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Growing a Cottage Garden: First Year

Last month, I shared a few spring images of my Cottage Garden Project ~ an on-going work in progress to transform our tiny front lawn into a garden overflowing with colorful, naturalizing, low-maintenance plants.

The original plan that I meticulously created, using graph paper and The Complete Garden Guide, has morphed into an experimental adventure beyond our dreams.

Personally, I don’t mind a few surprises… but I am most comfortable when everything goes according to plan.

View of my Garden

This garden has NOT grown according to my plans!

It began with the welcome addition of two “baby” shrubs given to me by a friend who was clearing stray plants from his yard. One was a Rose of Sharon that I’d been planning to buy, once I could afford the $65-80 that nurseries were asking. :P

When he gave it to us, the bush was still dormant and the roots were very small; I was worried it might not survive transplanting. We planted it next to our birdbath, in a prominent location, and hoped for the best.

Rose of Sharon leaf bud

Yay! A leaf bud!

While our neighbors’ Sharon bushes began showing their leafy buds, ours remained “a dead stick in the ground” (as my daughter ruefully observed), and I feared we might have to dig it out.

But finally it started to bud, and now it has a nice show of leaves. We’ve pruned the bottom half, as we plan to coax it into a tree-like shape.
I can’t wait until it grows tall enough to provide shelter to the various birds who enjoy visiting the birdbath.

Tiny Rose of Sharon shrub

My friend also gifted us with a flowering quince shoot, with a messy fragmented root.
Even he doubted that it would survive… but it has been exhibiting new leafy growth, and seems to have a fighting chance.
I planted it in the front yard, not expecting it to live, but now that it appears to be okay, I will need to prune it eventually; otherwise, it will grow 6′-10′ wide (which is over twice the size of its allotted space).

Flowering Quince

The Flowering Quince, fighting the odds.

Earlier this year, I made a detour to the garden center of Walmart, and noticed they were selling bare roots. The roots were cheaper than buying a grown plant, so as a budget-conscience gardener, I purchased a few hosta roots and peony roots as an experiment.

Only one of the peonies has surfaced so far. It has a loooong journey ahead to reach maturity. LOL

Tiny peony growing

So… your Mama is three feet wide?

My hosta roots weren’t making any progress, so after a month of waiting, I impatiently dug them back out and replaced them with potted hostas.
The roots were moved elsewhere in the garden, to grow or not to grow, as they chose…. naturally, all three of them decided to grow.

Hosta growing from root

I had purchased thousands of seeds from highly rated eBay vendors, and eagerly sowed them into the soil on May 7th (our official last frost date!)… many went into container pots as reserves (in case the ground-sown seeds failed to germinate).

Unfortunately, I haven’t had much luck with the asters or the catmint seeds. They don’t want to grow anywhere in my garden, or in the pots where I’ve sprinkled them. I finally succumbed to instant gratification pressure, and made another trip to the local nursery.

Lavender plants

I purchased a couple lavender plants. :)

Catmint blooming lavender flowers

And some catmint, too!

I chose catmint over its cousin, catnip, because it is more ornamental… and also because it is less attractive to cats. Dominic proved that theory when he sniffed it and walked away.
My neighbors should be grateful I decided not to host a feline Woodstock on my front lawn. ;)

Jacob's Ladder blooming

I also treated myself to some Jacob’s Ladder plants, a variety called “Apricot Delight”, which I planted near the hostas.
They are quite addictive to study and photograph!

Jacob's Ladder blooming

The bellflowers haven’t appeared yet, which were planted in this bare strip along the path, but they can take up to 21 days to germinate, so I keep watching and waiting to see if any will survive.

Garden pathway

My Hyacinth bean seeds have sprouted nicely. They are annuals in my region, supposedly growing into 10′-12′ climbing vines before the frost… so I’ve planted them to hopefully wrap around my temporary wire fence, and lend it some beauty.

Hyacinth bean growing vine

We want to install a picket fence, an expensive project that will likely be postponed until next summer; in the meantime, I’m trying not to plant anything permanent along the perimeter. :)

I did purchase an low-growing evergreen for one corner, but it will take this little Syberian Cypress awhile to spread its legs.

Syberian Cypress shrub

The English Daisies, Hollyhocks, and Cone-flowers are growing, albeit just barely breaking the surface as I type this.

The real trooper has been the Sweet Allysum, which is an annual that spreads quickly and self-sows.

Alyssum seedlings in garden.

I jokingly told my husband that, next year, we may cover the entire yard in Sweet Allysum…. along with the extremely hardy Dianthus and my Bleeding Heart monster, which has overtaken its corner and needs to be divided.

I learned the hard way, when growing perennials from seed, most plants will not bloom in the same year. This is a bitter pill to swallow, as I’ve been staring at bare patches of earth for several weeks, impatiently waiting for seedlings to grow.

Right now, my garden is a warped image of the vision I had in my head, and it may be two or three years before that vision is realized. I must continue to be patient while the plants settle in, but I will probably sneak a few more volunteers to fill in the gaps.

Who knows what shape my garden will eventually take? It will certainly be a surprise!

Jacob's Ladder Apricot Delight

Tara Fly

About Tara Fly

A Crazy Cat Lady … who divides her time between painting portraits of cats dressed in period costumes, watching BBC mini-series, growing weeds and wildflowers, and baking pumpkin pies seasoned with cat hair.
Would you like some fur-flavoured coffee?

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