weekend update

So I finally decided that I’ve had enough of the neighbors walking on the seedlings in our front garden (nee yard) and put up a temporary fence to keep the garden safe.

temporary fence installed

It stretches all the way along this side of the yard, so hopefully it will be effective. We could theoretically fence off the other edges, too, but I’m not convinced that’s necessary. As you can see, I also planted three new bushes there – blueberry, black raspberry, and red raspberry. I usually like to get edible plants from heirloom seed or from the farmers market (or other reputable organic sources), but I gave in and got these from Lowe’s – the farmers market had nothing to offer and the seeds I’d planted here got trampled to death. I’m guessing that I’ll need to protect these from the birds once they start fruiting. Anyone have suggestions of effective ways of doing that?

In other front garden news, a number of the other plants I put in are doing pretty well! The dark lord geranium is looking good:

dark lord geranium

I also noticed that something is sprouting up through the mulch on the side of the house – I think it might be grapes. Can anyone confirm or deny?

something growing up through the mulch - grapes?

In the back gardens, the daylilies and asiatic lilies are budding and getting ready to bloom.

asiatic lily


asiatic lily

The lilies beside the garage are really, really tall! Some of them are approaching the point of being taller than I am!

garage-side garden

The golden sweet snow peas are still blossoming, with a gorgeous purple color:

golden sweet snow pea blossom

There are also scads of pea pods! I’ve been eating them right off the vine while I wander through the veg garden. They are so sweet and the texture is divine!

golden sweet snow peas

So the other day, after I finished hosing off the aphids that were hanging out on the potato plant blossoms, I noticed what I thought was an odd-looking ladybug. It wasn’t a ladybug, it was a colorado potato beetle. Yipes! I picked it off and killed it, and found, picked, and destroyed the leaf under which it had laid eggs. I searched but didn’t find any others, but then a day later, I found these!

unknown insect: Colorado Potato Beetle larvae?

They’re larval colorado potato beetles, and they were chomping the hell out of the potato leaves, as you can see above. Ugh! I think I’ve gotten rid of all of them now, so hopefully we’re done with that. I did order some ladybugs and praying mantis eggs which should arrive soon. I fully expect them to fly away, but hopefully a few will hang out and make a home in my garden (and a meal of any other pests). We already have some good pest-eaters in the garden, one of whom made an appearance this week:

toad in the toad house


low plants

I’m getting to the point of actually organizing all the plants I’ve been researching and making a real concrete plan for the front yard. For those who aren’t aware, we’re undertaking a project of completely re-landscaping the front yard, with the intent to have no lawn at all. I have a vague outline of the shapes the beds will take (post on that soon) and my next step is to categorize the plants I think I want to use so I can see what might fit where. This post will be about low plants, things that grow to be no more than a foot tall. At this point I’m only including perennials. I’ll probably end up putting in some annuals, too, but I want to get down the basics first, the plants that will stay there for the long haul. I’ll think about bulbs later, too.

White : Snow in Summer (Cerastium tomentosum ‘Yo Yo’): 3-6″ : full sun : spreads quickly : blooms late spring
snow in summer
from Michigan Bulb, Four Seasons Nursery, Spring Hill Nursery

Silver : Blue Festuca Grass (Festuca ovina glauca Elijah Blue): 8-12″ : full sun : clumps : blooms summer
blue festuca grass

from Michigan Bulb, Jung Seed, Four Seasons Nursery

Black : Bugleweed ‘Black Scallop’ (Ajuga reptans ‘Black Scallop’) : 3-6″ : darkest color in full sun : spreads to 3′ wide : blooms late spring to early summer
bugleweed black scallop
from Park Seed

Purple : Dark Lord Geranium (Geranium pratense ‘Dark Reiter’): 8-10″ : full sun to part shade : compact growth habit : blooms early to late summer
dark lord geranium
from Michigan Bulb, Spring Hill Nursery

Silver: Silver Mound Artemisia (Artemisia schmidtiana ‘Nana’) : 8-10″ : full sun to part shade : mounds
silver mound artemisia
from Jung Seed

White : Snow White Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata) : 4-6″ : full sun to part shade : spreads up to 30″ : blooms in spring
snow white creeping phlox
from Jung Seed, Four Seasons Nursery, Michigan Bulb, Spring Hill Nursery

Purple: Dalmation Bellflower (Campanula portenschlagiana) : 6-9″ : full sun to part shade : spreads 12″ : blooms late spring through summer
dalmation bellflower
from Four Seasons Nursery

White: Candytuft (Iberis sempervirens) : 6-8″ : sun or part shade : blooms in May
from Four Seasons Nursery

White: Snowdrift Aster (Aster ericoides ‘Snowdrift’) : 4-6″ : full sun : blooms late summer to fall
snowdrift aster
from Michigan Bulb, Spring Hill Nursery

Purple: Red Hens & Chicks (Sempervivum) : 2-5″ : full sun : blooms midsummer
red hens and chicks
from Michigan Bulb, Spring Hill Nursery

Purple: Mouse Tail Plant (Arisarum proboscideum) : 6-8″ : part to full shade: blooms early to mid spring, reblooms late summer
mouse tail plant
from Spring Hill Nursery

I’m also still looking for further suggestions, so if you know of any neat plants that are black, white, silver, or purple; thrive in zone 6, and don’t require a ton of attention, I’m all ears.


front yard plans: black plants

Now that it’s the new year and the hope of spring is on the way, it’s time for me to really start figuring out what our front yard re-landscaping project will look like. This past year we undertook the Summer of Smother, during which we covered the entire front lawn in newspaper and mulch so that this spring we can till and start all over with a blank slate. (I’m actually hoping to hire someone to do the actual tilling since it’s not the easiest task and I am a major wuss.)

With the help of my awesome sistrah, I’ve created a basic layout for the yard – the plan for what shape the beds will eventually take. I recognize that the whole thing is way too much to do in one year, so my next step is to figure out a general idea of what plants I want where and then decide what portion to tackle this year. I’ll fill in the majority of the space with thyme and/or other herbs and then remove what I need to when I’m ready in future years. I’ll still be putting in a veggie garden in the back yard beds, so I need to be realistic about how much I can accomplish altogether.

My general color scheme for the front landscaping is black/purple/white/silver. Our house is off-white brick with a black roof, and we hope to eventually paint the trim and shutters black to give the exterior a more cohesive look (right now the shutters and trim are an icky rust color which we definitely do not want love). I’ve read that keeping a limited color palette will give the garden a more professional look, so here’s hoping.

So, for black plants, here are a few thoughts.

I do want to include edibles where I can, though for the front yard I’d like to stick primarily to perennials so that will limit the edible options substantially. I love blackberries, though the plant would only fit into the color scheme when the fruit is ripe.
Ebony King Blackberry
This Ebony King Blackberry is thornless, which is a bonus (though perhaps since our front yard is unfenced, thorns would be helpful to keep critters from stealing the fruit?).

With the whole colony collapse disorder thing resulting in fewer bees hanging around, I’d like to include plenty of plants that attract pollinators.
Black Knight Butterfly Bush
This Black Knight Butterfly Bush would definitely do that and while, again, the foliage wouldn’t fit into my color scheme, I think it would be worth it.

With a name like Dark Lord Geranium, how could I not include this one?
Dark Lord Geranium
I mean, seriously, a plant with purple-highlighted foliage that also has purple blooms AND is a Star Wars reference? No question.

We don’t have too many spaces out front where we need a lot of height, but there is the awkward little side area that runs next to our neighbor’s driveway and is right outside our bedroom window. I think a screen of this Black Bamboo would be perfect:
Black Bamboo, Phyllostachys nigra
It would provide some privacy as it got taller, and would also help define the boundary between the neighbor’s property and ours. The only hitch is that it is theoretically for zone 7-10, and we’re zone 6. I’m not sure how big an issue that might be.

I’m really seeking some plants with lots of beautiful foliage, now we’re cooking:
Black Elephant Ear, Taro, Colocasia
This Black Elephant Ear is great! I love the large leaves and the way the veins are slightly lighter in color. I could see this taking a significant role in the new front yard.

I do also want some flowering plants, and this Black Barlow Columbine is striking:
Black Barlow Columbine
It supposedly attracts hummingbirds, which would be neat to see.

These are just a few of the plants I’m considering. If anyone out there has experience with any of these particular plants or has any other suggestions, I’m all ears.