Plant Newbies

June 16, 2014

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Befores, afters, mood boards, plans, failures, wins. We’ve done a lot of projects, and they’re all here. 

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If I could (I know I could) go back to school, I would get a degree or take a class–something! anything!–in landscape design. And/or computer science. And accounting. Ha! But really, I wish I knew more about landscape design and plants in general. It’s been a struggle and a fear for us since purchasing our last house. Fortunately, both of our homes had nice mature landscape–trees and shrubs galore. Unfortunately, it all needs a lot of work and I don’t know the first thing about it. So, we have generally maintained what we could, weeded like crazy and removed what was dead. And here’s a shocker–never planted a thing!

In our last house, we were primed and ready for a garden after making our own raised beds, but moved unexpectedly before we could actually make use of them. So yes, we embarrassingly have never planted a thing in either one of our houses, but that changed this weekend. You may remember a couple weeks ago, we tore out a bush in front of our house that was dying and generally gnarly. Remember, we’re good at that part. And it was so painfully plain after it was gone, we got up enough courage to pick some plants out for the plot.



While it used to have one, weirdly spaced, large bush, I thought a few things to fill in the area would look nice. We really don’t know a thing about plants, but I feel like I am pretty good with color and shape and spacing so we set out to a local nursery in town (Treehouse Nursery) hidden away to see what we could find. The wonderful thing about local nurseries is they will generally carry what grows well in the area. So all we were left to do was make sure the plants we chose were good in full to partial sun and would fit well in the space.

photo 2

The nursery was breathtaking. It had 5 large greenhouses filled with flowers and ground cover and, ahh, it made me want to learn and study all about each one. In the center of all of these greenhouses, was an area brimming with trees and shrubs–which is where we headed. I am a shrub kinda gal when it comes to exteriors. We decided on three different shrubs (a Goldflame Spirea, which we already have in our outside bed and it does so well, a Black Lace Elderberry, love the intense purple/black finely cut leaves of this one and and evergreen bush. We also picked up 3 pots of the same decorative grass–Purple Fountain Grass to fill in–all of it came to $112. Which, as newbies, we were happy about.

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When we got home, we played around with the arrangement a little, keeping in mind how large the Spirea and Elderberry will get especially.

photo 1 copy

Getting them in the ground only took us about 20 minutes. We both looked at each other and said, “We need to do more of this!” It was fun, quick and rewarding.


Although they are still young plants, they will grow and fill out and we can’t wait to watch their progress. Outside work, landscaping and maintaining, is h-a-r-d! It takes time and the results aren’t always immediate, but we got a little taste of what we’re in for and we are already excited to tackle another area.

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What do you think?

  1. […] installed around our back/side yards. It has been heavenly for Greta and Charly (and us!). We also tore out a bush and planted some new shrubs. Painted the front door. Worked on our grass. And put up a […]

  2. I’m in the same boat as you with the landscaping apprehension!

    It’s funny because inside my house, I instinctively know what to do and feel confident in my decisions. But with the lawn, I’m constantly second guessing myself. I’ve been taking my time to figure out what exactly I like in an outdoor setting and doing a bit of research to find the right plants, so I appreciate you sharing the names of the ones that you picked.

    I finally got around to making some small improvements out there in the past few weeks, which I’ve been sharing on my blog.

  3. Kensley says:

    We JUST finished doing the sprinklers in our backyard (tonight is the big test to see if they work! Eeek!) We went to Home Depot the other day to pick out plants and I found myself pointing to every stinking shrub and saying “Will that last in this heat? I like it”. Turns out, I like A LOT of different plants, and they ALL work in the Arizona summer. Now I need someone to decide what ones will go well in my backyard, because I know nothing and can’t decide!!

  4. I love working in our yard! I’m constantly re-arranging our plants to spots that fit better and fill things in. It’s much harder to work as I go, like doing a vignette inside, but it still works.

  5. We had a complete overhaul to do on our yard and are slowly (very) learning about what to plant when and what might work… it’s hard, but we are loving it as well. you are right – it’s very rewarding!

  6. I feel your apprehension and pride. We’re fairly new to landscaping too and have decided to just go the trial and error route, because it’s a tough thing to learn about on the internet (way harder than say, installing crown molding because there are so many variables). Putting plants in the ground is always rewarding though! Good luck with them!

  7. Brittany says:

    I used to have purple fountain grass when I lived in Western SD. It’s beautiful, but didn’t last the winter. I’m not sure what you need to do, but on that one, I’d research how to prepare it for winter before the snow dumps on it. My spirea seems pretty hardy, though!

    I’m not an expert, but I’ve had a few summers of landscaping, and it gets better each year as I experiment, research and move my plants around.

    Echoing Jennifer above–any new plants to the garden need a really good soak right away. It’s a shock to be transplanted from a pot.

  8. I like your choices! We don’t know much about landscaping either, but our house (that we bought a year ago) came with a carefully chosen and maintained ornamental garden in the backyard. We’ve been keeping up with it as best we can figure out, using a lot of online resources. It’s hard because we don’t want to ruin anything!

    Sometimes I think trial and error is the only way to learn about these things. And hearing about what has worked for other people. Good luck with your new shrubs!

  9. Jennifer says:

    Keep in mind that those two new bushes will need a lot of water in their first year, or they won’t build the strong root system they need to stay beautiful for years to come. They need at least one inch of rainwater every week, and if you don’t get that you’ll need to supplement by watering them either with a soaker hose for an hour or with a standard garden hose for one minute.

    If there is a university extension service in your county, you should inquire about master gardener classes. The University of Idaho sponsors the master gardener program, which provides low-cost instruction in various aspects of gardening and horticulture. Membership involves classes, advice, and community service opportunities, which might provide some fun opportunities to involve Greta; when my mom was a master gardener, we helped her with several projects planting flowers in public areas in our community!

    • Julia says:

      Thanks for that link! I am definitely going to look into that program–it sounds like just what I’m looking for! Also, we have a sprinkler system for these beds, so they should get adequate water.

    • Anonymous says:

      I was going to suggest this too! You will be an expert on plants, natives and invasive growers. So many people don’t understand that non-native plants, while they may be pretty, are harmful to both land and animals. You will love your classes!

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