My Garden Survey Post

Where: around my house located in the mid-Atlantic, zone 7a.  The front and side of the house were planted before I arrived, but the back yard (which is in 3 sections) had been neglected for a couple years.

When I started working on it, the whole back yard was dappled shade, thanks to a large unpruned mulberry tree in the yard next door.  After the severe storms this summer (2012) when the mulberry lost about half its limbs, the back yard is more like part shade, part sun.

Here’s the “Before” picture (March 2012)

In the midst of the storm damage (June 2012)

I set out aiming to plant a mix of food plants and flowers in the back yard, but ended up doing mostly flowers this summer. More “before” information here. 


* = did especially well

I’ve had good success this summer (2012) with zinnias, floss flower, begonias, hostas, cana lilies, alyssum,* and a fern* (marked “houseplant, but I put it in the back yard.)  I had success this year (2012) with nasturtiums as well, but I’m inclined to attribute that to luck in hitting on the right spot in the yard and the unusual dry periods we’ve had this summer. (Nasturtiums don’t, in my experience, like constant damp or humidity.)

Happy fern. Living indoors as of October 2012.

On the veggie side I got started too late to try much. I’ve had good success (although I got them in the ground too late to enjoy the fruit) with tomatoes. It’s been wet enough that I have not had to water them by hand.

Not so successful

Cyclamen, a gift of my sister that were marked as houseplants, basil in the ground was puny this year, Italian parsley in the ground, zinnias in pots, tomatoes in pots. Also my bachelor buttons were scrawny and short-lived in the ground.

Challenges/Obstacles (and sometimes solutions)

Here are some ongoing challenges I am battling. I left out the one-time obstacles I had to deal with at the beginning of working in the backyard (dead tree debris, an abandoned trash can, the setback with dropped limbs this summer, etc)

  • Invasive plants:

When I started work, the back yard had not been tended in at least a couple of years and was overrun with invasive, difficult to remove plants. Specifically:

running bamboo

trumpet vine


wild violets


No words of wisdom from me on any of these. I just weed, weed, weed. Where I absolutely can’t tolerate the bamboo, I dig it out. In other spots, I just trim it back. I use the same strategy with the ivy. I had thought to try “lasagna gardening” for weed control, but that won’t defend against the bamboo and I have bulbs whose reappearance I don’t want to hinder.

  • I was unpleasantly surprised to find I have no outdoor spigot and can’t water with a hose.


I’ve solved this largely by planting “safe” plants in very back; plants that I know thrive in the climate. (The solution for this problem is the same for another major garden obstacle for me: lazy gardener.)

In the future, I plan to solve the spigot problem by making a rain barrel.

“After” Pictures

Overview shot

Slightly earlier/slightly different angle

Column side

Herb Garden

I’ve also added to a little herb patch in the lower, sunnier part of my back yard.

Before (March 2012) 

After (August 2012)

I’m generally pleased with this plot. I’ll definitely plant zinnias, marigolds and alyssum again. I especially like the zinnias in combination with the green onion flowers.  I also planted bachelor buttons, but the spot I picked was too dry and sunny for them, I think. Next year, I’ll pant them elsewhere or restrict them to pots. I’m disappointed with the growth of the basil I planted in the ground. Next year, I plant to emend the soil and put seedlings in the ground earlier. I also learned that Italian parsley (and so possibly other herbs that require drier conditions and good drainage) won’t do well in the ground but can thrive on the garage roof. I intend to try cilantro up there in the next month or so (September 2012.)

Future Ambitions

I’d really like to fill in the center of the path in the back yard with something that will allow for seating.

Moss lawn? [pic]
I will do something with this area.

[camillia are pic]
I will put more (more, more!) flowers and herbs in pots along the garage roof.

Seeds I have to work with (probably not a complete list)


(“useless”) daisies

baby’s breath

bachelor buttons

California poppies (not likely in this climate)


Floss flower


Plant idea list – shade

Strikethrough means has been planted

Chard (heavy feeder)

Kale (spring only)



Mint (in pots – have start)

Lemon balm (in pots)


Passion flower

Marigolds = tarragon!!?


Parsley (2 kinds)


Cala lilies

Pineapple sage?

Cleveland sage?



Bleeding hearts

Plant idea list – sun

Basil ! (at least two kinds – maybe 3 pots) *I did 3 kinds this summer and repeat that level of planting

Zinnias (at least 2 kinds)

Pepper (just one)

Sage (in pots)

Lavender (in pots)

Bachelor buttons (in pots?)


8 thoughts on “Garden

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