BEAUTY IN THE FRIDGE

Alex’s New Garden

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We’re visiting Alex’s garden today.

I am an IT project manager and avid fiber artist who lives in central Delaware. Gardening for me started in childhood with weed-pulling responsibilities in a Massachusetts suburban setting. I’ve personally landscaped and enhanced every house I’ve owned as an adult. Gardening provides a retreat and a calming place amidst the everyday chatter that life often delivers. Gardening is a relaxing activity that allows us to support our environment in a meaningful and rewarding way.

This subdivision property is a little over twenty years old, but I moved into this property two years ago. Other than some mature shrubbery directly in the front of the house entry porch, a 2-foot strip of basement-hiding plantings, and two mature trees in the back corner, the yard was a blank slate.

The goal was to support our environment by planting natives—food for the pollinators and a pit stop for the monarchs—while providing passive solar shading for the back of the house, which faces west. Also on the west side is a sunroom and a dining room with west-facing windows. Over the winter the idea was planned, and then early this spring the idea became a garden dubbed Dogwood Grove in honor of the three foundation dogwoods (Cornus florida, Zones 5–8), which will eventually provide shade from the west summer sun.

The bees love all the flowering plants, but especially the Monarda. The false river stream and large rock actually hide the water spout from the nearby house gutter that directs the rainwater into the yard. The list of plants includes Amsonia (Zones 5–8), Asclepias incarnata (swamp milkweed, Zones 3–6) for the monarchs, Baptisia (Zones 3–9), boltonia (Boltonia asteroides, Zones 3–10), Coreopsis (Zones 4–9), Dendranthema (hardy mum, Zones 5–9), various species of Echinacea (coneflower, Zones 5–9), gaura (Gaura lindheimeri, Zones 5–9), Iris germanica (Zones 3–10), Penstemon, creeping phlox (Phlox subulata, Zones 3–9), garden phlox (Phlox paniculata, Zones 3–8), yarrow (Achillea millefolium, Zones 3–9), and verbena (Verbena bonariensis, Zones 7–11 or as an annual). The colors last from spring through fall.

The plants are a mix of native and zone-friendly in our Zone 7a. We planted in groups of three or more in a white, purple, and red color scheme. We had one errant red-peach Echinacea labeled incorrectly! The last entrants to the grove will be spring hyacinth bulbs in the same color spectrum, to be planted later this fall.

verbena with white phlox behindIn the foreground is verbena, with white phlox behind—both favorites of butterflies and other pollinators. Other plants are still small and beginning to fill in.

red yarrowAn intensely red yarrow. These durable, native perennials are beautiful, dependable, and beloved by a wide range of pollinators.

new garden bed with young plantsThe young dogwood trees in the new garden bed will develop into the shade-providing dogwood grove. This garden will only improve as the perennials expand and fill the space.

garden bed with pink daisy flowers in frontA hardy mum with pink daisy flowers. Mum varieties vary widely in winter hardiness, but the best can survive winters in Zone 5 or even 4. They’ll have the best chance to overwinter in cold climates if they are planted in the spring so that they have time to get established before winter arrives.

Double red echinaceasDouble red echinaceas, with one mislabeled plant showing bicolored red-and-orange flowers.

Have a garden you’d like to share?

Have photos to share? We’d love to see your garden, a particular collection of plants you love, or a wonderful garden you had the chance to visit!

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