more Firefly Cottage plants

I’m still gathering my list of plants I want to use in the gardens at Firefly Cottage. Here are some more of the ones that I plan to incorporate.

lavender photo lavender_zpsaxkfuw2v.jpg

Lavender is definitely on the list. I love the way it smells and it makes such a lovely border along a pathway. I’m planning to use it along both sides of the front walkway that leads from the sidewalk to the front door. I’ve had pretty good luck growing it before, so I’m optimistic about making it work in a fairly large quantity here.

pincushion flower photo pincushion flower_zps76gvshzr.jpg

Another plant I’ve had good experience with is Pincushion Flower (Scabiosa). It attracts butterflies readily, and if you deadhead it, new blossoms will develop quite quickly, making it a longer-lasting bloomer.

speedwell photo Speedwell_zpspl3y40sv.jpg

Speedwell is another plant I’ve loved growing in the past. There are beautiful varieties, it blooms for a relatively long period of time, and it grows really well in Michigan. It’s also another butterfly fave.

artemisia photo artemisia_zpsffydsmao.jpg

I also quite like growing Artemisia (Wormwood). So many lovely silvery colors are available in varieties that grow well in this zone.

echinacea photo echinacea_zpscqg7ww8q.jpg

Another favorite of mine that comes in a wide array of varieties is Echinacea (Coneflower). There’s the basic standby Purple Coneflower, but so many other varieties in shades of purple, pink, and yellow. I always think that it’s such a cheerful plant! I like to get my flowers from the Clear Lake florist.


garden! garden! garden!

We have reached the time of year where I really don’t want to do anything else but be in the garden or be planning for the garden.

Firefly Cottage pathways

We are hoping to have some new pathways installed pretty soon – these will replace the existing pathways that are in various states of disrepair. The front walkway (marked in red above) is, right now, made of pavers that aren’t super well-installed, or at least their installation has degraded over time. They’re fairly uneven side to side, and the steps that are about halfway up to the house are really wonky. We’ve put in more soil underneath to support them, but it seems to wash out pretty quickly. We’d like to do a stamped concrete for this front path – something that will go well with the brick of the house. Stamped concrete is pricey, though, so we will likely not do it for everything. The paths marked in blue above we’ll do in regular poured concrete to save some bucks. I’m not sure if we could have the regular non-stamped concrete the same color as the stamped or if that would jack up the cost? If we could keep it the same color but without the added cost of stamping, that’d be great – but if necessary we’ll just go with regular concrete for the blue paths. All of these are currently already concrete or stone (along the side of the house it’s a mixture of really old stone and newer poured concrete – not all of which is at the same level anymore, so it’s really kind of a hazard). We want them all to be uniform and to be at least 3′ wide.

Firefly Cottage - lavender along front path

I’d then like to plant lavender along both sides of the front path. I had it growing along the front walkway at our house downstate, and it was really lovely to have the scent wafting like a greeting as you walked toward the front door.

Firefly Cottage - perimeter hedge

I’d also like to install a hedge around the edge of the yard. It will help give us some definition and in some areas, more privacy. Along the front of the yard, I’m thinking of something that will grow to be about 3′ tall, and I’ll likely use a combination of a few types of evergreens to accomplish this. Cottage gardens often used four or five types of plants to form a hedge, so this will be in keeping with that style. Along the sides, I’m open to using a taller evergreen, but I’d like to keep it to something that will grow no taller than 8′ or so. Definitely on the alley side I’d like to do a taller hedge, but I’m still deciding about the street side of the yard. I may go for a combination, with the front part of that street side being the same rough height as the front hedge, and moving to taller further back? I’m not decided on this yet, nor have I figured out which varieties I want to use. I’m interested in using mostly female plants if possible, so that there will be plenty of berries and flowers for birds and pollinators and so those female plants can act as a pollen filter. I also haven’t decided yet what should happen on the back part of the yard along the alley and along the property line with the neighbors behind us. We have talked about expanding the fenced-in area to go further back toward the neighbors, so I’ll probably try to decide that before figuring out the plant situation there.

I’ll be trimming back both the lilacs this spring. Both are on the street side – the front one, which is white, is sort of covered by the hedge in this drawing. That one appeared to be almost dead last year, so I’m not sure if it will survive anyway. Both of the lilacs are super way taller than they should be and have a lot of dead limbs, so I’m going to try to trim them down significantly. That’s enough for this post! I’m still working on the plans for the gardens within the yard, so that’ll be coming soon!


spring has sprung

Like just about everywhere else, spring has come very early to this neck of the woods. Our winter was extremely mild and most of March we’ve had temperatures in the 70s and 80s. It’s ridiculous! Kind of nice, but I miss the transitional weather. I’m a fan of temps in the mid-50s to mid-60s and while we had quite a few days in that range during the so-called winter, I hope next year we have a more traditional spring season.

The first week of March, all my Crocus came up and most of them bloomed almost immediately.

crocus in the front garden

Eventually I would like this entire front border of the garden/yard to be filled with early bloomers. It’s still a little sparse, but they do multiply every year, so I’ll get there eventually.

crocus in the front garden

There was an ant crawling around inside this bloom:

crocus in the front garden

Early onset BUGS is definitely a side effect of this weird-ass weather. There were HUGE swarms of gnats out the other night as I was taking photographs. They were everywhere! Ewwwwww.

By the second week of March, all the Crocus were up and blooming:

early blooms in the front garden

as were other early bloomers like Reticulated Iris:

early blooms in the front garden

and Siberian Squill (which wasn’t quite blooming yet as of this photo):

early blooms in the front garden

Even though the winter was mild, it was wintery enough to destroy the mini gargoyles I accidentally left out.

what remains of the gargoyle I left out all winter

OOPS. I have a little bit of clean-up left to get all the tiny pieces picked up. That’s what I get from leaving a dollar store item out in the elements, I suppose! As an aside, the chopstick I accidentally left out (used for helping Blythe stand up) was completely unblemished.

The second week of March I started picking up leaf mulch from the garden. It’s really early to do this, but I couldn’t help but want to be out in the garden, and I thought it seemed worth risking. Some of the early bloomers were having trouble poking through all the leaves (I put them on a little too heavy in some spots) and I wanted to free them.

There were also a number of plants starting to sprout under the leaves and it was so neat to see them all green (or in some cases all white due to lack of exposure to the sun – even neater! I love science.) when I unburied them.

Here are some Lamb’s Ears ‘Helene Von Stein’ in the process of being uncovered:

front garden second week of March

and a week or so later:

front garden

By this, the third week of March, the Purple Wintercreeper is going crazy-go-nuts! It budded out earlier in the month and now it’s been growing super fast. It’s really filling in under the red maple tree this year:

under the red maple

The Poppy Anemones are starting to almost bloom now, too.

poppy anemone

The Sedum is sprouting, too. I just adore the way this stuff looks at all stages.

Stonecrop 'Munstead Red'

Even with last year’s now-not-so-gorgeous growth sticking out, I still like it.

Stonecrop 'Munstead Red'

The Artemisia is coming back, too:

Artemisia 'Powis Castle'

I have a few different varieties in the front garden. That one is ‘Powis Castle’ and it’s one of my favorite plants. The ‘Silver Mound’ is also coming up all over (I have it throughout the front garden):

front garden

(That Lavender needs a haircut!)

The Vinca is blooming, too:

Periwinkle Vinca

The blossoms on this plant may be tiny, but they are stunning! I feel like these photos look ‘shopped for color enhancement, but they aren’t. The flower color is just that intense!

Periwinkle Vinca

The Russian Sage is also sprouting teeny tiny leaves!

Russian Sage 'Filigran'

Are those not adorable?

It doesn’t look like a whole lot at this stage, but the garden is really coming along.

front garden

I think that this year I will have more fully or near-fully developed plants than babies, for the first time. I’m really excited to see how it progresses through the next few months!


Gardening Step by Step

Gardening Step by StepOne of the areas in which I would like to develop my gardening knowledge is pruning. I have pruned some things, like Purple Wintercreeper, which are seemingly unkillable and are pretty much fine with being pruned in whatever way I choose. This book has a lot of instruction for pruning, though, as well as the reasons behind the choices one should be making while pruning. I especially need to follow the photo guide to pruning lavender. Check out my post at CPL for more about this book.



So we were supposed to get a big blizzard last night into today, and while it didn’t end up being a really huge amount of snow, most of the schools and lots of other entities (like MPOW, the library) closed down. Lucky for us, K already had the day off so we had time to do the shoveling and snowblowing on our own timetable. I’d been kind of excited to not have to set the alarm clock, but as it ended up, we both woke up before it would even have gone off on a normal day. The curse of getting older.

For reference, here’s the front yard yesterday, the day before the storm:

front yard the day before the snowlymoly

And here’s today, after we cleared the snow:


Not a gigantic difference, eh? We got somewhere in the neighborhood of six inches, but there was quite a bit of wind so some areas ended up with more, some with less. Here’s the edge of the driveway, with my mitten for reference:

mitten for reference

One of my favorite things about the snowy season (there aren’t many) is seeing bits of the garden poking up. Here’s some of the lavender that grows along the front path:


And some Cape Gooseberry that I never cleared away:

ground cherry

The sky was overcast all day but it was fairly bright out. It continued to snow lightly throughout the day but didn’t accumulate much more. I thought that the silver maple out front looked cool against the sky.


Anne and Karl getting ready to shovel #snowlymoly


heat wave

It is the first day of April and it was 78 degrees in Canton today! I believe that it may have set a record. I went for a walk at lunch and I was very glad I had a parasol with me because the sun was beating down and I definitely would have been too warm and possibly sunburned if I hadn’t.

I didn’t get out to take photos in the front garden until around 8pm tonight so they don’t show the glorious sunshine, but they do show some things budding and growing.

The black hollyhock I planted from seed last year didn’t do much then, but it seems to be growing pretty well so far this year:

black hollyhock coming up

As you can see, I still haven’t cleared out the leaves I mulched with last fall. The forecast for next week is cooler, and I’m not convinced that it’s safe yet.

What I think is the white astilbe seedling I planted last year is budding:

white astilbe budding

It never did much last year and it sure looks beensy this year! We’ll see.

I think this stuff is Curiosity (Nigella) that I planted from seed last year and which never did anything at all. It didn’t even sprout last year, but the seeds seem to have survived:

Curiosity (Nigella papillosa) coming up

Finally, the lavender‘s not really doing anything yet but it is such a pretty silvery color:



medium plants

And we’re on to the medium plants, things that grow to be between one and four feet tall. I’m also still just going for perennials – annuals and bulbs will wait for me to figure out the rest of the primary plan.

Purple and white : Purple snakeroot : (Actaea simplex) Atropurpurea Group : up to 4′ : part shade : clumps : blooms late summer
from ??

Purple and white : Spiny bear’s breeches (Acanthus spinosus) : 2-4′ : full sun to part shade : clumps : blooms mid-summer
Acanthus spinosus
from ??

White : astilbe (Astilbe japonica) : 2-3′ : part sun to full shade : clumps : blooms early to mid-summer
Astilbe Snowcap
from Burpee, Bluestone Perennials, Michigan Bulb, Spring Hill Nursery

Silver : Money Plant : 24-30″ : sun to part shade : clumps : blooms in spring
Honesty Money Plant Lunaria
from Burpee

Silver :  Blue Girl hybrid tea rose : 3-4′ : full sun to part shade : blooms summer to fall
Blue Girl rose
from Michigan Bulb, Direct Gardening

Silver : Blue Sea Holly (Eryngium alpinum) : 24-30″ : full sun : blooms mid to late summer
Blue Sea Holly
from Michigan Bulb, Breck’s, Spring Hill Nursery

purple : Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) : 18-24″ : full sun : mounds : blooms summer
from Michigan Bulb, Spring Hill Nursery

Black : Green Wizard Coneflower (Rudbeckia, Echinacea) : 24-36″ : full sun : blooms mid-summer to mid-fall
Green Wizard Coneflower
from Breck’s

Purple : Salvia Caradonna (Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna’) : 20″ : full sun : mound-shaped : blooms early summer to early fall
Salvia Caradonna
from Park Seed

Purple : Black Barlow Columbine (Aquilegia vulgaris) : 24-28″ : full to part sun : clumps : blooms late spring to early summer
Black Barlow Columbine
from Dutch Gardens, Spring Hill Nursery

Black : Classic German Iris Sambuca : 35-37″ : full sun to part shade : blooms mid-spring
Classic German Iris Sambuca
from Henry Field’s

Black (white flowers) : Ebony King Blackberry (Rubus ‘Ebony King’): 3-4′ : full sun : flowers early summer
Ebony King Blackberry
from Michigan Bulb, Nature Hills Nursery

Silver/Purple : Burgundy Lace Fern (Athyrium n. var. pictum ) : 12-18″ : part to full shade
burgundy lace fern
from Jung Seed, Dutch Gardens

Purple : Amethyst Myst Heuchera (Heuchera) : 10″ with 20-26″ flower stems : part sun to full shade : blooms late spring to early summer
amyethyst myst heuchera
from Jung Seed, Dutch Gardens


Michigan Bulb Spring 2009 catalog

When the weather is so cold and everything in the gardens is frozen, garden catalogs are a saving grace. It’s fun to think about what could be, especially when I have the entire front yard to plan for.

I’m not at all convinced that I could grow roses. They seem too prone to disease and pests, and I am not one for high maintenance plants. This Nearly Black hybrid tea rose sure is beautiful, though.
Nearly Black Rose

I also think this Blue Girl hybrid tea rose would be a nice addition to the silver part of my color scheme.
Blue Girl rose

Speaking of silver, this Blue Sea Holly is striking.
Blue Sea Holly
I love how sharp and dangerous it looks, as well as its color. It looks like something that would have been growing in a fantastical ice garden.

Lavender is perfect for my color scheme and is a no-question border plant for my plan.
It has purple blooms and the foliage is reportedly silvery, so what more could I ask for? Delicious scent? I’ll take it!

Speaking of borders, Snow in Summer is another shoe-in.
Snow in Summer
It’s so absolutely white when it’s in bloom. The fact that it only gets 6″ high is perfect for border areas. I’m actually thinking that it would make a nice complete fill-in for the area under our red maple.
Japanese Maple trimmed
I could still have tulips and other things in there that would bloom and be showy and not be bothered by the surrounding awesomeness. Hooray!

Grasses are another type of plant I don’t have much experience with. I do like the concept, I just haven’t had much chance at working with them.
blue festuca grass
This Blue Festuca Grass would be another silver item which would stand out and provide good contrast to some of the more flowery plants.