I admit to feeling pretty good about my landscaping this year. I’ve been receiving compliments and relishing each and every one. All that hard work is paying off.
This is kind of our third summer in our new house. The first year, nothing got done outside until early August. Once the landscape was finally installed, we had a lovely long fall and the roots had time grow—but of course you can’t see that. Last summer, the woody plants still mostly sat there. I spent the growing season adding perennials, which was tons of fun, but being new, most of those didn’t grow much either.
However, this year? Oh my. My yard is living proof of the old gardening adage: “The first year plants sleep. The second year they creep. And the third year, they leap.” I know it’s because the roots have to grow before they can support new foliage, but I’d never before noticed how dramatic the change can be.
The first thing you notice when you approach our house is that I love purple flowers. Hardy geraniums are among my favorites, and I included several in the front yard, choosing the highly touted cultivar ‘Rozanne.’ They’ve exceeded all expectations, growing 18 inches high and a good three feet across, and are totally covered with huge purple flowers.The photo on the left shows the yard in June. The one on the right shows the burgeoning geraniums.
The much smaller Corsican violets tucked into corners and next to rocks are exactly the same hue, extending the effect. Those have gently self-seeded, and now their pert purple faces are popping up under shrubs and in our dry creek bed. Next spring, I’ll move those volunteers to more appropriate spots.
Complementing the dominant purple are spiky pink Penstemon x mexicali ‘Red Rocks,’ clear pink mounded shrub roses ‘Nearly Wild,’ and low-growing pink sun daisies. The roses and penstemons are thriving, but the daisies tend to spontaneously kick the bucket for no apparent reason, plus they were very late to get started last spring. I’ll pick a different daisy to replace them next year—maybe the bright yellow hardy Gazania linearis ‘Colorado Gold.’
Last May I picked up a dozen 4-inch pots of Basket of Gold. No longer in bloom, they’d been marked down to a dollar each. Nipping off the developing seed heads, I planted them in scattered clumps around the yard, assuming they’d add some welcome early spring cheerfulness next year. I lost several plants, probably because the mulch kept them too wet with all the rain we’re having, but the rest have once again burst into bloom—in August! You can be sure I’ll deadhead again next year, as sunshiny yellow is a perfect accent color.
Across the driveway I opted for a more vibrant color scheme. Dazzling California Fuchsia (aka Hummingbird Trumpet, Epilobium ‘garrettii’) glows vermillion in a huge mass hugging a large gray boulder. Companions include a clear yellow evening primrose, purple gayfeather (Liatris spicata), and the silver-gray foliage of Artemesia. Red-orange Pineleaf penstemon and additional yellow primroses shine in bright contrast against more purple geraniums and several soft lavender catmints (in bloom since mid-spring), continuing the color theme closer to the house.
To give the garden structure, we included some larger shrubs. The manzanitas, cotoneasters, and dwarf evergreens are slow-growers, but the Boulder raspberries have tripled in size this summer. They were covered with white flowers in May and June, and now provide a lush green backdrop for the colorful perennials.
As with any garden, some plants are doing better than others. Some have already died and been replaced. Others have me pondering alternatives, particularly if they don’t impress me next year. Hoping for some evergreen foliage near our north-facing front door, we planted creeping Oregon grape holly (Mahonia repens). Unfortunately, the conditions were too harsh even for this sturdy native. We pulled the dead plants, moved the survivors into a more sheltered spot, and replaced them with spreading coralberry Symphoricarpos × chenaultii ‘Hancock.’ This cultivar is reputed to reach a mere 18 inches tall. The berries will add color in the fall if the birds don’t eat them first.
The most frustrating failure is the required street tree. The HOA specified an English Oak, not a species I’d choose for this area. Our first one lost all the upper branches, turning it into an unattractive round lollipop. It’s replacement died immediately after planting. We were granted permission to substitute a northern Red Oak for attempt number three, along with reluctant approval to wait until fall to plant it. Trees are not cheap—I hope this one thrives!
I hope you enjoyed this tour of our small but colorful front yard. Next time, come around the back for an extended tour!
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