A Sparse Land

We’ve established that my yard is brown. Part of it is because the property is very shaded which makes it more difficult to grow close to the ground. The other part is because most of the perennial plants are deciduous slackers, they die back in the winter. Once the leaves fall there is only a handful of evergreens to cover the 1/4 acre of brown dirt. It’s depressing. To deal I am concentrating on ground covers this year.

I chose Creeping Thyme since it is an evergreen ground cover. The source says they will do well in sun or shade. We will see. While Creeping Thyme is supposed to be a prolific bloomer I am expecting a very light showing of flowers in the more heavily shaded areas, if any at all. It’s evergreen, it grows very low to the ground, it can stand some foot traffic, it has a lemony scent, and the mosquitos are supposed to hate it. Perfect. If I don’t get a carpet of lavender flowers all summer long so be it.

Creeping Thyme

Another ground cover I am concentrating on is the Lily of the Valley. I have an obscene amount of them scattered throughout the garden and am relocating them to create larger groupings. Ground covers are a dud if they don’t actually cover the ground.

Lily of the valley dense

I planted some Sweet Woodruff, another shade ground cover, last March. The plants looked pathetic all year. Long scraggly stems with 2-3 blossoms each. I regretted that purchase all summer long. This year? They are gorgeous! Tons of blossoms, the plants tripled in size, and the stems stand at attention. 

Sweet Woodruff

My other plan of attack against the dreary landscape is to grow colorful annuals (the ones that die every year and you have to start over). Impatiens, Balsam, and Coleus will all provide bright color and help to break up the sea of brown. Now, I wasn’t always a fan of annuals and especially not these three. Impatiens? They don’t really have a wow-factor, you know? You usually see two blossoms per stem, kinda small and bland (pic on the left). I broke down last year and bought a few blooming plants around May and stuck them in planters. A month later the planters were overflowing with bright pink and lavender flowers. And they just kept growing. I didn’t know a thing about Impatiens, and really there’s not much to tell other than they like to have their dead flowers pinched off. Do that and it will put out new flower buds in a matter of days. It’s a very hard working little annual. My pots were bright and full into October! So, even though it’s an annual the Impatiens really pull their weight in the garden.

impatiens seedlings

The Coleus comes in such a wide variety of color that even though it doesn’t have blossoms (they actually do, it’s just very pitiful), when planted in larger groupings they can really pack a punch. Their leaves have such vivid color that I consider them to be giant leaf-shaped blossoms. There. Oh, and last years Coleus looked great right up to the first frost. 

Coleus seedlings

I have no idea what to expect with the Balsam. I haven’t actually seen one blooming in person. I had one to sacrifice early in the spring and decided to just stick it in a planter rather than throw it in the garbage. I didn’t harden it off or baby it afterwards and it is the best looking Balsam I have! 

balsam seedlings

 I decided to grow as much from seed as possible this year, in order to get more bang for my buck. It’s my first year growing seedlings and, I gotta say, there’s a lot of work involved. Next year I will break it up and start the seeds at different times (and will actually be starting some of next years annuals this July). Below is about half of what I started. I need a greenhouse.

seedling tray