Saturday, January 10, 2009

An Outdoor Makeover

It’s another snowy day around here. We’ve gotten a good eight or ten inches since yesterday, and it’s still coming down.

But enough about the cold stuff. Let me give you a glimpse of my garden in warmer times.

Before we even moved in to our home four years ago, we did a major overhaul on the yard. Our one-third acre suburban lot was home to some 30 trees at that time, and our arborist neighbor advised us to remove many of them, including eight large ones in the back yard. This not only relieved the overcrowded and unhealthy conditions, but also opened a nice view from our back windows.

I wish I had some good “before” shots to show you, but my camera must have been packed in a box somewhere. All I have are a couple nasty photocopies from the realtor’s brochure.

In the front, we evicted an ancient grove of junipers that loomed over the driveway and blocked the view of our home to approaching visitors. (A basketball backboard found lurking in the shadows was also sent unceremoniously on its way.)

Now we had a clear view of not only our house, but—lo and behold—our new neighbor, who happens to be just as rabid a gardener as I am! It was her suggestion that we replace the unfortunate junipers with a berm down the sunny property line, half on our side, half on hers. Within days, we had a load of soil delivered and have gardened (and chatted about gardening) quite happily ever since, I on my side, she on hers.

During that first year of settling in, I appointed a skeleton crew of shrubs to duty on my side of the 25- by 15-foot mound. There are three Clethra alnifolia ‘Ruby Spice’, chosen for their fabulous scent, as I mentioned in my first-ever post. There is also a Weigela florida ‘Variegata Nana’, chosen for its gorgeous green and white foliage and “compact” size (both of which proved to be a myth: With pruning, I have kept it to six feet across, rather than the promised three, and the leaves come back in green and yellow each spring). I also planted a Spirea japonica ‘Neon Flash’, purchased as a four-dollar space filler until I could afford something “better.”

Over the years I have added a mix of perennials and bulbs, until this year, it suddenly occurred to me that I am quite happy with the results. Most surprisingly, that four-dollar spirea has turned out to be the tone-setter for the entire berm! Its reblooming habit makes it a fairly constant burst of deep pink, which blends nicely with its neighbors, from spring to fall.

Perennials include Monarda ‘Gardenview Scarlet’, Liatris spicata ‘Kobold’, Leucanthemum x superbum ‘Becky’ (Do you have this one? It just never stops blooming!), Salvia nemorosa ‘East Friesland’, Sedum ‘Matrona’ (my favorite sedum, with its gorgeous red stems), and Coreopsis ‘Crème Brulee.’

Low-growers along the edge include Stachys byzantina ‘Silver Carpet’, several groundcover sedums, and Geranium macrorrhizum ‘Bevan’s Variety.’

I also get to enjoy the “borrowed” view of my neighbor’s side of the berm, as her lovely assortment peeks through between my own.

After four years, the berm is finally coming into its own. I apologize that I have no photos of it in the height of its summertime glory. (I guess I didn’t believe myself when I kept saying, “I’m going to start a blog…”) Stay tuned for follow-up postings this summer…

(Yes, summer will return. I promise.)


  1. The Berm is awesome. It's so cool to have a gardening neighbor that you can share with. We have two elderly brothers who are super gardeners and help us out. A berm is an awesome idea for the space.

  2. Kevin--Thanks for the compliment! And it is nice to have gardening neighbors, isn't it? That's the great thing about gardening: It's solitary and introspective when you need that, yet there's lots of room for friendship and sharing too! Thanks for stopping by.

  3. I love the berm, and your choice of plants is wonderful.

  4. Thank you, Nancy! I just had a very nice visit at your site as well. Beautiful photography--especially the crimson sky! Amazing.

  5. I'm jealous!! I want temperate plants. And a nice neighbor!!

  6. Hi, Penlyn--
    That's the trouble with garden blogs: seeing so many wonderful things we can't grow ourselves. Oh, well... At least we can enjoy the photos. Nice neighbors certainly are a wonderful thing too.


Thanks for stopping by the Suburban Sanctum! I hope you've enjoyed your visit and will come again soon. I'd love to hear any comments you have before you go, and promise to respond as soon as I can. Thanks!