Garden Projects Take Root – Part 1

Peony in the garden
My peonies are in their 3rd year and my patience has paid off. I had beautiful, huge peony flowers grown from tubers.

I love gardening, but unfortunately my projects this year have taken a long time to take root. Between work, end of the school year, baseball, soccer and altogether not so great weather here in West Michigan, my garden is on the slow track to blooming. I’m happy to say that over last weekend I was able to get hundreds of spring planted bulbs in my landscape. Better late than never!

Garden bed project
Front landscape beds will bloom with dahlias and caladium. All those little plastic bags are full of potential! This bed curves up to the porch and all the way around the house.

I don’t know if I ever mentioned it before, but I have the best job in the whole world. It feeds my need for creativity and gardening. I’m the Creative Director for a flower bulb company and every spring, fall and winter they send me flowers! In turn, I get to work with a fabulous, energetic group of people who are passionate about the business and have a really great sense of style. I may be bias because I have had the privilege to help shape their corporate identity, packaging, messages and website and they have great taste in design. Anyway, back to feeding my gardening habit….

Front Porch
Front porch pots are filled with caladium & begonias.

Last week, two very heavy boxes filled with potential arrived on my doorstep. When I opened them up I was like a kid on Christmas morning! If you’ve never smelled a box of flower bulbs and perennials, I recommend ordering just so that you can experience it. It’s like  a big box of dirt-scented optimism and excitement. It wasn’t until this past weekend that I was able to get inside and sort, organize, plan and get dirty!

Begonia tubers in the hanging basket before covering with soil.

I have never planted spring bulbs and tubers in such masses before but if I’m going to contribute to the photography and experience of the company I work for, I need to plant my part! I have a base of my favorite perennials in my landscape and I usually buy pink and purple annuals with companion plants for the beds and front pots. This year I planted pink begonias in my hanging basket and caladium with begonias in pots. Caladium and dahlias I planted in masses along the front landscape bed. In my shade bed to the left of the garage, I planted liatris to fill the space where a failed hydrangea and rose bush used to be (I transplanted in an actual full sun location….like I should have planted them in the beginning).

I write about this gardening stuff all the time…so why am I worried that I didn’t do it right? I kept thinking to myself “If this works, it’s going to be a miracle.” I think that has to be the way our customers feel sometimes too. To say the least, it was a humbling new experience. I just look at those little tubers and bulbs and I can’t help but wonder how in the world that’s ever going to turn into what they show on the website. BUT…it will!

If all goes well, these pots will be brimming with shade loving flowers and foliage in the next few weeks.

In the back yard I planted callas, cannas, elephant ear, dahlias and lilies….but that will be Part 2 I will share with you later. I have a friend who says her favorite outdoor activity is going back inside. After 5 hours, hundreds of bulbs, lots of dirt and a sunburn later, I felt the same way and headed inside to my air conditioned house, a shower and a cocktail. If it all works the way it’s supposed to, I will be enjoying the blooms that came in those boxes of hope and optimism.  If it doesn’t, I can find out what I did wrong and not do that again next year. At least I got a tan.

I hope you are all enjoying the wonderful weather and doing what you love to do!

Bloom on!

A Living Fence In The Fishbowl

My back yard is HOT. I mean, really, really, hot. All plants are classified as shade, part shade and/or full sun. They need to come up with a new category for outdoors spaces like my back yard….bloody hot. It also gets pretty moist back there because  I think the developer of the neighborhood hired 14 year old kids to plan and grade the land before they built these balsa wood houses, so water tends to pool in my backyard. I may be exaggerating….I’m confident any 14 year old could do a better job. I’m totally off topic but I’m sure you can tell that I think the developers were morons (and so did the 3 landscape professionals we consulted before I had 3 additional water tiles installed).

I also have a bit of a privacy issue. The ASSociation will not allow fences, so I live in a fishbowl where everyone has full view into everyone’s lives…er, I mean houses. I am on a quest to create privacy that the higher powers will ‘allow.’ I am going to keep adding to my garden until I grow some privacy. My kids LOVE this neighborhood and at the time, I thought it would be a good idea. I love to see my kids happy, so I wear sunglasses and talk to the dog a lot when I’m outside. When you talk to a dog, people assume you’re crazy or busy and I’m ok with either.

Fortunately, I’m an optimist and I have a good sense of humor (and a lot of wine). For every challenge there is always a silver lining!!! Hibiscus, tall grasses, peonies, callas and elephant ear grow so beautifully in my back yard. My raspberry bushes LOVE it back there and my raised vegetable beds get plentiful sun! I like my house both inside and out….somedays I just wish it was positioned on 10 acres of nothingness.

I took this picture at Disney in ‘France’ last May and thought it would work great in my back yard!  I know succulents would grow and thrive in the heat in my back yard, as long as they aren’t planted IN the ground, so I have decided to grow them in a vertical garden around the patio.


This is the perfect way to define the space to create a little more privacy. Do you think the ASSociation would have a problem with this vertical garden if it was 7ft tall?

Life in the Landscape Beds

lilac bloom

I love hard work, but I have to admit I loathe edging the landscape beds. However, behind every dreaded chore there is the opportunity to see things up close and personal that you normally wouldn’t see while sipping cocktails in comfort on the patio. While edging one of my many landscape beds, I was leaning over mumbling obscenities to the shovel and grass that has overgrown. In the midst of my quiet complaining, I looked up and noticed pretty green buds all over my lilac bush. I stopped grumbling and smiled.

I love working in the garden because it really does reflect real life. Life is full of hard work and painful truths (the equivalent of edging landscape beds), but once you get up close and personal with those realities, you can see little buds of new hope and life. Even after a hard winter, nature and life can still bloom beautifully.

There are many things to look forward to, as long as we keep looking up while edging the landscape beds.

A Dog, a Chipmunk and the Tulips That Will Never Be

Tulips are beautiful. I absolutely LOVE tulips. We’ve had an abnormally late start to spring, so not much more than my daffodils and crocus are blooming right now. Considering today is 82 degrees, I think spring took so long to show up, summer decided she was done waiting around for that diva and stole the show.

DaffodilsWell hello there sunshine and beacon of spring!

Tulips are the grand finale in the spring garden show for me….except not this year. Last fall I planted hundreds of tulip bulbs in my landscape. There has been a TON of rain here in West Michigan, so I haven’t been able to keep up with spraying them for deer and critters. Fortunately, the spray I was able to keep on my landscape beds successfully kept the deer out. Sadly, it did not keep the chipmunk that lives under the porch from enjoying a buffet of delicious bulbs.

Tulips, spring 2012Tulips of spring past.

I have a dog. She is 80lbs of pure fun, love and laughs. When her and I head out on our runs, she unintentionally satisfies my interval training. Running with Maggie goes something like this…SPRINT! (squirrel)….STOP (pee)….SPRINT! (rabbit)….run slow (sniff)….repeat. So, I find it incredibly ironic that this brilliant puppy who wants to chase everything knows how to sit, shake, heel, lay down and knows what ‘treat,’ ‘pancake’ and ‘go wake up the kids’ means cannot keep a darn chipmunk out of my garden. I had an old cat who did a better job at keeping the local wildlife in line better than this big old chocolate lab. Maggie looks big and scary, her bark sounds vicious, she’s not afraid of thunder or deer and she will jump into any pool of water. But can she protect the tulips? Nope. I have no tulips, but I have the love of a big old sweetheart.


“What? Oh, you mean I’m supposed to chase things when I’m OFF the leash too?”