Oh, nothing. Just pruning trees and reading gardening books. Like I do.

When I lived in Nashville, I was an associate editor at a publisher of botanical guides, and the only information I retained is a scattered list of scientific names and a few opinions on trees and plants that seemed pretty. Acer rubrum! Dicentra spectabilis! Echinacea purpurea! All pretty! (I also know that most authors of botanical guides are completely delightful, unless they are most definitely NOT delightful. The same can be said for authors of dental books! These are my opinions only!)

We moved into our house in August of last year, and now it appears that spring has sprung. (I swear I don’t talk like that in real life. I actually don’t talk much at all in real life.) Because more than one neighbor has referred to our house as The House With All The Trees, I figured it might be a good time to wrap my head around what we have and what we need to maintain our horticultural street cred. (I never say street cred. I’m on my third cup of powdered chemical coffee this morning and I have about 35 things that I need to do today. Instead of doing them, I thought I would sit down and type. Because that’s what I LIKE to do. Here I am. Hi there. Hi. Hi.)

Back up to a few weeks ago. A good friend of mine came over to visit, and she brought me a beautiful orchid. It is gorgeous and like the glass punch bowl that we received as a wedding gift, it scared the crap out of me because I didn’t want to screw it up. I conveyed this information to my friend, and she told me that a person is either a plant person or NOT a plant person, and that you can choose to nurture a plant or you can toss it when it’s past the blooming stage. She then told me how simple it is to keep an orchid alive. (Water it once a week. Honestly. That’s it.)


This changed everything. I know I can’t be a master gardener right out of the gate. I also know that flowers and plants shouldn’t be stressful. They’re just like lemon bars. Nothing but trial and error and hosing down the aphids. (They’re nothing like lemon bars, really.)

Anyway. On Saturday, we purchased two Verbena plants, three Asiatic Lilies, a Columbine, and a Lilac. (The Columbine and Lilac weren’t willing to pose for the photo.)


We then weeded and mulched the two big patches of dirt in the front yard (we call them our yard kidneys) and threw those flowers into the ground. (More flowers will be planted as time goes by. My goal is to have blooms from spring to fall.)


I pruned our Blue Chip Juniper.
I bought Gaillardia, Butterfly Weed, and Purple Coneflower seeds.
I learned that a Sand Cherry is NOT a Red Bud.


We’re just getting started.

In the next few weeks, I’m going to introduce myself to our Buckeye, Dogwood, Tulip, Oak, Yoshino Cherry, White Pine, Bayberry, Yew, Burning Bush, Spirea, Liriope, Fringetree, Japanese Red Maple, and Serviceberry. (I will thank the Serviceberry for its service, which is a ballsy move. Sometimes people (and trees) don’t realize I’m just trying to be funny. We’ll see what happens.)

Oh. Wait. The only reason I know we have those trees is because Jeff found the (weird but super helpful) landscaping map from when the house was built in 1996.


I welcome any and all gardening advice!
I would have never said those words three weeks ago! ‘ ‘ ‘text/javascript’>

13 thoughts on “Oh, nothing. Just pruning trees and reading gardening books. Like I do.”

  1. I believe that Verbena is toxic to dogs. So be sure to plant in an area where they cannot chew on the plant.

  2. Well you know me and advice – I always have some if it’s solicited (and try not to have any when it’s not – but sometimes can’t help myself!).
    It is awesome to know what you have – because then you can find out how to care for it, if you like it.
    My biggest advice: if you don’t like it – feel free to get rid of it and plant something else!!! Our house was beautifully landscaped in a very tidy pattern, with some plants we liked, and some plants that we didn’t actively hate but didn’t really love either. Over time, we’ve made the yard our own. (Color preference, varied foliage, sentimental love for particular flowers, etc.) It’s much more “organic” (ha! not meant as a pun) now, and much less “formal gardens”-esque. But now, we feel the love for all the plants!!
    I recommend walking around garden centers and/or arboretums, and writing down the names of things you like – and whether they are sun or shade, how tall, and when they bloom. Try to find some that are not as well known – and have more “unusual” things (if they only have red geraniums and white impatiens and Stella D’oro lilies, then you need to find another place). Then – you can start to think about the things you would like to add over time. It’s an evolution, for sure. Sometimes you will plant something – and for whatever reason – it just won’t be happy there. “Bloom where you’re planted” – while biblical, is not strictly followed in the plant world, it seems. So you might have to move things from time to time until they find their spot.
    Also – you’ll be surprised by how many things do well even if you mostly practice benign neglect.
    Finally: catalogs. One can while away the many hours looking at the pretty pictures. (And if you live in MN, wishing you lived in a different hardiness zone….). I like John Scheepers very much – but there are many others.
    I’m so excited for you! I know you love flowers (see also: posts about a rose bush) and it can be the pastime of many years, if you enjoy it. (Kinda like knitting!)

  3. So my last job involved taking care of my boss’s plants, most of which were beautiful orchids given to him by friends and colleagues. This stressed me out to no end because they are temperamental, but after about a year I buckled down, watched a bunch of youtube tutorials, read a bunch of blogs and then took care of them like a champ. My orchid advice! Replant. The medium in which they arrive in the stores is ideal for shipping but not ideal for longevity. Google some videos and they’ll show you how to remove the packed moss, remove dead roots and replant in a nice bark mixture that allows for proper drainage. Watering once a week is good; you want the bark to be moist but not wet or bone dry. Check out a good fertilizer to keep your phal healthy. And remember that the flowers dying are just a part of the life cycle, but a healthy orchid will keep nice shiny leaves and will sprout new roots (and hopefully spikes a couple times a year). A lot of people think they killed their orchid once the flowers and stem die. This website is excellent. I used it for most of my orchid FAQ during my learning process: http://bklynorchids.com/orchid-care-faqs/ Once you learn a little about them, the care is very simple. :)

  4. My bit of wisdom is that, if a plant requires too much pruning in the form of size reduction in order to fit in its allotted space, then it needs to be moved or removed altogether. Constant trimming is a waste of effort, since the plant will continue to grow into its genetically-determined size.

    Having said that, I just remembered you said these were all planted circa 1996, so most should be near full size by now and it should be apparent whether anything needs to be moved.

  5. I have no plant advice. I would like to think of myself as a plant person, but…well. Wait. Wait. I do. I do have one piece of advice. Prune the hell out of all of your trees, shrubs, and probably not the orchid [wink, wink]. What I do like, however, is how you write. I love your relatable conversational tone. And my guess is that you will correlated that sort of relatable connection to your yard. Do I make any sense? Anyway, good luck! Seriously!

  6. I have no idea when I added your blog to my Feedly (I haven’t had much chance to read from it recently) but I want you to know I just played catch-up and thoroughly enjoyed your writing style.

    That is all – carry on with your day.

  7. <–florist's daughter
    Never learned to take care of plants, because I never had to. Luckily, I did learn to appreciate those that could.
    I married a man who's grandmother would be trendy now. She ate what she foraged and she appreciated the beauty of both flora and fauna. She could also coax a charcoal briquette to flower. She passed on these super powers to Dr. Pharm.

    Your yard must be amazing. Enjoy!

  8. Don’t let the spirea get out of control. It can get overgrown in no time. Also, it’s been my experience that mosquitoes hang out around spirea, so keep that in mind.

  9. I’m so excited for you — and your friends above have already given plenty of excellent advice. Gardening CAN be like lemon bars, y’know? I mean, cooking is not something most of us were ever really good at until we had to, like, do it. Trial and error will definitely get the job done. Those thumbs of yours are probably a lot greener than you think!

  10. I was told by a young man in IKEA that all I needed to do for my orchid was give it an ice cube once or twice a week. So far so good. I haven’t put much effort into decorative gardening, but I’ve been thinking of planting a pretty tree in the front yard. I would start simple. Also consider contacting your local Extension office. They have good advice on what plants to grow in your area. You said you have deer. They will eat your plants, so ask about plants that deer will not really like to eat. You don’t want to spend a lot of money on a pretty plant that will get eaten. That’s my two cents.

  11. Butterfly bushes. AKA Buddelia. They bloom all summer, they’re drought resistant, and the only thing you have to do to them is whack them back hard in the winter, say the first of February. Mine would get 10 feet tall and covered in blooms and butterflies.

    I like things that bloom that you can plant and pretty much walk away from. I don’t have a green thumb!

  12. Based on the plant list you provided, it sounds lovely! The best and cheapest advice you can get is from the local horticulture organization. There tends to be a perception that garden clubs and horticulture people are really snooty, but in fact they are usually lovely men and women who are *really* into plants. They also know everything there is to know about what will or will not grow in your zone and why the dogwood didn’t bloom this year. And they LOVE to share.

    I am not a plant person, but my mother and my husband are both crazy plant people. Find a nice plant person who likes to knit and take her for tea. You will not regret it. Happy Spring!!

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