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Evolution of a Flower Garden

We've talked a lot about the transformations within our house, so today we are really excited to share some transformations that took place outside. By the time we were ready to focus some of our efforts outdoors, our front garden had been taken over by hostas while the rest of our yard was all but covered in day lilies. Since then our garden has gone through a few phases as we've learned over the past few years what works and what doesn't in each of our garden spaces.

Let's start with the flower gardens surrounding the house. We began by removing the overgrown hostas and day lilies. (Sorry, we don't have any before pictures - we were too eager to dig those monsters out.) Again, rather than make waste, we posted on a local buy-sell-trade site that they were free for the taking for anyone with the tools and means to transport them. And just like that, our hostas were gone within a couple hours leaving us with the space and time to continue working on our own gardening. Buy-sell-trade for the win!

Hostas, begonias, bell flowers

The next step was to lay weed-barrier before planting our new flowers. Update: After a couple years, I noticed new plants were not establishing well in these areas, even ones that had done well in the past. After some research, I learned that certain types of weed-barrier in certain conditions can reduce the airflow to the ground, leaving the soil clay-like. It can also affect the decomposition of mulch which is actually beneficial to your garden. This year we removed the weed barrier and are reverting to old-fashioned hand-weeding to get our soil back to its prime. So far so good!

These gardens were interesting to work with because even though our total gardening space is relatively small, each section around the house gets very different amounts of sunlight. While the front gets a few hours of sunlight late in the day, the left side gets very little light if at all. This required us to be very attentive in our plant selection.

Bell flowers

Rather than invest in a bunch of perennials, which are often more expensive and obviously more permanent, we decided to start with a few perennials we knew we loved and fill the rest of the space with annuals. This allowed us to test out general looks/colors before investing in long-term plants. (It also helps for indecisive people, like Karyssa, to play around with different flowers each year.) For the first year we settled on a few of the hostas and bleeding hearts kept from the original gardens, some blue bell flowers, impatiens, and begonias. We topped it off with black mulch that we bought in 2ft bags from Menards.


The next year looked very similar, with the replacement of begonias for impatiens on the front left side (the impatiens did much better in the lower sunlit areas). The bleeding heart was a little intrusive for the front, so we moved it to the backyard and replaced it with a baptisia and curly grass. We love the bright green and softness of the round leaves from the baptisia - and it seems to be loving it's new home! We also added tall purple sedum for a little bit of height variation.

Purple sedum, batisia, and begonias
Begonias and bell flowers

This year we made a few more significant changes. We removed the retaining wall next to our driveway with the intention of replacing it. However, when we saw the potential for a larger flower garden, we decided to skip the wall and test out a sloped garden instead. We've already had a few heavy rains with no washouts, so I think this garden is safe and steady!

Sloped flower garden
Sloped flower garden
Sloped flower garden

After three years of growing, the hostas were enormous again and needed splitting. Which was perfect, because we were in need of some greenery on the side of the house again. The nice thing about hostas is they can grow ANYWHERE, so there was no worry about the increased sun exposure. (This side of the house gets over 6 hours of hot sun starting at noon every day!) We planted salvia and a few variations of switch grass to fill in and provide some height next to the house. We also added verbenas for a pop of purple and lined the end of the driveway with a low-growing dianthus. Our final update was to use a gold mulch. We felt the black was a little overpowering especially with the extended garden. The gold hues tie in nicely with the few cedar accents on the house, don't you think?

Prairie Winds 'Cheyenne Sky' switch grass
'Shenandoah' switch grass
Variegated Cheddar Pinks 'Edgehog' dianthus
Aztec Blue Velvet verbena peruviana
Lighthouse Purple salvia and hosta

Special thanks to Root Down Tree Service for our new Redbud tree!

Root Down Tree Service planting a Redbud tree
Root Down Tree Service planting a Redbud tree
Landscaping in DIY home renovation

This garden came with plenty of planning - let us know in the comment section if you'd like us to share our plant guides that we use to keep track of our gardens each year. We'll leave you today with the biggest secret to successful flower gardens according to Karyssa's green-thumbed grandma - MiracleGrow Bloom Booster! ;)




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