Office Garden Update: August 2020

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View of Garden Path

I’ve made lots of progress in the office garden, since my last update in June. That picture at the top of the post was taken yesterday.

Front of Office in June

Here’s the same area back in June.

Front of Office Spring 2019

And here it is last spring.

I’m now in my third season of taming and shaping this new section of our yard. The first season I focused on the side garden. The second season I split my efforts between the side and front garden. And this year, almost all of my efforts have gone into this front garden.

I took a small section of the front lawn up last year, but I’ve taken the majority of it up since March.

View of Garden From Street

This little cottage sits behind our house, at the back of our property. We bought it just shy of three years ago. Our property was subdivided during the Great Depression, and that’s when this little cottage was built. We waited 13 years for the opportunity to reunite the two properties. Now, I’m having fun designing a new garden for the cottage.

This frugal girl doesn’t like to spend money, so I’ve been tackling the garden bit by bit, as I’ve managed to snag free or cheap plants.

Our first order of business last spring was to plant a row of privacy trees along the edge of the property. The cottage sits close to the road, so this part of our yard doesn’t feel very private right now, but we’re changing that.

Angled View of Garden From Street

The Spartan Junipers, that we chose as a privacy screen, will grow 10-20 feet tall, but they’ll only get about four feet wide, so they won’t take up a lot of space.

Spartan Junipers One Year After Planting

Once they grow in, you won’t be able to see this side of the cottage from the road at all, and this will become the most private part of our garden.

I’ve been using the terms “front yard” and “side yard” to define the different sections of the cottage garden, but those terms won’t really apply for much longer. Once the junipers form a wall between our yard and street, this won’t feel like a front yard anymore.

Row of Privacy Plantings Next to the Road

And considering that this is what the junipers looked like last year, I don’t think we’re going to have to wait too long for that to happen. My best guess is that they’ll reach their full height in four years.

View From Rock Garden

After three seasons of being too cheap to buy mulch, I finally caught a killer sale on mulch in July, and had a ridiculous number of bags delivered. So, now everything has been mulched, and it looks much better.

Let me take you through the different areas of the garden, and show you the progress that I’ve made since June.

Front of Office

The beds around the front porch are finally starting to fill in and take shape.

Garden Around Porch

The elephant ears and variegated loriope came from that garden that I was invited to dig up last summer.

View From Front Porch

Here’s the view from the front porch.

View From Front Porch Looking Right

And here’s the front porch view looking right.

Left Side of Porch

If you’re facing the porch, the bed on the left has daisies and corydalis that I divided and transplanted from other parts of our yard.


I plan to transplant more daisies in the fall.


That bed also has a bunch of ferns. After struggling to find a good deal on ferns, I finally stumbled upon a nursery a couple hours from here, called Tennessee Wholesale Nursery. They sell bareroot plants at wholesale prices, including ferns.

Young Fern

I bought a fern grab bag with 25 ferns for $49.99, and I also bought a package of 15 shade plants for $32.99. That’s $2 or less a plant! I’ve been really happy with the quality and variety of the plants that I received, so I agreed to partner with them at the end of June. They sent me more ferns and shade plants, as well as a few fun surprises, which I’ll show you in a bit. (Note: That partnership has since ended.)

Row of Mystery Plants

But first … can anyone tell me what this plant is?

Mystery Plant

The next-door neighbor told me that there used to be these tall, pretty flowers in the yard …

Flowers on Mystery Plant

and they finally showed themselves this year. But I haven’t the foggiest what they are. I keep meaning to download a plant identification app.

Oh well … we’ll move on for now.

New Flagstone Path

This section of the yard was still grass until a month or so ago. I finally finished digging it up, and my oldest daughter and I laid this flagstone path. Every bit of the flagstone that we’ve used throughout the garden was either already on the property, or rescued from curb piles a few years back. We lucked into not one, but two, families who were taking up ponds, and they were all too happy for us to haul off all the flagstone and rock.

I still have a bunch of edging rocks, but I recently exhausted my pile of flagstone.

This path ties in to the main path through the garden, and terminates at the rock-edged bed that I built with some of those free rocks. It created a new wedge-shaped garden bed, which I plan to plant with tall flowering plants. I tucked a few young plants in there at the end of June, and I’ll keep adding more sun-loving plants, until the bed is full.

Junk Path Next to Rock Bed

The coolest feature in this area, and maybe in the whole garden, is the junk path that my oldest daughter and I laid. It runs the whole length of the rock-edged bed.

Junk Path

And it’s made up of, well, junk. Old bricks, bottles, random metal pieces. Whatever we came across that we thought would be interesting.

Closeup of Junk Path

I absolutely love the way it turned out.

Close Up of Sun in Junk Path

This sun is my favorite part. It’s made from an old rotor and bricks. We filled the center with a bunch of glass rocks that were given to us.

Another Closeup of Junk Path

Once I get the wedge-shaped bed planted with tall plants, the junk path will be hidden from view, so it’ll be a little secret path that you happen upon.

From a practical stand point, the junk path provides access to weed the beds on either side of it …

Location of Future Junk Patio

but it will also soon serve as a short cut to the little junk patio that I plan to install. It won’t be much more than a spot to tuck a bench, but I think it’ll be a nice place to stop and enjoy the garden.

I’ve already started hauling things over there to play with the design.

Hibiscus Hedge - Not Blooming

I planted a hibiscus hedge in that area last summer. There was a single potted hibiscus in the yard that I got all the free plants from, and I was able to divide it into enough plants to create a long hedge inside of the Junipers.

Dinner Plate Hibiscus

I meant to take a picture when the hedge was in full bloom, but I never got around to it. Here’s a picture of a single bloom that my daughter took. They’re Dinner Plate Hibiscus, so the blooms are HUGE.


I love the scent of lavender, so I added a lavender plant near the bench spot. It was rescued from a garden center that was throwing it out. It’s Hidcote, which is a type of English lavender.

Growing lavender in the south can be tricky. It doesn’t like our heat and humidity, or our cold winters, but there’s a new variety of French hybrid lavender, called Phenomenal, that’s been developed specifically for southern gardens.

I added three plants to my herb garden this year, and I’m hoping they’ll do well. I’ve lost several lavender plants to the cold over the years. So, I’ll be thrilled, if these survive.

Rock Garden

Here’s another view of that area to give you a better idea of how it fits in with the overall garden. I’ve been working to bring more color and variety into the rock-edged garden bed. That bed was mostly filled with daylilies when we bought the property. I’ve expanded the bed twice, and have been tucking long-blooming perennials in there, whenever I’m able to get them free or cheap. This part of the garden receives full sun.

Mexican Petunias

These Mexican Petunias came from that yard that I got all the free plants from last summer.

Pink Petunias

So did these pink petunias.

Front of Office Garden Taken From Left

Back in June, most of the left side of the garden was still turf (this is what it looked like then), so this is by far the newest part of the garden, and as such, it still needs plenty of work.

Unfinished Garden Path

I extended the flagstone path as far as I could, before I ran out of flagstones.

New Section of Garden

and I added a bunch of hostas and ferns as a starting point. To save money, I bought grab bags of hostas from a couple different sellers.


I’d have to go back and look at my orders, but I believe I planted over 100 hostas throughout the garden this year, and a similar number of ferns.

Variegated Hosta

The ferns in this area have only been in the ground since the end of June, so they aren’t very noticeable yet, but the hostas are doing well.

Elephant Ears Planted Along Garden Path

By far, the area of the garden that’s seen the most change, since my last update, is the garden bed to the right of the front porch. We planted a bunch of elephant ear bulbs in that bed last summer. They came from the yard where we got all the free plants. They just had a single Elephant Ear plant that didn’t take up much space, but I divided it up into a bunch of bulbs, and planted them throughout this bed.

Closeup of Elephant Ears

And this is what we ended up with. Some of the plants are over seven-feet tall, and they’re still growing!

Understory Under Elephant Ears

I absolutely love the way this looks. And I love the understory this created for more shade-loving plants. I’ve been working to fill it in with Solomon’s Seal, Lily of the Valley, trillium, ferns, corydalis and hostas, among other things.

Purple Heart and Corydalis

And I’ve been filling in the other side of the path with Purple Heart (from that same garden), corydalis (from a master gardener who gave me a bunch of plants), as well as a bunch of ferns and hostas that I got on the cheap.


These Astilbe were another freebie that I dug out of that garden last summer.

Moss Planted Along Flagstone Path

This moss was included in the box of free plants that I received from TN Wholesale Nursery.

Strawberry Begonia

And I got the start for this Strawberry Begonia from that master gardener about eight years ago.

Garden Beside Side Porch

This bed next to the side porch is also filled with freebies, some are division taken from my own yard, others were given to me by that master gardener. This year, I’ve added a bunch of ferns and hostas to try to fill out the space.

Path Around to Front Garden

Mulching the path around to the side porch has really cut down on my need to weed. I’ve intentionally left this area minimally planted because I want to keep the focus on the gorgeous flagstone porch.

Side Garden in August

And here’s how that side bed looks now. It’s sporting that baked-in-the-August-sun look. I need to work in some more late summer and fall plants, so it stays colorful, until frost.

Side Garden in Late June

But not long ago, this is what it looked like. So, I just need to keep tweaking it, until I get it right.

Galvanized Tub Water Feature

The hands-down coolest new addition to this side of the cottage is this little fountain that I created from an old galvanized wash tub.

Galvanized Wash Tub Fountain

When my box of plants arrived form TN Wholesale Nursery, it included a couple of water plants, one of which was Arrow Arum. So, I quickly pulled out a few things that I had tucked away in the garage, like this little copper fountain that I bought at a yard sale, and put together a quick water feature.

Close Up of Wash Tub Fountain

It adds that wonderful water sound, when you’re sitting on the porch.

And that pretty much brings you up to date on my garden project. I plan to do at least one more update this season, so keep an eye out for that.

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  1. I enjoy your garden updates. You may want to consider spiny spider flowers (cleomes). The name might not be appealing, but the flowers are great. They are tall, self seeding flowers that bloom all though July and August. As the name suggests, they have spines, but can be easily handled with gardening gloves.

  2. LOVELY and INSPIRING TOO. I’m looking for Spartan Junipers to purchase near me right now. Thank you for all your hard work!

    1. If it helps, I bought my Spartan Junipers from a company called FastGrowingTrees.com. Everything I’ve ever bought from them has arrived in excellent condition, and they’ve always been cheaper than the nurseries near me.

  3. Your garden is coming along beautifully. I love your junk path! The plant you were asking about is a perrenial impatient. Im not sure of the exact name but I bought some from the Amish last year & although it didnt come back(we live in MN) they reseeded themselves. They actually were selling them as annuals.
    Thank you for all the tips & info you provide. I look so forward to reading your blog when it comes.

  4. Your gardens look awesome!
    When you mulched your garden beds, did you use a weed fabric first , then put down the mulch? I want to do something like this in my front yard next to my porch this Fall.
    Thanks ☺

    1. Thanks. Nope, I didn’t put down any landscaping fabric, before I mulched. I used landscaping fabric in my garden one time many years ago, and I hated the stuff. If you put down a thick layer of mulch, it’ll do a good job of keeping the weeds down.

  5. A quick tip I learned about starting new plant beds that have grass. Instead of removing the grass I cover it with newspaper (at least 8 to ten sheets minimum) and the mulch over the newspaper. I only pull up grass in the exact area I want to plant flowers. Then place a thick layer of your mulch over the paper. Do not use the shiny paper. The dull newspaper decomposes and worms love it. I have been told the ink is soybean bases and that will replenish your soil. I have done this on the banks in my yard and they are over 180 feet long.

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