July 7, 2018
This week, we look at the Front Garden
This garden has seen the most changes. It has been almost in constant change mode.
Some changes: from moving a clematis to make room for a honeysuckle; from rose Darlow’s Enigma to Purple Smokebush; from tall cedar to clematis. And almost everything in between.
Some permanent fixtures are the hosta we brought from Becky’s mother’s house in Grand Rapids. It is easy to tell summer is wearing on because the green leaves turn brown due to slugs feasting on them.
I tried the beer bath to annihilate slugs. I tried putting chicken grit to tear open the slugs stomachs.
My most successful eradication is no eradication at all. Let the slugs eat cake. Let them feast and don’t worry about it seems to be the most successful, at least less stressful solution.
Let’s start from the left (west).
The first bush you notice is one we have talked about before. When we moved in 43+ years ago, there was a Snowball Bush (Viburnum). It was smaller than it is now. I have cut it back to the ground frequently and fertilized it on several others.
Now it stretches around the corner and almost encroaches on the Jackmanii Clematis.
Several years after we moved the clematis from the west side of the porch to the present location and fertilizing it every year it grew wide enough so we could add another width of a support.
Now it will grow wider and wider for years to come.
The most recent addition to this garden is the Hydrangea Limelight. We purchased a very nice plant from Bloomer’s Greenhouse in Grand Rapids MN.
I always include good Moo-nure purchased from the Home Depot when we plant. For the next few years, I top-dressed with more Moo-nure.
It is now a superlative plant that will provide many years of pleasure in nature and as cut and dried flowers.
Next to the LimeLight is a Serviceberry Bush.
I had not heard of Serviceberry Shrubs until my wife said we should try some.
She was correct. They grow strong and tall and the berries change into three colors and the birds love them. A winning combination.
Serviceberry Bush – berries change colors as they ripen
Next is a perennial favorite. Yes, I intended the pun. The Variegated Dogwood has a special place in the garden.
It is in the middle of the Front Garden and is the focal point for the background.
It has been a strong vigorous grower until a few years ago.
That year a Serviceberry and the Variegated Dogwood got hit with a black blight. All of the branches suffered a black coating that seemed to suck the life out of the bushes.
I suspected the cause was brought in by our newest lilac, The Beauty of Moscow.
It was the unwitting accomplice in bringing the blight to our garden.
The Beauty of Moscow
The Beauty will be an awesome lilac and is in a garden on the far side of the yard. It is not even close to the infected bushes, Variegated Dogwood and Serviceberry.
A few weeks after planting the Beauty, I noticed a blackening of the branches and the leaves also curled.
I had never been confronted with a disease of this nature. My usual nasty visitors consisted mainly of rose gall.
I found an effective countermeasure at Menards. It is a systemic fungicide/insecticide made by Spectracide.
It worked. As long as I kept up a daily routine of spraying the affected bushes the blight did not progress. It infected only one of the Serviceberry Bushes.
After that rigorous routine of daily doses, I reduced the application to once a week.
It stopped the blight. Now the damage assessment began. The Beauty of Moscow lilac suffered no longlasting ills.
However, the Serviceberry and the Dogwood had to be pruned to the ground.
Even the next year the blight returned to these two bushes. Again the daily doses that were reduced to the weekly regimen.
It is now the third year after the nasty visitor showed up. Since we moved out of the house before the blossoming of the Serviceberry I could not gauge the extent of the ‘cure’.
The branches came up strong and that encouraged me. Hopefully, the new owners will provide the hands-on work of rescuing these bushes.
I still find it interesting it affected only one Serviceberry bush.
I need to get back to talking about another great bush.
The Green Smokebush or Green Sprite is just that. It grows tall and full with bright green/gold leaves.
This bush is now the centerpiece of the garden. It is slower to grow each spring (I prune it back almost to the ground).
Green Smokebush aka Golden Sprite
This year my wife had to prune the Limelight Hydrangea and the Green Smokebush since I wasn’t able to walk in the garden.
Becky has always been a real asset in growing these gardens. She has undertaken the challenging but necessary task of deadheading the rose bushes.
The opportunity to clip a blossom of our favorite roses, the Snow Pavement came up.
She had been making several trips back to the house each day to haul more stuff to the apartment. She clipped just one blossom. Such a treat.
A melancholy fell on me when I saw that she had brought the single blossom into our apartment.
Rather than endless bushels of rose blossoms to add to our home each summer and early fall, we would now have none.
Maybe next year the landlord will let me plant a Snow Pavement on the property. I will wait and gauge my enthusiasm for the project next spring.
Now it doesn’t seem to grab at my heartstrings the way a normal spring would.
Also, I am struggling to make the change to a smaller desk.
For years I have had the pleasure of a drafting size desktop. Much more space than I needed but enough space to stretch out my elbows.
After much discussion, I listened to the reasons why I should not take the big desk. My bride and her helpers won the day and I greatly appreciate the smaller desk now.
I now have enough room in my ‘office’ (the second bedroom) to have shelves and small bookcases. I would have lost too much mobility if I had brought the ‘monster’.
Alas, my dog would have loved it.
Berkley, asleep at my feet under the big desk
She has always crawled under the desk to be at my feet.
She doesn’t have that luxury anymore. We both can’t be in this desk area at the same time.
She is a Landseer Newfoundland and weighs 135 pounds.
She still takes her place when we leave on an errand but I think she is despondent that she can’t lay at my side for all of the hours I am typing up these posts.
A bush that has been the bane of my existence is the Crimson Honeysuckle.
It has seldom flowered.
It is invasive to the other bushes. It tangles with their branches and is really a lot of work to trim.
One of the bushes that suffers the encroachment of the honeysuckle is the Purple Smokebush.
This was a discovery unmatched by any other plant.
We didn’t know what it was. We just happened upon it on a foray into a new (to us) garden center.
The light, fluffy tendrils captivated me. We scooped it up and didn’t look back.
It is an impressive bush. Strong, long branches arch over the whole back corner of the front garden.
It is the perfect spot for the plant. No other plant has done as well in this spot.
One last bush I included in the Front Garden is the William Baffin roses, one on each side of the front steps.
I sure was excited to see how the William Baffin has taken to those places of honor.
Canadian Explorer Rose, William Baffin
Each fall I have to cut the long canes back or the branches just chew our flag to shreds.
Pruning, digging into the rose canes to reach the dead ones and then carrying them back to the fire pit is a day-long project.
The big problem is that we can’t burn the canes until next spring. The wood is too green and generates too much smoke.
Two years ago we took out the sidewalk that ran around the east side of the porch.
That was quite a shock to the William Baffin on the east side of the steps.
It still hasn’t recovered fully. But it will.
The Canadian Explorer series of rose bushes are awesome. This is a great list of the roses and their characteristics.
They withstand the rigors of northern climates.
Each one I have purchased has withstood the test and proved to be not just sturdy and hearty but a blush of bright color in our gardens.
A few words of wisdom before I return with the next post.
When planting bare-root roses, always make the hole much bigger than you think you will need.
Use good topsoil, a dose of sphagnum moss and a healthy portion of Man-nure.
Your roses will delight you much sooner if you do.
Always water the freshly planted roots thoroughly.
I recommend a slow drip to completely water the roots. I lay the hose end right in the hole and let the water trickle for at least an hour.
Mulch. Mulch and mulch some more.
There are many colorful mulches now on the market so you can even decorate your landscape using a mulch of different colors and textures.
Two to three-inch deep mulch will help control weeds that will sap the energy from your roses and help regulate the water you lay down doesn’t get reabsorbed into the air. It needs to stay at your roots.
Always plant new bareroots before the days get long and the sun hot.
That reminds me of another lesson hard-learned.
Do not buy bare-root roses from your local big one-stop store. You may get them to grow at first.
But they will break your heart before long.
Buy from a reputable nursery such as Hortico that will ship your roses at the right time of spring to plant.
Discovering new roses to plant is a great winter’s day treat. Lighting a fire in the fireplace, thumbing through the newest Hortico catalog ( or the catalog of your favorite nursery) is a great pleasure.
Deciphering the language to picture the roses a few years after planting to envision their color, texture, height, and girth is a pastime of many winter days.
Follow the grower’s instructions on how to spread out the bare roots and then fill the hole you dug.
I just read the Hortico recommendation to use an antidesiccant in the fall to prevent the rose canes from drying out.
That sounds like great advice.
A trick I learned when I was planting a few bushes at one time. I laid a plastic tarp on the lawn.
I placed topsoil, manure and sphagnum moss (usually in equal measure) on the tarp. I then used a rake to mix the ingredients together.
This is much easier to get a well-blended soil that trying to mix the ingredients in a wheelbarrow.
Another wise word. One year my sons bought me a wheelbarrow with two wheels. I would never go back to a wobbly single wheel version.
If I was putting the roses in an area where I was concerned whether they would get enough moisture or if I was concerned about the soil compacting over time, I would also add a dose of perlite to the mixture.
It doesn’t mix with the soil and keeps it from packing down.
Friable soil is always the goal so that your hard work in planting will pay great dividends in blossoms and healthy plants.
Next post, we will make a run down the east side of the house.