HOUSE: Newburgh

Garden time: Let’s get serious!

Okay, so it’s been quite some time since I mentioned the garden, I know. Winter was a good excuse for a few months, but now that it’s warming up (let’s pretend yesterday never happened—it’s spring for real now, right? It’s going to be in the 80s this weekend, after all) I really have to get out there and get things moving again.

So this is where we were last June. Since then, two of the rhododendrons have died (the third is doing just fine, go figure), both azaleas bit the dust, and the elderberries teetered on the verge of death under the blistering August sun (they seem to be coming back, though). The fireglow Japanese maple has a fresh set of leaves coming in, the ivy is starting to perk up a bit, and the pachysandra is spindly but alive. The hostas are currently MIA (do they disappear in winter?).

The rest of the garden is basically a giant pile of dirt. I HAVE TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS. Last weekend we spent a few hours raking up leaves, getting the dead plants out of the ground, and moving some dirt around. We basically have no budget (meaning “no money”, not “I don’t need to make a budget because money is no object”) for the garden, and I just don’t know what to do. Hauling tiny (but heavy) bags of crushed stone and sand through the house became very tedious very quickly, but we’re still nowhere close to having the amount we’d need to provide proper the underlayment for a stone patio.

My head hurts. I just want some amazing landscaper to come and do this for me. (For free.)

In lieu of doing actual work on the garden, I’m just going to post a bunch of inspiration photos.



Yes, this again! And still my favorite.

(I can’t remember where this comes from. If you know, please tell me!)

(these five from Modular Garden)

(heavypetal; check out the full set)

(Walter Gropius house, from catfunt)

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  • Reply christina @ pardon my vintage April 21, 2009 at 2:50 pm

    All lovely, the Domino shot is my favorite as well. The nice weather is motivating me to get old projects done as well.

    I always underestimate how long it will take to get these sorts of things done. I remember lugging sand and stone through the apartment with an ex in order to refinish the back patio area, which was a *much* smaller space than what you’re tackling. I feel your pain.

  • Reply Olivia Jeffries April 21, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    Have you tried checking the ph level of your soil? Rhododendrons and azaleas love acid soil and won’t thrive anywhere else. Hostas are perennial and will die back during the winter – they really love the shade though so might not do to well if there isn’t too much else going on in your garden yet!

    Good luck with your garden – it has taken me many years to get a lush, green garden that is nice to sit in – give it time 🙂

  • Reply Daffodil Campbell April 21, 2009 at 3:21 pm

    Great inspirational photos !

    I did manage to drag enough sand and bricks to the yard to make a patio – but other then that, I kept the plantings VERY low key. We planted all herbs, and besides being useful for the kichen, they are very low maintenance. My best purchase (and the one that has thrived in all sorts of weather, and draught conditions as well) is lavender. Lavender is very hardy, can thrive in a variety of climates and locations, grows like CRAZY but doesn’t spread – it’s more like a shrub and just gets bigger, it smells great, has lots of other uses, and needs no maintenance whatsoever, besides some pruning.

  • Reply virginia @ where you hang your hat April 21, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    I love these. I’m a huge fan of “modern” landscaping and I dream of pruned boxwoods…someday.

  • Reply AB April 21, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    I used the Domino shot for our yard inspiration last year when we re-landscaped — I still need to put edging around our square beds, but I’ll try to get a recent picture for you. It looks great and is SO easy to maintain. It would be seriously, seriously simple for you to put in, too. All the plants are the same! There’s no hard decisions to make.

  • Reply donna April 21, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    All of these photos make me wish I had the time and money to tackle my yard. Is that a smoke bush in the second-to-last photo? I love those. I would also highly recommend corkscrew willows. They grow very quickly but don’t get very tall. I’ve grown a bunch for people from branch clippings too. They look great even in the winter.

  • Reply donna April 21, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    Also, I’m from Toronto so corkscrew willows are very hardy and would survive a NYC winter for sure.

  • Reply Anna at D16 April 21, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    Olivia: That part of the garden (under the Japanese maple) is pretty shady, so hopefully my Hostas will make a reappearance soon! I’m sure you’re right about the soil, but I’m too lazy to check. (I know, I know…)

    Daffodil: First of all, really? Daffodil? That’s amazing and wonderful. And I’m sure you’re sick of people saying that. 🙂 Second, YES, I love lavender! I have a nice patch of it in my front garden, which is actually thriving:

    front garden 3

    AB: Our major obstacle is not being able to get large quantities of stuff (gravel, stone, etc.) into the backyard. We don’t have access other than through the house/basement, so everything needs to be carried by hand. I long for a dumptruck full of gravel! But yes, photos please!!!

  • Reply Vicki at Piccolo Takes All April 21, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    Last year, we, too, started concentrating more on our urban garden (which is only 25 x 25 ft). Previously, we had put in two raised beds, just so we could get some veggies in.

    But, inspired by the Domino image and the first Modular Garden (above), we built a deck over an existing concrete pad, put in a small shed atop a gravel bed, replaced chain-link on one side of the yard with wooden fencing, and planted some Heuchera and grasses.

    Now, since I lost my job in January, we have much less (read NO) money to put into home improvements…yet, still have an unfinished fence, and tons of weeds where we were hoping to have slate. Wood, stone, and plants don’t seem expensive at first, but they quickly add up!

    Don’t be discouraged. Do what you can, when you can do it. It will eventually be a lovely space where you guys and the pups will love to spend time.

  • Reply elizabeth April 21, 2009 at 3:37 pm

    I’ve been reading your blog for a while and it’s quite awesome!

    I do have a suggestion for your garden and problem with the plants dying. If your soil is really compacted and lacking in nutrients, you might want to consider turning up the top 12″ or so of soil and mixing in a good quality compost. The pics in the linked post looked like you added top soil, but that probably wasn’t enough to add life to your soil. This was the case of the rental property I moved into last summer with the dead back “yard” (it’s so small, I don’t even know if it’s considered a yard). I spent a few days pampering the soil with a shovel and a few bags of compost… and it’s now flourishing. It was a lot of hard work, but it is definitely worth it!

  • Reply barb blair/ knack studios April 21, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    these photos are all so wonderful….I just love your taste ! I know whatever you do will be done right and will be just as breathtaking! xo

  • Reply Ryan April 21, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    I’m sure your hostas will come back. Mine haven’t started coming up yet, but some of my neighbors’ with sunnier exposures have. The hardscape is going to be the biggest commitment of time (and maybe money) but with a plan you could do it in stages. Maybe even use bark chips for some paths instead of gravel (not quite as heavy but won’t last as long). And create some “paths” with ground covers like creeping thyme and creeping plox (things you can grow from seed = cheap!)the plox isn’t suitible for walking on, but the thyme can take light traffic. It looks like you already have some in the front that’s filled in great so you could divide that up into lots of plugs and transplant to the back yard to fill in some space. (or is that pink alyssum?)

    Sage is another kitchen perennial that looks great (even has flowers) and doesn’t take much care.

  • Reply kate April 21, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    I just found out something wonderful that might be of help to you. If you buy your plants from Lowe’s, and they die, you can return them for a full refund. I’d much rather buy from locally-owned businesses, but this is really enticing, especially when I first started my garden and was unsure of my skill level.

    Gardening is hard! And expensive! Don’t be so tough on yourself. It’s like taking on a whole new hobby. I agree with Vicki: do what you can, when you can do it. There’s no harm in starting small and doing things little by little.

  • Reply theresa April 21, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    This is exactly where we are at too! This last weekend we wandered around our backyard (which we just cleared over half of it of overgrown all over the fence ivy) and got depressed – so much work and no $$ or time. I too just want someone to come in and design and implement it. Sigh. Instead I think we are going to have a landscape designer do a plan and we’ll attempt the implementation over the next few years. Good luck with yours! Love the pics – I have some of them marked too!

  • Reply Danna April 21, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    I am longing to get to my unfinished garden projects too. Yep, the hostas will die back in the winter, so they should be putting out new growth soon. Don’t feel too badly about the rhododendron… in my experience they are notoriously finicky. Is your space pretty shady? You may want to check out ornamental grasses… Most prefer sun, but there are shade loving varieties… a good choice for their general resilience and drought tolerance, and a larger pot can be easily divided with a shovel.. (budget friendly) I love your inspiration photos.. I have a notebook with the domino shot in it as well. The russian sage (Perovskia)in that photo is one of my favorites… lovely grey/blue foliage that takes very little attention and should be fairly inexpensive and easy to find. Actually, I have some that have have sitting around in pots patiently waiting to be planted, and although I forgot to water them all winter, they are happily growing new spring leaves. If your ivy is beginning to do well, you can always root cuttings in a bottle of water on a windowsill… free plants are hard to beat. Good luck with everything!

  • Reply monica April 21, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    I don’t know if you follow Baltimore Rowhouse (I don’t see it in your blogroll), but they’re also planning what to do with their skinny back yard. Good for them: alley access. Bad for them: RATS!

    Can you bribe a bunch of friends to help schlep gravel/mulch/dirt/compost/bricks/pavers thru the basement? (maybe food? interior dec help? paint?) I know exactly how boring/tiring that is, but the more people doing it, the faster it goes, and the less total trips everyone has to make.

  • Reply monica April 21, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    … that would be fewer total trips. 😛

  • Reply Kyle April 21, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    At least it looks like you are working with somewhat of a blank canvas. Why don’t you take advantage of the current economic climate and hire some broke kids to do the grunt work for minimum wage?

  • Reply Laurel April 21, 2009 at 4:54 pm

    Can you get a wheelbarrow through the house/basement to the backyard? That would help quite a bit with the schlepping.

    I think lavender is a good idea–as are ornamental grasses like in the Domino picture. Sage might work as well. Maybe if you focus on getting some beds and plants in first, that would help with how you feel about it.

    Have you heard of square foot gardening? Seems like you’re looking for a modern cousin to that.

  • Reply Anne (in Reno) April 21, 2009 at 4:56 pm

    I would focus on the veg garden on the sunny side for now – you can build raised beds for not too much moolah and start stuff from seed, and compost and soil are way cheaper and easier to schlep than stone and gravel.

    Also I have a tiny flagstone patio in my backyard now – my brother-in-law found someone getting rid of his flagstone FOR FREE via Craigslist. It’s always worth looking. Our backyard started out with a lot of nasty red lava rock and I got somebody to pick it up because I stuck it in the free section – you never know what you might find.

  • Reply monica April 21, 2009 at 5:24 pm

    Oh, another suggestion (and I can’t remember where I read it — comment thread on You Grow girl, maybe?): get wood planking for raised beds from a fencing supply company. The author said they got stuff for a substantially reduced price because it had been sitting out and looked “too weathered.”

    Second Craigslist and FreeCycle for stuff — all kinds of things show up there.

  • Reply Kate F. April 21, 2009 at 6:13 pm

    This may be totally impossible and crazy, but in some of the old pictures it looks like you do have back neighbors who might have street access? If so, could you bride one of them to let you wheel wheelbarrows through their yard, and remove enough slats from the fence temporarily to shovel the stuff into your space?

    I don’t know, maybe that’s dumb.

    I bet your hostas will emerge soon. We have them around the base of our building and they have sprouted in the last week, even where workmen dug up half the space to do something with drainage, never finished, and left the heap of dirt in place. The hostas sprouted in the pile!

  • Reply Shilo April 21, 2009 at 6:20 pm

    when I had no money for my last yard, I made a soaked a couple stems from each bunch of fresh basil, cilantro, parsley etc that I bought for cooking.
    Once those cuttings sprouted roots they were moved to pots and later into the yard. a month or so following that, they were replanted into the ground.

    It sounds like a lot of work but the multitude of steps gave me ample opportunity to just do a tiny bit of work at a time and maximize my laziness. eventually, my backyard was overtaken with fresh herbs and my world ruled.

  • Reply Jane @ Beach House April 21, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    Did you check out here is the house Brooklyn backyard remodel on DIY network? May be some ideas there?

  • Reply Sue April 21, 2009 at 7:36 pm

    Anna, I know you are busy in your garden but I was hoping you could help me out with this. I found a pair of butterfly chairs at a local antique mall that are labeled as authentic. Never saw one in person, but have always loved the way they look, and oh my gosh, they are so comfortable to sit in! How can I tell if they are the real thing? The ones I found are black iron and have heavy canvas seats, one black, one red. They are asking $89 a piece. Any help would be greatly appreciated as these would be great on my balcony for the spring/summer season.
    Thanks a bunch!

  • Reply Adam April 21, 2009 at 8:02 pm

    Hosta do tend to “disappear” in the winter but if they did well last spring/summer they will be back. Mine are just barely starting to sprout, and those are my well established ones, I haven’t seen my news ones from my hosta garden yet. I would be glad to help you with the garden when I come to visit, whether it be planting or lugging stuff. I love the inspiration photos you have, they would look wonderful in the space you have. Have you thought of using honeysuckle at all? My mom says they are very hearty, I’m going to be planting a bunch soon on either side of my property to close it off from the neighbors.

  • Reply christine April 21, 2009 at 8:05 pm

    such great eye-candy. thanks for sharing!

  • Reply Courtney April 21, 2009 at 8:20 pm

    All gorgeous spaces! And surely whenever you do finish your backyard, it will be just a beautiful as these!

  • Reply Amy April 21, 2009 at 9:41 pm

    I always have grandiose visions for my yard, but then it gets hot outside and I remember I don’t like to sweat….blah. 🙁

  • Reply Anna at D16 April 21, 2009 at 9:42 pm

    Elizabeth: We actually did dig down pretty far and mix in compost/manure/sand (we have clay soil), but those two rhododendrons just didn’t make it. We planted one a couple of years ago that died, too, so maybe it’s just not meant to be.

    Ryan: Yeah, that’s alyssum, and it’s long gone (that photo is two years old). It went kind of nuts and I pulled it all out! There is lots of creeping Jenny and creeping Thyme in front of my house, though (again, that photo is old), so I may do some transplanting to the back. I want to avoid grass, I know that much!

    kate: Our Lowes goes one step further with this policy by selling plants that are already dead! Saves time and effort. 😉 The garden center we buy most of our plants from (Adams Fairacre Farms) actually offers a 2-year guarantee, but I don’t think we have the receipts for these guys anymore. I should check, though. I forgot about that!

    Danna: The back of the house gets a mix of sun and shade, but mostly sunny for most of the day. We took down a tree last summer and it kind of threw us off — we didn’t realize how much shade it had been providing. I’m glad it’s gone, but I’m having a hard time gauging the sun levels. The front of our house gets BLASTED with sun all day long, which is easy…

    monica: I do read Baltimore Rowhouse every now and then — I’ll have to stop over and see what they’re doing with their garden. 🙂

  • Reply Anna at D16 April 21, 2009 at 9:59 pm

    Laurel: The stairs going into our basement are way steep and bendy, so now wheelbarrow is going that way. Our only hope is to go in on the side, but that neighbor is…um…less than agreeable, to put it nicely.

    Kate F: Unfortunately, the house behind us is vacant (and has been for a long time), and I’m worried about being caught “trespassing” because there’s no one to ask for permission. Also, there’s a chain-link fence behind the wood fence. We could go in through the side (there’s a 4-foot passage between our house and the one next to us) where we have a gate, but as a said to Laurel, that’s easier said than done. I live in an area with a lot of rentals, a lot of vacant properties, and a lot of people who would really rather just be left alone and not pestered. I may just have to suck it up and go and talk to our neighbor, though. (*heavy sigh*)

    Jane: How funny, I just watched that last night! Not my taste at all, and reeeeeaalllllly high-budget, but always fun to see small gardens on TV. 🙂

    Sue: Knoll didn’t mark the Hardoy (butterfly) chairs, but if it’s not foldable, chances are it’s the real thing — or at least a very good copy. Either way, $89 is a good price. If you love them, go for it! (Skip it if they’re foldable, though.)

    Adam: There’s a TON of honeysuckle growing on the chainlink other side of the fence, so I know it will do well in the garden. I’m planning to do a combination of honeysuckle and clematis on one side, definitely!!

  • Reply Gillian April 21, 2009 at 10:38 pm

    The hostas will come back. They’re pretty hardy. The leaves die off in fall and new ones come back in the spring. If you look closely at the ground and gently touch around you should find pointy little pips coming up. Some types of hostas come up later in the spring, and you are in a colder zone than I am, so if you don’t find anything just yet give it some time. My hostas haven’t leafed out yet and I have some varieties still to come up.

  • Reply Shashi April 21, 2009 at 10:39 pm

    Hey Anna, I totally know how you feel about your yard because I feel the same way about mine! Although, at least you have dirt, my yard is all concrete..think dog fighting ring. Anyway, have you considered doing potted plants?

  • Reply Nina April 21, 2009 at 11:25 pm

    I’m not sure if anyone’s mentioned this already but keep an eye on Craigslist for anyone giving away plants. Some people are clearing out their gardens for other uses (pools, patios, etc). A few weeks back our local craigslist had someone giving away massive amounts of bamboo (full grown!) as long as you were willing to come pick it up. It certainly helps stretch the gardening budget.

  • Reply Benita April 22, 2009 at 2:06 am

    Oooh, that Domino shot is in my inspiration file too. Love it. Something like that would look stunning in your garden, but not min my cottage-y one unfortunately…

  • Reply Elisabet April 22, 2009 at 4:45 am

    I know the feeling, the positive thing is how fast one tend to forget. We carried (with a little help from family and friends) three tons (yes, 3000 kg) gravel and 1,5 tons of concrete slabs round our row-houses (ours is the third in the row) in buckets. Before that we had been digging up soil for a week to make room for the gravel. Then we spent about a week putting down the concrete. I swore I would never do such a thing again. But now I’m planning to do the same thing in the front of the house, we will not have to do the carrying arond the house and the digging there though, we will just replace the old concrete slabs. And we love our backyard now, we try to make the not-concrete part a jungle that blends with the nature that surrounds our houses (no fences) and we are slowly achieving that goal, we buy some plants but have got a lot for free from our parents gardens. One plant I can recommend that is very hardy, keeps its leaves during winter and, in Sweden at least, exists in almost every older garden, so you can easily get it for free, is bergenia.

  • Reply lindsay April 22, 2009 at 9:07 am

    Hi Anna,

    I’m in Michigan and the hostas are just now showing their faces here. I love the feel of the inspiration photos you’ve chosen. I’ve used some sculptural evergreens, ornamental grasses, and smaller trees to form the bones of my backyard. We’ve been here 3 years and last fall we were able to split existing plants and finish off the back area without buying a thing. So a little patience saved us hundreds of dollars.

    With the sectioned beds have you considered doing mostly veggies? We just added 6 beds to our yard this year, for growing food.(yes, we’re in the city with a small yard as well) I decided if anything else was coming into our yard, it was going to earn it’s keep. I’ve started most things from seed, which is obviously cheaper than heading to a nursery…(though I find the farmers market has some great deals on plants)You don’t feel the instant gratificaton that you get sticking a big 2 month old plant in the ground, but again, it’s cheaper.

    We’re a zone 5-6, which I believe you are too. I’ve already started snap peas, lettuces, kale, broccoli, onions, and carrots ouside. Tidy rows of lettuce can be very attractive. Snap peas can be grown on a trellis or you can get a bush variety. Kale, flowering cabbages, and romanesco broccoli have great coloring and are visually appealing. Pole beans grown on teepees or whatever creative alternative you can think of, can add some height to your garden. You could do an herb garden in one box, which is always nice to have too. Strawberries in hanging baskets are so lovely.

    One more suggestion…do you compost? By composting your yard waste, kitchen scraps, etc. you could enrich your soil without having to buy bags and haul them through the house. We keep a worm bin, and outdoor compost and it has been wonderful for our soil.

    It all sounds like alot of work, but after the initial time investment, it’s really not. And if you save seeds year to year, which you should, it’s very low cost too.

  • Reply Alicia April 22, 2009 at 9:19 am

    I would bite the bullet and go talk to your neighbors. We had the same issue of being in an area that is coming back and not having direct access to the back yard. After many loads of mulch we decided to go ask next door if they would mind if we backed a truck up in their yard. It turned out that they couldn’t have cared less and now we have converted part of the fence to have a gate door on that side so we can unload again down the line if we have to. It never hurts to ask and most of the time unless they have a really nice garden then they won’t even care. After all you are increasing their property values by making your home and yard nice. Now we can have a really nice back yard with only half the amount of work that we started with.

  • Reply zee April 22, 2009 at 9:21 am

    I feel your pain on every level – big dirt yard, no money, no access except through the house. At least you have your fence up though, that’s something! I love your inspiration photos, I think they’ll go straight into my garden inspiration file too! The garden you have no source for is actually right here in Dublin, 2 minutes from my office ( and is in my inspiration file too!

  • Reply Dewi April 22, 2009 at 9:32 am


    I’m sort of joking!

  • Reply sadie April 22, 2009 at 10:26 am

    Great ideas! I love the inspiration photos with the Boxwood. I love Boxwood massed out in any yard. It mixes modern with classic!

  • Reply Anna at D16 April 22, 2009 at 10:38 am

    You all are so helpful. Last night I was inspired enough to draw up a new plan. 🙂

    Shashi: I’m a little envious of your cement!! You can put pavers right down on top of it, and just bust up little sections where you want to plant stuff. You can even tile over it if you want! Dirt is overrated, trust me. Of course, the part of our yard that IS cement is totally disgusting, broken-up aggregate, which I’m going to try to cover with moss and rocks and potted plants, soooo…

    Elisabet: I just looked up Bergenia to see if it’s okay for my zone (it is), and the description said “about the size and shape of Barack Obama’s ears”. LOL! Sounds good to me! I’ll check at my garden center to see if they carry it — sounds like a nice option for ground cover. Thanks!

    Lindsay: Yes, I’m in zone 6 (edging toward zone 7 because it’s an urban area with lots of concrete). We are definitely going to do veggies. I had a lettuce garden in Brooklyn that was really gratifying! I’m going to have to figure out how to keep out the squirrels and groundhogs (last summer a groundhog ate all of my herbs, right down to the roots), but I’ll make it work. I’m also planning to start composting this summer. Yay! Do you have a suggestion for a specific kind of composter? I want something that can handle yard compost AND food scraps together. Thanks for all of your suggestions!!

    zee: THANK YOU! I hate not knowing where a photo came from, somehow that one made it into my file without a credit. I’ll update it now. 🙂 And yes, the fence makes a huge difference. I’m so glad we had it done last summer instead of waiting any longer!

    Alice: Well, my neighbor certainly doesn’t have a “really nice back yard” (more like a bunch of poison ivy and old tires), but he also doesn’t want anyone walking on his property for any reason. We’ve had a lot of problems with this in the past (even when it was absolutely necessary, like having electrical work done on the side of the house!), and we really need to choose our battles with him carefully. He doesn’t care about how bad or nice our house (or his) looks or how it affects property value. It’s just a bad scene all around. :/

    Dewi: Don’t think I haven’t thought about cement and Astroturf!!! 😀

  • Reply coral April 22, 2009 at 11:14 am

    Gah, the backyard stuff is hard isn’t it? I keep trying to build it up slowly every year, but I haven’t a clue what my “style” is and every summer I just want to tear out and start over with a new idea. I think part of it is I really like these kinds of pictures you’re showing, which are all green on green, but when I head to the nursery I get seduced by all of those heady flowers!
    I like the idea of stones or gravel, but please don’t cover your yard in concrete, or anything else impervious. In an urban area these little plots of green are the only places where nature can do its thing, instead of relying completely on the storm sewer system.

  • Reply Lex April 22, 2009 at 11:56 am

    Wow, we have really similar taste in landscaping! I’m planning a redo of our backyard the summer, too. Here are some inspiration photos I took of a local hotel courtyard:

    We have the additional challenge of making the yard dog-friendly for a rambunctious two year old lab mix who has torn hell out of every plant I’ve bought. Fortunately, we have a budget and my husband’s in the process of finding a cheap-ish landscape designer to help us out. I’m hoping we can find someone who’ll trade consulting hours in exchange for website design!

  • Reply lindsay April 22, 2009 at 12:24 pm

    On groundhogs…I’m against trapping and closing off burrows because young ones can be left behind which is kind of sad. With your doggies in the yard this summer maybe it will deter them. Otherwise, I recommend fox urine. Sounds icky, but a little goes a long way. Groundhogs don’t want to be anywhere near a fox. It can be purchased at hunting stores or I’m sure you can find it online.

    As for the composter, we use an open bin method for now. We used salvaged palettes to make two compartments that are tucked into the back corner of our yard. If we had issues with vermin, we would have to use a different set-up. The small enclosed composters simply would not keep up with our yard waste, nor kitchen scraps. The enclosed bins also prevent good air circulation which is essential for proper breakdown. Our worm bin is inside the house, and is contained in a plastic storage bin with holes. It has produced the finest compost/fertilizer I’ve ever seen.

  • Reply heather April 22, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    I love your front garden – even if that is an older photo. I want to plant some lavender this year too.
    You’re not the only one with a pile of dirt for a yard (unfortunately I have dirt in the front too!) – I need major help. I can’t wait for the weekend to get in some garden time. 🙂

  • Reply kristinrose24 April 22, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    Hostas do disappear in winter, at least where I’ve lived (zone 4 & 5), but they’re peeking out of the ground now. So you might have hope with yours. Good luck on your garden!

  • Reply brand-eye April 22, 2009 at 5:31 pm

    my hostas just started peaking out and i am in pa. this summer i want to work on our garden too. i am dreading it already.

  • Reply Sarah April 22, 2009 at 7:22 pm

    I love Adams for plants, but we had the same luck (bad) with the rhododendrons and azaleas we got there a few years ago. I’m doing more small perennials these days, less investment and gives me a chance to see what works and what doesn’t on my property. Our hostas are just starting to pop up through the dirt, they look like little asparagus shoots right now 🙂 I bought some more hostas and day lilies at Sam’s Club today (not my favorite place in the world, but its good for certain things) and they had lots of other plants that come boxed and ready to plant (they’re like little root balls) for a good price. Might be worth checking out.
    This is a good time of year to find free pavers and bluestone when people are redoing their landscaping. If I notice anything local on freecycle or craigslist, I’ll email you.
    Also, my brother and sister in law just bought a house in Newburgh! You might even take the ferry in the morning with my brother, who knows!!

  • Reply Kristen April 22, 2009 at 9:29 pm

    Hi, I have been reading your lovely blog for awhile now, but have never commented….and really I know nothing about gardening (mostly I just kill plants!) but I remembered this recent post on Apartment Therapy about using shipping pallets for outdoor furniture, here is the link:
    I know you weren’t talking about furniture, but it occurs to me that shipping pallets can be gotten for free, are lightweight, so could be carried through the house, and, used creatively, could make an interesting “deck” or planting area…..

  • Reply mommy April 22, 2009 at 9:58 pm

    I haven’t had time to read all the comments, so this may already have been covered. If you bought your rhododendrons at Adams, they may take them back. I just found out today that they will do that. I think the areas you started working on last summer just need more time to establish, so replace those rhododendrons and sit back and sip your iced coffee!

  • Reply ambika April 23, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    I’m bookmarking this for when we finally get around to handling our own yard!

  • Reply verhext April 23, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    SO MANY COMMENTS, ANNA. My finger hurts from scrolling the mouse wheel. So forgive me if this has been mentioned: Are you planning on tilling in a layer of compost or rich top soil? Your ground looks kind of sad. It might help to keep the plants healthy and happy! It’s the sort of thing you’d want to do occasionally throughout the years anyway.

    I love how all of these photos are pretty seamless, and could almost be from the same (albeit huge) garden. You know your style!

    4 and 7 are my faves, could totally see these working in your space.

  • Reply jack April 23, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    Hi Anna, have you read ‘The Thrifty Gardener’ by Alys Powell? It is packed full of advice for gardeners who have no budget. Alys is British, but spent a lot of time living and creating stylish gardens in New York, so the book might be of interest to you. I would highly recommend it!

  • Reply StyleCarrot April 24, 2009 at 9:20 am

    I have a tiny, tiny, seriously dirty outdoor space outside my Boston condo. You may have just inspired me. Thanks!

  • Reply jack April 24, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    Sorry – Alys Fowler, not Alys Powell!

  • Reply Shilo April 26, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    vermicompost aka worm farming for compost!

    I went to Australia last year and everyone uses them. no smell, no turning, very very little maintenance, all with a little spigot on the bottom to release the ultra fertilizer juice leftover.

  • Reply Down Comforter April 26, 2009 at 11:44 pm

    Some beautiful spaces – I wish I had room for one of my own 🙂

  • Reply Tyler April 27, 2009 at 2:45 pm

    Lots of inspiration here

  • Reply kerry May 26, 2009 at 12:26 pm


    The third photo down of a courtyard is a hotel in Dublin called Number 31. The courtyard connects the two parts of the hotel.

  • Reply monique June 4, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    I LOVE all of your inspiration photos.

  • Reply becky August 9, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    You should check out some of the fun work of Martha Schwartz – there are a few monographs out there and her site is She likes to play with small landscapes combining historical precedent from traditional landscape architecture and art. The bagel garden is one of my favorites.

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