Except in college, I’ve never been without a garden. Until two and a half years ago when I moved to Corvallis for a new job and was forced to rent a home. Oh, boy, was that ever fun.
“Can I garden?” I asked the landlord. “I’ll do all the work and buy the plants.” Who could get a better deal than that?
“Go ahead,” he said. “Just don’t dig anything up.”
Huh? He couldn’t stand to get rid of a diseased azalea, ratty rhododendron, overgrown nandina and butchered forsythia? Whatever. I gave it a go. I shoved my sharp shovel into the soil, expecting some resistance. I didn’t, however, expect to feel the bounce back all the way to my shoulders. No gardening there unless I brought in a tiller and new soil. Did I really want to do that for a house I didn’t own? Would I be able to get permission? Did I care? At that point, nope, I didn’t. I was done trying to garden at that ratty rental.
I knew gardening made me happy. But I didn’t realize just how happy it made me until I couldn’t do it. Ask any of my friends. I floundered. I’m still floundering, but now I’ve bought a house – a brand new house with a blank backyard just waiting for me to dig my hands in … if the ground ever dries up enough.
The fun started in February after I moved in. I drew a very rudimentary – some would say bad – design and started the longest plant list in history. Don’t believe me? I’ll betcha. As the weeks went on, I consulted with some of my garden designer buddies. Lucy Hardiman, Lauren Hall-Behrens, Paul Bonine, Ann Murphy and Lisa Albert gave their input, adding, subtracting and changing my design. I can hardly wait to get someone in to amend the soil, put in a bit of lawn, and, yay!, a sprinkler system. No more going on vacation and freaking out that my plants will die.
That plant list I mentioned, well, it’s getting longer and longer. I’m pretty sure about the trees: Acer griseum, Eucalyptus debizivellia, Cornus x elwinortonii ‘Venus,’ Magnolia denudata ‘Gere’ and at least one crape myrtle. If you’ve got any suggestions, I’ll listen (maybe). Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Not so easy are the shrubs, perennials, bulbs and grasses. My space is only 41 by 53. Big enough for me to maintain happily, but not big enough for all the plants I’m desperate to have. But there are some I’ve settled on, most of which are for sale at Bauman’s Farm.
I’ll let you in on a smidgen of my plant list. Here goes.
‘Night Sky’ petunia: Can you have a hanging basket without petunias? I guess, but why? And with purple petals splashed with white, this one is like no other you’ve seen. I can see it working with white bacopa.
‘Mojito’ portulaca: Growing up in Sacramento, portulaca was everywhere, which might be why I ignored it. But this beauty is worth the space. The six-petaled flowers are what I call tutti-fruity, orange with yellow edges. Exactly the colors I adore.
Delphinium elatum Aurora Series: I can’t argue with my love of delphiniums. Tall, stately and oh-so beautiful. And let’s not forget how much the bees, butterflies and hummingbirds love them. The Aurora Series is said to have sturdy stems and nice saturated colors. Coolness.
Hostas: At my last, also small garden, I planted 17 hostas, some in full sun. Crazy? Yes. But I find plants step up when you least expect them to. And I was right. Well, kind of. There were a couple that browned up a bit in the hot of summer, but, on the whole, I scored. I’ll never be without hostas.
Japanese aralia ‘Camouflage’: I wouldn’t set out to get a plain old Fatsia (though they have their place), but this golden variegated cultivar is too hard to resist. Plus, at 5 to 8 feet tall and wide, it’s nice and big. The kicker is that it takes full shade.
Hydrangeas: My love affair with hydrangeas deepens every year. Like hostas, I’ve experimented with sun exposure and had some luck. In my new garden, I’ve got very little shade, but the north side is that situation every gardener dreams about: morning sun, afternoon shade. So, I’ve a got a wish list of hydrangeas, including the unusual, love-it-or-hate it ‘Pistachio’ with its dark pink flowers edged in green with blue centers. Obviously, I love it. I’m also determined to have a PeeGee for the sun.
So, there you have it. The first reveal. Hold on to your horses for more to come in my new monthly column for Bauman’s Farm. If you’ve got comments, feel free to shoot me an email (see address above.)
Kym grew up on a wholesale nursery in California and worked with plants since a very early age. She went on the get a degree in journalism and natural resources and ended up writing about horticulture for The Oregonian for 16 years. Now she works for Oregon State University Extension Service and still writes about gardening. She lives in her new home in Corvallis.