Stories from middle America

Just a little FYI to everyone, gardening takes work and sometimes it isn’t successful. I’m talking from veggies to flowers. Of course you’re thinking to yourself, “way to state the obvious”. I only have one rebuttal to that which is I honestly didn’t realize it would take me several tries to start getting things right. I seem to keep learning the hard way.

My inspiration for the backyard was (and still is) Ina Garten’s culinary and flower gardens. These ridiculously manicured and perfectly television-ready outdoor spaces might be some of the reason that I’m not quite living up to my backyard expectations. Perhaps I set the bar too high.

Case in point:
ina garten garden


I want to live in her shed while she serves me cheese boards full of delectable treats.

On the design front, she has rows of boxwoods that creates a bit of organized chaos. They allow for the other plants to grow wilder, since the boxwoods are trimmed in a more orderly manner. I like that type of juxtaposition and am trying to have a little of that going on in my own space.

coop backyard

The beginning attempts to get a similar vibe in my yard.

The boxwood are still little guys. They are more of a ball shape which is a little less formal. It takes time–or a lot of money–to create a more finished look because all the plants need several years to grow enough to fill out and take good shape. Eventually they will grow together and create a stronger border around the raised beds. (The back strawberry bed got overtaken by hungry rabbits, hence the sad, empty box.)

ina garten garden 2

Russian Sage in bunches at Ina’s. (Of course we’re on a first name basis. I am going to live in her shed after all.)

russian sage

Surrounding my backyard vegetable garden. (Obviously need to reseed for a new lettuce harvest. Poor empty bed.)

This plant is super hearty and pretty much impossible to mess up. It brings in a lot of color and grows really fast. Be sure to use several of them in order to have a real impact.

ina garten garden aborvitae

Finally, she has beautifully kept arbor vitae for height.

Hers look great. Mine got spider mites and look like this.



This is what I learned for the mite experience; if you notice any discoloration then immediately check for those gross little creatures. You can take a white piece of paper and shake the base of the plant. If mites are the problem, you will see them on the paper. Trim the dead pieces off and get something to kill the mites. I’m not going to lie, nothing organic worked well for me. Check again in a day or two to see if your treatment worked and then be diligent about spraying the plant with water to keep them from re-infesting.

With another summer under my belt I know a little more of the upkeep, what to look for and what to wait on, while trying to create a lovely backyard garden.

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