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What garden projects will 2020 bring?


Well I’m predictable, that’s for sure. 

Every couple years, almost without fail, I take on a really big garden project. I cannot explain what compels me to follow this arbitrary yet somehow predictable schedule, but I do.

And so, since I spent much of 2018 building the dream vegetable garden, and part of last year finishing that vegetable garden, another big garden project is in the works for 2020.

Like most random and otherwise unintended new garden areas that I take on, it started with an unexpected event. In this case, being forced to take down the giant ash tree on the north side of the driveway. Suddenly that whole area is screaming for attention and the “natural” plants that have grown there are unhappy with their relatively sunny new conditions.

driveway drone
Here’s something new for 2020: a drone! I’m still practicing, but I hope it will help you get a better feel for my garden. The new garden area is to the left of the driveway and extends quite a bit to the left, over the stream that dissects that area. This is also a good view of the screening garden I did a couple years ago on the right (Hakonechloa macro is a star there). New bottlebrush buckeyes (mentioned later in this post) will go on the right side of the driveway set farther back.

So long story short, something new is going to happen there. I’m sketching things out and getting my thoughts together, and I’ll be sure to share the plan as it develops. Mr. Much More Patient got very nervous when I started printing out graph paper and brought out the big 100-foot tape measure. He’s learned by now that the cost of a project is directly related to the size of the tape measure.

perennial planting
There’s a chance the new garden area could look a little bit like this area at Chanticleer.

So that’s one of the items on the 2020 docket. 

Other to-dos include more work in the vegetable garden, mostly adding more pretty and productive plants around the perimeter (inside the fence of course).

I also hope to expand the compost bin system, which is not really exciting but long overdue. (When I went to link that article, I couldn’t believe that I got it 10 years ago. It’s been moved at least twice since then and is still going strong. I’d say I got my money’s worth out of that.)

The rest of the to-do list reads like more of a plant list than a to-do list. Just the ones that come to mind right now (although I’m sure there’s a note in my phone somewhere): 

  • Bottlebrush buckeye for the other side of the driveway. This plant choice brought to you by my trip to Pennsylvania last June when I saw it everywhere. The fact that it’s happy in a bit of shade is ideal.
bottlebrush buckeye at Chanticleer
You can see the habit of the large bottlebrush buckeye in this photo from my trip to Chanticleer. I just now noticed that they trimmed it up for the path.
  • Sadly the ‘Venus’ dogwood on the north side of the house was a victim of the polar vortex of 2019. I watched it complete its life in my garden all summer. I just didn’t have the heart to replace it. The good news is that thanks to a suggestion from a reader (or maybe a YouTube viewer, I can’t recall), I’ve realized that I really need a purple-leafed something or other there. I’m sort of hoping not to do a Japanese maple there so a bit more research is in order. Initially I thought of a purple redbud, but I fear that a reliably hardy variety may not exist.
Fall color in the garden.
I can’t find a picture of ‘Venus’ in bloom, but it did have lovely fall color in this photo from 2018.
  • Last fall, for the first time I had some buck damage in the garden. Nibbling is always an issue here but I’ve never had a buck rub on trees before, and last year a big dope with antler knocked two trees over. One was a columnar apple near the deck, and I’m now rethinking the whole idea of it in that spot. 

Honestly I’m feeling a little overwhelmed by my to-do list, which is, perhaps an indication of my age. Years ago I thought nothing of endless garden projects, many of which involved very heavy stones. Just thinking about some of those projects makes me want to huddle up on my couch with a knitting for beginners book. 

So that’s what’s on the docket for the year. Certainly things will change, and odds are it won’t all get done (probably more a function of a shortage of budget vs. a lack of interest). Whatever happens you know I’ll take you along and whatever circuitous journey the garden takes this year.

So what’s on your garden agenda for 2020?

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23 Responses

  1. For purple foliage with other interest including using for cutting branches try Ninebark ‘Diablo’. It also has pretty white flowers and the seed heads are gorgeous. My local nursery has one called “Mahogany Magic” which is spectacular, just not sure if you can get it outside Canada yet.

  2. I am obsessed with David Austin roses right now and they are great for mixing some perennials with such as alliums and savias. I hope to get the cats pajamas varmint as it is so much better than the original nepeta. Thanks for sharing the photo images. I just discovered your site in late 2019 and enjoy it greatly and look forward to trying dailies thi s year.

  3. I’m still working on editing and refining several beds, especially the Driveway Border which got mangled when we had to do some sewer repair. I’ll be planting some Russian and fig-leaved hollyhocks there, and possibly some additional butterflyweed and native lupines. In the Front Island Bed I planted a bunch of new stuff this fall – Royal Catchfly, Meadow Blazingstar, and Stiff Goldenrod – I just have to make sure they survives the winter. And in the back I’m converting an area from lawn to walkable groundcovers like Penn Sedge and Mazus. Plus whatever other projects my obsessive/compulsive gardening impels me to do.

  4. Forest Pansy redbud is a beautiful specimen tree for zones 5 – 9. I’ve had big bucks knock over and fully destroy 7’ cryptomeria on the north side of my property….five of them that were going to be a screen from the neighbors. I agree that age is slowing down my big garden projects. Had to take down a native redbud in the front that was making thousands of seedlings everywhere, thus I was able to reduce the size of that bedding area quite a bit. I’m up to 24 cubic yards of mulch to cover my planting areas…it’s getting a bit expensive.

    1. Forest Pansy seems to be highly questionable around here. I have one that has shrunk steadily as branches have died off. But there is no doubt that it is stunning. Also, holy smokes 24 yards! That’s a lot of trips with the wheelbarrow.

      1. We have a Mahindra tractor with a front end scoop…makes it a lot faster to deliver mulch to where it’s needed. BUT, I now pay dearly for someone else to spread it.

  5. I am enlarging some beds but that is nothing of the likes of your projects. It will be interesting to see how yours turns out. I like the drone look of your garden. What fun. I would love to have drones view of our garden. It sure beats standing on the roof trying to get the views I would like to see. Love your path project. That would probably kill me now. ha…

  6. I have a big project I need to get done also, and I think about it every spring…and then age, budget, and time get the best of me and once again it doesn’t happen. Really and truly I need to dig up one entire perennial bed and start over….but since I can’t afford to hire the hard labor necessary, it’s not happening any time soon. Sigh. Used to be I could do everything myself….not any longer.

  7. I’m looking forward to following along with your new projects. The three big things on my list this season are creating a new bed to grow decorative branches to hopefully be used for winter containers, a new path across the back garden and fabricating 3 garden gates to replace the beautiful chicken wire-deer fence mess currently blocking my garden entrances. I can’t wait for garden season to start.

  8. Sounds like all wonderful plans. I can’t wait to see it all unfold. Love to read about it all and can visualize everything. I can lend you my new knitting for beginners book if you want. ? I can barely keep the laundry pile down, I don’t know what possessed me to order that.

  9. If you are looking for a purple-leafed tree, you might want to consider an ornamental flowering plum tree. We had one in our yard and really enjoyed it. They have beautiful pink flowers in the spring and then deep purple leaves. They are fast growing, so like most trees that are, it’s lifespan wasn’t real long, but we had over 20 years of enjoyment from it.

    We have had the same kind of deer damage you described. They girdled several young trees we had planted, including a 15′ honey locust. The damage caused 1/4 of the tree to die. We have learned that we need to protect the trunks so they can’t rub. So each September we put plastic tubing around the trunks and then remove it in the spring. It doesn’t fit tight, so air can get to the trunk, but the deer can’t.

  10. For 2020, I’m going to add a large bed in the spot of the yard that (1) is difficult to mow and (2) has more weeds than grass. I’ve been collecting tons of cardboard to lay down to kill what’s there currently, but I haven’t yet decided what to put there. It gets good afternoon sun and has lovely drainage, so my options are pretty unlimited. I’m thinking a mix of herbs and native plants… It’s close to the mulberry, maple and apple trees, so putting something that will grow wide and tall is out, but maybe I could consider something smaller. Decisions, decisions. With the addition of this garden bed, I’m one step closer to my overall goal of #lessgrassmorebeauty.

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