What Ages Well

As much as my age can be irritating and inconvenient to me,  the age of my landscape is suiting me  just fine.  I do think it is as good looking as it has ever been.  Even better, no one could possibly be enjoying it as much as I do.  We have had a cool summer; even my lawn looks like a lawn, and not field grass.  Buck obligingly hauled the ladder out into the middle of the road, so I could take this picture; I am sure my neighbors were amused.

aug-17-042For the better part of six years I did nothing to this yard except bark the existing perennial beds, and mow the grass.  It took all my energy to handle my work-or so it seemed.  I am embarrassed to say that somewhere along the line I got an anonymous postcard in the mail:  “It is hard to believe that a person whose career is landscape would have weeds six feet tall in her front yard”.   No matter the delivery, the person had a point.

aug-17-026But perhaps even more importantly, I was ignoring the fact that whatever I did at home would need time to come of age-and that perhaps I would want to still be around to see that.  Planning my own landscape was agonizingly slow. I had no problem designing for others; I was a wreck designing for myself.  Slow turned out to be fine; who can do everything at once anyway?  Getting started-that was the key.

aug-17-029The one hundred Hicks yews across the west and down the north side came first. Given the slope of my property from the south to the north, time would prove to be an essential element.  The hedge is 4 feet tall on the south side, and nine feet tall on the north side-but every one of them is level with the horizon.  This hedge took eight years to grow in.

aug-17-045The boxwood was even slower growing;  the 18″-24″ plants I put in the ground were already seven years old when I planted them.  The shaggy densiformis yews are the newest evergreen addition; they have only been in four years.  I like all this evergreen; I can successfully maintain it. I knew I could never devote the time needed to a big perennial garden-why come home and be frustrated about what isn’t done?  Two giant blocks of Limelight hydrangeas, and 6 pots of flowers give me perennial garden pleasure, in a manageable form.

aug-16a-023I planted this city-mini allee of Yellow Butterflies magnolias for Buck-he loves yellow.  The boxwood is a big evergreen groundcover.  The petals falling on this boxwood is one of my garden’s best spring moments. The mini-boxwood strips in the foreground-this year’s landscape project.  The slope of the ground here made it difficult to mow the grass.  The magnolias have grown considerably, and the shade they cast was not optimal for lawn.  Wall stone behind them retains the soil, and in a few years, will be invisible.

aug-17-050The magnolias were planted to frame the view to the side yard.  It is hard arrange a long view on a city lot, making visual use of the neighbor’s mature elm adds much to the illusion of distance.

aug-17-060The big Yew hedge divides my public landscape, from the house landscape.  The big pots are centered in front of big panels of windows; I have good views from inside.  The ground is carpeted with herniaria glabra-rupturewort.  This plant grows like thyme, but is much more water tolerant.


The herniaria has no need for as much water as the flowers in my pots; the granite gravel handles that problem for me. This garden is in progress.  I haven’t a clue about how to finish it, I do have the patience to wait until something suggests itself.

Fifteen years into this landscape project, I realize inertia is the most difficult problem I ever have with it.  Once I put a burst of energy to my doing nothing state, and get going, things happen.   Once  in motion, I tend to stay in motion. Though I once thought it would be forever to see what I had in my mind’s eye come alive, it  didn’t.  Best of all, it has been worth the wait.


  1. Wow! It seems that that is in all my comments to you. Your garden is lovely. Once again, you have given me so many ideas, as well as the most important thing, encouragement. To know that it only took eight years for your yew hedge to grow helps immensely with my patience level. I had picked up a flat of 6″ yews a couple of years ago, for a hedge, thinking they were all Hicks. I was surprised when I got home to find out that half of them were densiformis. I wasn’t sure what to do with them, but you have given me food for thought.
    Love, Love, Love your designs.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear, Deborah, mildly wild densiformis yews facing down a soldier course of Hicks yews-this is a good look. Get those babies in the ground. I have had setbacks-but setbacks in a landscape are vastly better than no landscape. What you write encourages me-don’t forget this. Deborah

  2. Everything is just beautiful. I am envious of your rain!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Sheila, I am so pleased you like my garden! I hear we had buckets and buckets of rain today. April and May were cold-it was not until late in July that the night temperatures were above 60. But I am not complaining-this is a stellar year for my garden-and I am enjoying it. I just got back tonight from a conference in Chicago-everything has grown like crazy. I am dazed about how good everything looks. Ms. Nature is not usually this friendly. Good to hear from you, Deborah

  3. Hi Deborah. Greatly appreciate your work. I’m curious, though: how long did it take to establish the Herniaria glabra lawn? I’d like to use Rupturewort as a lawn substitute myself, and would be interested to know how long it takes to grow, and at what spacing it should be planted. Best wishes and grateful for your advice.

    • Deborah Silver says

      John, I would not do it in a huge area until you are certain you will have success. The areas I use it are enclosed/protected by boxwood. It grows fairly fast. But I plant in 4″ pots about 8-12 inches apart. It iakes 2 years for it to get thick. Deborah

  4. So beautiful! I love your selection of plants and the giant pots are to die for!

  5. Nomi Lubin says

    I’d like to know if your anonymous postcard critiquer ever followed up after your improvements. It’d only be right.

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