With more than 37 linear feet of planter boxes to fill in our backyard, we didn’t want to take any chances. Although we’ve gotten much better at keeping the greenery in and around our home alive, we’ve had more than our fair share of strike outs. Our front garden, for example? It’s taken us three years to get to the point where we feel we’re doing things right. Our boxwoods are in constant need of a trim, our climbing hydrangea is reaching upwards and the sedum we planted in early spring has more than tripled in size. There’s been a strong learning curve, and our year-three garden is vastly different from year-one as a result!
But the backyard. We’ve been snapping phone photos of pretty gardens for inspiration all summer, but we didn’t want to take any chances by purchasing plants on looks alone and crossing our fingers that all would turn out well in the end. We said, wouldn’t it be nice if someone could just come here and tell us what to plant? Simply put, we needed an opinion from an honest to goodness plant lover. We needed a professional who’d be willing to talk to us, knowing we wouldn’t also need their landscaping services. Did someone like that exist?
As it turns out, yes! A few phone calls was all it took to find out it could be done. We booked a one hour design consult from Christy Webber Gardens. For $45(!), they sent Rita to our backyard to have a chat. We talked about how many hours in a day we receive full sun (a lot!), which way the back of our home faces (east), and the fun stuff, too – What did we like? How did we want it to feel? What was on our list of ‘must haves’? She told us what was possible and what worked best in our zone (5).
At the time of our meeting, we hadn’t yet built our boxes. Rita took this time over the course of the next few weeks to email us flower suggestions. Do you like these?, she’d ask. What about these? She started to get a sense of what style we gravitated towards – wild, carefree, low maintenance – and a couple weeks later, we met her at Christy Webber to choose our plants and bring them home!
Once we had our plants, we planned for our dirt delivery. Much like our gravel, we first calculated that we’d need 4 cubic yards brought to our home, and you guys, that is so much dirt! We found E-Z Tree Recycling on the south side of Chicago, and we scheduled a multi-ton delivery of a topsoil and compost blend. If you’re wondering, more dirt than you know what to do with cost us $25 a cubic yard, and delivery was $100.
Although we originally planned to hire help from contractors we’ve used in the past, both of our options fell through at the last minute. While I panicked, Scott did what any self-respecting homeowner does before a mountain of compost is delivered – he turned to Facebook. With only a few hours to spare, our friends Ruben and Renée came to our rescue! I still don’t know what we would have done without them. The boys came up with the idea to put a tarp in our wheelbarrow before filling with soil, which allowed them to lift and pour. It worked like a charm, and we had all the planters filled in an hour and a half! Side note: We ended up with way more soil than was necessary, which we’ve been stashing in our garage and passing along to neighbors who need it.
Finally, it was time to garden! We mixed in this fertilizer as we went, and another half of a wheelbarrow full was needed to top everything off. As the soil continues to settle (helped along by rain), we’ve been adding a few extra scoops as needed. We still need to cover the soil with mulch, but consistent rain and humid weather has been helping to keep the soil damp as they establish themselves.
With the planter boxes being so structured, our goal was to have a cheerful, overflowing garden. The messier and more entangled the plants get, the better! We picked up all perennials, and the base of the plants are a minimum of 12″+ apart to give them the room they need. Here’s what we brought home:
We anchored the built-in bench with the small rhododendron bushes on each side, and the two pencil holly trees will flank our fireplace.
To be completely honest, I’m on the fence about the clematis, although Scott loves it. Maybe it’s the shape of the leaves? The clematis is a fall bloomer that will get white flowers, and although that might not happen this year, I’m willing to wait it out and give it a chance. You might notice that we installed a trellis for it to climb (climb, climb!), and I’ll be sharing that DIY soon!
Any tips on making sure our garden grows?