Front of Office

Office Garden Update: June 2020

By Erin Huffstetler | 06/08/2020 | 1 Comment

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It’s been 14 months since my last office garden update, so I have lots to catch you up on.

If you’ve been following our progress on this project, you’ve probably already spotted some pretty big changes in that picture at the top of the post.

Like the fact that our office is now a different color, and the fact that there’s no grass in sight.

Front of Office Spring 2019

Here’s a before picture for comparison. It was taken around this time last year.

We didn’t even realize the porch was missing a column, until we got ready to paint. Ha!

Aaron built a new column. Then, we painted our office the same color as the house and garage. It helps to unify all the buildings on our property.

As you’ll see in a bit, we aren’t actually done painting. Finishing is on my July to-do list.

Front of Office Garden Taken From Left

I’m working towards removing all the grass in this part of our yard, so I spent this spring taking up the grass and weeds bit by bit. Since tilling tends to bring a lot of weed seeds to the surface, I just used my hori hori knife to remove the sod.

It took longer, but hopefully it’ll cut down on my weeding.

Beds and Garden Paths in Front of Porch

This area is shaded by several dogwood trees, so I’ve been planting things that thrive in low light.

Garden Bed to Left of Porch

This bed to the left of the porch only had a single fern in it at the start of last gardening season (the one in the back right corner). But look at it now. I lucked into several clearance hostas. And I was given that big hosta in the front right corner, plus the fern next to it. Remember when I got invited to come dig all the plants out of someone’s garden last summer? That’s where those came from.

Before I show you the rest of the things I’ve planted in my shade garden, let’s zoom out a second, so I can show you how the privacy hedge we planted last spring is doing.

Row of Spartan Junipers

We started with small, one to two-foot-tall Spartan Junipers to save money (The three to four-foot-size costs more than twice as much).

Spartan Jumipers Planted One Year Ago

And we’re still happy with that decision. They’ve already grown a ton.

Row of Privacy Plantings Next to the Road

This is what they looked like a year ago. Based on their average yearly growth, they should completely close in our yard within four years.

Hibiscus Hedge

Last summer, we added a row of pink hibiscus inside our Juniper hedge. It came from that garden that I was invited to come dig up. They had a single hibiscus that had never been divided. I was able to get 12 plants out of it, and I’m happy to say they all survived transplanting.

It would have cost me $600 to buy that many hibiscus, so I feel really lucky to have gotten them for free.

Front of Rock Bed

While we’re on this side of the yard, let me show you how my rock-edged garden bed is doing. It’s in the only full-sun area in this portion of our yard.

There was already a daylilly bed in this spot, when we bought the property, but I expanded the bed twice, and added the rock edging.

New Section of Rock Bed

To create more visual interest and long-season color, I worked on adding colorful perennials to the bed last year.

Rock- Edged Garden Bed

I found some plants on clearance, and got more from that garden I dug up.

Russian Sage and Canna Lillies

The Russian Sage and Canna Lillies were clearance finds.

Mexican Petunias

The Mexican Petunias came from that garden.

It’s exciting to see everything filling in this year, and the daylillies now serve as the beautiful backdrop that I envisioned.

New Hosta Bed

The far end of that garden bed receives dappled light for most of the day, so I created a new bed last week, and planted it with bareroot hostas.

Close Up of New Hosta Bed

I plan to add more shade-loving plants over time. That’s a pink astilbe in the galvanized tub. It came from that garden I dug up.

Section of Grass That Still Needs to be Taken Up

And just to give you an idea of where I’m at with this project… that’s all the grass that remains. I’d love to have it all up by the end of the season. It just depends on whether I can come up with enough sun/part-sun plants to fill the space.

I also plan to continue the path in this direction, once I have enough flagstones. So far, I haven’t had to buy any.

Alright, now that you’ve seen that side of the yard, let’s flip back over to the shady portion.

View Sitting on Porch

This is the current view from the front porch.

View From Front Porch

It’s my favorite spot in our whole yard, and I expect to love it even more, once we have a 10-20-foot wall of Junipers closing it off from the rest of the world.

Variegated  Loriope

That’s variegated loriope (monkey grass) planted on both sides of the walkway. It came from that garden I dug up. I feel like I’ve said that a million times in this post already, but that’s because it was a mega haul. My neighbor and I made multiple trips and hauled plants out by the car load. I feel so lucky to have been given that opportunity. I definitely wouldn’t be as far along with this project otherwise.

Path Around to Side of House

This is the path that leads around to the side of the house and another porch.

Elephant Ears

And those Elephant Ears? You guessed it. They came from that yard I dug up. It was a single plant that had never been divided. Look how many plants I was able to make.

Photo Showing Size of Elephant Ears

And look how big the leaves are. I can’t wait for them to fill in.

Fern Grown From Bareroot

To minimize weeding, I’ve been planting a dense understory of ferns and hostas. You can easily pay $15 (or more) per plant, but I’ve only been paying $2-3 a plant. That’s because I’m planting bareroots. It may take a little longer for the plants to mature, but it saves a ton.

So far this year, I’ve planted 29 hostas and 50+ ferns.

Wood Fern

This is one of the wood ferns that I planted.

Solomon's Seal

I’ve also been transplanting shade plants from other parts of our yard, like this Solomon’s Seal …

Purple Shamrock

this purple shamrock …

Strawberry Begonia

and this strawberry begonia …

And I also scored a bunch of pink astilbe from that garden I dug up.

Garden Bench in Shade Garden

Oh, and this garden bench is also a new addition to our shade garden. It was given to us last winter.

Side Garden

If you follow the path around to the side of the house, this is the current state of that garden.

Normally it would be awash with color this time of year, but a blackberry winter, followed by a scorching hot June has the plants a bit off schedule at the moment. And it sure hasn’t helped that a certain gardener (me) has been spending too much time digging and not enough time watering.

I’ll post more pictures once the daisies, bee balm and other summer flowers start blooming.

Side of Office

Still, I’d say it’s come a long way from this before picture.

Flowers in Side Garden

Here’s what that flower bed looks like from the porch. It’s pretty crispy at the moment, but there’s a little more color on this side, thanks to the clearance perennials that I added last year.

Seating Area on Porch

Oh, and I added a new chair to the porch this spring.

Blue Metal Windsor Chair

It’s a metal Windsor chair that I stripped and repainted.

MFH Office Exterior

Drawing your attention back to the side garden … you may remember, I was working to increase the height of this hedge last year.

Privacy Hedge and Daylillies Along Garden Path

I’d say we’ve made good progress. It’s still kind of thin at the bottom from years of overpruning and being choked out by invasives, but it gives us more privacy, at least.

And now to update you on our very first garden project at the office.

Nellie R Stevens Hollies Two Years After Planting

We bought the property in the fall of 2018, and planted new hollies to extend our existing row that first spring. Now, two years have passed, and they’re grown a bunch.

Holly Hedge With Treehouse in Background

They still haven’t caught up to their big brothers, but give them a few years.

To date, we’ve spent $150 on perennials and $1,093.94 for the Juniper hedge (which includes the Junipers that we bought for our backyard). I’d have to do some digging to see what we paid for the hollies.

We’ve gotten thousands of dollars in plants for free. And all of the rocks and statues came from curb piles. Putting this garden together on the cheap has been a fun challenge.

So what’s next? Aside from adding more plants, this summer we plan to mulch the new beds, replace the gutters on our office, build a surround to hide the HVAC condenser unit and repair the trellises on both porches. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Side Garden in Late June

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  1. Everything looks beautiful, Erin! You’re doing a great job!

    I can’t imagine going at all that grass with a hori hori. You must have amazing back and leg strength!

    I use a smothering method (i.e. cardboard, compost or mulch, and water) for unwanted grass instead because I have a bad back and even worse knees. It requires a bit of time for the grass to die underneath, but I end up with rich soil to plant in within 6 months and it’s good for anything from plants and flowers to herbs and vegetables.

    I am looking forward to the next update in this series.

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