Category Archives: A New Chapter


Winter and spring are wrestling.  The majority of our snow — and major storms — hit in March.

The bulbs can survive. The snowdrops below first appeared in March, and then were buried under nearly two feet of snow following a couple of n’oreasters. That’s resilience.

While there is barely a garden, some former occupant left us a gift of early spring bulbs, now appearing in abundance in the front woodland.  Bright blue Glory of the Snow, snowdrops, and a few crocus.

I added some daffodils. Seeing these flowers is enough to keep me going. And the anticipation of transforming plans to plantings soon.

Subtle shifting seasons

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

The varieties of this shrub bloom from February through early March, with tiny flowers – crinkled wisps.

We included a witch hazel in the front bed.  It has endured sustained sub-freezing temperatures and the regular stiff winds here on Windy Knoll. It seems to be on the cusp of blooming.  This was labeled as Arnold Promise, which would have had golden flowers. But they appear to be red.  The flowers contrast with the snow overnight, already melting toward what will be an unseasonably warm week ahead.


The first year- tackling the basics

We tackled some big projects in the first six months, but only begun to get to the garden as the year came to a close.  There is more than enough for the year ahead, a lifetime, and probably beyond!

Here’s the garden part of the story, bit by bit.

We’ll fast forward to the spoiler.  We worked with a design-forward firm to help envision and plant the front foundation bed.  The design process was a good discussion and offered some new information for me on the use of natives.

Through a series of issues, some on their side and another on ours (the 100+ year-old water main to the main road had corroded to the point of leaking and needed to be replaced in November — a big, ugly scar up the middle of the yard that will remain until we can replant in the Spring), this part of the garden went in on the cusp of winter.  We’ll have to see how that fares when spring comes around given the extremely cold winter we’ve had this year. More on the front bed in a future post.

The other gardening endeavor was tackling the seemingly endless litany of invasive plants and stuff gone amuck in the bordering areas.  Truly astounding how much there is around the wooded areas. We’re working to restore those areas so the woodlands can thrive.

Japanese stilt grass. Beggar’s lice (hackelia virginiana), elbowing out other plants in the area, with seeds that stick to everything you’re wearing and are nearly impossible to get out.  Small, very thorny black locust suckers from an ancient stump. Garlic mustard. These are just a few of the gifts that awaited us.  Lots of hand pulling and lots of cutting involved.  They will most certainly come back again given that seeds live on for years in the soil.  M spent some time forging a small path through the back forest, which is over-run with berberis, a landscape shrub that can be very invasive if it gets into the woodland ecosystem.

Below all of this, when the time comes to plant, are rocks, rocks and more rocks in a clay soil base.  It’s all in a day’s work and I’m up for the challenge.

I’ve been ordering native shade perennials that do well under black walnuts in quantities that go well beyond the tiny garden in our old suburban house.  “Scale” is the key to planning when it comes to our new home.

I could literally garden every weekend of Spring, Summer and Fall and there will be much left. But I look forward to it, as only a gardener could.  The progress so far has been satisfying ,anyway!

The gardenless garden

This blog has been quiet over the first few months in our new home, since we’ve had our hands full with critical improvements.

The home: arts and crafts, three stories, 1910. On the top of a hill, with a view of distant hills from the front porch.  A descending woodland in the back.

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 installed 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.  Fixing decaying spots of the cedar siding.  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:  unearthing some of the early design choices.  The original cedar roof may have been painted dark green, though a neighbor said one of the original owners loved, loved, loved green (a photo from the historic society revealed the house, roof and shutters were all green at one time. I’m sure this wasn’t original, though the owner who did it was).  The green was still evident on the back of the shutters.

We chose a dark brown exterior stain that covers and smooths out the uneven brown stain that had been applied after the acid green exterior paint had been sandblasted away.  We changed the yellow trim to a soft, warm white. We hope the deep brick red color of the newly painted shutters are truer to 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 with the brown stain,)

This ad from the early 1900’s may provide a clue to what the original potential color scheme may have been. The design of the house is different, 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!

A New Chapter

Time flies and there’s nothing like moving to really drive that point home.

It’s bittersweet to read this blog and to recall our nearly 18 years in our first home, as we embark on a new adventure.  The love, care and improvements we made Building a garden that is now mature.  Love, friendship and good times.

Hopefully, in little more than a month, we will have landed in our new home. Moving from in-town living and a walkable community to a more rural environment. A grand old house and a couple of acres.  A clean slate, a place with no gardens — yet.  A new chapter.