One of the best parts of gardening is watching your garden change over time as you move plants around, add new ones and watch them grow. I enjoy examining photos of other people’s gardens taken over the years or seasons and noting the design changes.
When I first moved into this house there were mature trees and shrubs, but the few perennials were in narrow beds lining the fence and patio. Perhaps the previous owner had planted many annuals, since the foot wide strips were sparsely planted with perennials. There tended to be larger collections of the faster spreading perennials. In the area to the west of the house, there was a small strip of dirt against the rickety fence fronted by a slightly wider patch of grass, a sidewalk and then a 20 cm (less than a foot) section of white stone against the house. There were only a few Convallaria majalis (lily of the valley) in the exposed soil. I didn’t plant much here at first since it was out of sight. As I began planting this area, I felt restricted by the narrow space and the grass constantly encroaching on it.
Although it seems obvious now, it took a while to realize I could reshape the garden beds in the yard into whatever shape and size I wanted. The wider they were made, the better they looked. One reason the beds initially looked unsatisfactory was that the narrow width of about 30 to 45 cm (1 to 1½ feet) meant that all of the perennials were lined up in one row along the fence. Once the planting area was widened, there was room for layers with taller plants behind. The wider garden beds around the yard are more in proportion to the size of the lawn. In the side garden, removing the grass made the area look more like a garden and less like a line of convicted perennials forced up against the fence.
The first picture shows how this area looked in 2002, the spring after I moved into the house. You can see how the narrow grass strip does nothing for the bed, except create extra work having to remove it as it constantly invaded the area. The boards were propping up the fence, keeping it out of the bed too.
The next photo shows how this garden bed looked in the summer of 2006. The Convallaria majalis (lily of the valley) are filling in and the Aruncus dioicus (goat’s beard) planted in the corner the previous year is quickly growing taller. The new fence is self-supporting, but the narrow grass strip is weedy, and what’s with the white gravel next to the house?
The next photo shows how this bed looked in May of 2007. The grass has been removed and more perennials added. The Matteuccia struthiopteris (ostrich fern), Astilbe simplicifolia, Campanula posharskyana (Serbian bellflower), Osmunda regalis (royal fern) and Philadelphus lewisii (mockorange) add their lush foliage to the other fresh green leaves.
Here the plants are growing and blooming in June 2007. The A. dioicus (goat’s beard) plumes are showy in the corner shade, the P. lewisii (mockorange) is blooming and the M. struthiopteris (ostrich ferns) are taller. I like the various shades of green in this shady area.
In July, the astilbe are blooming and the rest of the foliage still looks good. One thing I don’t like is how the large wooden retaining post, sidewalk and gravel look busy here in front of the bed. It would look better if the patio blocks continued to make the sidewalk, so there are still more design changes to make.
In August 2007, I removed the white gravel from next to the house and planted a short Campanula portenschlagiana (Dalmatian bellflower) by the house. It looks much better, but is in shadow in this shot. You can see a closeup on the my garden plants page. This garden bed is still changing, as I add, remove and rearrange the perennials, shrubs and bulbs. One of the more fun parts of gardening is noticing the improvements as the garden grows over time.
Here is another post showing a garden area planted with shade plants that I changed.