The Garden Review: 2020

This year sent most of us off our usual path in so many ways. For me, long walks around the lake gave way to solo journeys along the streets of the neighborhood where I live, but it was on these less travelled streets that I often found beautiful plants and gardens I may not have otherwise seen.

Gardening habits changed since we made fewer trips to the local garden center and did more shopping online for seeds and bulbs. In the process, I discovered plants I would not have found locally and learned valuable lessons about landscaping with color and annuals.

Charting a new path in life is exhausting, scary and sometimes downright catastrophic. My husband used to say of our business ventures, “Pioneers get shot sometimes.” But change can also be rewarding and even essential.

These are some of my favorite views and gardening adventures from this unbelievable year (all photos are my own, save for one).

WINTER 2020

The first picture of last year’s Garden Review was taken on February 7th of a sculpted bush by the lake that was already in bloom. This year’s first picture was taken on February 8th and it was cold and snowy; a fitting way for the year to begin.

February 8: a view of the lake from off the beaten path.

MARCH WAS ALL ABOUT THE LOCKDOWN

Down the street from my cottage is a quiet garden adjacent to the World Methodist Museum dedicated to Susanna Wesley (1669-1742), mother of John and Charles Wesley, founders of the Wesleyan Methodist church. Sometimes I cut through this garden to reach the lower streets by the lake. It was on March 30th that I stopped at the top of the garden astounded by the view. At a time the whole world seemed shaken, this was one of the most beautiful and hope-filled vistas of the year.

March 30: Susanna Wesley Garden

APRIL

I went out once a week to Master Gardening school until our classes moved to Zoom. Volunteering is a major component of the program, which would normally include working at community and school gardens, garden tours, workshops and plant sales. Instead, one of the pandemic-approved options was to take pictures of plants for the North Carolina online plant toolbox.

The native garden next door to my house blooms prolifically in April and provided endless hours of ‘volunteer time.’ This unfurled Royal Fern was one of many favorites.

April 13: Osmunda regalis (Royal Fern)
April 24: a view from the road above the lake.

MAY

May 10: Equisetum hyemale (horsetail or scouring rush) – another favorite plant photo from the native garden next door.

Coreopsis are the first flowers to bloom in my front garden, but this year they barely survived catastrophe when a 100-year old tree fell in the native garden next door landing squarely across our front garden. Fortunately, the coreopsis stood their ground.

May 18: the coreopsis are peeking out in the lower right and our roof is barely visible at the top. It was a mess.

SUMMER

By the time we reached June, there were lots of things to be thankful for: InstaCart shoppers that understood my husband’s detailed food selection requests, the storage shed we built last year that now holds a week’s worth of extra food and supplies, and a wonderful world of color.

June 27: Memorial Chapel
June 29: Lunaria annua, commonly known as the Money Plant
June 29

We started a victory garden behind my garden shed and used the leftover bricks from the family room addition to create a walkway between the two. Alas, there wasn’t enough sun even for shade-loving greens, and re-working the victory garden plot is on my list of projects for the coming year.

July 7th
July 7: an Obedient plant in the back garden.

We didn’t visit the garden center for the first time until early summer, which left the planters in sad shape. To make do with what was on hand, I divided oregano from the front garden to fill the front porch planters, and on our first trip to shop for plants, I came home with eight coleus for the shed boxes. Then I pinched those eight plants back every few weeks and rooted the detached tips directly in the window boxes until every planter was full. It worked out fabulously.

June 12: the planters on the front rail were not colorful, but at least they were filled.
September 12: coleus in the garden shed window boxes.
June 29: the Great Smoky Mountains

The front garden turned two years old this year, and we’re just one year past the excavation that launched the back garden into a reality. It can seem gardens have been there forever until we look back from where they began. And, conversely, I’m afraid a garden could stagnate for an eternity if not for the gardener’s constant focus on what that garden could become.

July 8: we added a flagstone path that leads to the back garden.
August 8: a new arbor in the side garden and a rosemary plant gone wild.
April 9, 2019: the early days of excavation of the vacant lot behind our cottage.
September 12, 2020: the new back garden one year later.
September 5: Euonymus americanus (hearts-a-bustin) from the native garden

My first seed experiment was a packet of one thousand marigold seeds. I planted them everywhere – by the street and at the top of the front steps, in the planters, around the planters, by the victory garden and along the driveway. They did so well I was encouraged to plant yarrow and hyssop seeds, muscari (grape hyacinths), tulips, alliums, crocuses and glory of the snow bulbs.

Packets of baby’s breath, apricot colored strawflower and bee’s friend seeds are hidden away in the back corner of the coat closet awaiting next year’s last frost, and there’s a full can of seeds that promise an annual cutting garden “hand selected for color and form to create abundant, effortless bouquets.” What could possibly go wrong.

August 27: marigolds everywhere
September 11: day lilies, marigolds, mums and daisies blooming together

FALL

September – December: Gossypium herbaceum

One of the cottages by the lake caught my attention when its new paint color coordinated with the fall colors across the street. Another cottage created an adorable group of ghosts holding hands in a circle for Halloween, and then updated the setting for Christmas by adding halos to transform the ghosts into angels.

November 30: historic cottages by the lake.
December 2: Christmas Caroling Ghosts

As the garden grows, so does the gardener.

Anonymous

This was the year I realized just how many of my plants will endlessly multiply. Coleus, rosemary, dusty heather, mums and all manner of succulent can be pinched back and rooted directly in the ground. Even Corsican mint seems willing to take up new residence almost anywhere without a fuss. Last year I didn’t prune the Montouk Daisy and everywhere a branch touched the ground it sprouted roots. Now I have three new plants in the back garden.

Another year of adventure patiently waits underneath winter’s frozen ground. I dread the first sign of aphids and the sawfly larvae that eat the leaves off the river birch tree, but the garden gives back much more than it takes and I can hardly wait to see what happens next year in the garden.

Until then, I love you all but from afar.

November 9: 1700 feet of lighted greenery and lighted wreaths on 57 stone posts decorate the Rose Walk for Christmas.