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May 1, 2005

Cosmetic Surgery for the Garden

Landscaping is a lot like cosmetic surgery: once you get started, it’s hard to stop.

For more than five years we have been slowly adding hardscape elements to our garden. Raised beds with lannon stone walls here, a pergola there. Every summer following the project’s completion, we think, “Okay, that’s it. We’re done.”

But by the time spring rolls around, we’ve already speed-dialed our landscape designer with new ideas and plans. When his son was born a few years ago, we were surprised he didn’t name the lad “Maas” since we figure we’ve already bankrolled the kid’s college education.

This year’s project came out of a decision Brian made last summer to prune up (as seen here) the four Colorado spruce along the street. By raising up the bottom level of the branches, he increased the sight lines (as seen here) down the street and discovered a whole new area to plant under the trees.

So a few weeks ago, the gang from Dundee Landscape and Nursery were back again, installing lannon stone walls (as seen here) and adding fresh topsoil and mulch. Now the fun begins as we decide what kinds of perennials to put under the trees (as seen here) to provide blooms throughout the season.

We have ideas for other projects but it may take winning the lottery to fund them this year. We are toying with adding another patio next to the pergola for an outdoor dining area but we are concerned it will add too much hardscape. Will the gardens cease to feel like gardens (as seen here) when we trade plants for pavers?

And what about adding a pond at the far right of yard, next to the Austrian pine we acquired when we finally did an accurate survey of our property? Will that take away from the other things we’ve done already? Will the gardens start looking like an aging B-list Hollywood starlet who’s done one Botox treatment too many?

One project we will do for sure this summer is to fill in the gap in the arborvitae along the back fence to help give us privacy when we are outside.

Filling in the gap? Sounds like cosmetic dental work now.

See? We just don’t know how to quit.

What’s happening in the garden now:
With the recent down swing in weather (it’s snowing as I write this), not much is happening in the garden. The plants have slowed down their blooms and it’s too bloody cold for me to work outdoors.

But one welcome addition to the blooming plants is the snake’s head fritillary. These checker board beauties grow wild in Britain, and I’ve got several colonies established along the dry stream bed. Their nodding purple heads are an ephemeral delight. Soon after they finish blooming, the whole plant will disappear until next spring.

Here’s what’s blooming now (and Brian will try to get photos next week as he was busy with the Vikings this week):
Snake’s head fritallary
Turkish tulips
Wild prairie crocus
Flowering crabapple trees
Creeping phlox

Garden chores for the week:
Weed, weed, weed. We are surrounded by silver maple trees which blanket our yard and gardens with seeds, and it seems like every single seed germinates. I am also trying to contain the wild Canadian anemone. Its white blooms are cheerful but it is the most prolific and invasive thing in the garden, even more so than the simple white field daisy.

When the weather improves, start planting Stella d’Oro daylilies in the new gardens under the spruce. Brian bought them a few weeks ago at Home Depot and they are sending out monstrous shoots in their plastic bags.

Dig up the ornamental and native grasses growing where we will put the new arborvitae. I will move them to where the Graham Thomas roses were until we decide what to do with them permanently.

Dig up the yarrow clump under the magnolia tree. I’ve had it with this plant. It does nothing for me or the garden and just keeps encroaching on everything else. I’ll pot it up and donate it to a plant sale at work.

Plant some sunflower seeds and tithonia in peat pots. Maybe these can fill in the gap left by the Graham Thomas roses.

Vegetable Garden:
The lettuce and radishes continue to grow well. The peas have emerged about a half-inch above the ground. I found one sweet pea so far that has germinated. The chives are setting blossoms.

Seed Starting Update:
I’ve neglected the seeds this week and need to pot up some more celosia.

Verbena Bonariensis
• 4/16 - Two have finally germinated

Celosia “Forest Fire” – Lake Valley Seed for 1996
• 4/11 – Had to knock off the seed coating of one of the seedlings so the leaves could open.
• 4/13 – 8 more seeds
• 4/15 – 3 more seeds
• 4/16 - potted up four seedlings that had their second set of leaves.

Penstemon “Sensation Mix” – Unwins for 2004?
• 4/11 – One seed germinated. It looks a lot like the celosia seedlings.

Scabiosa atropurpurea “Cutflower Mix” – Unwins for 2004?
• 4/11 – Potted 7 plants into peat pots in their own tray. I should have done this a week ago. A few have gotten very leggy. The smallest ones transplanted the best. One that had its stem roughed up a bit has died.

Woodland Wildflower Alert:
Yesterday the Boy, the two dogs and I took a very long and very cold walk through a different set of woods. We saw a few rue anemone blooming and several Solomon’s seal unfurling their stems.

Family Plug

Brian attended Vikings mini-camp this past Friday and has been posting reports by position all weekend. On Saturday alone, his site had nearly 5,000 visitors! And the photos are great. Check it out!

Posted by maasx003 at May 1, 2005 7:41 PM | Gardens


If you did not toss them, I would take some of the anemone. At your convenience, thanks. I love your site!

Posted by: Diana at May 2, 2005 9:09 AM

Wow, I got tired reading your landscape plan, but it does sound wonderful--I agree, yarrow sucks, I got rid of mine, in the trash--incase you haven't heard, brother Brian is getting hitched 10-8

Posted by: karen at May 4, 2005 4:29 PM

I love the photos! Keep 'em coming.

We will be looking for a garden/landscape designer soon. It sounds like you're happy with yours. Care to share his name? Thanks!


Posted by: Sue Ainsworth at May 5, 2005 10:30 AM