a meditation area in your garden – repurposed bicycle

Bringing It All Together

Here is how I used the elements listed above, in my own meditation area.

I created the contemplative corner when I laid out my original garden in 2014. The space evolved over the years, to its current state.

I am adding a water feature this summer, in the form of a fountain. Greg is running electrical wiring to the corner so the fountain can plug into an outlet. I’ll string lights up as well.

A wood privacy fence forms two walls in my corner. Pig wire, covered in clematis vines, creates the other two walls, leaving an entrance into the area. This spring, Greg replaced the cedar mulch flooring with vintage brick. I love this change. The brick defines the area beautifully and creates a feeling of permanence.

The wood fence and vine covered fencing separates my meditation area from the rest of the garden. And yet, I still have gorgeous views of my backyard paradise through the vines and the entrance.

Beauty is provided via clematis vines, flowering plants, potted plants and the colors and items I’m using to cozy up the space.

And I’ve definitely added my own personal touch to my meditation area. My favorite colors…blues and greens….are represented in the cushions, pillows, throw, table and flower pots. I light candles when I’m enjoying my space, carry out tea and a journal, and include a colorful sign that reminds me to RELAX. And my beloved metal cranes stand guard at the entrance.

Meditation Area
My meditation area

What Will You Include in Your Meditation Area?

What will you include in your special area? I’d love to hear your ideas and see photos of your meditation area, contemplative corner or relaxation space.

May you enjoy many pleasant and restorative moments in your garden or backyard this season!

And check out these posts, in the Backyard Garden Series, for more ideas!

10 Shade Garden Plants

Easy Container Gardening

Six Ways to Personalize Your Garden

Create a Meditation Area in Your Garden gate

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Gardening in Winter

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Gardening in winter may seem an impossibility. What about freezing temperatures, lack of sunshine and snow? However, during winter the garden goes dormant, resting before the growing season ahead. This makes January through early March the perfect time to prep.

Check out these tasks to do now, to get the garden ready for spring.

Gardening in Winter title meme

Gardening in Winter

I leave dry plant stalks and ornamental grasses up during the winter. Today perfectly illustrates why. My area received a light snow overnight, turning my beautifully messy garden space into an enchanting work of art.

I must add that I laughed over this occurrence. I plan my blog posts a month in advance. Today’s scheduled post, Gardening in Winter, benefited from the snowfall. It offered me the opportunity to snap wonderfully appropriate photos. Of course I did not know in advance that my post and snow would coincide but I happily accept this marvelous gift.

Six Tasks to do Now

Transplant Trees and Shrubs

These woody plants slumbering during the winter months can be moved while they aren’t growing. Dig up the tree or shrub, leaving a ball of earth around the roots. Move it carefully to the new location.

Replant the tree or shrub at its original depth, water thoroughly and tamp in dirt around the root ball. Water regularly during any dry spells, to help lessen shock from the transplant.

Trim Back Ornamental Grasses

Leave dry ornamental grasses up during winter, to add interest and beauty to the garden. Before spring, trim grass stalks back, to within six inches of the ground. February is a good month for this task in most zones. Ideally, trim grasses before any new green growth appears.

I use a large metal barrel to burn the dry stalks after trimming the plants back. A calm day with no wind is necessary when burning garden debris.

Now is the time as well to dig up any stray ornamental grasses that popped up in the garden in late fall. The plants are easy to spot, due to their tall stalks and it is simple to dig them up while they are small.

Gardening in Winter Grasses
Gardening in Winter – almost time to trim back ornamental grasses

Work the Soil

As the ground warms, prepare the soil for spring planting. Using a tiller or spading by hand, incorporate several inches of compost or shredded tree leaves into the soil. Remove dead weeds from the garden and cut dry perennials and herb stalks back to the ground.

Add a layer of mulch. Or you can wait until spring plants barely poke through the ground and then mulch heavily around them. Mulch reduces weeds, holds in important moisture and protects the plants.

Trim Back Evergreens, Flowering Shrubs and Vines

Now is the time to tidy up flowering shrubs and evergreens. Prune back branches, for healthier growth in the spring. Vines tolerate a good cutting back. I sometimes cut my clematis vines back to the ground although a less severe pruning is fine too.

Don’t prune crape myrtle however. If the plant gets too large for its location, consider moving it.

Gardening in Winter Cranes
Garden cranes stand guard over straggly clematis vines.

Check Garden Containers and Equipment

During those cold wintry days, walk through the garden frequently and check for needed repairs. I leave many of my containers outside during winter. Now is the time to inspect those metal tubs and buckets, clay pots, plant stands, trellises and wheelbarrows. Remove dried flower stalks or weeds from all containers, to prepare for spring planting.

Clean and sharpen shovels and hand trowels. Clean rakes. Inspect garden hoses for splits or cracks.

I have two metal cranes and a rabbit statue in the garden. I check them for damage and remove any garden debris from them.

Dream and Plan

This task is perfect for days when the weather prevents outdoor work. Grab a cup of hot tea or hot chocolate, a notebook and a pen and sketch out the garden. Dream up a new feature. Plan a border. Add a water fountain. Dream really big and create a whole new garden.

Research plants. Think about trying something different. Visit online nurseries, such as this one.

Winter is not just a time for gardens to rest and prepare. This season is a wonderful time for gardeners to dream, plan and prepare as well.

Gardening in Winter Rabbit
Rabbit statue in winter

Ready to Get Ready

I’m looking forward to getting into my garden to carry out these winter tasks. On the next mild day you’ll find me in my backyard garden, pruning, weeding and preparing for spring.

Admittedly, I have much to do. My garden suffered last year from too much rain. The excessive water affected herbs and flowers and encouraged rampant weed growth. By the end of summer, my garden looked wild.

No worries though. Hard work, heavy pruning and weeding will set things right. I don’t mind a bit of wildness, after all. It suits me. It’s that balance of beautiful order and barely contained wildness that so delights and inspires me.

Gardening in Winter Stalks

Check out these other posts, in the Backyard Gardening Series:

Spring Garden Tips

Ecological Garden Hacks

13 Easy Herbs to Grow

10 Super Easy Perennials to Grow

Create a Bee and Butterfly Garden

 

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Plant in Fall for Spring Color

 

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Ahhh….fall is here. Even though temperatures in the Midwest have remained unusually high, it’s time for gardening tasks that mark the end of the growing season.

Prepare a cup of herbal tea and read through these planting tips. This is the perfect time of year to plan for next year. Plant in fall, for spring color!

Plant in Fall title meme

Why Plant in Fall?

There are several reasons for prepping now for a colorful spring:

  •  Fall has more mild days for working in the garden, compared to spring when temperatures can still fluctuate wildly from day to day.
  •  Rainfall is typically plentiful enough that you don’t need to water as often.
  •  The soil is still warm, which encourages roots to grow and become established.
  •  Weeds are dying down, meaning there is less competition for nutrients in the soil.
  •  There are fewer pests to cause damage to bulbs and plants and less likelihood of disease.
  •  Fertilizer isn’t needed. It encourages new growth, which isn’t what we want at this time of year.

Plant about six weeks before the first hard frost. In the Midwest, that’s toward the end of November, making October perfect for planting. Check out your zone on this map.

Plant in Fall Daffodils
Daffodils are one of the first flowers to appear in spring.

Bulbs to Plant in Fall

Plant these hardy bulbs now, for gorgeous color in early spring.  Generally, bulbs are placed in the ground at a depth two to three times the diameter of the bulb. For example, plant most tulip bulbs at a depth of six to eight inches. Place in the ground with the pointy end, or nose, up. Cover with dirt and add a couple of inches of mulch.

  •  tulips
  •  daffodils
  •  snowdrops
  •  crocus
  •  hyacinths
  •  lilies
Plant in Fall Hostas
Hostas come in a variety of colors and patterns.

Perennials to Plant in Fall

Planting perennials in the fall creates bigger and healthier plants in the spring. Adding early blooming perennials to areas with bulbs doubles the color in the garden next spring. As bulb flowers die back, the perennials take their place.

Plant before a hard frost. Don’t fertilize. And add a couple of inches of mulch to blanket the new plants. Water only if there is less than an inch of rainfall per week.

  •  hostas
  •  salvia
  •  peonies
  •  coreopsis
  •  dianthus
  •  garden phlox
  •  sedum
  •  irises
Plant in Fall Azaleas
Azaleas are available in a variety of colors. Plant on the east or north side of the property. They don’t tolerate full sun.

Shrubs and Trees to Plant in Fall

Autumn is the perfect time to plant shrubs and trees. The warm days and cooler nights allow them to spread their roots and settle in before becoming dormant during the winter. And trees and shrubs planted in fall handle heat and drought better the following year.

Make sure you know how large the shrub or tree will get when full grown and leave ample room when planting. Dig a hole twice as wide as the plant’s container and deep enough that the root ball sits slightly above ground level. Add shrub or tree. Fill the hole half way with soil, then water well. Fill in with the remaining soil. Water again. Mulch with two to three inches of a bark based mulch, leaving a couple of inches of space around the trunk. Water two to three times a week, then taper off as the weather and soil cool down.

Shrubs

  •  knockout roses
  •  camellia sasanqua
  •  fothergilla
  •  oakleaf hydrangea
  • rhododendron
  •  spirea
  •  azaleas

Trees

  •  Japanese maple
  •  gingko
  •  maple
  •  alder
  •  hawthorn
  •  ash
  •  honey locust
  •  crabapple
  •  spruce
  •  pine
  •  sycamore
  •  elm

Enjoying the Rewards of Fall Gardening

The effort put forth in the garden, during fall, reaps big rewards next spring. Plan for next year and then grab a shovel! Create new beds, add a fresh focal point, divide perennials and tuck that tree into the ground.

Watch next week for the Fall Gardening Checklist. And happy gardening!

Ornamental Grasses
The ornamental grasses are beautiful this time of year.

Mosquitos still a problem in your area? Check out this DIY Mosquito Repellent.

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10 Super Easy Perennials to Grow

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As the month of April draws to a close, one thing stand outs to me. It’s planting season! Here in Missouri, which is zone 7 on the hardiness zone map, the beginning of May marks the end of temperatures that can dip below freezing at night. A good rule of thumb is to wait until the first part of May to plant in the ground. See what zone your region is in with this map.

Speaking of thumbs, not everyone has a green one. However, don’t let that perceived belief stop you from creating a garden. Whether you desire an expansive backyard paradise or a tiny butterfly garden, these 10 super easy perennials to grow will survive and thrive with little care.

10 Super Easy Perennials to Grow

10 Super Easy Perennials to Grow

Perennials are plants that return year after year. They are the foundation of a lasting garden, as they only have to be planted once.

The following plants provide riotous colors along with interesting textures and amazing scents to your garden. Check out this post, Spring Garden Tips, for suggestions on prepping the soil and cleaning up your area before planting.

If you are creating a flower bed or border for the first time, remove grass, turn the soil to a depth of one foot and work in nutrients such as compost before tucking in plants.

10 Super Easy Perennials to Grow
My southern border with Shasta daisies, coneflowers, garden phlox, Russian sage, black eyed Susan and coreopsis.

Coneflowers

Also known as echinacea, these plants prefer a sunny location and produce purple, white or rose colored blooms from early summer until fall. Coneflowers tolerate the heat well and grow up to three free tall, making them ideal for a southern border. They attract butterflies and hummingbirds. As a bonus, you can create health boosting echinacea tea from the blooms.

Garden Phlox

Related to but not to be confused with creeping phlox, this plant stands tall in the garden, growing to a height of three to five feet. Garden phlox loves the sun and blooms in shades of pinks and purples.

Coreopsis

These sun loving yellow flowers bring cheer to the garden. Growing up to 18 inches in height, the flowers appear on bright green delicate foliage. Extend the blooming time by removing flowers as they fade, a practice known as dead heading.

10 Super Easy Perennials to Grow
Sunny yellow coreopsis with coneflowers blooming in the background.

Russian Sage

This plant, which is closely related to the sage family, thrives during hot weather. Its woody stems grow up to four feet tall and produce small purple flowers and tiny leaves with a distinctive aromatic scent.

Black Eyed Susan

Producing masses of cheerful yellow flowers with dark brown centers, these plants prefer full sun and tolerate heat and drought well. They grow up to three feet tall. Cut back the plants after flowering to produce another round of blooms.

Bearded Iris

Irises put up tall stalks amid a fan of spiky leaves. The plants bloom in a wide variety of colors . Growing up to three feet tall, irises need a sunny spot in the garden. The leaves continue to show off after the spring flowers fade.

Day Lily

On the list of super easy perennials, the day lily ranks high. Extremely easy to grow, these plants thrive in a sunny location and do well in partial shade also. Their flowers vary from bright yellow to golden to orange. Although not absolutely necessary, day lilies respond well to a layer of mulch around them.

10 Super Easy Perennials to Grow
Clusters of day lilies near my ornamental grasses.

Sedum

Sedum, also known as Live Forevers and Stonecrop, ranges from hugging the ground to growing up to three feet tall. The beautiful foliage is gift enough. However in late summer this hardy plant offers clusters of tiny flowers in white, pink, yellow or rusty red.

Hosta

This well known perennial is great for the shady areas in the garden. Growing up to four feet tall and equally wide, this plant produces showy leaves in a variety of greens. Many hostas have variegated leaves. In late summer they send up tall stalks covered with white, lavender or pink flowers.

Coral Bells

Another shade loving plant, coral bells pair well with hostas. Their gorgeous leaves vary from shades of green to purple to reddish brown. The delicate flowers may be white or pink. Because my backyard doesn’t have trees, and therefore no shade, my hostas and coral bells thrive in a garden strip on the north side of the house.

10 Super Easy Perennials to Grow
Hosta and coral bells share space with a hydrangea.

Backyard Garden Series

I hope this 10 super easy perennials to grow post gives you ideas about what plants might do well in your own garden spaces.

I’m excited to present a series of posts over the next few weeks, offering gardening tips and ideas. Take a look at this post in the Backyard Garden Series, 13 Easy Herbs to Grow. And watch for upcoming posts about growing annuals, container gardens, creating a butterfly garden and easy vegetables to grow. I’ll have some fun gardening freebies for you too and ways to make your garden space uniquely yours. If you have questions about gardening, drop me a comment below. The answer might just become a featured post!

As my perennials push up through the ground, I’m excited as well to welcome them back. I’m ready to pick up new annuals and tuck them into place. It’s time to get my hands dirty.

10 Super Easy Perennials to Grow
Russian sage with its wonderfully aromatic leaves.

Backyard Garden Series

Check the rest of the posts in this gardening series:

Spring Garden Tips

Ecological Garden Hacks

Growing Clematis Babies

13 Easy Herbs to Grow

10 Low Maintenance Annuals to Grow

DIY Natural Mosquito Repellent

 

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Spring Garden Tips

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Happy first day of spring! I’m excited. Spring ushers in a time of renewal and birth and heralds the coming of warmer weather and longer days. For once, the fickle Missouri weather matched the approaching season. Sunshine and warm temps filled the days, encouraging me to get outside.

And my favorite outdoor activity this time of year? Tending to the garden.

I love seeing the first stirrings of life in my backyard paradise. It signals the return of colorful flowers, fragrant herbs and tall, waving ornamental grasses.

But first, tidying up is a must in March, after the garden’s long winter nap.

Check out these spring garden tips, to prep for the glory ahead.

Spring Garden Tips

 

Clear Away Debris

After months of cold, wind, rain and a bit of snow, the garden looks a bit bedraggled. The ornamental grasses droop along the fence row. Last summer’s flower stalks, which look beautiful contrasted against snow on the ground, can at last come down. And somehow, in spite of a six foot privacy fence encircling the yard, trash blows in.

As Greg and I survey the garden area, we pick up trash, cut down dry stalks and mentally take note of stray ornamental grass starts that need to be dug up.

Action step: Clear away garden debris including last year’s dead plants, dry stalks, leaves and any trash carried in by the wind.

Spring Garden TipsThe garden is a mess this time of year.

Trim Back Ornamental Grasses

Even during the winter months, ornamental grasses add interest to the garden. The stalks and tassels turn golden, providing color on gray, dreary days.

As the weather warms, the stalks need to be trimmed back, to six to eight inches above the ground. This allows fresh growth to appear. And trust me, the new stalks will quickly grow and fill back in.

We use an electric hedge trimmer to accomplish this spring garden task quickly and easily. The trimmed stalks go into a large metal barrel, for burning.

Action step: Trim back ornamental grasses. Burn the stalks or dispose of them via a trash dumpster. Don’t use them for mulch, as the seeds from the tassels will germinate.

Spring Garden TipsTrimmed ornamental grass clump. Cut back to 6 – 8  inches above ground.

Spring Garden TipsMetal burning barrel. The cover from the firepit keeps flaming debris from leaving the barrel. We keep a garden hose nearby, just in case.

Get a Head Start on Weeds

Everyone’s least favorite garden task is pulling weeds. It is an absolute necessity however. Not only are weeds unsightly, they crowd flowers, veggies and herbs, stealing their nourishment.

It’s early yet for most weeds. But not for eliminating ornamental grass starts that pop up all over the garden. It’s not difficult to remove these plants while they are tiny. It becomes a much bigger task if they’ve been left to grow.

I had quite a collection of starts, ranging in size from miniscule to large clumps. We noted the larger grasses last fall, and left them until spring clean up. Greg graciously removed the bigger grasses and clumps, while I dug up the smaller ones. After recent heavy rains, the small grass starts came up easily.

At the same time, I removed a couple of small tree starts and tackled clumps of dead crab grass. Greg used the weed eater to knock down dead grasses in the corners of the yard and along the edges of flower borders and beds.

Action step: Walk the garden area and inspect beds and borders for dry weeds and early starts. Spend a few minutes each day, walking the garden and pulling up weeds as they appear.

Spring Garden TipsRemoving a tiny ornamental grass start.

Check Soil

Before the garden begins to fill in, enrich the soil. Organic material like compost or manure adds moisture and much needed nutrients. My garden is six years old. Reworking the soil and adding compost nourishes the plants that are returning and gives new plants a great start.

We have a couple of places in the garden that hold too much water, creating boggy areas. Organic matter and peat moss worked into the soil will help to balance out those areas, creating better drainage.

Action step: Add organic matter to the garden if it is more than a couple of years old, to revitalize it. Balance out dry or boggy areas.

Spring Garden Tips

Spring Garden Tips for Mid Season

As the season progresses, these tasks will complete garden prep:

  • Plan out new beds and borders
  • Plant hardy annuals in containers and beds
  • Plant bulbs
  • Transplant seeds if they were started indoors
  • Plant cool weather veggies such as lettuce, cabbage and peas
  • Prune early flowering bushes, after they flower

Action step: This is the fun part, after days of cleaning up the garden and prepping for new plants. Take time to think about what you want to add to the garden this year. Visit nurseries. Tour other gardens. Check out Pinterest or browse online for ideas.

Spring Garden TipsLemon balm showing up in the garden. I’m excited to have my first cup of  freshly brewed lemon balm tea.

Spring Garden Tips for Late Season

Beyond the threat of frost, typically mid April to early May in most of the US, complete these tasks:

  • Cut back stems after bulbs bloom
  • Check garden for empty spots
  • Fill in with annuals and perennials
  • Plant herbs
  • Plant vegetables. Try out a raised bed garden.
  • Mulch with 2 – 3 inches of organic material such as cedar. Mulch helps to hold in moisture and prevents weeds and disease.

Action step: This is the time to bring winter dreams into reality. What do you want to add to your garden? Now is the time to do so. My garden changes every year, as I add to it. This year my intention is to rework the Apothecary Garden and add more herbs.

Spring Fever

I love this season and being outdoors. The garden is slowing awakening. New growth is appearing. Right now, it looks rather bleak. But I know. I know that just beneath the surface, life is stirring and soon my garden will fill with colors and scents.

In a couple of months, the garden transforms from this…

Spring Garden Tips

…to this! What a remarkable change.

Spring Garden Tips

Every task, every weed pulled, every plant tucked into the ground, is worth the effort. This backyard garden is, indeed, my paradise.

Backyard Garden Series

Check the other posts in this gardening series:

Ecological Garden Hacks

Growing Clematis Babies

13 Easy Herbs to Grow

10 Super Easy Perennials to Grow

10 Low Maintenance Annuals to Grow

DIY Natural Mosquito Repellent

 

Try out these essential gardening supplies and tools! Just click on the picture to view product.

 

 

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55 Years Cradling Plants

I use a variety of interesting containers in my backyard garden. Along with standard clay flowerpots, I make use of metal buckets, wash tubs, tree stumps, and even a toolbox. One of my favorite containers is a green and white pot handed down to me from my mom. It has spent 55 years cradling plants.

55 Years Cradling Plants

Container for house plants

I’m not sure what the exact age is, of this vintage container. As a small child the southwestern style flowerpot sat in various corners of our Tulsa, Oklahoma home, and I am 60 now. My mom always grew a species of plant within it commonly known as the snake plant or mother-in-law’s tongue. This tough house plant is easy to grow and thrives with little care.

First cultivated in China, the snake plant was treasured because people thought it bestowed eight virtues on those who grew it. Those virtues include long life, prosperity, intelligence, beauty, art, poetry, health, and strength. The plants were kept near the front doors of the home so that the eight virtues could circulate throughout the house.

I wonder if Mom knew this? Our snake plant most often resided in the foyer.

55 Years Cradling Plants

Cherished flowerpot for my plants

When we moved, this flowerpot moved with us, to fresh houses and new towns in different states. Eventually the container came to me. Mom knew I would keep green beauties growing within it.

And I have.

I switched out the snake plants for colorful portulaca, also known as sun roses or moss roses. These plants are just as easy to grow and care for. For years the old pot sat on my covered front deck or rested solidly among flowers growing in beds around the house.

Five years ago, when I created my backyard paradise, I moved the container to the area just inside the garden gate. It lends color with its spill of blooms and it anchors the area, filled primarily with ground covers such as creeping jenny and phlox. It’s an anchor for my heart and soul as well. Every time I see the now vintage container, or water the plants tucked inside, I think of my mom and my childhood. This pot has stood as a silent witness to many events and changes. It is dear to me.

55 Years Cradling Plants The container’s most recent home. Photo taken before the ground cover filled in the area.

New location new plants

As I watered and pulled weeds this evening, I knelt down next to this vintage container and rested my hands upon it. The setting sun kissed the rounded sides, warming them and creating a soft reflective glow. Energy hummed beneath my hands.

Because of its age, I made the decision to relocate the flowerpot indoors this fall, where it will be protected from the cold weather. And just as suddenly, I knew what to transplant into the pot.

How appropriate it feels to grow snake plants in the container again, bringing the flowerpot full circle. Inspired by my research tonight, I’m delighted to plop my freshly planted container near the front door where, feng shui style, the eight virtues can be unleashed within my home. I’m smiling already, thinking of this change. My old container…55 years cradling plants…and counting.

55 Years Cradling Plants

Twilight in the Garden

After rain almost every day last week, and more thunderstorms moving in tomorrow, a window of opportunity presented itself today to do much needed work in the garden. I put in necessary time weeding and trimming and tidying up, while Greg mowed the yard and helped out where he was needed.

I motivated myself to keep going with the promise that I would enjoy the fruits of my labor by lighting a fire in the fire pit and scattering a few candles around the garden.

Twilight in the Garden

As the sun set behind a bank of gray clouds, I stretched my weary back and called it good. I have more to do, however I accomplished so much today. My backyard paradise resembles a garden again, a wild one after a week of rain, but a garden nonetheless. Tired, I almost passed on building a fire. A job well done brought me great satisfaction and for a moment I considered heading indoors and taking a much needed shower.

The beauty of the garden in summer, the peace and invitation to rest, won out.

Here are pics, from an evening in the garden.

Twilight in the Garden

The fairy garden is all filled in and makes me smile every time I look at it.

Twilight in the Garden

I continue to monitor the mystery plant, which is looking more and more like a cantaloupe after all.

Twilight in the Garden

I love candlelight in the garden! It’s important to use safe containers and keep flames away from grasses and plants or anything combustible. The metal lantern was a gift from my son and daughter-in-law. I have no idea what the metal cylinders are usually used for but they make interesting candle holders. I purchased these at a 2 Friends & Junk show. The rusty table was in Bob Moore’s backyard. I was happy to transfer it to mine, after he passed away.

Twilight in the Garden

More candles, with a backdrop of ornamental grasses that are beginning to tassel. The bistro table and chairs were another 2 Friends & Junk find several years ago.

Twilight in the Garden

This…this was the beauty that called to me. I’m so glad I listened. Greg and I carried out bowls of madras curried lentils that had been simmering all day in the slow cooker. (Recipe HERE) Night fell as we ate and candles flickered in the garden, their flames tiny echoes of the fire dancing in the fire pit.

And that small fire was perfect. I watched the leaping and twisting flames, mesmerized. John Geddes said “Light a campfire and everyone’s a storyteller.” We told stories tonight, primarily around work we’ve both been doing on our family trees at Ancestry.com. It was the fire though that was the main storyteller. It spoke of ancient quests and ever changing mysteries and the power of Light to illuminate the darkness.

I listened, with gratitude.

Twilight in the Garden

Circle of Life…in My Garden

I was working on another blog post early this evening, when I decided to take a break and water the containers in my backyard garden. Earbuds in, listening to music while I watered, I was humming along with a song when my eyes were drawn to a plant near my meditation garden.

It’s not the first time in recent weeks that I’ve paused to look at this particular plant, but tonight the wonder of it and the beauty of the gift offered to me caused me to drop the watering hose and crouch down to gently touch the plant. I spent several minutes plucking away a few weeds and feeling gratitude for this, another precious and unexpected gift from the garden.

Circle of Life in My Garden

This Sedum plant is a perennial that has returned to my garden five summers in a row. It has never grown in as it has this summer. Normally this succulent type plant forms a rounded mound of green leaves. As fall approaches it produces pink clusters of flowers on stubby stems.

But…look at it! Located near a tall ornamental grass that somewhat overshadows the Sedum, the plant has grown in this year in a perfectly formed circle with a hollow center. It looks like I dropped a wreath and it sunk roots into the ground.

Circle of Life in My Garden

These kinds of mysterious gifts keep appearing in my garden. The brown eyed Susans formed an equally perfect heart shape one year. Vegetables and fruits grow amid the flowers, even though I did not plant them nor have I ever had veggies or fruits in this part of the garden. Garden cranes called to me, insisting that they belonged in my backyard sanctuary. Then, after purchasing two metal cranes, I discovered my ancestral castle in Lauder, Scotland had a pair of the graceful birds near the massive front door.

Thomas Moore, author of The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life, writes:

“Gardens work powerful enchantment as they take us body and soul out of the busyness of life and into a place set apart. The garden is a proper place of the soul, where concerns of the soul for beauty, contemplation, quiet, and observance take complete precedence over the busier concerns of daily life. There you will likely see the butterfly, an ancient image of the soul, and the bee, representing the kind of work the soul does…unheroic, hidden, mysterious, and sweet. The garden is full of mysteries.”

Circle of Life in My Garden

I deeply appreciate the way Thomas views the garden as a spiritual place, full of beauty and mystery and lessons for the soul. My backyard paradise certainly inspires me, even as it surprises me and teaches me life lessons.

Back inside, I abandoned my other blog post idea and looked up the symbolism for the wreath. Wreaths have been used for thousands of years. Early wreaths in Roman times were made of laurel leaves and they were worn as crowns that represented victory.

Used often at Christmas time, decorative wreaths represent the Divine, eternity, completeness and wholeness. Their circular shape is symbolic of timelessness, infinity and eternal life, as there is no beginning and no ending with a circle, with a wreath.

I don’t know how the Sedum plant formed such an amazing and symbolic shape, or why. However, I accept this latest gift from my garden. I am ever so grateful for these reminders that Life is so big, so mysterious and magical. These messages are Divine in nature, and part of an ongoing conversation that continually delights me and raises my awareness ever higher.

As I read about the symbolism for the wreath, another aha leapt out at me, that made me laugh. Eternal life, without end. Do you know what nickname the Sedum plant has? It’s the name I originally knew this perennial by, earned because Sedum is so easy to grow and care for.

Sedum is also called Live-Forever Plant. How incredibly beautiful and extraordinary is this living wreath from my garden.

Circle of Life in My Garden

My Idea of a Great Night Out

The gorgeousness of the evening lured me outdoors. Which was perfect, since this is National Great Outdoors Month. I only intended to pull some weeds in the garden. However, the temperature was too perfect, the yard too beautiful, the breeze too inviting. I wanted to linger.

My Idea of a Great Night Out

For some, a great night out includes dinner and a movie…or shopping at the mall…or having drinks with friends. There’s nothing wrong with any of those activities. They just didn’t appeal to me tonight. My idea of a great night out was simply to be out, as in outdoors.

I prepared a healthy meal…gluten free brown rice pasta and marinara sauce with organic veggies. The green pepper in the sauce came from my garden. I sautéed it along with an onion, garlic and a yellow squash.

My Idea of a Great Night Out

While the pasta cooked and the sauce simmered, I used my campfire girl skills to start a fire in the fire pit. This was the first one this season. I knew I was headed in the right direction, idea wise, when I found a feather on the fire pit. The feather quill is my symbol this year, and I’ve been collecting feathers, signs of Divine guidance and synchronicities. Greg, who played golf today out of town, brought me a handful of feathers that he found.

My Idea of a Great Night Out

My Idea of a Great Night Out

We carried our pasta bowls out to the brick patio, or brickio as we call it, and enjoyed dinner al fresco before a cheerful, crackling fire. Staring into dancing flames has the same peace inducing effect as sitting near the ocean or listening to a gurgling creek. The fire mesmerizes and soothes. I can stare into one for hours.

I enjoyed my night out, seated amid the beauty of flowers and grasses and herbs. The invitation to dine in the garden, and start a fire in the pit, was so easy to accept. It’s great indeed, being outdoors.

My Idea of a Great Night Out