Garden in Review

Every year starts out the same, full of hope and anticipation. In spring I watch expectantly as the perennials revive from their winter dormancy, and the bulbs push their way through the soil. I’m excited to see what plants survived the winter, whether newcomers fit in, and how the different colors and forms of flowers mingle.

But somewhere around mid-summer, while I’m busy with the vegetables, the flower garden turns brown and dry, and the weeds overtake it. So then I get a little discouraged for a time until the cooler air of autumn revives me.

Being able to work outside for longer periods gives me a renewed vigor and I start pulling weeds, deadheading, and watering, coaxing my garden back to life. As I’m out there snipping and pulling, I’m re-evaluating.

What’s working, and what isn’t?

What changes should I make?

How can next year be better?

This post is part of Falling for Autumn, a series by Happy at Home Blogging Network. Scroll to the bottom to visit the other posts.

Low-Maintenance Gardening

I’m a low-maintenance gardener. I try to work with nature, rather than against it. I garden for the joy of it, not to become a slave to it.

I have some plants in my garden that are native, what some people might call “weeds.” Queen Anne’s Lace, for example, grows wild all over and lines our roads, but I’ve always loved it. Its dainty flower heads are beautiful in bouquets, or flouncing in the breeze.

Queen Anne’s Lace

I started planting it in my front yard, and this year I had a lot! It went to seed and died and it was a few weeks before I found time to pull it up. We had more Swallowtail butterflies than I’ve ever seen at one time. Queen Anne’s Lace, a member of the carrot family, is a host plant for them and I’m thinking I had a butterfly nursery in my front yard.

Queen Anne’s Lace is a host plant for Swallowtail butterflies.

These native plants usually grow better and are lower-maintenance than most of the other plants in my flower garden. They also spread or reseed themselves, assuring they’ll return the following year without much help from me. If there are too many, I don’t mind pulling them up. Wild daisies, penstemon, and asclepias are a few others I’ve invited in.

What’s Working

I planted more salvias this year and I’ve really enjoyed them, as have the hummingbirds. Right now, in early fall, it’s one of the few things blooming. It also works well with my gardening style, so I’m making a mental note to plant more of it next year.

Maraschino Salvia

I especially enjoyed an Amistad salvia that I planted this spring. I loved how the purple flowers contrasted with the dark, almost black, stems.

Look closely for the hummingbird visiting this “Amistad” Salvia

Daylilies perform really well in my yard. Over the years I’ve been adding more of them. I like to pick two different varieties that I think will compliment each other and plant them together. Then I have to wait to see how I did. I’m always looking ahead to the next year.

Two of my newer daylilies, Amish Patch Quilt and Frances Hughes.

Oriental lilies are another of my favorites. The flowers are big and beautiful, and I love their heavy fragrance. I especially enjoy taking a few inside where they perfume most of the house. I’ve been adding more of them in recent years, too.

Pink Pearl Oriental Lily

Goners ~ What Isn’t Working

In my reassessment, some plants aren’t making the cut. If they’re too fussy, or just don’t pull their weight, I’m getting rid of them.

I’ve started digging up some roses that aren’t doing very well. My area is pretty humid so they get black spot, and just aren’t thrilling me, so I’m going to stop fighting them. On top of that, I like to water my garden. As hard as I try, I find myself out there in the evening and watering from above – the things they say contribute to problems like black spot. It makes sense to me to stick to plants that appreciate the attention I want to give them and aren’t so fussy. If I’m not diggin’ them, if you know what I mean, out they go.

This grass has gotta go!

Speaking of diggin’…there’s a patch of grass that has been gaining on me. It’s a variety that’s harder to get up, so now that it’s cooler, I’ll spend some time sitting out there, pulling it up.

Much better!

Another organic way of dealing with unwanted grass, is to cover it with black landscape cloth, or even black plastic garbage bags, for a season. It doesn’t look all that great, but it does a good job of helping to eradicate grass. You could always cover the black cloth or plastic with leaves or mulch. I did that last year in another area, and succeeded in getting rid of it. I still had to sit down and spend time pulling it up, but it was mostly dead, so it made it much easier.

Rock Hunting

Those rocks are part of a rock pathway I’ve been putting in my front yard at a snail’s pace. As I have time and inclination, I go “rock hunting” for just the right ones and add them to my path. I like rocks. I also use them as “hose guides” and to define the beds.

How Can Next Year Be Even Better?

Late summer is a great time to find good deals on flower bulbs, and trees and shrubs. My mother-in-law has a talent for finding huge bags of bulbs for .40, or other great deals. She shared some gladiolus bulbs with me, so I’m planting those. I also happened onto a Rose of Sharon. I was wanting to plant more of those, so I was excited to buy a small one on clearance for $6.99. Now to find a place to put it.

I’m planting more gladioli.

As I’m cleaning up, I become aware of plants that aren’t working well together or areas I want to build up. There are also some plants that spread, such as daylilies, Naked Ladies, and irises, that need to be thinned out. I can move some of them to areas I’m trying to improve. Fall is a good time for transplanting.

These daylilies need to be thinned.


Naked Ladies in need of thinning


My favorite gardening-related quote is one attributed to Audrey Hepburn:

“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” ~ Audrey Hepburn

There’s always next year, and autumn is the time to reflect on the past season and plan for an even better one next year. As I prepare my gardens for their winter’s rest, hope is already sprouting within me. Spring will be here before we know it and I’m already looking forward to enjoying the improvements I’m making this fall.

Falling for Autumn

Falling for Autumn

Fall is a busy time at my friends’ homes, too. They’ve invited you to visit and see what they’re up to. If you find a new blog you like, be sure to subscribe while you’re there.

Danielle of Spring Lake Homestead is from N.E. Wisconsin where she and her family have been enjoying an unseasonably warm autumn while preparing their home and homestead for the upcoming cooler weather.

Linda from Apron Strings & other things spends her days homeschooling her youngest four children, nurturing a heart for homesteading while living on the edge of urban New England.

Terri Steffes lives with her husband in a New Urban neighborhood in historic Saint Charles, Missouri. She writes about food, recipes, good books, travel and gardening, and decorating their craftsman style home. Our Good Life features many aspects for quality living.

Angela is The Inquisitive Farmwife and she loves learning new skills and sharing knowledge about the crazy journeys that life takes her on!

Michelle is enjoying fall on her New England homestead while counting down the days until her book–Sweet Maple–is in print. In the meantime, she’s giving away a maple SUGAR eBook over on

Kathi and her husband are racing against the first frost in central Oklahoma. She encourages and inspires your homesteading dreams through her blog Oak Hill Homestead.


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Garden in Review



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      Michelle Curren

      Yes, you should! The bulbs poking up are one of my most-anticipated signs of spring. What are your favorites? I love tulips and daffodils.

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  1. apronstringsotherthings

    What an enjoyable visit! I’m a fan of low-maintenance, too. And I always enjoyed bringing in Queen Anne’s Lace for my wildflower bouquets. I think you are the first person I’ve met who actually plants it on purpose! How nice it is to tend the garden and prepare it for winter with the promise of life and blooms again in the spring.

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  2. mernaberna

    My phlox did not do well this year. Some plants never or barely flowered. A beautiful coral-colored rose bush that I planted last year….I now see that even though I’ve got it in a super hot, sunny spot, it still gets black spot like crazy. And the flowers only look fabulous in cool weather – in hot weather, eh. Almost all the wildflower seeds I planted last winter did not come up, so I need to make plans to plant again and give extra TLC. One plant of Mexican Hat did come up…very nice, also orange-yellow poppies, and a couple of others that I don’t know the names of since I planted a wildflower mix. Calla lilies that I planted never bloomed; they better bloom next time. My purple verbena that I dug out of a ditch and transplanted into my flower garden a couple of years ago, spread like crazy and did super. I’m having to trim it back now. I have a successful fall salad garden right now, but I’ll have to cover it for a freeze coming up. Gardening has such a large learning curve.

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      Michelle Curren

      Yes, it does, but I think the challenge is part of what engages me. It was an “off” year for me, too. Which type of Phlox do you have? Yay for the verbena!

  3. Kathi

    You have such a pretty garden, Michelle. I love those Asiatic lilies too, they smell heavenly, don’t they? Thank you for the garden tour and your thoughts about what worked, what didn’t, and what you want to change. 🙂

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      Michelle Curren

      Yah, that’s where I’m getting to. I love roses, but some of them are just too much trouble, at least in my climate. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment!

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