We’ve made it: another week down in our self-isolated lives. Jake and I were heading to bed last night and we were talking about how it’s actually going by pretty quickly — for us here in Nashville, we’ve just hit the six-week mark. Can you believe that?! My life is still very normal: I work for a family where the parents are both essential workers, so the nannying show must go on. I’m very grateful to not only have my job, but to also soak up this time with the girls I nanny since this is our sixth and likely our last summer together.
With summer comes flowers, and with self-isolation due to COVID-19 comes a lot of spare time. If you know me, then you know I can’t sit still for long. It’s a blessing and a curse. So I’ve planted my seeds for the growing season, and I’m so excited to tell you about what I have planned and where I’m drawing inspiration from.
Shavonda Gardner’s Cottage Bungalow Potager
First up: Shavonda Gardner’s Cottage Bungalow Potager. If you follow Shavonda on Instagram, you’ll know that #shavondamademedoit is REAL. That woman is an absolute design and generally-good-idea POWERHOUSE. I’ve been following Shavonda for a few years, and her backyard potager (basically a fancy word for kitchen/ornamental vegetable garden) project is coming to a close and… wow. WOW. WOW. I want to redo my entire backyard garden now.
I’m using her garden as inspiration for a few reasons. I LOVE the soft feel she has going on: the warm cafe lights, the welcoming radiant path lights, and the soft round cobblestone borders. I haven’t pulled the trigger on a border yet — mostly because I’m torn between trying to give my home a more cottage-y feel vs the traditional 1960’s stone and lines that the house has already. But her cobblestones give me that feeling. And her path lights. Starting to think that this is me confirming to myself that I need both.
English Cottage Gardens
I’m more generally inspired by English cottage gardens, and while I’ve got a few years to go before I feel like I’ve curated a space like this. I just adore the messy, wild-growing style of a cottage garden. I think the whimsical nature it gives to a home is so indescribably beautiful and ornate. Inside my house: give me clean lines and minimal whimsy. Outdoors: exact opposite. I think cut gardens look their best when they’re allowed to run wild.
I think my favorite thing about an English cottage garden is how full they look. They appear to be bursting at the seams; overflowing with blooms and greenery. Simultaneously delicate and heavy. Now that I’m looking at these, I think I need more rose bushes… *makes mental note for next year*.
The Secret Garden
Ha – okay, hear me out! This book sent my imagination into overdrive as a kid. I wanted my own secret garden so badly. The idea that cultivating something dead and tired into something beautiful changes you as a human being is such a beautiful testament to the power of nature and something that resonates deeply within myself.
As an adult, when I go out to tend my garden, I still think about Mary and her secret garden and the way she cared for it and was able to transform both her life and her garden and share its joy with others. It really is like a form of magic, watching something dead turn into something living. Watching new seedlings turn into buds turn into flowers. Cutting flowers and giving them to friends and neighbors and learning more about your garden and yourself every new growing season. Magic. It’s magic.
My Garden Plans for 2020
In my cut garden, I prefer to have a mix of annuals and perennials. Annuals are flowers/plants that you have to re-plant every year. Perennials are flowers/plants that come back year after year.
The perennials I have act like anchors to the rest of my garden: I know where they are, I know they’ll be there next year, and I can plant around them to compliment each other. My perennials consist of a few shrubs, a row of boxwoods, candy floss, a lilac bush, hydrangeas, hibiscus (Mocha Moon), a dwarf variety of black crepe myrtle, echinacea (coneflower), some phlox that is verrrrryyyy slowly training itself down my rock wall (gardening will teach you to be so very patient), and a few bunches of black eyed Susans.
The annuals I’m consistently drawn to are zinnias of differing varieties, four o’clocks, amaranth, and dahlias. I’ve learned the hard way that I need to plan better when it comes to planting annuals because last year, my giant zinnias TOOK OVER. They were allegedly able to reach a 3′ height… Um, they reached chest height on me, so more like 4-4.5′. WHEW. They were almost as tall as my hibiscus!
This year, I’m planting zinnias (Thumbelina, dwarf, and giant), dwarf dahlias, cosmos, forget me nots, lavender, amaranth, four o’clocks, and a variety of pink English daisies which are perennials. The English daisy likely won’t produce flowers this year, but alas — patience is key. They’ll flower next season and they’ll be beautiful.
For a closer look at where I’m planting what, check out my garden plan here:
I took way too few pictures of my garden last year, and I hope to document the flowers and their progress better this year. I didn’t realize how much I wanted to look back on my previous growing season until I couldn’t! We’ll see if my plan really turns out. This is my first year doing direct-sowing and I thought a rogue frost damaged a bunch of my seedlings, so I re-planted over the weekend. Welp, now a bunch of new seedlings are coming through and some are definitely the ones I thought were dead.
So, uh, let’s wait and see what happens, shall we?!
Looking back on just this one bouquet, I can already tell you I’m going to miss having the long stems and cone-shaped purple blooms of the butterfly bushes that I pulled out at the end of last season. The bushes themselves got too large for my garden, but man… those purple blooms! So pretty. I’ll probably also get my butt to Home Depot to get a few Gerber daisy plants (the white flowers pictured) after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted because I love the fuzzy, textural heads they grow.
That’s the best thing about a garden: they can be easily manipulated. Something not working out? Move it, or take it out completely. Missing something? Plant it! Obviously, if you plant later in the season, it’s more likely that your plants will suffer from transplant shock, but it’s not impossible to do. Almost all of my perennials are late-season transplants from a few years ago. Lots of late-day or early-morning watering, and you’re good to go.
Check back in a month or two and I’ll hopefully have some blooms coming in! My hibiscus are the most exciting for me to watch. Nothing beats counting down the days until a big, giant, fluffy hibiscus head emerges, which is usually around Father’s Day to late June. They usually bloom around the same time as a Magnolia blooms (another one of my absolute favorites).