When we built our backyard planter boxes a few years ago, we were still pretty clueless when it came to outdoor gardening. To make sure we didn’t waste hundreds of dollars on plants that would subsequently die, we hired a consultant from a local nursery for a quick assessment of the area. She was incredibly helpful in steering us toward plants that would flower beautifully and come back every year without much effort (which would be no small feat for these black thumbs). She also recommended that we install insulation board inside the boxes to help combat the deepest of Chicago winter freezes, which is a tip we’d gladly shout from the rooftops. Overall, the consultation was $75 well spent!
Our consultant offered one last bit of advice as she walked out the door, likely in an effort to temper our dreams of a garden overflowing by the end of the first summer: “Year one, outdoor plants sleep. Year two, they creep. Year three, they LEAP!” With our third full summer upon us, we’re witnessing the leap!
What We’ve Added
Our big corner ‘Pinky Winky’ Hydrangea has been doing well overall, so we decided to flank it with two additional Hydrangea varieties. (The Pinky Winky is experiencing a bit of a pest issue this year. She’s got some chewed up leaf edges; we’ve been told it might be slugs, so will begin treating as such? After my mom suggested we set a plate of beer at the base of the plant, sure enough, we found a few slugs the next morning. Have you experienced this? If so, how can we kick the bug?)
To the right of the Pinky Winky is a new Cityline Mars Bigleaf Hydrangea, and on the left is a new white Dwarf Hydrangea (Wee White, maybe?) that has taken off nicely and is already producing beautiful blooms! They both filled areas where our Ceratostigma stopped coming back (at one time, the Ceratostigma provided small purple blooms and a shrub-like shape), so fingers crossed the new plants do as well as the Pinky Winky.
A Fireplace Update
The fireplace has begun to take on a thin patina and no longer looks as perfect as it did when we picked it up from the powdercoater. It’s a bit hard to tell if it’s a thin layer of surface rust or if the heat from extended natural gas use (or one too many marshmallows) is discoloring the finish. Either way, we actually think it’s taking on a nice weathered look that blends in nicely with the rest of the yard! A few weeks ago, we flanked the fireplace with two 4′ Emerald Green Arborvitae that help to bring more height to the area. They also help to create a triangular trio that emphasizes the shape of the fireplace. Win!
Speaking of Which, More Arborvitae to the Rescue!
In addition to the arborvitae flanking the fireplace, we’ve also added four additional arbs to the box along the stairwell. In previous years, this box was full of low-growing plants that didn’t do a good job disguising our electric meters, which was our first mistake. But not to worry! Those plants were moved to other areas of our raised beds, making everything look super lush. And to help the three meters vanish into the background, I gave the covers a quick sand and painted them the same color as our house. Our hope is that in three years’ time (remember – sleep, creep, leap!), these guys will grow together into a nice hedgerow and block the meters completely.
For Kim’s first (human) Mother’s Day last year, we started an annual tradition in which we head to our favorite garden center. Kim picks out a favorite flowering plant or two, and instead of receiving cut flowers that will only last a week, I do the dirty work of layering in new plants (while she sips rosé) that will flower all summer long! Last summer, we brought home a Clematis ‘Climador’ for each of our DIY Trellises, after finally deciding that we didn’t love the look of our former clematis variety. The Climador fared well over the winter and have started to explode with huge purple blooms!
Last summer, we brought home a Clematis ‘Climador’ for each of our DIY Trellises, after finally deciding that we didn’t love the look of our former clematis variety. The Climador fared well over the winter and have started to explode with huge purple blooms!
Stonecrops and Wild Onions
Our gang of Stonecrops and Alliums have definitely subscribed to the third year leap! Each and every one of these hardy plants has survived since we first planted them. We even had to transplant a few Stonecrops this spring to make room for the Fire Chief Arborvitae (below, right) and the transplants have taken off perfectly!
Lucy’s favorite summer past-time is helping make sure all of the plants get enough water! Including the Stonecrops! This girl loves water.
Layering In Evergreens
Over the last few years, it has dawned on us that we lose a lot of color in the backyard through the colder months. You may have noticed that within the last couple of iterations, we’ve begun to layer in varying types of evergreens to keep things looking lively throughout the winter. The Blue Rug Junipers, Golden Cypress, Fire Chief and newly added arborvitae will all keep things looking bright and colorful when the weather is at its dreariest – which we won’t be thinking about it for a few more months, thank goodness.
The Best Family Hangout Spot!
We designed this garden many years ago before our little Goose joined the family, but even then, Kim would talk about how our future kiddo would gather around the patio table with her friends or run circles on the pavers and possibly skin a knee.
Not surprisingly, it’s easily a favorite spot to spend lazy summer afternoons with friends and family, and it’s heartwarming to see our sentiments come to light. And just for fun…
Lucy in 2018
Lucy in 2019
The ever expanding border of greenery around our brick patio has transformed our yard into our own little urban oasis! We always said that we wanted it to feel a little floofy, a little wild. Jumbled. Messy. Carefree. We think it’s filling out just as we imagined! Whether it’s just the three of us hanging out with the dogs after work, or 20 of our closest friends and their kids joining us for a BBQ on a Saturday afternoon, we spend as much time in the backyard as possible!
We hope you enjoyed our patio tour this summer! How does your garden grow?