My name is Judy. I have been gardening for many years but with no formal training. I have learned a lot by trial and error. My husband and I moved to the Hampton Roads area of Virginia (Zone 7B) four years ago, to an existing house surrounded by woods but a yard bare of any trees or flowers. The soil is clay, poor and full of moles, and the local deer population is hungry, so I have had challenges to overcome. I am continually improving soil and editing plants that surprised me in the way they developed. Each year I have focused on expanding my garden into new areas. This year’s project was my hellstrip of sorts, the narrow strip of land between my driveway and the woods.
The planters are on our patio, which is nestled at the edge of the woods, providing us a place to escape from the intense Virginia afternoon heat and humidity. They showcase Mandevilla (Zones 9–11 or as an annual) with Caladium (Zones 8–11 or as a tender bulb) and Begonia (Zones 8–11 or as an annual) at her feet, and lambs’ ears (Stachys byzantina, Zones 4–10) peeking around from behind.
I first saw balsam apple (Momordica balsamina) at Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello. It is an annual that I now grow from seed. In the fall it develops small yellow-orange fruits like tiny gourds that burst open when ripe to reveal their sticky, bright red seed. In the 1500s it was used medicinally to treat wounds. I love how it softens the metal railing.
I rescued this oriental lily (Lilium hybrid, Zones 5–9) several years ago from what I term “the dead and dying rack” at a big box store. It was worth the gamble, as was the Mandevilla in a previous photo.
My biggest challenge by far has been planting in the strip of land between the driveway and the woods. It is my personal hellstrip. The soil is poor, dry, and full of roots, stumps, driveway gravel and a layer of duff made mostly of slowly decomposing pine needles. This spring before beginning to add more plants to the area, I dug out five small tree stumps and sawed through many roots left from trees downed when the house was built. Plants here grow slowly and need lots of TLC to encourage them to flourish. The deer find many of the plants in this area delicious (even deer-resistant plants), so I have to be diligent about applying deer deterrent. The plants pictured here are mostly in their infancy, but I have high hopes that one day this will mature to a restful garden bed.
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