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Front Yard Update

August 30, 2018

It's been a while since I've discussed my front yard improvements inspired by Big Dreams, Small Spaces.

 

Here's what my yard looked like in late March, when I started:

 

 

And here's how everything is looking now, in late August:

 

 

Hold up: I haven't done anything special to the herb bed closest to the street (in the bottom of the photo). Most of what you're seeing is the natural difference between plants just waking up from winter dormancy (March) and plants in active growth (August).

 

I love herbs for ornamental plantings. They're some of the easiest plants to grow, they're attractive and fragrant, and they're magnets for pollinators and good bugs. I intend to continue growing herbs in this space, as I have done for several years already.

 

Just behind the herbs, on the garden floor, you may notice that it's looking a lot greener (you can see it best on the left side of the photo). The native Virginia strawberries that I planted back in March are really taking over, which is exactly what I wanted.

 

Here's a closer look:

The Virginia strawberries are intermingling with the Taiwanese creeping raspberries that I had planted last year, forming a thick mat of greenery. Perhaps by this time next year, I will no longer need to apply mulch to protect the soil. This living groundcover provides all of the benefits of mulch (erosion control, weed suppression) while also providing habitat for bugs and nourishing the microbial soil life. I might not see much in the way of edible berries from either plants because they might not get quite enough sunlight for flower and fruit production, but that's ok with me. 

 

Speaking of sunlight, the purple coneflower that I had planted on the other side of the front walk never really looked all that happy, so I moved it to the backyard where it can get more sunlight. To fill that empty spot, I planted anise hyssop, a native edible in the mint family. And so now that bed has three fragrant native mints: anise hyssop, bee balm, and mountain mint.

 

The largest plant (right) is the mountain mint while the anise hyssop is all the way to the left. There's bee balm in the middle, but it isn't too visible in this photo because it's still small, also a new addition. You see, what I thought was Monarda fistulosa was actually a cultivar of Monarda didmya, which requires consistently moist soil. Since this spot is more on the dry side and since I'm a lazy gardener, I swapped out the M. didmya with the more drought-tolerant (and powdery mildew resistant) M. fistulosa. I love how this native mint bed continues the herbal theme of the front bed.

 

 

I recently decided to let go of the potted coleus that I had on my front steps because it was starting to decline. Coleus is a member of the mint family too, but it's not considered edible (it's non-toxic, but also not delicious). For next year, I want to grow more plants that are both edible and ornamental. Edible coleus look-alikes include shiso, Vietnamese balm, and Cuban oregano. Continuing with ornamental edibles, I think that instead of growing a potted caladium, I'll choose taro. I also want to grow more fuchsias than ever because they produce edible berries (how did I not know this before?!).

 

The annual mints, taro, and fuchsias will have to wait until next spring. For fall color, I will set out some pots of violas and ornamental cabbage. And that'll have to wait a few more weeks as well, for the weather to start to cool off.

 

The bed closest to the house requires more patience to see if my plans will pay off. The garden receives the least amount of light here, so the plants grow the most slowly. The New Jersey tea bushes look great, it's just going to take them a few years to reach full size. I'll find out next spring if the Virginia bluebell planting was successful. If the bluebells don't work out, I might plant hostas. I have a renewed interest in them after learning that all hostas are edible and some are fragrant.

 

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