Now, we’re no expert gardeners yet, but for the last 8 years or so, we’ve definitely been interested in learning all we can. The great thing about gardening is that we’ll continue to learn more and more every year. One of the things I learned about myself when we first moved in here is that I really hate that landscaping fabric used to keep the weeds down. We had it in all of our garden beds around the house and we’ve been slowly getting rid of it, little by little every year. Of course, that leads to more weeds, but I feel like it’s really important for me to be able to play around and add a new plant into our gardens whenever the fancy strikes and with the fabric, that’s just really difficult.
So last year we took the fabric out of this front garden bed, right beside the driveway, and we were left with this.
We also removed some shrubs that we didn’t like. We were left with quite a few plants, but also a lot of empty spaces and a lot of weeds. Chris poked in this random hummingbird garden ornament that he found in the garage and that just added to the sad-looking mess. We decided to tackle the garden a couple of weeks ago. We don’t have a lot (or any) time for upkeep throughout the Summer this year so our plan was to:
a) Fill up as much space with plants as possible to help smother the weeds.
b) Work towards creating a garden that’s full enough with plants that the weeds that do come through aren’t very noticeable at all.
A garden like that takes a lot of years to build up, but we were able to lay the ground work for what this garden will be in the future in just one afternoon.
Eventually, we’re aiming for something that looks like this:
This photo came from American Meadows. The garden is full, full, full and little bit wild-looking. I love it! We did have a lot of big mature plants like this at our old house and I can’t wait to get back to that stage of gardening here.
If you’d love a full, easy-to-deal-with, little-work-lotta-reward garden like this one too, but don’t have thousands to spend on it, here are our tips!
Shop at the right time.
We bought all of our plants on the May long weekend, which is generally considered here to be the “gardening weekend”. That’s when the nurseries and big box stores had all their blowout deals for the season on and we were able to get a lot of good basic plants for a steal. The big box stores don’t typically have the selection that the nurseries do, but they do have some great prices. I prefer to shop early in the season, rather than at the end of the season because the plants are usually in better shape and I get to watch how they’re doing for the rest of the Summer. Shopping during that one weekend when all the deals happen allows me to still get a great price.
Buy what everyone else has or what you’ve used before and you know works well.
If you look around at all the other homes in your area, chances are that there are some plants that seem to be in every yard. That’s probably because they’re reasonably-priced and almost anyone can grow them. Those are the ones you should start with! Even if you don’t know the name of that plant, go to the nursery when you notice that it’s in bloom in your neighborhood and find it that way! There’s nothing worse than finding a beautiful, expensive plant that you’ve never seen before, bringing it home, and then learning after the fact that it’s outside of your skill-set as a gardener. Practice with the basics first until you get good at it!
If you’ve used a plant in your garden before, and you know how it’s going to do, that’s a great bet too! I had some of these bachelor’s buttons at my old house and I know I could never manage to kill them, no matter how neglected they got, so a few of these won a spot in the garden too.
Buy smaller plants and be patient.
This is the hard one, right? We could have spent a fortune on buying really nice, big, mature plants and having a bit of instant gratification, but it’s worth it to have one or two years of an “OK” garden, before it really becomes the garden of our dreams. We’ll learn so much watching the plants grow during that time too. I’ve often bought really tiny plants that only took a few months before they were five times the size! I might be an impatient girl, but even I’ll admit that a little bit of patience pays off sometimes.
Borrow from a friend, or another one of your own flower gardens.
Don’t forget about the magic of splitting your perennials! Some plants actually need to be dug up and split every few years to keep them really healthy. If a friend has a plant you like, it can be dug up in the early Fall, or the early Spring and half of it can be replanted in your garden. A lot of flowering shrubs can be grown either from little shoots that they put out around their base, or from clippings of their branches. I have quite a few perennials around the property that I hope to dig up this Fall and maybe add in to some of the bare spots.
That little purple-ish heuchera as well as some of the hostas all came from other gardens on the property.
So here’s how progress is looking on our little perennial garden experiment so far:
We cleared away some of the excess weeds and old, dead bits from last year, set out all the plants where we wanted them, and dug in! It was a lot of work, but really only took a few hours.
There are definitely still quite a few bare spots and the garden isn’t nearly as full as our inspiration garden, but we’re well on our way to having a respectable little slice of heaven here. We’ll probably add in a few more things from other gardens around the property this Fall, but until then, a good fresh layer of free mulch from the recycling center will do the trick and keep things looking nice!
Do you have any favorite easy-to-grow perennials that make your life a little easier and a whole lot more enjoyable?
Courtenay Hartford is the author of creeklinehouse.com, a blog based on her adventures renovating a 120-year-old farmhouse in rural Ontario, Canada. On her blog, Courtenay shares interior design tips based on her own farmhouse and her work as founder and stylist of the interior photography firm Art & Spaces. She also writes about her farmhouse garden, plant-based recipes, family travel, and homekeeping best practices. Courtenay is the author of the book The Cleaning Ninja and has been featured in numerous magazines including Country Sampler Farmhouse Style, Better Homes and Gardens, Parents Magazine, Real Simple, and Our Homes.