Today we are in Lake Bluff, Illinois, visiting Nicky Snowblin’s garden.
This year I decided to dig up about a third of my front yard to make room for sun-loving, pollinator-friendly perennials. I had many plants in my backyard that were no longer getting the sun they needed as the landscape matured over the years.
I spent the winter mulling it over, drawing up plans that I struggled to scale, thinking about plant placement, and then doing what I always do: tossing it all and my pants. The key flew off the seat.
In April I laid out a rope, adjusted it until I liked the shape, then dug the edge. My husband rototalled it twice and then we spent several hours removing the remaining clods of grass and dirt. I improved the soil with compost and many bags of mushroom compost, and then, as I planted, I added compost to the soil fill.
I wanted several flagstone paths in the garden to make it easy to maintain and also for delivery people who sometimes prefer to take a shortcut to my front door. I first made paths out of cardboard sheets and then bought flagstones.
I then began to transition to plants from elsewhere in my gardens: coneflowers (Echinacea, Zones 4-8), turtlehead (Chilon Oblica, Zones 5-9), black-eyed Susans (Rodbeckia herta, Zones 3–7), native spiderwort (Tradescantia occidentalis, Zones 3-9), bee balm (Monarda) Catmint (Nepeta, zones 3-8). penstemon, Fennel hyssop (Agastache foeniculum, zones 4-8) and more. I also shifted several existing plants to blur the line from the old border. Part of the new bed is quite shady, so I moved in several hostas and ligularia from the other beds.
I needed to keep costs down, so bought about a third of the plants in the bed at that time, among them this C. holly. (Eryngium ‘Big Blue’, zones 4-9). I also tucked in a few annuals for instant color.
My plan now is to wait a year and see how things fill out. Since I put a lot of things in one (instead of the three or five that are usually recommended), I may need to split them up to make them more spread out instead of spots. Meanwhile, my neighbors keep telling me it’s beautiful—perhaps unlike the bare dirt they’ve been seeing for weeks!
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