Today we’re in Lake Bluff, Illinois, visiting Nicki Snoblin’s garden.
This year I decided to dig up about a third of my front yard to make a place for sun-loving, pollinator-friendly perennials. I had many plants in my backyard that were no longer getting the sun they needed as the landscape matured over the years.
I spent the winter mulling it over, drawing up plans that I struggled to make to scale, thinking about plant placement, and then did what I always do: tossed it all out and flew by the seat of my pants, so to speak.
In April I laid out a rope, adjusted it until I liked the shape, then dug the edge. My husband rototilled it—twice—and then we spent many hours picking out the remaining clods of grass and clay. I amended the soil as best I could with many bags of composted manure and mushroom compost, and then, as I planted, I added compost to the fill dirt.
I wanted several flagstone paths in the garden to make it easier to tend and also for the delivery people who sometimes prefer to take a shortcut to my front door. I laid the paths out first with sheets of cardboard and then purchased flagstones.
I like a little whimsy (OK, a lot of whimsy) in my gardens, so I put in a traffic roundabout surrounding an as-yet-unknown focal point.
Next I started moving in plants from elsewhere in my gardens: coneflowers (Echinacea, Zones 4–8), turtlehead (Chelone obliqua, Zones 5–9), black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta, Zones 3–7), native spiderwort (Tradescantia occidentalis, Zones 3–9), bee balm (Monarda), catmint (Nepeta, Zones 3–8), Penstemon, anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum, Zones 4–8), and more. I also shifted several of the existing plants to blur the line from the old border. Part of the new bed is fairly shady, so I moved in several hostas and ligularia from other beds.
I needed to keep the cost down, so at this point only about a third of the plants in the bed were purchased, among them this sea holly (Eryngium ‘Big Blue’, Zones 4–9). I also tucked in a few annuals for instant color.
The bed as it looked in early June
My plan now is to wait a year and see how things fill in. Since I planted many things in ones (instead of the typically recommended threes or fives), I may need to divide them to create drifts instead of spots. Meanwhile, my neighbors keep telling me it’s beautiful—perhaps in contrast to the bare dirt they were looking at for several weeks!
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