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Big Dreams, Small Spaces

I just binge-watched the first season of Big Dreams, Small Spaces on Netflix. You should too. I'll wait.


Hooray, you're back. Positively delightful, right? I love that it's a DIY show: the homeowners do all the labor (with the help of family, neighbors, and friends) and on their own budget...and some have a budget of nothing at all. The designs are as varied as the dreams and all of them turned out lovely. I couldn't help but feel inspired after watching.

My dream is for my front yard, which I have been struggling with. What I want is more native plants to provide habitat for good bugs, but it has to look attractive and not totally bonkers because it's the front of the house. The added challenge is that this space is mostly shaded, being on the north side of the house.

With a lot of careful thought, I arrived at this:

I know, it doesn't look like much now because the new plants are small and the existing perennials are just waking up from their winter slumber. Gardeners believe in tomorrow and we know that the best is yet to come. Let's zoom in closer to the house.

The red-tinged sticks on the right is one of three New Jersey tea bushes, which will grow about 3-feet-tall and -wide. It's a host plant to three species of butterfly caterpillars and it will be covered in clusters of white flowers like fluffy clouds in the summer, attracting pollinators and beneficial insects.

On the left is one of two wintergreens, an evergreen ground cover with red edible (minty!) berries. As the wintergreen becomes more established, it will offer winter interest when everything else has died back.

In the very back I've planted a few clusters of ramps as an experiment. These tasty onion cousins are said to be difficult to grow; most often, they are foraged.

For some spring ephemeral drama, I've planted a row of Virginia bluebells (not visible; they're root cuttings) in front of the New Jersey tea. I don't expect that I'll get to see them bloom in my garden this spring, but next year it will be lovely. In the meantime, I'll just head over to Riverbend Park to see some bluebells in bloom.

Now for a close-up for beneath the tea party table and chair set.

I've planted several Virginia strawberries to colonize the "floor" of the garden. In time, I hope that they become a dense mat of ground cover. It's ok if they don't get enough sunlight throughout the entire space to flower and fruit, but wherever they do, BONUS, I get strawberries!

Those are all of the new additions to the front yard. The sunny strip along the very front remains a culinary herb garden. I use the herbs in my cooking and I've seen mantids hanging out among the thyme flowers. There's also purple coneflower (sunniest spot), bee balm, and mountain mint on the other side of the sidewalk that leads up to the front door. I planted those pollinator flowers last year and they're all starting to put out new growth. I'll add more shade-tolerant annual flowers in pots along the steps up to the porch.

I'll post an update about my backyard vegetables in a couple more weeks. There's not much to see right now. Ok, here's a peak beneath the row cover:

You can see the central row of broccoli raab just starting to sprout. You have to squint to see the mustard emerging along the lengths. I also sowed carrots in this bed, but they germinate s-l-o-w-l-y, so I'm not surprised to not see them yet.

#spring #flowers #bugs #vegetables