I put in a new front garden this summer to replace some of our lawn. My goals were to plant native shrubs and wildflowers that would attract pollinators and birds, and beautify the yard as well.
After planning the garden on paper, and ordering a load of way too much compost, I prepared the garden bed by outlining the garden with a hose and laying down cardboard on the grass, and watered the cardboard until thoroughly wet. I then covered the cardboard with about two inches of compost. When I planted about two weeks later it was easy to cut through the turf and cardboard, which had already softened. If I had planned further ahead I may have left it longer to more thoroughly kill the grass and weeds underneath.
My first purchases were bargains from a native plant sale in May. I planted lowbush blueberry, boneset, wild bergamot, a summersweet clethra, a winterberry, wild strawberry, blue-eyed grass and butterfly weed. The garden looks a little pitiful after the initial planting on May 18:
Gardens always look better with a layer of mulch, however sparsely planted! We were lucky to have a big pile of mulch from trees cleared for our septic:
I’ve added more plants here, such as Viburnum Nudum ‘Brandywine,’ Obedient plant, swamp or rose milkweed, more summersweet clethra and winterberry, and New Jersey Tea:
I purchased soaker hoses and coiled them around the new garden:
Can you spot someone making himself at home in the mulch? I was very happy to see him. He is well camouflaged towards the lower left:
He was less happy to see me:
I think the garden was more or less complete by the date of this photo in late June. I added some tall perennials at the back to fill in while the shrubs grow – Joe Pye Weed and garden phlox, as well as mixing in some beardtongue ‘Huskers Red’ and switchgrass for contrast, and cranesbill geranium for blooms:
This is butterfly weed, asclepias tuberosa, easily my new favorite garden plant. It started blooming in early July and then just kept going:
The cranesbill geranium ‘Rozanne’ bloomed practically all summer:
This is the beautiful summersweet clethra ‘Hummingbird,’ a dwarf variety of the species that will grow 2-4′. The species can be seen in the background – less showy but it will be 6′.
I don’t know if this butterfly weed will make it – it never looked very good:
One of many early visitors:
Rose milkweed just before blooming:
The garden phlox took off immediately, attracting a good number of butterflies:
This is a grouping of New Jersey Tea and butterfly weed, which were supposed to bloom together and to bloom when very little else is blooming. I’ll reserve my judgment until next year for the New Jersey Tea. Behind the New Jersey tea is the viburnum nudum ‘Brandywine’ to the right, and the boneset to the left.
Summersweet clethra – the species on the left is in full bloom, and apparently peaks a little later than ‘Hummingbird’:
The rose milkweed was very leggy but made up for it with beautiful foliage and blooms. The bumblebees liked them too! I may put in some plant cages to help them stand up next year:
The blooms of this summersweet ‘Ruby Spice’ are pink, but not as showy as Hummingbird. I’ll reserve my judgement until next year:
The boneset was extremely popular with the pollinators:
You can see how tall the boneset is in this photo – it is way in the background behind the garden phlox. I love it but it may be too big for this garden – I do have another spot for it, and may move it next spring. Also in this photo, taken in late August, the summersweet is past peak but still very pretty, and butterfly weed is still blooming!
As if you needed more incentive to plant rose milkweed: