Terrific Broth

The life of two scientists, creating a small home, in big mountains

Tag: Garden Page 1 of 4

Adding New Planting Space to Our Front Garden

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After an uncommonly wet Spring, we welcomed the heat of summer. It has been over 90 degrees (32 celsius) for the past two weeks. Despite of daily thunder, there was very little rain. Our garden immediately reacted – all the cool weather veggies lost their cool, and the lawn started to turn yellow. Without the leisure of natural precipitation, we started to spend our evenings dragging around hoses and watering different parts of our yard.

Backyard bee garden – the 2nd year:

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I had every intention of giving you a garden update before leaving for summer vacation, at which time the lawn was still green and the new growth on perennials were tender. But several unexpected incidents kept my up to my neck. First, our basement renovation hit some major road block, which we are still clearing away till this day. Shortly after, several wishful attempts at my day job did not work out as I hoped. Around the same time, my mom fell and broke her ankle back in Beijing.

Awakening climbing rose, the 2nd year:

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This might have been the first time I lost so much control of my life and in almost every aspect of it. To make peace I walked out to the garden. Chinese proverb says “谁非过客,花是主人”, which literally means “we are just trespasser on the land owned by flowers”. There is some truth to it, right? I am pretty sure that bindweed is the real owner of our property. Jokes aside, watching life rise and fall in nature did give me a fresh perspective on accomplishments. Not everything will work out, and too much attention might in fact stunt the growth.

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The Mailbox Underplanting

Have I shown you the small flower bed under the mailbox this year? It was a little dirt patch filled with weeds when we moved in two years ago.

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Last summer, we got rid of the weeds and created a mowing strip with brick pavers.

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And this is the same space today:

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Salvia, lily bulbs and grasses were planted this Spring to hold down the fort at this possibly the toughest spot of the whole property. The red rose are the only thing we kept from previous owner’s flower bed.

Salvia

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Black Lily

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Creeping Stonecrop ground cover

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Creating a New Flower Bed

Since returning from our summer trip, I’ve been slowly working on a new flower bed in our front yard:

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This area is around 12 ft x 4 ft, and located right in front of our DIY horizontal fence on the north side.

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See the dry creek in the picture above? The new flower bed is located to its right and in front of the fence.

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We decided to replace the lawn with flower bed here for two reasons. First, it is hard to maintain this patch of the lawn. It is so close to the house that we had to water it by hand. It is also on a steep slope and hard to cut with our lawn mower. Second, we would like to soften the fence with some plants.

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I started by removing the grass and moving the edging separating the lawn and the old flower bed forward. Three blue avena grasses (helictotrichon sempervirens) were planted in a row a few feet from the fence. They are supposed to get 4 feet tall in a few years and will provide some soft texture in front of the fence. Along also planted was an iceberg climbing rose. We are lucky to have nurseries selling plants that have adopted our high country climate.

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We have pretty bad bindweed issue in this area, so I covered the area with my favorite landscape fabric. We have used it in our front yard flower bed and under the southern fence with success. It is worth the initial investment.

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I found the edge of the landscape fabric along the dry creek, and continued the  fabric to cover the entire new flower bed. I use this landscape staple to secure the fabric.

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The next step is to run drip irrigation, which we installed in all the perennial flower beds. It does not only water more effectively, but also avoids hard water deposits on the foliage of the plants from overhead watering.

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Running drip irrigation is easy and fun, like lego for adults. With the existing drip tubing nearby, I simply T-off the existing tubing and added emitters close to the root balls of the new plants:

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I also added two mist emitters to water the lawn immediately adjacent to the new flower bed:

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Fresh mulch makes everything look better:

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New plants in their happy home:

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Now when your walk around the corner, the view of this new flower bed replaced yellow and overgrown grass:

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The two emitters linked to the drip irrigation tubing will give plenty of water to the lawn between the dry creek and the evergreen pine. Our current lawn sprinkle does not reach this corner.

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We still have plenty of room for plants in this flower bed. I am taking my time to find plants I truly love. I am considering Arctic Fire dogwood for some red winter color, however a close contender is Chinese peony, if they can handle the beating afternoon sun and strong wind in this area. What do you think?

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How do you like a new flower bed? As I finished spreading the last bag of mulch, I realized how much creating a new flower bed meant to me. It is a new start. It is a new opportunity to succeed, a new battle to win. It is something I may start taking back the control I had been losing since the beginning of this year. I still might not succeed, but at least I am giving another shot. And this time, I need to let go all the expectations and just enjoy every inch of growth it gives, however small it might be. At the end, I am just trespassing on this land of, hopefully not bindweeds, but flowers.

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What is Coming to Our Garden in 2019

We have been having dusting of snow and gray days since New Year. I cannot help but craving color, sunshine, and warmer temperatures so I can work in my garden again.

Fortunately planning for next year’s garden can take place inside. New to gardening, it is easy to just pile plants into the landscape. I thought long and hard about how I want the backyard to look eventually, and what I want to get out of the garden besides the view.

To be honest, I started gardening for the edibles. The first things we planted on our property were fruit trees, and our second project was a vegetable garden. Enjoying fresh produce during the summer months I was impressed by how juicy and tasty every was. Right off the vine, our vegetables were cooked with only a dash of salt and still tasted great. We have already decided to expand the vegetable garden next summer. But for long-term, we would like to add more edible and perennial shrubs and trees to our yard.

After discussing with Slav I decided to focus on berry bushes and nut trees for 2019. And here are what’re coming to our garden next Spring:

Raspberry collection

Raspberry Plants Collection

Raspberry Plants Collection

Raspberry Plants Collection

Raspberry is an easy choice for us. We love fresh berries. During warmer months I drink berry smoothie daily, and in winter we make berry pancakes a lot. Berries are expensive and perishable which make them the best candidate for organic home growing. I chose to get a rainbow of raspberries of gold, red and purple fruit, that matures at different time of the summer, so we can enjoy fresh raspberries from summer to fall. The collection I ordered includes 15 plants, 5 each of Prelude—an early red; Anne—a sweet and golden everbearing; and Royalty— a summer bearing type that can be enjoyed at the red or later, purple stage.

Blackberry

In addition to raspberries I also ordered a type pf blackberry called Prime-Ark Freedom. It is thornless and produces blackberries on its first year of growth. It also offers high disease resistance to rust and strong cold-hardiness, which are perfect for our climate. I ordered 5 blackberry bushes, which will be planted with the raspberries in our backyard and protected from birds and squirrels.

Seascape Strawberry Plants

Seascape Strawberry Plants

We planted 6 strawberries in 2018 in our veggie garden, without knowing anything about the growth habit of strawberries. I did not even know that they are perennials in our climate! It was a nice surprise when I saw them spreading vigorously like mints. By the end of the growing season the 6 strawberry plants multiplied into 20 plants and occupied 4 x 8 sqft space. I decided to add another 25 in the next Spring so we can have enough fresh strawberries for summer.

Hazelnuts

Hazelnuts

Gardening is my task in this house, but I make sure to include Slav’s favorite into the garden as well. So far he seems to be interested in plants/trees growing in his childhood home, including hazelnuts. Hazelnut needs cross pollination so you need at least two varieties to produce, especially since there is no other hazelnut trees in our neighborhood. I ordered two bare root dwarf hazelnuts trees and they will be added to our backyard.

Hellebore

The last category of plants I ordered was hellebore, namely Christmas rose. I did not know about them until a few years ago, when I got a cutting from a friend. I planted the cutting in the most unfriendly soil and shade spot under a big pine tree, but the cutting multiplied and gave out the most beautiful flower at the most unexpected time – early January. Being in Zone 5 I am dying to add some winter color and interest, and Hellebore makes the perfect candidate.  Another rare trait of hellebore is that it grows in full shade, which allows me to plant it in more protected area such as under our crabapple tree.

I prefer white, pink, purple to red flowers, so here are the ones I ordered:

Picotee Pearl

Plant-Picotee Pearl Hellebore

Fire & Ice

Plant-Fire & Ice Hellebore

Blue Diamond

Plant-Blue Diamond Hellebore

Phoenix

Hellebore, Phoenix , , large

Painted Doubles

Hellebore, Painted Doubles, , large

Wedding Party Confetti Cake

Hellebore, Wedding Party Confetti Cake , , large

Wedding Party Bridesmaid

Hellebore, Wedding Party Bridesmaid , , large

Wedding Party Dark and Handsome

Hellebore, Wedding Party Dark and Handsome, , large

Aren’t they pretty? To stay within budget I ordered only one for each variety. Hopefully they all survive the curiosity of the dogs and bloom next Christmas.

Among two nut trees, twenty berry bushes, eight winter blooming flowers, and a regular veggie garden, I think I have plenty of work cut out for myself in the new year. Expanding the edible garden and having a steady streams of cut flowers is my garden goal for 2019. Are you thinking about gardening already? What is your gardening goal for 2019?

Front Yard Video Tour – A Year Long Transformation of Our Curb Appeal

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Thank you for all your kind support through our front yard overhaul. We could not be happier with the newly mulched flower bed in front of our house. It is such an improvement of our curb appeal, and many neighbors stopped by to tell us how much they love and appreciate what we did. 🙂

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Adding curb appeal has been a goal of ours from day one. It is not just about changing the appearance, but also to improve the function. The unsightly are often not maintained, which means they do not perform well or even cause issues to the house.

When we moved into our ranch last summer, the front of our house looked like this:

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Immediately we could see three water issues: the flower bed right against the foundation, the sinking patio that directs rain water towards the house, and several rusty window wells failing to protect basement windows.

So, soon after we moved in, the foundation planting bed was removed. Last fall, we replaced old window wells, and graded around the foundation with drainage rocks.

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To address the sinking patio issue, we had to remove the front patio completely. The rusty awning went with it, which might be our biggest curb appeal improvement yet!

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Before winter hits, we also replaced the leaky roof and gutter, painted the soffit and fascia, and restored the front doors (1, 2, 3)

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All these actions not only made the house water-tight, but also improved its appearance from the street. We went into out first winter with the front of the house looking like this:

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And this is what the front entry looks like today. The glass storm door has been the pups’ favorite spot to look out:

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Not too shabby, especially when compared to the Before:

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This summer, we decided to give our front yard a large overhaul, consisting of the removal of >600 sqft turf, planting a privacy hedge, and adding a retaining wall and a dry creek.

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And today, our front yard look like this:

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Instead of this:

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We packed 64 perennials in this 600 sqft space during the last 6 weeks. It is nice to see all of them started taking roots and showing growth. Here is a short video walk-through of the garden area:

The mulched flower beds and evergreens not only improve the curb appeal, but also save irrigation water and are more inviting to native wild life. We want our house to be a safe haven not only for us and our two dogs, but also for native insects, birds, and small mammals that need a home they deserve.

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These arborvitaes were planted at the peak of the summer in 95 degree heat. They definitely struggled a bit during the first a few weeks. But most of them bounced back nicely and have put on an inch or more new growth.

The mock orange we planted last weekend:

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The winter berries were planted a month ago. They did not grow taller, but are definitely getting denser around the base.

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This dwarf pine was also planted in the middle of summer, but has been growing fiercely.

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This sandcherry was the last one planted, just five days ago. It is still recovering but I have high hopes for some delicious berries next Summer.

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Of course we had to have Colorado’s state grass – the Blue Grama grass – in our yard:

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And the Shenandoah switch grasses have already started coloring up for Fall. So pretty.

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These larkspur and bubblemint hyssop were planted last weekend. And guess what – they bloomed!

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More hyssop – they bloom red and have a more low-mount form.

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Isn’t this silver brocade sage gorgeous?

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Penstemon, butterfly weed, and sedums. Love the colors!

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So GORG:

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We also planted lots ground covers, including prairie winecups, creeping phlox, and veronica:

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To make the garden more inviting to wild life, we put in a bird feeders and bird bath. We also installed drip irrigation and a new hose reel to make watering easier.

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This area under the mailbox did not get as much attention this year, but the plants we put in have done very well.

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Here we have two rosemary plants, one lavender, a red hot poker, and a rose bush:

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Here is another short video in which I talk you though the additional upgrades in the front yard, including the under-the-mailbox planting:

I hope you enjoy to see our “new” front yard in these videos. They are filmed just yesterday so this is truly what our yard looks like now. We are proud of this little corner garden in the making, and hope you like it too. Please consider to start a pollinator garden, put out a bird feeder, or add a bee house too! I just learned that native pollinators feed up to three-story high, so even you are living in an apartment, they can benefit from your flowers too!

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