As I write this I am sitting, still in my pajamas, on our sofa overlooking the back patio. The door is open and I can hear all of the birds and wildlife. Overnight we had gentle, rolling thunderstorms that has blanketed the garden in dewy raindrops, and the sun, hidden behind the remaining clouds for most of the early morning, is just now starting to play peek-a-boo.
Yesterday we had, as expected, a very busy day in the garden. Temperatures reached almost 80 degrees Fahrenheit here in Central Indiana and it was gloriously and unapologetically sunny. Most of the plants I’d ordered for the butterfly perennial garden had arrived, and a few others were at a local store for pick-up, so yesterday was one of those brilliantly satisfying gardening days. You know, the day when all of the digging and wheelbarrowing you’ve done pays off in a big way; the kind of day when you start a day off with one view, and end with an entirely different one.
We’re still missing a few structural plants, such as boxwoods, and I haven’t gotten my spring bulbs in yet, but the bones are there. It’ll take time to grow-up, of course, but we are patient. The color palette is a mixture of soft purples and pinks with a few bright bursts of yellow and white, offset by green foliage in various textures and heights. Most plants in this border are either a butterfly/bee attractor, a medicinal herb, a tea-garden herb, or a culinary herb. I have a variety of spring and fall bulbs to fill-in gaps, and I will no doubt have too many plants for the space in a year or two, but can happily take some out and move them around the rest of the garden. That’s the utter joy of cottage-style planting.
We planted Fragrant Lavender Hedge Roses near the path and eating area, and are training an Amethyst Falls Wisteria to climb the pergola. Amethyst Falls has the same beautiful fragrant blooms as other wisterias but with a smaller footprint and a more controllable climb, making it perfect for this spot. We would love to keep the burning bush in the middle of the bed, but even after a good pruning he’s a little big. He may have to get transplanted to another bed. Two boxwood hedges will tuck in to the bare spots, mimicking the alignment on the other side of the path, and a meadow sage sits happily at the front with other perennials such as asters and daisies.
On the other side of the path is a Buddleia Buzz Skyblue butterfly bush, that, like it’s neighbors across the path, features a smaller footprint than other buddleias, making it easier to fit into our smaller border. The border is given structure by two varieties of boxwood hedges that will grow at different heights and mounding types through the center, allowing the long grasses, such as Mexican Feather and Lucerne Blue-Eyed to blow gently around them, and the perennials–purple and honeydew coneflowers, bee balms, and a happy mixture of bulbs I’ll describe in a later post–will pop in and out of the picture.
In the raised beds we have the Mediterranean herb bed at the front, in the sunniest spot. This bed features an almost 50-50 blend of pea gravel (what the Brits would call “horticultural grit”) and topsoil very lightly enriched with compost. Most Mediterranean herbs grow in rocky, poor soil with good drainage and a lot of sun, so it’s best to try to mimic those conditions in the garden. So far we have lavender, thyme, rosemary, marjoram, tarragon, and oregano. I plan to add a cooking sage (as opposed to the meadow sage in the perennial bed), and I’d love to get my hands on some winter savory, though I’m having a hard time finding seeds or starts. Oddly enough, basil will actually be happy near its tomato companions, and so I won’t include it in this bed, and I also sow cilantro/coriander and italian parsley in rows for a continual harvest, and have found those tolerate a richer, loamier soil so long as it has good drainage (which a raised bed does). I have also omitted mint, though I have several varieties, because those will be best kept in a pot to control their growth, as they tend to spread and take over. Other herbs I could add into this garden would be fennel, which I still might, and bay (though that tends to grow well as a small tree in a container if you can bring it indoors during winter).
The second raised bed is a second herb garden that has a topsoil/compost blend. It has two rows of cilantro/coriander and italian parsley, and then also features chives, lemon verbena, patchouli, and catnip. I’ve placed dill and chamomile in the perennial bed just below the raised bed, and have yet to get lemon balms and bee balms in the ground. Dill, fennel, and lemon balm all can get quite large, so I am trying them in the border. If they don’t do well, next year I’ll move them into the raised beds. I have space leftover in this bed right now and will find something, I’m sure, to fill it.
The third raised bed is the least filled as of yet. It has two cucumbers starting to poke-up at the back. This bed will feature our “kitchen garden” selection for easy grabbing while cooking–cucumbers, cherry/grape tomatoes, a pepper plant or two, and basil.
The final raised bed is our spring garden bed. It is sheltered from the heat of the afternoon sun, but gets ample morning light, which helps extend the season for spring crops such as peas and broccoli, and keeps our lettuces and other greens happy. Presently we have arugula/rocket, radishes, a small romaine-style head lettuce, spinach, and broccoli. Our peas are still under the grow light at the shop, but will be moved over to the homestead and planted out next weekend.
We have some odds and ends yet to do to have this new garden area be completely finished. I have to finish the edging all the way around, there’s still some staining on the pergola, and our brick edgers around our patio are still being set. In addition, we have our sights on the very old, not well-loved holly we inherited when we moved in. Given the formal structure of the raised beds, your eye goes straight to it as a focal point at the end of the garden, so we’d love to put a little more effort into that area. That may come next year, though. And, we are still on the hunt for a hot tub, but aren’t really wanting to spend a lot of money on one, so that may not happen this year (though I know the kids are hopeful). Each good deal we’ve encountered on Facebook Marketplace has featured a hot tub that is simply too large for our small space. We really only have room for a 3-4 person at most. If I had room for a 6-8 person hot tub, we’d already have one.
Next week is my birthday and Mother’s Day, and so we are ready to turn our attention to the main garden. It will get another good load of compost and we’ll be ready to start planting. Brian has a wonderful idea for the new fence, and we’re hoping he’ll do an arbor, as we have a climbing rose and clematis ready to go in that will help bring visual continuity to the two garden areas and also help attract pollinators to the fruit.
Not only is it my birthday, but it’s also May the 4th (be with you) and Cinco de Mayo. I have a surprise planned on May the 4th for the kids (so look for a post about that), and Mexican food is my absolute favorite kind of food, so despite not being of Mexican heritage, we like to celebrate a little by cooking and eating Mexican food (so delicious). I’ve got an easy meal planned for my birthday because–hey, it’s my birthday and I don’t want to have to cook something elaborate–and then for Mother’s Day I’ve planned an elaborate and hearty afternoon tea on the back patio. Here’s the rundown:
Weekly Meal Plan:
Monday = “Mama Melrose’s” — mozzarella sticks, italian-style salads, spring pea pasta
Tuesday = cilantro-lime chicken tacos, black beans, rice
Wednesday = tomato soup and BLTs
Thursday = leftovers
Friday = steak on the grill, sweet potato mash, big fat salads, cupcakes
Saturday = leftovers or maybe pizza?
Sunday = Mother’s Day tea — tea (obviously), chicken salad sandwiches, cucumber sandwiches, cheese and jam sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, bakewell tarts, and some kind of delicious cake (victoria sponge? lemon? strawberry-rose?). Dinner much later, after our afternoon tea — Santa Fe Salad.