That's right, plants. I got 'em, I planted 'em, I wet 'em.
Remember wayyyyy back here when Steve made me some planter boxes for the pass through on the north side of our house?
Well, now that we're out of the frost zone and our landscaping budget has refilled, it was time to get some plants in those babies. For the last year or so, we've been collecting our used large plastic and glass jars and depositing them in the big planters so that when the time came for soil, we wouldn't have to spend as much cash while still leaving some wiggle room for roots to grow deeply. Tell you what, those planters looked pretty nasty full of a bunch of old (but clean!) milk jugs, peanut butter jars, and wine bottles (just keepin' it real). But 18 cubic feet of soil later and you'd never know there's anything lurking beneath.
Since these boxes are on the north side of our house and get little to no sunlight each day, it was really important to choose plant varieties that would do well in full shade. I have always loved hosta, fern, and coral bells, and the combination of the three is lovely. So I ended up getting two varieties of hosta- a large blue/green and a green/yellow variegated; two varieties of coral bells- the more common deep red and a "painted" variety; and two varieties of fern- a small deep green fern with "thorny" fronds (can't remember the variety name) and an autumn fern which has really pretty yellow and red tinges. I found some healthy-looking bleeding hearts and brought a few of those home as well. Check it out!
I didn't completely fill the planters up because A) whoa expensive, B) hostas, coral bells, and ferns all tend to take up a larger footprint as they grow (not sure about the bleeding hearts), and C) I'm not even sure everything will like their new home and I don't want to kill off more plants per year than absolutely necessary! And for now, at least they're lending more color and softness to that pass through than it's seen in years.
|I see green things.|
The thought is that eventually these raised beds will look much fuller and help make things feel a little less stark in the north (ooh, unintentional Game of Thrones reference!). Even without the window boxes up, our giant air conditioning unit is already partially obscured by pretty things. The next step for this space will be to get the window boxes planted, which will be fun not just for the planting, but also because Mr. Baby will be able to see the plants in one of those window boxes from his new room. Other needs for this area- our gravel hasn't had contact with any weed and moss killer since last summer, and is in need of another pass. Also, even though it's hard to tell, much of the gravel has been ground into the soil, so a load of gravel in that area would really help make things look cleaner and make moving our yard waste cart through that area much easier. Down the line we'll likely need to replace the gate and eventually the fence as well, but for now we're making do and making nice with our neighbors. :)
As long as I was in the planting mood, I decided to do something about the scraggly flowerbed in front of our dining room window as well. Here's how the bed looked when we moved in.
|You ain't got no alibi, you ugly.|
And a more recent picture, from last summer right after we finished painting.
|Better in green, but not by much.|
The bed looked better in summertime, but was still as scraggly as all get-out. A massive clump of gladiolus roots lay on the soil's surface. A long-ignored azalea had grown leggy and rarely flowered in its secluded corner. The two pieris japonica (Japanese Andromeda plant) flanking the window, which normally I love, had been pruned harshly at odd angles and planted much too close to the foundation, so they were leaning 5-foot-tall monstrosities. Think Frankenstein in a pretty dress. I wish I had another place to relocate the pieris to, but there just wasn't a good spot for them. It all had to go.
Which, of course, was easier said than done. Let's just say we may have been living in Granite Falls for too long now, as our neighbors got to enjoy the sight of a pregnant woman wrestling shrubs as tall as she is out of that flowerbed. My main issue ended up not being the removal of the plants themselves. The gladiolus came up willingly, since their roots were simply laying on the surface of the soil anyway. The azalea wasn't much more work. The pieris required some muscle, but nothing using a shovel as a lever couldn't safely handle. And surprise, most of the roots were running right up against the foundation of the house. No, the difficult part wasn't the plants, it was attempting to turn and loosen the soil to prepare it for receiving new plants. See Exhibit A:
Yes, that is my very large shovel with the entire handle broken off. You may be able to see part of the offending item which murdered my shovel, but in case you can't, let me point the finger.
For scale, that is what's left of my shovel handle in the bottom right. That sucker was probably 15 inches from stem to stern and weighed around 45 pounds. Our neighbors really enjoyed watching me manhandle it out of the bed. The best thing is that this rock is that I unearthed three more of his cousins before I was done (at least they only weighed about 25 pounds). So when my brand new shovel clanged against something hard, I was expecting to find another of Big Bertha's cousins. What I found was much more insidious.
|What is that stark line running from the vent to almost the edge of the bed?|
If you guessed "sloppy concrete overage when pouring the foundation," give yourself all the points. I figured it wouldn't be coming out without a jackhammer, so I did what any reasonable person would do and pitched a small fit. Once I recovered and placed some phone calls to master gardeners (my mom and my mother-in-law), I decided to just cross my fingers that the concrete was deep enough under the surface of the soil that my plants would still be able to root properly.
The plants for this area were ones that I've had languishing in containers (and happily overwintering well) in this vicinity for a year or better: two little peiris japonica and three wild roses. I added some gold euonymus for the front because I know it grows like crazy, has pretty foliage all year, and takes pruning well. Again, the scale for everything is a little small, but the bed is pretty small itself, and this will give the plants room to grow.
|Less overgrown fo sho.|
Now that I've got these plants in, I'm thinking I'd like to add two or three more small evergreen shrubs near the front of the beds. Azaleas are on the table and so are boxwoods. Also, great news- these were planted during spring break (read: over a week prior to publishing this post) and everything seems to be adapting to this space really well. All of the roses have crazy new growth even though they're resting on a shelf of concrete, and nothing is showing signs of distress. Hurrah! And just for fun, since the "far away" picture doesn't really do them justice, here's some gratuitous close ups.
|Love the contrast in gold euonymus.|
|No wonder they call it Andromeda.|
So this little bed has gotten some love. I may doctor it up a little more, but my next planting projects in the front yard include creating some new flower beds. I've already got almost all of my plants, now I just need a dry day off to tackle it!