Category Archives: A New Chapter

Subtle shifting seasons

One beacon for the slow, subtle shift from winter to spring  is witch hazel (hamamelis).

This shrub begins to bloom in February through early March, with flowers that are diminutive, twisty wisps.

The new foundation planting at the front of the house has a solitary witch hazel.  It has been a stalwart, enduring sustained sub-freezing temperatures and the legendary winds here on Windy Knoll. It seems to be on the cusp of blooming and I couldn’t be happier. Our variety,  Arnold Promise, will bear golden flowers emerging from reddish buds.  It stands in contrast to the snow overnight, already melting toward what will be an unseasonably warm week ahead.

It brings hope of the gardening season ahead. It’s been a long time since I’ve had something to design from scratch, so this year should be fun, especially with our mix of challenging terrain, trees (the juglone-bearing black walnuts in particular) and large-scale opportunity (wide sunny yards, expansive woodlands).


The gardenless garden

This space has been quiet for a while because the first few months in our new home have been fully focused on improvements. It has been quite a journey.

The home: arts and crafts, three stories, 1910. Top of a hill with a view of the hills in the distance.

What we faced:  cedar shake siding needing some serious TLC — definitely in need of some protective stain, spot replacement for cracked and deteriorated spots (house and garage).  A roof that may have been replaced last in the 1970s — who knows when. Green.  With the original cedar roof underneath  The operation of taking down and putting a new roof on the house and barn/garage took the roofing guys a full two weeks.  They were able to keep the classic “sweep” of the roof, and now we’re on to installing the gutters (bronze half-rounds).  Gutting two of the three fireplaces so they are usable and up to code. All this took the better part of the summer.  And no gardener in their right mind would put in foundation plantings amidst that chaos and falling debris.

The fun part:  seeing some of the early design choices.  It seems the original cedar roof had been painted dark green. Whomever painted the shutters last never painted the back, so the original green paint was still visible.  We understood that the woman who owned the house originally, or a subsequent  family member (the house had stayed in the family) had painted the entire house acid green, which was evident when gutters were removed.  We’d have to guess that may have been in the 70s, too.

We chose a dark brown exterior stain as it covered and smoothed out the uneven brown stain that someone had applied after the green paint was sandblasted away.  We changed the yellow trim to a soft, warm white. And a deep brick red for the shutters seems to be in line with the arts and crafts heritage of this lovely home. (We tried two shades of green to keep with the original design, but it didn’t work,)

This ad from the early 1900’s probably gives a clue to what the original potential color scheme may have been… as well as the original design in part of the back of the house, another mystery we are trying to solve. The design of the house is not really like this, but elements are very similar, down to the shed dormers.

There are no foundation plantings, save some boxwoods on one side of the house. Next step:  putting a foundation planting at the front. And our continued adventures taming overgrown expanse areas of the property. Busy summer!