Fall Checklist: Planting Shrubs & Trees!

This blog mini-series is in partnership with Lowe’s! Thank you for supporting my sponsors!

Fall is, hands down, my favorite time of year to plant. Who wants to dig a big hole when it’s super hot and muggy out? Who wants to watch a shrub struggle all summer because it got too hot too quickly after it was planted? Nobody. Fall is a great, oft-underrated time to plant trees and shrubs especially (before they go dormant for winter), and this year I was determined to do both! AND SPOILER: I DID!

I’ve been REALLY trying to pay serious attention to gardens I like when I see them out in the wild—from the layout to the particular mix and massing of plants that make them up, and this longitudinal study into my own preferences has resulted in one thing I know to be true: I love a boxwood. I love them as individuals and I love them as hedges. I love them when they form parterres and I love them when they form other things I don’t know the terminology for. I love that they stay green all winter and I love that the only real work that goes into them is giving them a haircut once in a while, which is a task I actually enjoy.

So let’s start at this area in front of my recently pressure-washed porch. Back when I bought the house, it looked basically like this. See that mass of hosta? I dug that up and divided it, creating TWENTY-FIVE individual plants.

I moved them to the space in front of the low wrought-iron fence with some purple heart and creeping jenny. Evidently it gets too cold here for purple heart to be a perennial (live and learn!), but the hostas have come back bigger and bigger year after year, as they do! They work really well in this spot because they’re so hardy—they get a little abused with foot traffic in this location but they can handle it. And since they die off for the winter, that space can get mounded with sidewalk snow and come back fine in the spring.

You can kind of see right behind the hostas on the other side of the fence, I did a hideously dumb thing. I planted day lillies. They came from somewhere in the backyard, and at this point I know I was feeling like I’d NEVER accumulate enough plants to deal with this yard and I simply had to use what I had, regardless of whether I actually liked it. Personally, I do not like day lillies. They produce a weak showing of flowers once a year, look crappy the rest of the time, and reproduce and spread like a small annoying plague. More on that in a second.

Anyway. Since I know I love boxwoods, I’ve tried to add new ones every year in the hopes that someday I’ll have all the hedges and fanciness my heart desires. I counted them up and it turns out I’ve actually planted thirty boxwoods since I’ve lived here, which ain’t bad! I tend to buy the smallest ones at Lowe’s, mainly for cost reasons. Prices vary year after year, but they’re usually in the $10-range. I planted these three years ago in front of the porch and on the side of the portico, since neither of these foundations are particularly good-looking but nothing a nice hedge wouldn’t conceal! I’m not really a fan of foundation plantings around the house generally (since I want to maintain access to the siding and foundation for current/future maintenance, and don’t want roots affecting my foundation), but I think around a porch is more OK. Boxwoods don’t root very deeply, which both makes them decent candidates for planting close to a structure and pretty easygoing if they need to be transplanted.

Anyway! This photo is from a few days ago, and despite clearly being on their way out, the hostas have all gotten so big and bushy! The boxwoods have all grown! And those day lillies did exactly what they do, which is propagate and look a mess!

It occurred to me that this area in front of the porch might be a nice place to enact a little parterre action, like in that inspiration image (which is Kingston’s own Senate House, the building where New York ratified its state constitution in 1777!). I already have two of the four sides installed! So I ripped all those day lillies out and took myself to Lowe’s hoping the nursery still had boxwoods in stock.

OHHHHHH YEAHHHHHH. I may have gotten a little excited. Did I mention that another reason I like fall planting is because of clearance sales??! It varies by store, but you can pretty much count on end-of-season promotions as they need to clear out summer/fall stock, so these babies were being offered at 50% off! Yassssss. I bought 22 of them, like any totally normal person whose house is under hella construction would, right?

Whatever, I will take a major discounted boxwood windfall whenever and wherever it comes. These things cannot be controlled.

A couple of quick notes about boxwoods, specifically, after having done some light research. Apparently boxwoods smell unpleasant, kind of like cat pee, to some people. Personally, I don’t have this problem. There are a lot of varieties of boxwoods, which is helpful to know when selecting them—particularly if you’re sensitive to the scent! Evidently English Boxwoods are the stinkiest and on the more difficult end of the spectrum to grow. The ones I bought are called Winter Gem Boxwoods which are a type of Korean boxwood, and they’re one of my favorite varieties. They’re super hardy, grow quickly, and have a nice dense foliage. You might have seen people wrap/tent their boxwoods in the winter, but I’ve never done that (that’s totally one of those aspirational fall tasks that current-me totally envisions future-me doing, but likely I will not) and they’ve been great even with heavy snow loads and record-setting low temperatures.

OK THEN.

Here is where I freely admit that I don’t think I’m a natural-born gardener from a design perspective. I love houses and rooms but I find gardens INCREDIBLY challenging from a conceptual standpoint—this is the part of the house I’d totally hire a designer for if I could. That being said, I enjoy the puttering, and I think I AM really pretty good at growing stuff—very rarely do my plants die, and I certainly can’t credit outstanding maintenance or any other special skills. I do, however, plant pretty much everything exactly the same way, so I like to think that’s what I bring to the table. It is not complicated.

It starts with laying things out. Like a dry fit! Obviously this is so you can get an idea of how it looks and figure out if you have enough plants, adjust your spacing, etc.

Once that’s done, I start planting. If there’s mulch (especially fresh mulch), rake it out away from the hole you’re digging so you don’t mess it up with a bunch of soil. Then dig a hole that’s twice as wide and twice as deep as the pot the plant came in. It’s tempting to not do this, especially if the plant is large, but it’s important to give those roots a good chance at success, and the ability to spread into soil that isn’t so compacted.

Into the hole, I’ll throw a few inches of good, nutrient-rich soil. I try not to freak out about exactly what this is: there are a lot of options but basically a compost, composted manure, topsoil, or a soil mix formulated specifically for whatever you’re planting seem to all be just fine (or at least better than nothing! gardeners, feel free to chime in). In this case I’m using compost from my own composter!

The most important thing is to not panic. That’s a general statement but also applies here.

Then I flood the hole with lots of water, and then mix up the fancy rich soil with the water and other soil in the hole with the shovel or a stick.

Then I remove the plastic pot to expose the roots! Look at those roots! Such vigor! Big up, Monrovia.

Then I use my fingers or a small shovel or whatever I grab first to break up the roots a bit. It’s ok if some of them break. This encourages them to spread out into their new environment and create new growth.

Then I just stick the roots down into the hole, making sure that the base of the plant is even with the surrounding grade. Pack around the roots with some compost and the soil you removed from the hole.

Afterwards, I give everything a good soak from above. Sometimes if I haven’t packed the soil well, this watering settles loose soil around the plant, so check to see if you need to add more soil. Of course, I try to remember to water frequently during the first few weeks or so, but ya know. Sometimes that doesn’t work out, but it’s the intention that counts. Unless the plant dies, in which case the watering is probably what would have counted.

So that’s how I plant stuff.

Then I got to break out my new toy—the Greenworks Pro hedge trimmer (which is currently on sale!)! The hedge trimmers use the same battery as my lawnmower and my leaf blower, which I just love. It’s all so easy to switch between tools. The hedge trimmers are seriously powerful and the quality seems great. I almost wish they didn’t work so well because the job was done so quickly and I was just getting into the groove!

You have to be careful about trimming boxwoods too late into the fall since you want the trimmed parts to harden before the first frost, but I felt pretty confident I still had time left on the calendar. I only trimmed the plants that have been here for a few years already and are well-established, and I tried to be cautious to only give them a light trim—just enough to even things out and make everything look under control.

Finally, MULCH TIME! Normally I just mulch once in the spring, but I didn’t get to it this year! I probably would have just waited until this coming spring since retaining moisture and preventing weeds aren’t such big issues in the winter, but mulch also acts as an insulator to keep roots warmer and protected through the winter—which with freshly planted shrubs is more important than ever.

My old faithful is this inexpensive black mulch from Lowe’s. I think of mulching a lot like painting a room—it’s that thing at the end after all the hard work that instantly makes everything look so goooood. I aim for about a 2-3″ layer, making sure to get all the way around the base of the new plants. Then it’s just a matter of watering everything again to help kind of settle the mulch into place.

Different time of year, but this is as close as I could get to a before-and-after! I’m so happy with how this area has progressed over the past few years. I feel like it’s starting to look like something nice! Feel free to review progress from 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017 if you really want to take a deep dive.

The two old rhododendrons are amazingly still going, although I think their remaining years are numbered. I’ll probably rip them out when I make it to restoring the porch itself and need more space to work. It’s possible I’ll have to transplant the boxwoods during that process as well, but that’s OK. This stuff can be tricky to figure out, because there’s so much of the house to get to but I’m not sure exactly when that will come to pass, and I still want it to look good and relatively cared for in the interim! I have a deep fear of making it a decade down the road with this house and realizing I don’t have any mature plants to landscape with.

Oh! I also dug up those hostas in front of this section of the fence, split them, and planted them closer together so they form more of a hedge than they currently do. I think if the boxwood hedge gets to about the height of the porch floor, and the hosta hedges much closer to the ground, this will look nice and layered but still structured and simple. We shall see in the coming years! I hope to get to splitting ALL of the hostas this fall but that might be rapidly becoming a spring project. We’ll all find out together.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! Because I bought…so many bushes.

The rest of the boxwoods went to the newly-restored side of the house, which may not FEEL that exciting—but holy cow, getting to the point that I can safely plant stuff without worrying I’m going to accidentally trample them or squish them with the ladder I’ve moved around this area a thousand times over the course of this summer/fall was VERY EXCITING. Finishing up the work on this side of the house has felt like climbing a mountain, at the top of which are a series of many smaller mountains I won’t be able to climb this fall (like restoring every window), but having the bulk of the work done and something nice happening with the landscaping feels like major victory. I’ll show you the whole thing soooooon!

BUT WAIT, THERE’S STILL MORE! I’M NEVER SHUTTING UP! Let’s time-hop again, back to…

3 years ago, I planted 3 Cleveland Flowering Pear Trees from Lowe’s in that strip between the sidewalk and the street. See them? One of the truly striking things when you compare old pictures of the neighborhood to new ones is the current utter lack of trees in a neighborhood that used to have tons of them! My block, for instance, used to be lined with big beautiful trees, and now there are exactly three trees and they’re all babies and they all belong to me. It’s a shame, because nicely placed trees are not only one of the easiest ways to instantly boost curb appeal, but they also help with pollution, storm water management, property value, and more. Research even shows that mature trees make a difference in public safety and crime! A quick google search returned this nice succinct run-down of why trees are so important to urban spaces.

I am the Lorax.

I’m not sure why it took so long, but it finally occurred to me that I could totally plant a fourth tree in the same line, but to the right of my garage. There’s space!

So I went and picked up another Cleveland Flowering Pear. Flowering pear trees also seem to have a certain…olfactory problem for some people when they’re in bloom (which realistically is a couple of weeks in the spring), which…I’ll let you research on your own. But they’re beautiful, they grow quickly, they flower but don’t fruit (helping avoid vermin that might want to snack on fallen fruit!), and they grow in this predictable, very upright columnar shape that makes them great for a narrow spot like this, where you don’t want to interfere with the sidewalk or eventually have it growing too close to the house. They’re also SO hardy—I probably haven’t watered the three original ones basically since they were planted, and they’ve easily quadrupled in size and are really starting to look great. This is even with the teenaged neighbor kid who seems determined to kill them and breaks off branches and messes with them when he thinks nobody’s looking. Facepalm.

I used up all my homemade compost on the boxwoods, so I picked up a big bag of this Sta-Green Tree and Shrub Garden soil. Otherwise my planting method was exactly the same.

Grow, little tree! Grow! This guy was also 50% off, making his total cost a whopping $15. For a whole tree! Can’t beat that. Hopefully at some point it’ll catch up to its siblings that have had a few years head-start. This also reminds me that I have to get out there and add some mulch around it! There’s always something, am I right?

PHEW! Well I’m pooped! My big fall checklist is winding down, though, and I’m starting to get excited to turn my attention back toward the inside of the house. I guess technically we have another month of fall, so I’m going to try to keep working through those remaining items and see how far I get. Hang on just a little longer, mother nature!


59 Comments

  1. Daylilies – 100% agree. Pretty 2 days and a mess the rest of the year. Looks amazing!

  2. Go to Martha’s blog and watch how her gardeners planted boxwood. I like your method better!

    • omg Martha and I are living parallel lives!! YASSS IT’S FINALLY HAPPENING! Hahaha. (I futzed with some twine and a scrap 2×4 for the spacing, but then I just eyeballed it. I CLEARLY still have some learning to do to meet the high standards of my lord and savior Martha.)

  3. Yeah, I can’t with the flowering pears. That article has it right. They smell terrible. The first time I mentioned the smell to my husband he didn’t even notice it, but I can’t even walk down the street in our neighborhood that is planted with them at any time during the spring.
    Otherwise, love the boxwoods you planted! I always thought they were kind of stodgy and for old people, but maybe now that I’m older I get the appeal. They look gorgeous in that inspiration pic, and I think your planting will look just as gorgeous!

    • So I’m not sure if it’s any consolation, but what I *think* I’m understanding is that Callery and Bradford pears are the ones really known to bring the stink, whereas Cleveland pears aren’t as raunchy? I’m no arborist but now that these have bloomed for a couple of seasons, I haven’t noticed any smell when they’re in bloom—that being said, they’re still pretty small and there are only 3 (now 4) on the whole street, instead of like in Brooklyn where there’ll be 2 dozen down one block and they’re all huge. I don’t know if that’ll change dramatically over time, but right now I can’t complain at least!

      • We have a Cleveland Select (Callery) Pear, and it smells fine. I think it’s really just a few varieties that have the distinct smell. That said, people interpret smells differently, so YMMV.

      • P.S. Yes, they are an invasive species, but they’re ok per the City of Boston, because there’s not much chance for them to propagate downtown. And the Select Pear is less vulnerable to splitting than other pear trees, which is the big concern. You do have to pay attention to taking off potential branches that may split as the tree grows, as with any tree. (End pearsplaining)

      • Thanks, Anne! I *think* the smell problem really comes into play when they are EVERYWHERE, BIG, and all blooming at once. I DEFINITELY remember walking down my street in Brooklyn during those two-ish weeks and the smell was gross—which is to say, I know I CAN smell it, but I haven’t yet with these and I’m not sure I will because I’m not sure there are enough of them to really cause that!

  4. Damned neighbor kids!

    As always, I enjoy literally anything you write. Gardening and puttering is a thing I’d really like to do.. and I think I’m too set on the eventual ‘forever’ plan for my house that doing things in the interim seems like a waste of money.. which is silly. Thank you for the encouragement to do something, anything!

    • Thank you, Hannah! It’s funny…my strategy for the inside of the house is mostly “trust your taste and take it one project/room at a time” (varying degrees of success there, sometimes it’s not so simple), but I was so hung up for so long on having a super detailed, solid plan for the landscaping and I wasn’t really getting much done! Particularly in the backyard, where it was such a blank slate. One of the BEST pieces of advice I got from a friend with an outstanding garden is basically approach the landscaping the same way: focus on one or a couple areas at a time, and let the others ruminate. Like with a room, start with your major pieces (trees and shrubs) and fill in over time with smaller pieces. In the backyard, if I can create one usable space I’m inclined to spend time in, time spent in that space will give me a better sense of what functions other areas of the yard might serve. You can’t really know what you want out of a space unless you’re using it! That helped take a ton of the pressure off, mentally and financially since actually enacting a comprehensive plan wouldn’t be within any realistic budget anyway! The nice thing is that plants are much easier to move around than doors and windows, too!

      • right about the ‘one space at a time’ approach… unless you ARE Queen Martha (and her money) then you can direct your landscape/gardening crew to do your wishes. for us mere mortals, one step at a time. and really for your first EVER backyard/frontyard/garden… its coming along so nicely. my first garden was 8 x 10 in front of a park slope brownstone i dug the concrete up with a hammer (yes) and then planted every thing under the sun to see what would grow. and had a blast. it was small enough that i could just play and it wasnt scary

        the next one was bigger and over 12 years evolved. by that time i had researched things so i laid out the beds and dug up and rototilled and added bags of compost and cleared all the dreck and hauled rocks to create the garden edges – oh i am getting sad just thinking about it – it was glorious though and i made more mistakes with plants but eventually figured things out and then had to leave it.

        now i have a dark spot between garages) were the plants i moved are just holding on – including all my boxwoods. I LOVE BOXWOODS TOO!.

        so i may be inspired by this and get those big ones moved to my porch (second floor) so that at least this winter i can see them (although i am not sure because i am half a block from the hudson and the wind is mighty fierce… i would most likely have to wrap them … so maybe they will stay were they are (ugh decisions… )

        anyway love this post and all the steps you are taking – btw i love your boxwood hedge on the front – are you going to do the other (right) side as well? and more on the side? (yes they are addictve.
        btw have you thought of Camellias to replace your rhododendrons? yes camellias CAN live up here – there is a special COLD HARDY species that was specifically created. go to Camellia Forest Nursery on line.. you will die… i had five at my last garden – there is nothing more gorgeous than a bush of camellia blossoms… (you may have to net the buds to prevent squirrels from eating them but thats a small price ) anyway, i transported all of mine including a HUGE seven foot tall one which died (so sad about this) and one other one too. so i have three that have held on. Camellias are evergreen – so if you plant some in the front (and there are small height species) and some on the side … presto green ALL YEAR!.
        the only problem is that its too late to plant for up here- you need to plant by the end of may so that they can get TWO full seasons of root growth before the first winter and even then i wrapped my first winter ones loosely with burlap and bubble wrap (really good insulation).
        ok i could go on and on… write if you want to know more.

        love all the garden work! (and miss my secret garden and doing the same)

      • another reply ;o
        yes start with the big items.. the hardscaping (paths, edges, etc) and then the bigger plants that cost more but anchor your areas and then fill in with annuals and perennials replacing the annuals til you have all shrubs and perennials (ideally) annuals for pots and planters.
        its getting better every year!

      • I lived with a mud pit (and the mud the three pups dragged in) for 8 years! I tried a couple of things, had a few hydrangeas and a lilac, and attempted sod (see above comment on three pups) all of which failed miserably. It was the mud that finally caused me to snap. So I called in my handywoman, and we built a BAD (Big Ass Deck). It was 350 square feet of deck space around the above ground swim spa. I just wanted the mud gone. What was a practical solution turned absolutely beautiful. It delineated beds and spaces in a way I never anticipated. We ended up with a space for everything and it turned out gorgeous and very chic, to my everloving surprise. Of course, as life goes, we built it in the spring, and put the house on the market and moved to Hawaii in the summer. I think it was the deck that sold the house in 36 hours! Now, i’m learning all about tropical gardening!

  5. Wait! Where’s the after of the side of your house to compare he pear trees size?!

    • I’m aiming for Monday! Can’t give away a huge renovation reveal on a gardening post!! ;)

      • i was going to ask the same thing… something to look forward to!

      • Grrrr! You are SUCH a tease!

      • Monday you better talk about VOTING. IT IS NO LONGER OK to sit on the sidelines. The only vote that matters is on Election Day (or before). Daniel will remind you all I hope.

  6. Wanted to give you some more info on the pear trees. Flowering pear trees are considered invasive species and sales are being banned in some states: https://mdc.mo.gov/conmag/2011/03/stop-spread https://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/2018/04/25/bradford-callery-cleveland-tree-invasive-blooming/535378002/ https://fox59.com/2018/04/16/stop-planting-ornamental-pear-trees-in-indiana-dnr-says/

    They’ve even choked out some native species of trees in my neighborhood, including an ever-growing stand of them where they were never intentionally planted. My entire neighborhood is lined with mature ones, and every strong wind sends branches crashing down. Wouldn’t want that to happen and have them land on your gorgeous house and garage! That black is

    • Thanks for this info, Kate! Interestingly flowering pear trees ARE on a quite limited list of approved “street trees” for the city of Kingston, evidently based on “city-wide tree surveys conducted in 1982 and 1990,” which sounds like was before flowering pears had been identified as harmful/invasive. I’m not saying that makes it a great choice but I do remember it being part of my thinking when I planted the first three a few years ago. To be honest there are SO MANY plants considered invasive or non-native, and I haven’t really dedicated the time/energy/research to avoid them…especially if they’re a pretty traditional plant, appropriate for the era of this house, attractive, affordable and available. I know this is sorta flawed thinking, but I live on a normal city lot surrounded by other normal city lots, where people are planting all kinds of things…so my individual impact feels pretty contained, or at least no worse than what any given neighbor is doing—again, not endorsing it, but does make it hard to get too concerned about since I’m not, like, stewarding a bunch of acreage out there. I know Lowe’s specifically is making a greater effort in recent years to stock their nurseries with more native plants and eliminate invasive ones, but there does still seem to be a big divide (across the board with these kinds of nurseries, and even at our other more local/independent nurseries who all largely buy from the same growers as the big-boxes) between “available and affordable” and “native/non-invasive.” I’ll absolutely admit to springing for convenience and affordability with plenty of my plant selections so far, but it’s something I’ll try to be more conscious of moving forward!

  7. So my question about flowering pears … because of all the reasons you’ve stated, they’re very popular in many urban/commercial development plans. They’re *everywhere* in my current city. And *everybody* complains about them. Yes, sometimes because of the smell … I get it, they were all around my old office and yeah, they smell. But not for too long, so whatever. But mostly, people hate them because they are the first trees to go down in storms. I think they say it’s because they’re such fast growers that they’re not all that sturdy? I have to say that I concur that most of the trees I see down after big storms are these flowering pears. Has anybody else heard this? I’ve been hesitant to consider them for any future landscaping plans for my hypothetical future house because of this.

    • I have heard that, but I think usually in relation to the trees being improperly pruned, cared for, or allowed to stay standing longer than they should have—flowering pears have a life span of about 25 years max from what I understand, and people/cities neglect to preemptively remove them before they fall. I guess I’m just saying that properly maintained, risk of that should be mostly avoidable!

  8. Nicely done. Glad you are posting frequently!

    And about those day lilies–here’s the trick day lily gardeners use. Once your patch of day lilies is finished blooming and looking tattered, get your hedge trimmers or a pruning saw (my preferred method), grab a bunch of the mess and saw it all off about 2 inches above ground level. In about 2 weeks, lovely new foliage will fill in and remain beautiful for the rest of the summer.

  9. Looking fantastic Daniel! Love stuff like this.

    I need to find a little time to one last weeding in my meager flower bed, but have done I hope, the final mowing of the season. I say hope as last year, we got a warm spell in Dec and took advantage to get the front yard mowed as it was looking a little shaggy but ended up having to the backyard in January, yes, stinkin’ January due to it being so thick it’d be a bitch to mow come March if I didn’t do it…

    ANYWAY, I got the old Arborvitae tree sections and their limbs cleaned up and got the backyard, which precipitated the one last mow, 2 weekends ago.

    Here is the link to that lil’ project on a warm-ish Friday when I finally screwed up the courage to just do it, manually. http://johnhpalmer.com/?p=1748

    It feels so good to finally get that out of my life.

    Halloween got rained out as I only got 3 trick or treaters before it began to rain… At least I’m smart and bought what I liked in the way of candy so I have NO regrets. :-)

  10. I would have planted the row next to the foundation a little further away from that foundation, because they need room to spread out in all directions as they grow. I can’t be sure from the pic, but if you haven’t allowed that growth room, maybe think about moving them about 6 inches toward the middle of the parterre.

    • I *think* they’re actually OK if I can keep them the size/shape I imagine, but you may be right! Luckily I’m no stranger to shuffling plants around when I didn’t plan well the first time, haha!

  11. I’ll look forward to seeing the parterre in a couple years, it is lovely now, and will be even lovelier then.

  12. I too enjoy a well trimmed boxwood hedge, however here in California hedge culture is poorly understood and usually performed by mow blow and go crews that have no impetus to get it right. It was incredibly satisfying to take one of my clients’ gappy, ugly hedges and over a few seasons coax it back into something healthy and robust, almost 90% through good pruning and shaping. your garden is shaping up so nicely and I’m excited to see how your boxwoods grow in! They are perfect in that porch area.

    Possibly useful hort info: Nutrients and goodness are made most available to plants in the top six inches of soil as that’s where oxygen exchange happens and soil microorganisms do their work. It’s now thought best to get plants growing into their native soil immediately rather than have a mixed native soil/potting mix at planting. This is because the movement of gases, water and nutrients becomes more difficult across different soil matrices. Keeping textures in the planting hole close as possible to the native soil encourages exchange. Happily it also means less work at planting time, because compost and other enrichment can go on top, under the mulch. :-) No need to mix a soil blend in the hole where the good stuff is below the level of soil activity and where different textures in the hole vs. the native soil can limit adaptation to garden conditions.

  13. I just love this blog. All of it. House stuff especially, but also recipes and gardening and thrifting <3

    FALL PLANTING: you've GOT to check out Arbor Day Foundation. Their selection is not wide, but their prices beat even the Lowe's/HD clearance stickers, and deadlines to order for fall planting are coming up. AND they have a few cool things that I've never seen anywhere else like Beautyberry Bush (repels mosquitoes), Sweetshrub (smells like bananas, strawberries, and pineapple??), AND you get a free red maple with every order (and 10 free trees with like five bucks for membership). You're welcome, Mr. Lorax.
    (I just discovered them this year, and I'm SO stoked to finally be planting some trees and shrubs this fall! It's going to be super cold by then…)

  14. Your sponsored posts are so well done – I honestly forget that I’m even reading sponsored posts because your voice remains so consistent to your regular, non-sponsored posts. I wish more bloggers were like this!

    And I feel ya on the garden design stuff… I’m overwhelmed planning out a planter box and I’m almost glad I don’t have a yard!!

  15. Daniel – Love your posts and your perspective on everything. Such great blogs. I grew up in Saugerties and now live in Maryland – so your posts always hit a memory somewhere. I don’t remember Bradford Pear trees when I was growing up (many, many, many years ago), but do see them now whenever I now visit. You are so correct, the Cleveland tree is much more behaved than the typical Bradford Pear, less prowl to breakage and slower growing, but still very invasive just because they spread seeds so easily. Though in a city, less of an issue. Love what you’ve done with all your plantings – perennials are perfect. Hostas are graceful, beautiful, and actually quite colorful with all the varieties. The before and after picture are great. Thanks for all the frequent posts.

  16. Love the idea of the parterre. I think it’s perfect for that spot and your house.

    Have you investigated any tree planting programs in your city? Ours offered a program that saw them supply the tree and plant it on the road allowance. For us that was about halfway up our front yard. The workers were really accommodating and understood I wanted a tree for my yard not for the street, so they were happy to plant it where I wanted it–a bit off centre and as close to my house (at the very edge of the road allowance) as possible.

    My sympathies on your teenage tree abuser. We lived near a university and one night when we were asleep, a drunk (I assume) student tried to climb our little tree. It snapped, of course. I was so mad. I actually painted a “To the person who broke our tree” sign to stick on our front lawn, but my husband wouldn’t let me put it out. Somehow the tree survived. Definitely awkward looking, but alive, which I was grateful for.

    • Ya know, I haven’t actually looked into that for a while. I think the last mayor had some kind of program similar to what you’re describing (before I moved here), but as far as I know there isn’t anything currently unfortunately! It would be great though. Streets without trees look so sad and empty!

  17. I love this post and it made me feel even better about the 3 trees I bought on clearance at Lowe’s last week. But seriously, a redbud tree and two 11 foot tall oak trees for $50 total. I was so freaking excited about it! Also, I’ve never read that boxwoods can smell like cat pee, but it explains SO much of why I can’t stand for our front windows to be open! My husband never smells the cat pee smell, but I can and it grosses me out!

    • Score on the trees!! I was tempted to pick up a couple others but I couldn’t figure out where I’d plant them!

  18. At a previous home, we had boxwood hedges lining both sides of the front walk. For the holidays, we laid white lights along the tops. So pretty. When it snowed, the white lights glowed under the snow.

  19. I am so inspired! I can’t wait to see what spring brings! Looks like lowes has some beautiful plants as well.
    Thanks!

  20. Another good reason to plant in the fall: our part of the country gets a lot more precipitation in the fall than the spring which means less watering! So it’s both cheaper and easier, what more could you want?

    • I was wondering if that was true!! It certainly seems more rainy now than it was in spring—I’ve only had to water this stuff a couple of times! Good to know!

  21. It’s legal to plant trees in the verge in Kingston, when the verge is that narrow? It is not legal here–as it creates something that a careless driver could run into (rather like large mailboxes–they have to be set further back from the street)–I imagine they could also be hazardous to someone on a skateboard or bike. I like the trees, but they do seem awfully close to the road–and the sidewalk seems to create a barrier for the roots getting enough moisture. Still, they are pretty.

    • Yes, most of the curb strips in Kingston are about the same size! There are rules about tree proximity to city signage (otherwise I would have planted the first one closer to the corner, but there’s a stop sign and a no parking sign there), and keeping them trimmed so views of those things aren’t obstructed for motorists. Low branches obviously get pruned so as not to interfere with roads. I dunno—it seems to work out ok! I worry a lot more about other drivers than trees, I’ll say that! :)

  22. Gardening of any kind can be addicting…watch out! Your yard looks amazing. Good on you for planting trees. They make such a difference! Next time you go to Lowe’s, check out what I call the ‘sad rack’ – it’s the clearance plants – I often find good plants that just need a little TLC. I bought some 1 gal lantana for a dollar each just because they were no longer blooming. Another time I found an air plant (tillandsia) in a glass ball that was discounted because it was Christmas-themed and it was out of season.

  23. Love the plantings. Box is just right for that space, and they are so easy tog replant. I started with a classical four-square parterre, slam in the middle of the lawn. It was in the midst of renovation and I wanted something going. I found it difficult to weed, they were too small to have paths in them but too deep for my reach. Now they are good sized little pyramids that I have placed as focal points in the long border. Happy box is a happy garden.

  24. Just FYI: cheap dyed wood mulch is often made out of old recycled pallets (which are full of insecticide) and dyed with paint. Natural fir mulch or using a thick layer of well-rotted compost as mulch is much better for your plants in the long run. I used to work in a plant nursery and did the soil/mulch orders.

    • Thanks for this, Emil! I’ve definitely gone for ease and convenience here—I knew about the dye but not that that was a possible source of the wood. Very interesting. I’m hoping that once the garden fills in I’ll need much less mulch and it won’t figure so prominently into the overall look of things, and then I’ll use a more natural mulch product. For now I find that the black just makes everything (house included) look a little nicer and more pulled-together while there are still lots of bald areas to plant. I’ll keep this in mind moving forward, thank you!

  25. Oh dear, cum trees! So pretty but so….ripe.

  26. Your front yard and porch are looking so spiffy! I love it all!
    My neighbors have a beautiful stinky pear right next to our back yard. I have planted lilacs in response; when they get old enough to bloom we’ll see if they can out-stink the pear. Or maybe they’ll join forces and make the world’s worst stench, haha.
    I’m sorry about the daylilies; I accidentally planted fabulous ones as a beginner and I didn’t know for a long time how truly disappointing the plain old yellow ones are. I have some white and pink named varieties that bloom all summer and I love them.

  27. Hate to burst your bubble but don’t be surprised if the utility that serves you comes to you someday and tells you to cut those trees down–typically you’re not allowed to plant trees in the easement (and there would be specific language in the easement agreement signed by the owner of the property probably 75-100 yrs ago, which would be part of the title work on your property) unless they are known dwarf species that don’t get above a certain height. :(

    • I know that’s a risk, but the power lines are so high on this side that I’m hoping if that ever comes to pass, it”ll be at the end of the trees lives and time to replace them anyway. Requiring that they be removed I think is actually super abnormal here—instead the utility company send guys with chainsaws up on cherry-pickers to just hack away at the treetops, yikes! This happened to my trees in the front of the house last spring—two mature honey locusts that long pre-date me—and the results were…not pretty. Like really bad. Completely butchered. Those lines are lower, though. I thought I could reshape them a little myself but it was too hard (too high, not the right tools, probably risky due to said power lines) so I have a tree guy coming next week to get them back into a more…tree-like shape. Anyway—cross that bridge when I get to it is basically my strategy here, ha!

  28. I’ve been reading and delighting in and learning from your blog for years, and I think that “I am the Lorax” might be my favorite line ever. We should ALL aspire to be the Lorax.

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