Did we not have an amazingly beautiful spring in Madison, Indiana this year? Cooler temperatures extended the blooming season, and the flowering trees along the riverfront were gorgeous.

Our courtyard of small gardens also fared well. The new and transplanted flowers and shrubs got a great start, and we were rewarded with buds, blooms and new growth.

I thought I’d catch you up on how the garden plan posted in A Garden in the Making: Inspirations & First Steps on March 8th is coming along.

“Have mask, will travel.” It paid to know what you wanted so that shopping trips were quick. Retail establishments dealing in agriculture remained open for outside browsing & curbside pickup during the pandemic #stayhome period. Plants were sourced regionally from McCabe’s Greenhouse & Floral, Marion’s Greenhouse, Stream Cliff Herb Farm, and online from Heirloom Roses, Jackson & Perkins, White Flower Farm, and High Country Roses. Family members Julie & Larry Truax shared some of their lily of the valley pips and black eyed Susans, and Ericilia Hernandez made it possible for me to locate some unusual and heirloom plants. (And of course, a few others jumped in the cart at Walmart and Lowe’s.)

We had a bit of a scare with two freeze warnings in May that necessitated covering everything we possibly could. The garden that was starting to look pretty promising turned into an eyesore overnight! It looked as if I threw all my laundry out into the yard! LOL. A few plants were slightly damaged (mostly caladiums), but all in all we fared well.

Sullivan Smokehouse Stone Wall Garden. As a reminder, the concept was to achieve a “soft and fragrant garden with pink shrub roses, peonies, day lilies, Siberian iris, Russian sage and more” against the backdrop of the stone wall. All the specimens are in, except Siberian Iris rhizomes that we’ll plant in the fall. We’ve enjoyed the blooms, even if scant. Only half of the peonies bloomed this spring, but I look forward to next year’s explosion from Shirley Temple, Sarah Bernhardt, Festiva Maxima, Karl Rosenfield and Abalone Pearl!

Isn’t this iris beautiful? I believe it’s an 1868 Fabian heirloom variety you’ll see all around town.

Courtyard Garden. This is where Ken will feature hybrid tea roses, mountain laurel, azalea, and astilbe beds and rotating seasonal plantings around a metal orb and millstone. The transplanted mountain laurels rebounded from their previous deer-decimated condition and have put on tremendous new growth. The new azaleas bloomed profusely and are growing heartily. The pink and red astilbe are really flourishing! And we opted for some spring lettuce in pots waiting for nasturtium seeds to germinate.

The bareroot hybrid tea roses came in like a bunch of sticks, as expected. They are now fully leafed out and are presenting multiple flower buds. We should see some lovely flowers soon from Love’s Promise (red), Crescendo (pink & white), John F. Kennedy (pure white), Welcome Home (light yellow), Fragrant Cloud (coral red), Opening Night (dark red) and Malibu (cream-gold-coral pink blend)!

We started out with potted pansies around the orb, and they lasted extremely well in the long, cool spring. As soon as temperatures began to climb, we traded them out for herbs – basil, thyme, flat-leafed parsley, rosemary, Kentucky Colonel mint (mint juleps!), and chives.

I love cooking with herbs, and I use a lot of thyme. Check Happy DIY Home for additional harvesting & growing tips. And if you’re looking for a swank summer cocktail featuring thyme, try a Rose Spritz featuring Prosecco, Fentiman’s Rose Lemonade, fresh blueberries and thyme. Delish!

Tomato Container Garden. We hadn’t planned to grow vegetables, but we decided the corridor between the garage and stone wall would be perfect for them. Full sun and sheltered! So far, so good. We have Beefmaster, two Celebrity, Golden Jubilee, Purple Cherokee and two cherry varieties – Super Sweet 100 and Yellow Pear. We’re removing suckers & watering daily – wish us luck for a bumper crop!

Back Fence Garden. We also decided we’d like some vegetation between the breezeway and the back wooden fence. We found some terrific concrete planters at Lowe’s. They also had a slew of last year’s red Knock Out® Roses, deeply discounted but all showing robust new growth. We decided to take a chance! They are doing great!

Hentz Alley Garden. The alley beautification is a work in progress… We lost about 1/3 of the end-of-season plants we put in last fall, but added black-eyed Susan in their place. Those plants were provided by Larry Truax, and they were starts from his grandmother’s garden. Love that! (I have since removed the random beer can! LOL)

Curb Garden. Haha. Sounds worse than “Alley Garden”, but it’s really a nice accent area. A spot we hadn’t mentioned in our discussion of planned spaces was the ground between our sidewalk and Poplar Street. In front of the house we’d planted 3 holly bushes and Chocolate Chip Ajuga the summer before moving in. We felt so bad that our nice neighbors had to look at our mess of a work in progress! We planted more of the ajuga along the curb in front of this area.

The bushes and ground cover did great over the winter, and when spring rolled around, the Chocolate Chip Ajuga was amazing. Prettiest blooms ever! And lots of them. We knew we didn’t want any grass, so we divided the planted ajuga and supplemented with more from McCabe’s Greenhouse in Lawrenceburg. So far they are all thriving, and I have high hopes for a “carpet of blue blossoms” along Poplar Street next spring.

With all of these plants to tend and water, it’s a good thing one of us is retired! And it’s quite a shift going from a large wooded and shady yard to a small full sun urban plot with no grass. We’ve really had to “go back to school” and refresh our Master Garderner knowledge. Starting these mini-gardens from scratch has been a rewarding endeavor. I can’t wait to see what the subsequent seasons – and years – have in store.

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One thing that makes my journey unique is that all of my interests are driven by a joyful and genuine curiosity. I delight in finding less expensive ways to make something or creative ways to enjoy something longer. Finding and creating joy - and sharing it - is core to who I am.