Green Garden Dreams

Now is the time of the year when the leaves turn, the nights get deliciously chilly, and us gardeners' thoughts turn lightly to planning. 

Not that I'm a Gardener, mind you. Just a gardener. I'm still incredibly new to the process and kind of bumble my way through it. Don't know what that plant is? Let it grow for a few months and let's see it we like it! Planting tomatoes in a raised bed? What could possibly go wrong? (I'll you what could go wrong. 7 foot frankenplants, that's what. Next year we're scaling that back a bit.)

The average Madison backyard, thanks to old-fashioned semi-urban neighborhoods and urban planning around four lakes, is shady, inclined, and approximately the size of a postage stamp. Ours is the exact opposite - a mostly sunny, flat expanse of unlimited potential. 

King, WI, by hntr on city-data.com

King, WI, by hntr on city-data.com

The previous owner was quite the gardener in her day. I thank her every time I discover a new floral treasure (hello, evening primrose? for real?) but she had less energy as she got older and her style was a bit old-fashioned.

I plan my garden like i plan my wardrobe: as if i had endless money, time, and energy.  In my mind I have a beautiful stone patio with a pergola covered in clematis and grapevines, a water feature, a built in fire pit, six raised beds for the veggie garden, peonies and lilacs and alliums and tea roses shoved in every available corner, and islands of six foot decorative grasses providing privacy from the old man next door. Instead we've got this:

No man's land. What would you do with this? 

Blah. Blerp. Derp. In the above photo (taken maybe June) you can see our back door with our silly little deck and the main feature right behind the house: shade. Luxurious, lie in the grass, read a book, and sip a mint julep shade. While this is good for my complexion, it's shit for flowers. You know what thrives in shade? Lamb's quarters and Creeping Charlie. Aka weeds. There's a peony bush holding on and some stunning double day lilies, but not much else has really taken hold, resulting in those embarrassing vacant-lot style dirt patches. In addition, there lies our 20 year old, rickety, obnoxiously loud air conditioner, squatting like a warthog in a bad mood. Ain't no hiding that thing, no matter what we plant.  

Last October when I was in the hospital (for the second time!) my mother kindly planted bulbs all along the vague kinda-maybe edge there. I don't even remember what she planted (maybe poppies?) because not one came up. Not one! I told you I wasn't a Gardener.  That's the thing about plants; sometimes they work the way you expect, and sometimes they toss you a leafy middle finger and refuse to cooperate. And usually, it's because you screwed up somehow. 

So what to do, at least until we win the lottery and I get my beautiful back patio? At the least I'm edging it with some bricks this spring to bring some kind of definition to the space.  I also suspect I need to teach myself how to divide bulbs and spread out those day lilies a bit. After that, I'm not sure. I love decorative grasses, sedum, allium - lots of texture and movement and softness. Not many plants fit those criteria and thrive on three hours of sun a day. 

Lucky I've got a good five months of winter to make my plans.