Welcome to my new front yard garden

Growing annuals from seed to fill in the space formerly filled by lawn.

If you follow me on instagram, you’ll know I’ve been working on a new garden in 2021. It all started in September of 2020 when we cleared my exisiting raised beds, all the remaining grass and a few ancient shrubs from the front of the house. (PJM Rhododendrons – anyone remember those?)

Our contractors then put in brick walkways, and a few mulched pathways to loosely structure the space. They also planted a few shrubs at the font of the house, and a shade garden of native ferns at the shady end of the yard. The wide open space in front was daunting in the spring of 2021.

But I had been planning and growing seedlings for weeks, so by mid-May, I was ready. Or so I thought. Like all gardens, this one was not without its heartbreaks – rabbits skirting the fence, a too hot June followed by a rainy July. I’ll spare you the photos of rabbit chewed plants, and a few stunted Dahlias (too close to the shade!) and just say, thankfully, by the late summer, my seed-sown plants started to come into their full glory.

I’m not showing the bare patch behind the zinnias, where the rabbits killed my delphiniums, but I am already planning and making lists and dreaming of next year’s garden. And to that end, I’ll share a few of my favorites from this season below and hope to inspire you in planning your 2022 garden!

Hydrangeas at home

hydrangea and dew 2

Hydrangeas have to be one of the more magnetic flowers to photograph. Two summers ago, when I was a more dedicated user of instagram, hydrangeas cropped up in my feed regularly. Yet, I didn’t have any growing in my yard.

Last summer, we finally added some in the form of Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’. I’ve always had a thing for white and greenish hydrangeas and we were trying to stick with mostly (North American) native plants. ‘Annabelle’ fit the bill on both counts. (Not that I don’t appreciate a hedge row of blue or pink H. macrophylla.)

I also knew I wanted this particular variety because I frequently pass a pair of ‘Annabelles’ in my neighborhood. I used to fantasize about taking a few blooms home with me. So, it was a thrill this morning to go to my own newly established plants and select a few stems to clip and bring inside. There they are – puffy, delicate, frothy, almost delicious-looking.

cut hydrangeas

With plenty of blooms left on the plants, I’ll get to watch the flowers as they weather and change over the rest of the summer, long life and variability being one of the beautiful aspects of most hydrangea blossoms. I’ll probably even cut a few to bring in and dry. Feels almost like having my cake and eating it too.

An old instagram shot of unknow hydrangea with aging blossoms turning pink at the edges.
An old instagram shot of aging hydrangea blossoms turning pink at the edges.

A tree blooms in Boston

styrax japonicus

Every spring, this small tree blooms in my yard, its branches covered in these dangling white blossoms. For the first 3 years I lived here, I fretted, trying to determine what kind of tree it was. I asked arborists, landscapers, pretty much everyone who came near it. I googled “carolina silver bells” and “amelanchier” knowing they weren’t quite right, but hoping to get a clue to this plant’s identity. I felt like a failure as a botanist.

Finally, I remembered botanical keys and consulted Manual of the vascular flora of the Carolinas, arriving at the genus Styrax, a close relative of Carolina silverbells. After some internet research, I decided it had to be Styrax japonicus.

One mystery solved.


My next question (How did it get here?) was answered by an older, plant-loving neighbor. When I told her about my Styrax, she said, “Oh, yes, I belive the arboretum [nearby Arnold arboretum] used to give out seedlings and one year they gave out Styrax. There are probably others in the neighborhood.”

I have yet to see one, but when I do, I will definitely know it.

Garden Update: the good, the bad, and the ugly

Here I go again, bragging about my garden. Only its not exactly bragging. It might even be over-sharing, because I plan to share the good, the bad, and the ugly.

tomato plant in june
After two weeks in the soil, Green Zebra Tomato, still looking pretty small

The good. Two weeks ago, I planted the tomatoes I grew from seed: yellow pear, green zebra, ‘stupice‘ and red cherry.  For now, they look tiny but the seed packets promise they will reach 7ft, especially with my new tomato cages. (mother’s day present) I am positively rubbing my hands together in anticipation.

Mmmm.. freshly watered kale plants
Mmmm.. freshly watered kale plants

The bad. We’ve already cycled through one crop of arugula and one crop of spinach. This is bad only because it means we have only kale ready to eat in the garden and everyone at my house is starting to get testy about those kale smoothies I keep offering to make.

Yucky beets greens: what am I doing wrong!?
Yucky beets greens: what am I doing wrong!?

The ugly. The greens on my beets are starting to look like someone doused them with acid. I have no idea why. Actually, I am wondering if beets do not like to be top watered? Thoughts, theories, suggestions most welcome.

Happy June, everyone!

Tulip Time

pink tulips!

I confess to being enamored of my tulips these days. I’ve been so smitten by these flowers, that I posted this photo on instagram and facebook.

I cringe a bit, worried that I might seem to be bragging. Since no particular skill of mine made this lovely tableau come about, I should probably feel safe in celebrating these spring bulbs. That’s the thrill of gardening — the plants themselves do the work. Their growth seems effortless and their beauty becomes a simple, tiny miracle.

I am also a bit awed that planting bulbs actually worked so well. I was certain, last fall, that the squirrells would eat all my bulbs and when I saw a few bulbs poking out of the soil in February, I was then sure they would freeze and be killed before spring.

Of course, all this beauty is ephemeral. To try and make the most of these tulips while they last, I cut a few stems (from a different spot) this morning to bring inside. And they make me smile with how very alive they are, opening in warmth of the morning sun. The time for tulips is short, but thrilling nonetheless.


Starting seeds

As I begin this blog, I am thinking of spring, planting some seeds and dreaming of a lush and productive summer vegetable garden. I like to imagine my new garden will look something like this:


Since my garden is currently covered in snow, I’m using a lot of imagination.


I’ve been perusing seed catalogues and websites and I finally settled on some seeds. I’ve ordered “pronto” beets, arugula, spinach and “True Siberian” kale to start under a cold frame as soon as the snow melts. I’ve ordered tomatoes (yellow pear, cherry, “stupice”) and “sugar baby” watermelons to start indoors at  the same time.

I can’t wait, but I know half the fun is in the anticipation. Hoping there are good times ahead, both here on this blog and in my garden.