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My Front Garden, or ‘Still the Same’

by germinatrix | April 25th, 2009

a garden, or a plant collection? you decide... a garden, or a plant collection? you decide…

Those of you who used to read me over at the defunct (they now re-direct people to Architectural Digest. Yeah, right… there’s some fresh, fun reading…) know that I have been threatening to re-do my front garden forever.

I like my plants sharp and pointy, like I like my ... I like my plants sharp and pointy, like I like my …

It isn’t that I don’t like what is happening there – I think it has some good stuff going on, actually – but I really want to get in there and rip it up and make a BIG change. Hmmm… I wonder if seeing Nick and Laura’s fabulous garden last weekend has anything to do with this itchiness?

Cotinus 'Royal Purple' and Grevillea 'Robyn Gordon' - yum!Cotinus ‘Royal Purple’ and Grevillea ‘Robyn Gordon’ – yum!

No – I’ve always been like this. I’m a maniac when it comes to changing my garden. It is truly a victory that my outdoor spaces have been allowed to grow in at all, because for the first five years of working on them I must have re-done each space at least three times. No exaggeration. The back gravely seating area? A vegetable garden, then roses and perennials – now an aloe border. My vegetable beds? A Citrus grove, then a collection of Australian and South African plants. My side yard is in a constant state of flux … but it is the front that has suffered the most, being first space I experimented with.

a little cottage-y impulse never hurt anyone a little cottage-y impulse never hurt anyone

You can still see bits of the front garden’s previous incarnations – The dark leaves of the Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’, the Cordyline ‘Red Star’, and the Aeonium ‘Zwartkopf’ are from the Gothic Garden it was in the beginning. The Iceberg roses, The drapery of English ivy, the irises (which just popped up – aren’t they pretty?) and the Coleonema ‘Sunset Gold’ were from my flirtation with cottage gardening. The three golden Italian cypress were a reaction to someone from a visiting garden club telling me I didn’t have enough structure in my plantings (okay, that was a bit of an over-reaction, but that lady from San Fransisco was seriously intimidating). And then I fell in love with succulents, which caused a wholesale re-thinking how and what I planted. I don’t have much room, and the plants I love the most grow BIG!

the hard and the soft of itthe hard and the soft of it

But could I really make the kind of changes that I used to? I don’t think so. When I was a baby gardener, everything was possible; anything could be moved or given away … and there were so many new plants that I HAD to play with! If I didn’t have enough room, I’d just make more – dig up a tree, whatever! Now, my plants aren’t experiments or whims … they are more like friends. I can’t just uproot this community that has been patiently working with me for so long – that would be so bitchy! I need to make thoughtful adjustments. Like taking out those cypress and replacing them with Euphorbia ingens! Could you imagine having those tall candelabras of drama there instead!?! Yes!

Am I maturing as a gardener? As a person? Please. I certainly HOPE not!

20 Responses to “My Front Garden, or ‘Still the Same’”

  1. Girl, you rocked it in that front yard of yours. I love the slashes of Cupressus juxtaposed with the Cordyline. Very erotic and exciting. Have you sought sponsorship from Viagra? Is the yellow-green next to the flax in the bottom shot a Nandina? It plays nicely with the dark Cotinus just behind. I have a great shot at my Flickr site of Cotinus and a gold variety of Tansy. Love that combo. Also, thanks for the link. Be talking to ya.

  2. germinatrix says:

    It’s the Wise Guy! Hi Billy!
    Oh I LOVE that you said my garden is erotic! MEOW! … and exciting, too – ROAR! I find these combos sexy; since you second the notion that means I’m not weird. Or maybe we’re both weird!
    And yes, there is a Nandina domestica compacta next to the flax, but right behind it is a Coleonema ‘Sunset Gold’ – they sort of blend together (Nadeonema? Coleodina?).
    Those yellow/golds totally glow next to the purple cotinus! I love the yellow tansy, too…
    Oh, and I DO have a very persistent viagra spammer. Maybe he is trying to advertise!

  3. I understand that impulse, Germi. But I’m imagining totally changing my landscape to look more like yours! The grass is always greener. Or maybe the agaves are always bigger…

  4. Yikes! I just spent the day digging and relocating several plants to make room for Sammy (yucca rostrada) and and then re-do the area around him. SCARY! I hear you about the friends thing! I feel so bad taking old friends out of staring roles and moving them to the sidelines. I hate and want change at the same time.

    Architectural Digest?????! Please!!

  5. germinatrix says:

    Hey Pam! It’s soooo true, the grass IS always greener. When I pop onto Digging I get so charged up watching you in the act of creating your new garden (even though I get all misty because I loved your OLD garden so much – I have daydreams about buying that house! If only…). Even though I am fortunate to do be able to design gardens from scratch for others, there is something so different, so thrilling about your own brand new space! But alas, until house #2 becomes a reality (not likely anytime soon!) I’ll be living out that impulse vicariously through you…

    I KNOW, Loree – Architectural Digest, of all things! Ha ha ha! I’m glad we are on the same page…
    Oh I LOVE Yucca rostrata! How beautiful that is going to be. It’s true, we all have to feel some sort of ambivalence when we switch the focus of our planted spaces – but when we add super sexy plants like Y. rostrata things HAVE to change… I mean, we ARE only human! And true friends will understand, even if they are really plants.

  6. I’m so glad you’ve posted pics of your front garden – I was just going to ask you to Email me some so I could start daydreaming about my own huge front garden. For now I have an expanse of lawn that the hubs dutifully mows. Fortunately he’s vexed by tons of weeds, which is an angle I argue every time I bring up the concept of solarizing the damn thing and starting fresh. Baby steps! In the meantime, I’ll continue to be inspired by you :)

  7. germinatrix says:

    Sweet Tina! I guarantee you, the longer Kyle has to mow that patch of weedy lawn grass, the better soler-ization will start to look. And then two of you will have a colorful, drought tolerant, modern front yard garden to be proud of (and of course, I will advise on plant choices and the like…).
    You inspire me too, little sister…

  8. catherine says:

    Hi love your garden, it looks full and lush… a triumph for tough conditions.

  9. germinatrix says:

    Thanks Catherine! That is really nice to hear … sometimes our challenges can be the thing that gives us useful parameters. I am SUCH a plant nut, I’m certain that if I had no limits on me due to climate I would have a total ad-hoc, piecemeal planting of “onesies”!

  10. that clinches it–more coitinus in the garden this year!

  11. Hey – what happened? I thought you were going to paint the house? Where’s those deep colors you wanted?

  12. germinatrix says:

    I know, JCharlier! My house is not the shade of an eggplant – YET!!! It is still going to happen … probably in the late summer. Jan and I are slow at getting around to the major things – we hem and haw alot. And I am having a hard time dealing with the fact that the ivy has to come down! It’ll grow back, I know, BUT STILL!

  13. germinatrix says:

    Marci – was it a slip of the keyboard, or did you purposely mix the words ‘cotinus’ and ‘coitus’ into ‘coitinus’?!?

    I LOVE IT!!!

    It’s the vibe this blog has been taking lately … all these bloomspikes and hummingbirds feeding and pollination – sex sex SEX!!!

    I agree with you – MORE COITUS IN THE GARDEN (that is what I first saw when I read your comment, and I fell over. I literally fell over.)

  14. home before dark says:

    I got here trying to get ideas to finally plant my front garden. This is the first year we have NO GRASS. It’s taken me 20 years (five on the front yard) to conquer a slope and build stone terraces and staircases. Your garden looks smashing: personal, passionate and well loved. Great job. I’m turning off the computer and going to finish some cleanup before we get another couple of days of rain and use the image of your garden to day dream as I do the mundanes. Thanks for the uplift.

  15. Suasoria says:

    I have to admit the cypresses don’t seem to fit. But a weeping blue atlas cedar…that would work!!

  16. Guess what, Susa – I took out 2 of them! Actually, I had my Minion do it while I was in Mexico … I told him to take out all three, but he just couldn’t do in the last one. He begged me to keep it, so I will. It can be an odd speciman.
    I think I’m going to pop in a bunch of uprights – Euphorbia ingens and Cleistocactus – but a weeping blue atlas! My goodness, would that be sexy or WHAT? I’ve got to see how big they get – I haven’t got alot of room. But I LOVE the idea of blue and weepy.

  17. Would pruning the cypresses into spiral topiaries have been dated or uncool? I would like to do that I think.

  18. Suasoria says:

    My WBAC is rather upright with various “arms akimbo.” It’s about eight or nine feet tall. The preference does seem to be training them to stay lower and more “recumbent” since that is more dramatic, but tall skinny ones are out there, usually with the trunks trained into S shapes.

    I don’t know how big they get but they are slow growers – and fun to play with! I’ll try to take a picture of mine soon.

  19. If I saw this garden on the street as I walked by, I would definitely stop and take pictures, ooh and ah, smile and have a better day as a result. Whatever you do, it’s up to you and no snooty lady should make you change anything! I actually would second ditching the cypresses but what do I know. I just don’t like skinny trees! I’m impressed that you’ve had the energy to do all of that – I am lazy and tend to leave things be.

  20. I love your front garden. Wow. A visual orgy of color and happiness.