On the South Side

South Garden - 3 Years

Since I've spent the last few entries focusing on my vegetable garden, I thought with the next batch of posts, I'd explore other areas of the yard. One area that's undergone the greatest evolution is the garden on the south side of our house. When we initially moved in, the space was dominated by cracked sidewalk that was blocked by the air conditioner. The only plants remaining were what are colloquially known as spider lilies and elsewhere called Resurrection Lilies or Naked Ladies (Lycoris squamigera, if you're curious). So, 2 years ago in 2007, we tore out the sidewalk and built a flagstone path that curled around the air conditioner and between the forsythia.

The space you see in the photo is what you see as soon as you leave the backyard. Since 2007, it's been in a sort of limbo--me uncertain what to plant. I knew that I would be planting creeping thyme along the path, along with the Roman chamomile (which grows lower than the German varieties and survives the winter). And though it wasn't my original plan, the spot east of the lavender along the foundation has been perfect for tomatoes. Much of the rest was up in the air.

This spring I decided to take some initiative and fill the space in. The first goal was to find a plant tall enough to block off most of the air conditioner, but small enough to fit the tight space (it's only about 5 feet from house to path). Once I decided on that plant, I would choose some shorter plants to add interest. After spending hours combing my catalogs and notes, I decided that a Russian sage was closest to what I wanted. I'd add a salvia and something else and be done with it. It took some searching to find a proper variety. The first nursery had only dwarf hybrids available, but they had the fantastic 'Caradonna' variety of salvia, which has deep violet flowers and stems and leaves tinged in purple. I found the sage at the second nursery and brought it home.

Because of this spring's abundant range, I was forced to put planting off for a while. When I was finally able to do so in May, I had had time to think things over and strategize my design. Here are the results:

South Garden - Recent Plantings

Of course, right now things are still filling out, but this gives an idea. The yarrow comes from another part of the garden, where it was too tall to fit in. Here, it should be fine, since it should stay shorter than the sage and the pink and white flowers will make the salvia pop. I also tucked in a variety of creeping thyme, 'Minus,' with tiny, tight leaves to cover the area between the stepping stones.

I'm happy with the results, though it's going to take another year or two before everything fills in to my liking. At some point this summer we're going to be removing the forsythia that you see in the right side of the photos. It's just too big and hard to keep from growing over the path without deep trimming, which prevents it from fully flowering in early spring. Removing it will also allow more light to hit everything I've planted.


Eventually, there will be another rain barrel in this area and another one on the other side of the fence. I was going to purchase another pre-built model online, but I discovered that a local non-profit, Bridging the Gap, sells kits as well as cheaper pre-assembled rain barrels. Since I support their efforts to promote environmental issues locally, I think it's the best option. If you're composting your yard and kitchen waste and don't yet have a rain barrel, consider it. You'll be preventing run-off, in addition to having a supply of free water for your garden.


Additionally, a friend of mine in Kansas City, Alex, started her own gardening blog a few months back called Unaccustomed Earth. If you're interested in urban gardening and exotic houseplants, I recommend having a look. I've found a number of her entries useful and entertaining, and I've even learned about carnivorous plants.

While I haven't been keeping up with garden blogs as regularly as I'd like, I have been reading a local food blog out of KC called Everything Begins With E. Emily belongs to and volunteers with the Fair Sharm Farms CSA and much of her blogs charts how she uses food from the CSA, as well as other local sources.