Take a Walk Through the Garden: The Back Yard

We're more in the open now and are entering the back yard. This was once driveway, and pasture. Beyond the lawn and flowerbeds, we have a garden spot (which is fenced) a corral and loafing shed (which once housed various horses and cattle), and a playhouse for the kids (which their paranoia about earwigs prevents them from using). The compost pile and trampoline are there also and we now have some Douglas Firs to provide a screen between us and some of the utility area. For now, let's concentrate on the flowerbeds near the alley path. If you look to the right (West) you will see roses planted along the back of the house. They get lots of sun here and I could fence them off from the deer. Years ago they were planted along the roadside edge of the orchard, but when the fence came down due to old age, the roses were vulnerable to browse. We moved bushes that were about eight years old and didn't lose any of the transplanted specimens. I had purchased some favorite varieties from Fred Edmunds Roses that I didn't know if I could replace. One of those is R. 'Typhoo Tea' which is listed as a hybrid tea, but it's just HUGE. It grows to be about 8' high (no kidding) and I have to stand on my tiptoes at the end of the season to cut the best ones (yes...I DO prune). It has one of the best smells of any roses I have...even rivaling 'Fragrant Cloud' which is another favorite. The smell of 'Typhoo Tea' is more fruity and very strong.

The bed shown below masked the ugly deer fence and gave me an excuse to get more perennials. It's gotten away from me a bit, but not too much and it will be the next one I tackle this spring. When this photo was taken, it had a lot of Shirley poppies coming up amongst the perennials, but they aren't very prevalent now since the other plants shade out the ground (not to mention the weeds!). The daylilies in the foreground were a gift from a friend (no longer with us...thank you, Mildred) and are 'Hyperion.' In the background are Achillea 'Summer Pastels.' In the front, if you look closely, you can see Penstemon 'Midnight' which seems to be reliably hardy for me. I have very sandy soil on this place and anything that needs good drainage in the winter does well. I have to struggle with the moisture lovers though...like astilbe and primroses. I have some, but they are far from glorious!

[Rose Frontal Bed]

The "Rose Frontal" bed. It helps to mask the ugly green fence we erected in order to grow roses. (Interesting story there...when I pounded in the last fence post, I just happened to hit the ONE water pipe running from the house to the back corral. A mini-geyser and panic ensued!) The deer haven't tried to leap in even though the fence is low, because it is too close to the house. They will wade into the bed and eat what hangs over, however.


This is a photo of a bud on the David Austin rose, 'Gertrude Jekyll.' I had to have one because of the extraordinary old-rose fragrance. It's still growing in a large pot on the deck until I figure out a place to put it where the deer won't munch on it. If you think this photo looks better than the others, it's because Robert took it with his wonderful camera (and his better skill).




['Gertrude Jekyll' Rose]

Turning around and looking behind us, we see the Oak Bed. I wanted to have red plants in the landscape and this seemed like the place. There is a row of Barberries (Berberis thunbergii atropurpurea) against the south side of the carport at the top of this sloping bed. They have become more shaded as the oak has gained in stature, but limbing it up has helped. They still look nice, but the leaves will not have as much purple color if they don't receive enough light. In front of them and in a more shaded part of the bed is a new grouping of Helleborus seedlings which will probably be heavy on burgundy shades. They were gathered from under the Styrax tree I showed on the Seasonal page. It is in the east and south portions of this bed that I have most of the sun-loving perennials that you see below. It has a lot of hot colors in it during the early summer, tempered by bluish-violet shaded flowers of things like catmint (Nepeta 'Six-Hills Giant'), Salvia superba 'East Friesland', Globe Thistle (Echinops ritro), Hardy Geraniums, Caryopteris, Brodiaea, and Buddleia. A bit of mauvey-pink has crept in from incessantly seeding Geranium 'Claridge Druce.' I just hauled a wheelbarrow load of lusty plants out of there, but there are more to come. They were getting too greedy. One area of the bed has some deep pinks and cerises mixed in with the cooler reds. It's kind of tapestry-like and I like its slightly clashy quality. I will probably post photos of that spot later in the year.

[Red Iris...probably 'Samurai Warrior']


A beautiful red bearded iris growing in the "Oak Bed." It's probably 'Samurai Warrior.' It sure looks good with back-lighting. The gray plant behind it is Artemisia 'Lambrook Silver,' probably my favorite artemisia...even more than A. 'Powis Castle.' It gave me great service for about four years or more and finally bit it this past season. I'll be looking for another (should have taken cuttings!). The Japanese Blood Grass to the left is just starting to color. See it later in the season below.




[Oak Bed Group]


[Swallowtail Butterfly on Buddleia]

Swallowtail Butterfly on Buddleia 'Petite Indigo,' a prolific bloomer that isn't too tall (and has a wonderful root beer fragrance, to my nose).


The grouping above is one of my favorites and is in the Oak Bed. I can't recommend oak trees enough when it comes to planting a perennial bed under a deciduous tree. We have limbed this up over the years enough that it lets in a lot of indirect light for the plants underneath. The bright red-orange blooms above belong to Crocosmia 'Lucifer' which is often sold as a perennial, although it is actually a corm. It will slowly spread but is not as invasive as its orangey cousin, Crocosmia crocosmiiflora which is quite common and old-fashioned, but always appealing. Notice the buddleia flower in the foreground. The bush anchors the corner of this bed where it borders the lawn on two sides. The palmate leaves of a soft sage green that you see in the lower right corner belong to Melianthus major. It is a tender plant, but so far has come back each year for me. Some say it smells like peanut butter when crushed (and it does) but I like the smell of peanut butter just a bit better!

The picture below shows the Japanese Bloodgrass (Imperata cylindrica rubra) in its glory with back-lighting. The fuchsia to its left is 'Santa Claus' and on the far left is the Chocolate Cosmos (Cosmos atrosanguineus) which is quite unreliable, but always worth replanting for its "hot chocolate" fragrance (and people aren't kidding about that!). The blue flowers are Caryopteris x clandonensis which is a small shrubby thing which blooms in late summer.

[Japanese Bloodgrass Grouping]


I toyed around with hybridizing daylilies one year and this was one of the babies. Every blossom didn't look this pretty and it won't set the market on fire (have you seen the stuff they're turning out these days?) but it's mine and I enjoyed the anticipation of waiting for the buds to open. This cross is 'Wally Nance III' (red) with 'Prairie Moonlight' (huge soft yellow) and the offspring were all red leaning toward burgundy with various yellow markings in the throats and midribs.



[Red Daylily with Yellow Throat]

As we walk toward the back yard from the Oak Bed, we come to what I call the "Ash Bed." There is an ash tree growing to the left of the photo below. This bed is comprised mainly of yellows, violets, creams and touches of orange and apricot. Right now it is in dire need of rework but will hopefully be beautiful again. It's not as bad as the area by the arbor I've complained about! Also in this bed and seen at the left is a low shrub/tree called Leycesteria formosa. You can find that at the nursery now, but I grew mine from seed ordered from Thompson and Morgan. It has clusters of interesting claret colored flowers (it's actually the bracts that have the color...the flowers are rather insignificant) in the late summer that produce soft squishy berries. Ann Lovejoy wrote that they smelled like slightly scorched homemade butterscotch candy (and she's exactly right). Funny how plants can smell so much like other things and it can sometimes take a long time for you to put your finger on it. I have an aster just beyond this bed that blooms in the late summer/early fall. It is called 'Monte Casino' and you can buy sprays of it when you get flowers from the florist. The smell always reminded me of something but I couldn't place it for a long time (it's not a wonderful smell...but not exactly stinky either). Finally I realized that it smelled just like soiled newborn baby diapers! Sorry to gross you out here...but they really did! I've had six kids, so that smell was very familiar to me......MOVING ON...

[Ash Bed Planting]


A planting in the "Ash Bed" in May. Pictured are Achillea 'Coronation Gold,' Salvia superba 'East Friesland,' catmint, Shasta Daisies and Madonna lilies (white in right foreground).



The same bed seen a few weeks later. The soft cream lily featured here is called 'Sweet Surrender.'



[Lily 'Sweet Surrender']

We are now proceeding around the western edge of the back yard and will see a few things of worth and kind of AHEM...skip over the wild portion. I've included a "before" picture of that spot here in hopes that I can post an improved "after" shot later in the season. This was snapped during the third week of March '98 . I wanted to add it as a reality check. No one has a garden that stays looking nice without having to deal with weeds. One or two off seasons (which shoulder problems certainly created for me) and you can be looking at this! The pathway that is covered in grass was actually part of what was weeded last year, but it never got bark on it and all the grass came back (from seed, no less!). Depressing. Anyway...let's look at a few of the nicer portions of this bed, but there's really too much to show now. I've overdone the photos already.

[Disaster Area]


This oriental lily was purchased at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show in 1997. It is called 'Egypt' and it certainly is delicate and beautiful. The Baby's Breath near it is a soft pink variety which I believe is Gypsophila 'Viette's Dwarf Pink. ' It has been one of my favorites and has been very reliable. My very favorite Baby's Breath is G. 'Compacta Plena' and it is not only prolific, low and tidy, but it comes back reliably when some others don't.


[Oriental Lily 'Egypt']


[Lily 'Unique']

This is such a breathtaking lily...it is aptly named, 'Unique.' The wonderful cerise blooms behind it belong to Penstemon 'Garnet' which I can't recommend enough (remember however, that I live in Zone 8). It's a wonderful color and of the penstemons, seems to be reliably hardy here (more than I can say for some others). I loved how the penstemon picked up the color of the nectaries on the lily. I can't tell you how many times I would stand in front of this in awe.

[Hosta sieboldiana with Geranium grandiflorum]

This photo is featured at the top of the perennials page, but I thought it bore repeating here. The Hosta was grown from open pollenated seed off a H. 'Frances Williams' (variegated sieboldiana type). Its leaves are quite pretty and I like the cupping habit and lighter edge they have, as well as the nice puckered blue color. As I recall the hardy geranium next to it was tagged as 'Johnson's Blue' but I believe it is actually G. grandiflorum. It's identical to another G. grandiflorum I'd purchased and this doesn't look like pictures of 'Johnson's Blue' or another plant I purchased as such. At any rate...it's a nice plant which colonizes slowly and will seed itself in a modest fashion. The azalea behind (in bud) is 'Rosebud.' That other interesting plant is a weed that I failed to pull before snapping the photo (epilobium of some kind?)...maybe it actually lends something of interest to the whole group!


[Clematis 'Lasursturn']


Clematis 'Lasursturn.' Gorgeous, but still struggling in my yard. This is planted near the arbor in the back, but with everything else around it gaining , I don't know if it's still hanging in or not!



[West Perennial Bed '91]


This was the "West Perennial" bed in 1991, when it was pretty and had very little weeds in it. That little person sitting on the path is Lynda. You can see behind her that I was already assaulting the lawn and bringing the front of the flowerbed out farther from the original line. Plant fever had set in! I hate to spoil the romance, but that thing lying over the path is a temporary cover to the septic tank...just one of life's unpleasant realities.


[W. Perennial Bed '92]

This was taken (looking toward the deck...see our little ladder? We have steps and a railing now!) in about June of 1992. The plants were getting much more established and the weeds were creeping in! The tree in the center is the Styrax japonica that has hellebores growing underneath.

We've just taken off our blinders after walking through the degenerated "Perennial Bed" and are now on our way to the area that is west of the deck, beyond the Styrax japonica., but before we do that, we need to stop and take in one more shot. The photo below was taken near the wild zone a few years ago before it was wild. This rose is growing to the right of the path.

The plants here are Sedum 'Autumn Joy,' before the joy sets in (it still looks like broccoli) and Rosa 'Amber Queen.' I couldn't resist snapping this when I saw that I was getting two for the price of one. I've always had a love affair with little tree frogs and used to spend hours trying to catch them at the golf course canal near where I grew up (on Erland's Point, for those who might be local). They almost all escaped...no fear.




[Frog Twins]





This is a Kniphofia hybrid (Red Hot Poker) which is unnamed. It grows in the bed West of our deck where it gets quite hot on summer afternoons. The hummingbirds LOVE this plant. I finally resorted to Mediterranean plants here such as Euphorbia, lavender, and Cistus (I think they are Mediterranean...they certainly are heat tolerant.) I really love that bed. Some of the other plants are a few lilies and daylilies, some bronze fennel, bronze sedge and catmint. It's a different color mix with the green flowers of the Euphorbia (background), but I find it refreshing. Some clumps of Blue Oat Grass in the foreground cool it off a bit.

If you're not too tired, there's a little bit more...

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