Every year we fill planters and baskets on our two decks, and, starting last year, the garden bed in front of our living rom window. Every year I mean to document the progress, step by step. Ever year I forget (or get too busy). I probably will this year, too—but, hey, at least I’m remembering to start with a ‘before’ picture. These photos were all taken in the last three or four days—some in the sunshine, some in the overcast. They are warts-and-all; we haven’t touched anything (beyond cutting the grass) since we did the autumn clean-up last year.
The front garden is the bit I have the least practice with. When we had our house painted a year or two ago, we had to tear our the lovely climbing roses I’d spent years (over a decade, sigh) training to grow over the doorway and porch. The front bed was collapsing, took we tore that out and rebuilt it. I did’t want roses again—they are too vulnerable to PW pests and they are very high maintenance. So I chose a mix of vines to climb the trellises, shrubs, ground-cover perennials, and exuberant annuals. I wanted mostly a red-pink-purple-yellow palette to offset the overwhelming blueness of the house. This is where things stood last year as August turned to September.
Each side trellis was planted with a) a hybrid trumpet creeper: deciduous, so bare and boring all winter, but glorious with rich deep salmon-and-fire colours in summer and b) jasmine: evergreen—so covering all the bare twigs of the creeper), with white blossom in spring. We grow jasmine on the kitchen deck and I’m comfortable with its rhythms and care requirements so I knew that would be fine. The trumpet vine thing, though (sadly I can’t remember its name) was a total shot in the dark.
All last summer the jasmine grew like the beanstalk but the trumpet vine… Well, it just seemed to sit there quietly and enjoy the sun. No growth that I could see and no blossom. So we also planted some blue perennials in front of the whole thing to make things look a bit less sparse This spring, while the jasmine flowered gloriously, the other vine was just a pile of dead twigs. Then suddenly, while we weren’t looking, boom, leaves everywhere. Oddly the jasmine on the left of the house is doing very well; the other vine not so much—but on the right it’s exactly the opposite. Why? I have no idea.
Those dead-looking thing to the lower right are what’s left of the hyacinths that grow every year. I’m not really a fan of those. I love native British bluebells, in the woods, but these messy scraggly hyacinths in front of an already massively blue house, well, if it were up to me I’d rip them out. Kelley likes them, though.
Things look a bit different on the other side.
You can see that on this side quite a lot of stuff has survived the winter. Here’s a slightly better picture.
Those blue flowers, and at the back—which thrilled m to see; I wasn’t expecting it—yellow snapdragon! I’m assuming it’s self-sown rather than an actual survival. But it made me smile. The wine-coloured things in front of that—I can’t remember what they are but I wish I could: I love them, and if they can survive without any attention from me I want more of them! Towards the left, almost hidden by those dead hyacinths, you can see the return of a pale-foliaged shrub whose name (again, sigh) I can’t remember. We planted several shrubs, along with transplanted hardy fuchsia, in those front beds, but I’m not seeing much evidence of survival. No doubt I’ll see more when those dead things are pulled. I would love to see some of the salvia we planted come back—but slavia, like fuchsia, can be fickle, and I’m still try to learn the way of the front garden.
One thing in the garden that did not survive, which really surprised me, was the Japanese maple that’s been there nearly 20 years.
The bed opposite the window, which you can see as background to the maple, had mixed survival rates. Lots of ground cover survived, and thrived; the roses are unkillable; but our wonderful blue bee bush (Ceanothus) is seriously ailing. It used to be a solid wall of blue, and the bee drone all summer was so loud you could hear it the minute you opened any widow in the house. But now, well, bees still visit (you can hear them in the video below—even over the bass of a delivery car’s bass beat) but I think it’s time to replace it with a new one.
The back fence and back decks are also a mixed (and messy) story.
Our hanging basket of salvia is doing brilliantly—flame red blooms drawing the hummingbirds already. The annuals usually planted around the salvia all died, though, so it’s less spectacular than it could be. The other basket of salvia, though, does’t look good. I think we might replace it (transplant it to the back garden and see if it survives—it might). I was surprised by this.Surprised too, that our three different lots of hardy fuchsia—which always survive—this time might not have. That is, they have, sort of: they seem to be sprouting anew from the apparently dead base. But I really want the fuchsias to grow bigger and bigger. If they die—or die back—ever year, I’m never going to get the massive, colour-dripping shrubs I’m after.
Here’s the fuchsia, to the right. Behind it the lilac which just five weeks ago was gorgeous and now looks scabrous—but that always happens—and to the left in the blue pot, the lavender that didn’t do well last year but seems to be surviving okay.
Here’s a wider shot of the flaming lips, taken a few days earlier. You can see that one basket is empty—that’s where we grew the basil, which dies every year in September, and the parsley, which should survive but never does. Just behind that are the herbs that are doing well, including chives, and next to that the main jasmine. Don’t be alarmed by the yellow and brown leaves. Although it’s a perennial, it goes through a partial leaf die-off once or twice a year.
And finally for the kitchen deck here’s a wider shot of the herbs and jasmine. You can just see the sage at the bottom, which is always a doughty survivor, and to its left next to the blue jasmine pot, another of those will-it-or-won’t-it-survive fuchsias. Next to that is the grass we call Charlie’s Hairy Friend—he sits companionably with that plant every summer. Above those are the less-healthy salvia, and then the rosemary, which I can’t tell if it’s doing well or not.
The back deck is also a mixed story. Last year it was gorgeous—absolutely stunning, a riot of lush colour. Just look at last year’s snapdragons, geraniums, marigolds, hissop, salvias, and petunias (and the bay bush hidden beneath it all). If I had to pick my favourite display last year this was it.
Last year at the back we also grew blueberries and strawberries. I had no idea what might survive. It turns out not a lot. The bay bush, which I’d expected. But no fuchsia and no salvia—a disappointment. The glorious surprise was three self-seeded snapdragons.
And they’re the kind with that fabulous blushing salmon colour. They look a bit spindly, though, so I think we’ll buy new ones as well—perhaps plant these in the front bed where we need tall colour.
The strawberries seem to be regrowing, too, and the blueberries, while not exactly thriving, are showing signs of life.
Oh, and I forgot—the trumpet honeysuckle along the back fence is blooming. More bee and hummingbird food.
So that’s where things stand here in Seattle on Memorial Day 2023. Sometime in the next couple of weeks we’ll get serious about buying pots and flats and trays of every luscious thing I can find. Then spend some happy evening sipping wine and deciding where to put them. Then we’ll watch them grow…