The Arch City Gardener

Journeys In St. Louis Gardening and Beyond


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Ladies & Gentlemen, Start Your Engines: It’s Spring!

Early leaves of tall garden phlox push their way through.

Early leaves of tall garden phlox push their way through.

Gardener’s grab your rakes, hoes and clippers. The vernal equinox has arrived and the calendar declares it’s officially Spring. Scanning the blogosphere, U.S. gardeners have been more than ready to put behind them a winter punctuated by either colder than normal temperatures or lots of snow and ice. Here in Arch City, we had both.

Artemisia begins to show its finely textured silvery foliage at the garden's edge.

Artemisia begins to show its finely textured silvery foliage at the garden’s edge.

And it’s been a fight for more spring-like temperatures. In early March I started wandering into the backyard on warmer days, giving a peek under the layers of leaves protecting my shrubs and perennials from the harshness of winter. Around the neighborhood crocus and snowdrops are blooming, true signs spring does exist.

The "Oertel's Rose" yarrow is starting to creep.

The “Oertel’s Rose” yarrow is starting to creep.

It’s clean up time. I’ve cut back the ornamental grasses, cut back the Russian sage, removed the dried blooms from the hydrangeas, pulled early weeds from the bed to stop their spread, and started visualizing my plans. The Knockout roses need a trim and the beds and the yard will soon get a good raking.

But it’s still early. April 13 marks our last frost date.

What are you doing in the garden now?


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Wading In, The Final Chapter

This small postage size of a patio served as inspiration to journey into backyard gardening

This small postage size of a patio served as inspiration to journey into backyard gardening

Today, a stamped concrete patio provides plenty of room for entertaining, relaxing and enjoying the garden

Today, a stamped concrete patio provides plenty of room for entertaining, relaxing and enjoying the garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am a novice when it comes to this gardening thing, but I know enough to realize I needed  a plan. Like so many of you out there, though, I am a DYI’er. My vision was  pretty simple:  remove the 32 or so 12 x 12 paver blocks that posed as a patio and replace them with either a deck or a patio and to landscape around said patio. Turns out I like researching and reading about all things gardens. So I decided I should develop a 3 to 5 year plan.

Four years later, I am making good progress.

The stamped concrete patio is the centerpiece of my backyard and I have surrounded it with sun loving plants. But my work is far from done. The patio bed needs more plants. A raised bed garden along the fence begs to be renovated and has served as an experimental garden as I learn about which plants work well in my clay soil.

IMG_0230 (480x640)The railroad ties that form the raised bed along one fence wall are rotting and I am debating on which materials to use to replace it. Like the patio, I want a more permanent material such as those interlocking stones or maybe even using field stone to match what is already in the yard.  Decisions, decisions.  I overlay these considerations with the costs for such a project. I will hire this out and I know it will be expensive. (Did I mention, I am paying college tuition?)

And on the opposite side of the yard from the raised bed, a shade garden along the fence would be lovely to look at from the patio. It would also provide interest to the nondescript, 6 foot wooden fence. I will start on this bed this spring taking into consideration lessons I have learned from installing my first garden bed from scratch.

Thanks for reading. I look forward to sharing more of the journey and learning from you.


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Wading In, Part II

It turns out the backyard of my mid-century suburban St. Louis ranch home (you get the idea) was a blank slate. I had a project and a hobby in the making: gardening. Here are a couple of things I’ll share first. I am not (was not) a gardener, nor would I describe myself as a hobbyist. That’s not to say I didn’t like gardens. In fact, I love them. Always have. Nothing gives me more serenity or energy than a stroll through the nearby Missouri Botanical Garden. I love a good house and garden tour, and the St. Louis metro, with its zones 6a-6b climate, abounds with gorgeous yards and gardens brimming with a wide array of plant diversity. But suffice it to say I am a busy mother whose three beautiful kids who are in various stages of the launch phase, who works full time, and has not spent a lot of time getting dirt beneath her manicured nails. But that’s changing. I bought the ranch because I was downsizing, following the demise of a long-term marriage. This place is the place I call my own, and I knew that day I was sitting on the postage-stamp of a patio, considering buying this house, that the backyard was going to be my first project. My so-called “vision” ago wasn’t much more than to get rid of the wobbly, unevenly installed pavers and put something in their place. Something solid, something that had a better scale to the house and yard, something inviting, and something surrounded by a garden that I could also enjoy from the family room, which features walls of windows looking out on the yard, or from the kitchen. I also wanted to have less lawn to take care of and the hardscape and landscape would help with that. In late March 2011 I moved in and believe it or not the PJMs were nearly finished blooming! Remember, we are in St. Louis. I spent the first spring and summer mowing the grass between the pavers that were masquerading as a patio. I wedged my patio table and six chairs on this platform and moved them every time I mowed the yard. I’d post a picture but they were lost when my cell phone fell into the Meramec River on a kayaking trip. (Note to self: take the photos off the phone.)  If you watch Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, think Yolanda Foster’s property minus the pool, minus the ocean view, minus the palm trees. Evenly laid square blocks with grass growing between them. My big box backyard pavers were kind of like that. Sort of. Okay not at all. Mine were actually uneven and the grass between them was weedy and in some spaces rather bare.  After spending a summer moving the table and chairs, which took up the entire patio, I knew the postage stamp needed to go. I spent the summer researching, discussing my options and pricing the project. After much deliberation (patio or deck?), I had a stamped concrete patio installed in the fall. I wanted something permanent and relatively maintenance free that would fit more than the umbrella table and chairs.

Good bye postage stamp. Building a garden bed that runs the length of the  patio.

Good bye postage stamp. Building a garden bed that runs the length of the patio.

And I wanted to surround it with garden beds.