Tag Archives: garden design

Like Frankie said “I did it my way”

When we first moved into our home back in 2004, it was a complete blank slate in terms of plant life. There wasn’t a tree or shrub to be found. I was excited and beyond terrified at the same time. The options were limitless which unfortunately meant my stress level was also limitless.

Where the hell was I to begin?

Do I become the local drug kingpin and sell narcotics outside the country store and then take that money to buy mature trees?  It was tempting but I wasn’t up to putting the family in danger (although after the success of Walter White on Breaking Bad I may want to hop into my time machine and rethink this one).   

Do I hire a local landscape architect?  My pride wouldn’t allow it.

Do I chunk it off a section at a time and develop a tight plan?  Remind me again what is this term “plan” you speak of?

As expected, I just started buying shrubs and perennials I liked (ignoring my new conditions) and then tried to make them fit based on my whims for that day. In fact, this was the modus operandi for a few years and shockingly, this didn’t work out so well.

As a result, I finally made a concerted effort to consult my many thousands of garden/landscape books and surfed the interwebs determined to come up with a plan. I can remember taking notes on “foundation shrubs” while on the graveyard-feeding shift with my newly born daughter. I was all in and ready to do this the “right” way.  

The first targeted area was the foundation planting at the front of my home. Like a good landscaping scholar, I purchased and planted some wonderfully generic evergreens and had my “bones” filled in. Next, I identified some smaller shrubs that could be placed in front of said “bones”. Finally, I made plans to fill in the remaining voids with sensible annuals for color in the spring/summer. Boo ya!

When all was said and done, I had me my first “garden” at the new home … and holy shit was it awful. I couldn’t believe that I allowed myself to follow such a plan. If I remember correctly, it was around the early summer in 2006 when I realized I needed to start over. Time to do what I like, the so called rules be damned.

I was going to put in deciduous shrubs that exposed the foundation in winter and didn’t care.

I was going to load up on perennials and allow the seedheads and messy foliage to stay on all winter.

I was going to add in ornamental grasses and accept their stubs in spring before the new growth would emerge.

And I did just that … with a number of stops and starts along the way of course . But the important thing was I was going to do what I liked.

Fortunately, I do not have photos of the “early days” of the front bed so my reputation may hold up a bit more than it should. But I do have a photo from a few years ago of my attempt at “doing it my way”:

Not a bad start but nowhere near my final vision.

Now we fast forward to the last year or so where I can honestly say I am finally happy with the results.   

Late spring:



And from a different angle:

Late spring:

Early fall:

And yet another angle.



Can I still tweak some things? Absolutely. In fact, I have come up with some ideas just as I am posting this.

I enjoy the constant changing of the shrubs/perennials/grasses throughout the spring/summer/fall and the winter interest is sufficient enough to allow me to make it through those long cold and dark months of December, January and February.

Many other areas in my landscape are nowhere near where I want them to be but it only took me nine years to get the front as I wanted it so we should be good to go around 2049.      

Why do I garden?

So here’s the deal, I’m turning 40 within the next 6 months and like many before me, I’m in self examination mode.

By no means are we talking midlife crisis or anything like that. I’ll drive my ‘ 98 Honda Civic into the ground, so no need for a new sports car. I’ll never bungee jump or skydive because yours truly is deathly afraid of heights. It’s not that at all.

I like to think of it more as a self assessment. Am I happy in my current job? Sure. Are my children healthy and thriving? Absolutely. Am I one of the lucky ones who has a stable marriage? Beyond that and more. She has been my best friend since we met in 1990 and that ain’t changing any time soon.

Which leads me to gardening.

It has become larger than life for me the past two years and I don’t see it slowing down any time soon. It is always on my mind and I often wonder if it could ever become a career. Or do I love it as much as I do because it is NOT my career? Hmmm … that one may require a therapist’s chair.

So why do I love gardening so much? For the most part, it wasn’t anything I showed an interest in at a young age. I never pursued any education in the field of horticulture. So why the plant lust?

I’ve spent the past few days really thinking this one through and here is what I came up with (in no particular order):

  • The puzzleAs much as I enjoy an individual plant and it’s attributes, I am not a plant geek. I am more fascinated by how plants play off of each other. I can move plants around with the best of them, always in search of the perfect combination. Do I know that there is no “perfect”? Of course, but is sure is fun as hell to try.


  • Plants/gardens evolvingNot only year by year and season by season, but really week by week. I, for the most part, could give a rat’s ass about interior design. Once you finish a room, it’s done and it becomes stale quickly (unless you enjoy painting annually). But outdoors, you get to enjoy the spring blooms, followed by the summer blooms and the quick ascension of the ornamental grasses. Before you know it, it’s fall foliage time and then the coneflowers and grasses are gracefully covered in snow. Then it is spring again and the perennials have doubled in size and that deciduous shrub is blooming better than it ever has before. It is never dull.
  • I am a train wreck indoorsThere is definitely a psychological side to this one. I am the opposite of a handy man. Thank god I have a very handy brother in law and father in law. They have saved me many times over. Outside in the garden is where I reign supreme and I am the “go to guy”.
  • My gardening passion as mystery – Most of the people I interact with on a daily basis have no idea that I am a lover of all things plants. I have a lot of fun throwing in an educational tidbit when people least expect it. And if they ever discover this blog, it is supremely entertaining.  
  • The attraction of wildlife – As my gardens have matured and I’ve added more and more native plants, the birds, bees and butterflies have shown up in droves. I feel like I’ve created my own sanctuary/ecosystem where they can all coexist without disruption. Shit, I even like having the deer around.

  • The solitude – There is nowhere else I can go and completely tune out all else life has to offer. I get lost amongst the greenery and blooms and creatures. A form of meditation if you will. Except it smells a lot better, I enjoy getting numerous blisters and love the pain in my calves when all is said and done. 

Deep down, I do believe my future life/career involves gardening/horticulture/design in some aspect.

There, I said it. Now hopefully Oprah is right and the universe will hear me and respond.