The Landscape at 3 Years

June 11, 2015 (2)The very best part of doing containers for clients at the last of a landscape installation for a new house is the chance I might be able to to come back the following year. The opportunity to come back means I can watch, and be part of how that landscape settles in and prospers. The summer container planting comes around once a year, every year. In the best of all possible worlds, the process of the landscape design and installation results in a relationship that is on going.  Planting seasonal containers is ongoing.  I was happy to be invited back.  The John Davis roses, which were part of the original landscape installation, are just about to the roof of the pergola, this June of year 3.

June 11, 2015 (1)Any new landscape comes with troubles.  What you thought would be perfectly happy in this spot refuses to perform. What seemed like a reach takes hold like you never imagined.  Anyone who gardens knows trouble-and how that trouble can be difficult to foresee. This property fronts on a lake. The very heavy clay soil refuses to dry out. We had no end of troubles, getting this landscape to take hold. It is difficult, and takes time, to establish plants on a clay based soil. In the middle of year 2, a daunting year 2, we were making progress.  Year two was not my favorite.  It just had to be lived through. But once the plants take hold, they go for broke. Year 3 is looking good. Along this path to the side yard, each Rozanne geranium is the size of a small shrub.  The astilbes are loaded with flower spikes. The yews have settled in, and are lush and dark green.  And the roses-well, you can see for yourself.

June 11, 2015 (9)John Davis is a climbing rose which is incredibly vigorous and long lived. If pink flowers are to your liking, this rose will reward you with steady growth and lots of roses. I have a client withe John Davis roses that are better than 20 years old.  It is undeniably hardy-bear in mind these roses on planted on the lake side, and subject to terrific winds and cold in the winter. Our last two winters were fiercely cold.  I see damage to plants everywhere from those vicious winters.  These roses never skipped a beat. Planting this summer annual container next to this John Davis in glorious bloom-what a treat.

June 11, 2015 (3)This landscape has begun to come into its own. I did not know this, until the moment I got there with a truckload of flowers for the pots. The best part of spending the day here planting the containers here was the pure pleasure of experiencing a landscape and garden that has rooted in and has settled down.  Everything is breathing, regularly.  There is new growth on every plant, from the yews, to the Venus dogwoods, to the Himalayan white barked birch, to the hydrangeas-to the columnar red maples. The landscape is thriving. The heart of it is beating regularly, and strongly.

June 11, 2015 (5)The boxwood dots in the lawn have put on a lot of weight. That dark green I see everywhere is a healthy green. How is my client managing a landscape on soil that does not drain?  She manages, as she tends to the landscape. Her thoughtful work is obvious. The views from the second story deck was beautiful. That beauty is not of my doing, some three years after the original installation.  It is hers. All a garden needs is for someone to take ownership, like she has.

June 11, 2015 (4)I did plant lots of containers for her today.  She wanted orange geraniums, and nasturtiums.  I planted them wherever I could.  Next week I will plant her cutting flower boxes. We have had incredibly cold and rainy weather. I have postponed planting the zinnias and the sunflowers until next week.

June 11, 2015 (10)The wet meadow is loaded with amsonia Blue Ice-it is in bloom now. The shadier portions are planted with species monarda, and northern sea oats-Chasmanthium latifolium.  The fact that it seeds is all to the good. That wet meadow will dry sometime soon. Cleome and sonata cosmos will provide color in this garden all the summer season long.

June 11, 2015 (8)Though my trip here was to plant containers, how the landscape has taken hold has my attention. Plants in the right place is all the work of a garden-and all of the pleasure.

June 11, 2015 (7)Willy’s garden is presided over by a big group of columnar red maples.  Their foliage is lush this year – finally.  The hostas are fanning out. In the front of the house, the peonies were full of blooms. The birch are growing. The katsura espaliers leafed out beyond all belief.

June 11, 2015 (11)All of the containers featured orange in one form or another.  I was pleased that this urn was stuffed with annual plants in a relaxed fashion.  My crews do an amazing job of arranging all the plants that are scheduled to go into a container in a lively, lovely, and unpretentious way. From the start.

June 11, 2015 (14)I cannot really convey with words what it meant to walk on to a property with a landscape wrought by a relationship with a very special client that seems happy in most every regard. I ws so pleased with everything I saw. My working life right now is busy-jammed packed and intense.  Most days I am up at 4:30 am, and drifting home at 6pm. This seasonal planting settled me right down. Thanks, Harriet. This landscape is growing  just as you would want it to.  I am sure I heard that growing going on.


  1. Hi Deborah,

    Your work is indeed growing in nicely. We also do installations , so I can certainly relate. Sometimes you don’t up going back to a job, so you never really see how everything evolved. It’s extremely satisfying to watch plants come in to their own whenever the opportunity presents itself. So nice to have a professional point of view to compare experiences.Thank you!

  2. Joni Holland says

    What a beautifully written and affectionately conveyed piece. It is so easy to feel your passion and love, not only for what you do but for whom you do it, As a Californian, I am so envious of the lush lawn and beautiful hostas and peonies that thrive so much better on your side of the states. Might you envy that my clients see me 2 sometimes 3 times a year for their color pots? Our long growing season ( almost all year now) may be the envy of some, but the lushness and fullness of your somewhat shorter season makes me as green as those lawns. Keep up the good work…it’s very inspiring!- joni

  3. Love the flow of this property’s design of plantings… very restful… the John Davis roses are really impressive… I also liked the owner’s geometric treatment of the turf… to me, sometimes turf can feel like an ‘invasive species’.

  4. Joyce B in Atlanta says

    Love those grass ‘doormats’! How really fulfilling to be able to enjoy the results of a long ago project and see it thriving. Three years isn’t that long, I know, but you can see how things are growing and visualize the continued progress. I hope you’ll be doing the annual pots for many years so you, and maybe we, can enjoy watching this landscape mature. And tomorrow, I’m going out and having a talk with my Rozanne geraniums. After 3 years in the ground here in my GA clay, they are NOT the size of small shrubs!!

  5. Jean Guest says

    Your client is fortunate indeed to live in such an idyllic location. This beautiful garden which is so lovingly tended has turned this spot into a little slice of heaven. I’m sure all of us who follow your blog appreciate the hard work involved by your team and the client. I could look at this all day and never grow tired. Just beautiful.

  6. so wonderful! We have clay soils…and a wonderful pond…..this is just inspirational! We have warm weather; and a drought!
    You should be so so proud of this landscape! It reeks of you; and how you have pleased and thrilled this homeowner!!

    (for lack of a better word!!)

  7. bruce dingeldein says

    I am also a professional gardener in penna doing the pots just now for all my clients, and can so relate to this article. Thank you for taking the time to share when I know all to well how very busy you are.

  8. I adore this beautiful garden! In fact, I spotted it instantly in the background when a neighboring house was on House Hunters! I paused the TV and went back in your archives because I knew that pergola! The thistle infestation in my herb garden is thriving in its third year, too. Your version of year 3 is much more pleasing!

  9. Thank for sharing Deborah today, thanks for sharing with the APLD members back in 2013 and thanks for all you do for the landscape industry!

  10. Cathryn J says

    I love to see many of the same plants that I grow here in York, England, thriving in this garden. We are having warm days, but plenty of rain periodically too, so everything is lush and beautiful here at the moment – and the roses are particularly good this year. This really is my favourite time of year for the garden. Thanks for the post.

  11. This garden is so inspiring and over the top, love your style on the containers.

    I wouldn’t think to put together fuschia and orange but it looks so great !

    Thank you Deborah !

  12. Absolutely gorgeous! Your hard work is definitely showing through here. Especially adoring the lawn there. Thanks so much for sharing these beautiful pictures!

  13. John Davis Roses are definitely the best! I’m so glad we get to see how this landscape has evolved. I agree with you, what you thought would be perfectly happy refuses to perform and what seemed like a reach takes hold like you never imagined. Thanks for sharing.

Leave a Comment