Late summer/autumn garden report

It feels like an eternity since I’ve posted an actual garden report. I am the Queen of Unrealized Intentions, and big jobs that hurt—like removing shrubs, curbing ever-expanding bamboo, building paths, or pruning trees—tend to get pushed on the future. This year, though, at the end of the summer, I hired my talented and much stronger friend William to help me out. The fact that my garden still looks a bit of a mess is not his fault. He helped me clear all these big chores out of the way, and then I just never got around to finishing it up, by planting (read; shoehorning) all my homeless plants in the ground.

Not to say that I was entirely unproductive—I did liberate the garage from the massive Clematis armandii ‘Appleblossom’ that was eating it, and I finished pulling back the two-story Schizophragma hydrangeoides ‘Moonlight’ from the roof of the house. They both got pruned back rather harshly, so there will be no cascade of pink apple blossoms this March. But—on the good side—my husband now speaks to me again, and that is nice. I also built another couple of  new fern tables, and finally made good use of a discarded café table base I found a year ago, by filling it with my scattered Sarracenias. They look so much better where they are now!

There is never a lack of things to do, but at least I can now see things shaping up a bit. Over the past few months, I have taken some pictures here and there but—quite frankly— this wasn’t a big year for photography on my end. I realized today when I was out there, camera in hand, how much I’ve missed it. Posted below you will see a smattering of images from the last few months. My goal is to spend this winter is to do some more editing, to try (again) to remove a bunch of unwanted Acanthus seedlings and Rubus lineatus suckers that are taking far too many liberties with my limited front yard space. That of course, will open up space, but don’t worry – I have plenty of options to fill it with.

Bamboo pruning progress shot

One of the first things we tackled was reigning in the black bamboo, which had escaped its barrier. Not for the faint of hearts, and certainly not for the faint of arms and backs. I’m amazed he is still my friend… this was a bitch of a job, to put it mildly.

Bamboo - original barrier

Quite heroically, William managed to cut it back to its original barrier I had so naively employed so many years ago. Back then, I dug down two feet, and used corrugated metal roofing to line the hole. It worked for several years, but like all bamboo liners, you need to switch it out every 4-5 years, I’m told. Which makes me wonder why even bother…? From now on, I will do what the Chinese do; root prune /cut of any stray shoots twice a year. In this shot, it still needs some thinning…

Behind the garage

Behind the garage is a narrow little seating area. Here, it is still full of plants that need homes. By now, some of them have gone in the ground, but I still have a few to go. Some of them have gone back inside, as they are houseplants outside for the summer. This is my “tropical corner”, and one of the few spots in the backyard that gets some sun.

Behind the garage with flamingo and bench

Here, it’s cleared up a little bit. The flamingo is kind of a joke, as he guards the entrance to his jungly home.

Expanded wall

On the other side of the garden is what was formerly the Lilac corner. It was the biggest lilac I had ever seen , but it was also old. One winter storm, part of it blew down onto our neighbors’ kayaks. Yikes! Some of it had been removed earlier this year, but William helped me finish the job. He also took out a big Aucuba. There is still one left. I didn’t think I needed two, and I’m sure you agree. With both Lilac and Aucuba gone, the curvy wall I built when we first moved in, could be extended and backfilled with soil. He did a beautiful job, and then helped me move my Japanese Umbrella Pine and a few other things into the spot. It will be much happier there, and is allowed to grow as tall as it wants. Not a superfast grower, I’ll be long gone before it gets too big.

Fire pit and peacock chair

You can see a small fraction resulting from our pruning efforts piled in the fire pit. The peacock chair was a gift from a neighbor when they moved. It goes great with the capiz shell lamp from my husband’s family. The chair is just for decoration—sadly it is far too brittle to sit in.

Viburnum pruning

The old Viburnum that acts as a shady roof over the table got itself a massive pruning. I always liked the tangled trunks that leaned out in all directions, but each year, it seemed, it got more and more obstructive, as it weighed down lower and lower. I stood my ground on only a couple. The rest got lopped.

Café table

This shot of the soon to be Sarracenia garden, doesn’t show the whole effect of the Viburnum pruning, but trust me when I say it opened the back along the fence up quite a bit. For one thing, you can see the metal screens on the fence a lot better.

Metal sculpture

Closeup of part of the metal screens. I made the little climbers back in school.

Snowbell pre-pruning day

The Japanese Snowbell also got limbed up a bit. If I had known better, I would have taken this tree out when we bought the house. Back then, it was rather small, and much more manageable. There are so many better trees…

Night shot through the gate

Not immediately evident from this somewhat fuzzy night shot through the side gate—the space inside feels a lot more spacious now than it did before.

Bloodgood pruning

The front yard got a big pruning job too—a much needed one. First up was the lopsided Bloodgood maple which leaned out into the driveway, driving my dear husband bonkers. I didn’t know it was alright to prune trees in the summer. It is apparently perfectly alright – it looks SO much better!

Front yard post pruning

Here is a shot looking back at it from the street at the cut. Such an improvement!

Bloodgood fall color

And a shot from the other day—in full fall color! The rest of the family is also elated that they no longer have to crouch down when trying to get out of the passenger side.

Fatsia pruning

The variegated Fatsia got itself a massive hack-back too.

Front walk

Suddenly the sidewalk is perfectly navigable again. It’s been a while. My poor Daphne also got severely pruned back, and hasn’t done much since. But, I looked the other day, and there is a tiny little glimmer of green on one of the trunks. William assured me it would be fine. As of right now, there is hope, but the jury is out for a while longer. I would have sulked too – it was a quite barbaric treatment, but probably necessary. And now you can see the stacked wall I built so long ago.

Bags and bags

For a few weeks, we were drowning in yard debris. I asked all my neighbors if I could top off their yard waste bins. (Gotta tell you, we have very kind and patient neighbors.) For weeks I filled theirs up too, and then wandered up and down our block and beyond, looking for other half empty bins. I took one big load to the dump as well. It felt really, really good to have it all gone!

Sarracenia table

Remember that upside down table a few photos ago? This is what I did with it. As you can see by the fallen leaf, it’s now near the Bloodgood  in the front yard, where I can see it from the window.


I’ll end this report with a shot of Tanky-Pank, our adopted kitty who seems to have some stomach issues. (No wonder he looks grumpy.) Here he’s having a Hakonechloa snack. Not sure if it helps him, but he seems to really like it.

So there you are – a collection of summer’s big moves. I still doubt I will ever be quite done, but for now, it looks endlessly much better than it did. And I feel a deep debt of gratitude to William. Holy cow, it’s amazing he still loves me, after what I put him through. More to come…


About annamadeit

I was born and raised in Sweden, By now, I have lived almost as long in the United States. The path I’ve taken has been long and varied, and has given me a philosophical approach to life. I may joke that I’m a sybarite, but the truth is, I find joy and luxury in life’s simple things as well. My outlook on life has roots in a culture rich in history and tradition, and I care a great deal about environmental stewardship. Aesthetically, while drawn to the visually clean, functional practicality and sustainable solutions that are the hallmarks of modern Scandinavia, I also have a deep appreciation for the raw, the weathered, and the worn - materials that tell a story. To me, contrast, counterpoint, and diversity are what makes life interesting and engaging. Color has always informed everything I do. I’m a functional tetrachromat, and a hopeless plantoholic. I was originally trained as an architect working mostly on interiors, but soon ventured outside - into garden design. It’s that contrast thing again… An interior adrift from its exterior, is like a yin without a yang. My firm conviction that everything is connected gets me in trouble time and time again. The world is a big place, and full of marvelous distractions, and offers plentiful opportunities for inquiry and exploration. I started writing to quell my constant queries, explore my discoveries, and nurture my curiosity. The Creative Flux was started in 2010, and became a catch-all for all kinds of intersecting interests. The start of Flutter & Hum at the end of 2013 marks my descent into plant nerd revelry. I occasionally contribute to other blogs, but those two are my main ones. For sure, topics are all over the map, but then again - so am I! Welcome to my blogs!
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20 Responses to Late summer/autumn garden report

  1. Tina says:

    So much going on in your sweet garden! It’s so full and lush and oh, your lovely bits of fall color! I do love your phrase ‘Queen of Unrealized Intentions’–that’s rich! I adore that screen with the climbers–so cool!

    • annamadeit says:

      Thanks, Tina! That’s not a title I wear lightly. It takes me years to get these kinds of things done, and in the meantime, they just get worse! It feels good to finally have gotten some good help, and have left all of those big hurdles out of the way. I hope by next summer, I can mostly enjoy my garden!

  2. A splendid range of photographs. My task that hurt was the recent heavy pruning of roses still offering plenty of buds.

  3. I love your garden Anna and it looks like the refresher did it well. Oh and this line “The Japanese Snowbell also got limbed up a bit. If I had known better, I would have taken this tree out when we bought the house. Back then, it was rather small, and much more manageable. There are so many better trees…” ha! I could have wrote that myself…(only I have a pair…)

    • annamadeit says:

      Thanks, Loree! You and I share our disdain for that tree. If I had a dollar for every goddamn seedling I have pulled out over the years, I’d be a millionaire!

  4. Kris P says:

    You and William did a tremendous job! And I’m very glad to hear that your husband is now speaking to you again 😉 I have a LOT of post-remodel clean-up and replanting to do but I’ll be taking the easy (if somewhat expensive) way out on pruning my trees by calling my local arborist – thankfully, his crew shreds and hauls away all the garden debris.

  5. annamadeit says:

    Thanks, Kris! That you say “post-remodel clean-up” makes me sense that you and your husband is nearing the end of this upheaval…. is that correct? Can’t wait to see how it all came together!

  6. ks says:

    Doesn’t it feel great to get those big chores done ? It makes such a difference and always exposes new opportunites-for which one may have to buy more plants. I had a mature (30 years-ish) Liquidambar removed last year and it was worth every dime I paid to have it done. I’ve gone pretty shovel mad this summer too-sometimes things just get too damn big !

    • annamadeit says:

      It feels amazing! It gave me space to plant a bunch of things that were waiting in pots all over the yard. Still working on that… So, what kinds of fun things did you plant in its place?

      • ks says:

        Well, I did not have the stump ground-I had it cut off and it is now a plant stand.The big change was the area that was shaded by the 30 foot tree. I planted Spirea ‘Ogon’ , Euphorbia ‘Blackie’ , Cistus ‘Mickie’ , Salvia ‘Marina Blue’ among others. I am hoping to do a blog post on this bed once I deal with some issues with my photo files.

        • annamadeit says:

          Nice! I love Spiraea ‘Ogon’! Such wonderful foliage… Still, with the shade cast by a tree that size completely gone – it must feel shocking at first. To both you and the plants…

  7. Looks like you did a lot!!! No point in feeling sheepish about not getting everything done. That’s the thing about gardens – especially ambitious gardens – you can never get to the end of your to do list.

    • annamadeit says:

      So very true. For right now, I’m thrilled at the parts that we did do. But yes, as Xera’s Paul told me when I was telling him what we were doing ; “A lot of plants = lots of pruning.” He should know – he sees evidence of my plant addiction every time I go there – LOL!

  8. tonytomeo says:

    We grew bamboos back in the mid 1990s. It was not my idea, and it was not compatible with the other crops. People think it is a get rich scheme because it can be sold for so much. It can be sold for so much because it is such a demanding crop!

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