Happy first birthday to the garden at Lucas House

The garden at Lucas House celebrated its first birthday last week. A year ago, I had 1,200 plants delivered. In the ground they went, with the help of a couple of friends. The rest of the garden was planted in the fall.

Here’s an update of where it’s at. And where I’m at in relation to it.

  • The garden is clearly in “creep” phase. A lot of the plants are bigger at this time of year compared to May 2023, but they’re still not huge.
  • Some plants are doing very well. The Swamp Milkweed at the south side of the building, near the downspout, seem to be growing an inch a day. When I planted them they were the tiniest shoots.
  • The Pearly Everlasting, which I planted in fall, is doing well. As is the Slender Mountain Mint, which came as just seedlings this time last year and could not be planted until the summer.
  • Most of the Black-Eyed Susans are coming back. This plant is usually considered a biennial. The Joe Pye Weeds are coming back, slowly. The Heart-leaved Asters are doing well.
  • I’m delighted to say the Little Bluestem, which a critical part of the groundcover layer, is coming back very well. Already greening up and getting big. When I got these plants this time last year, they were barely above ground. (As are the ones I am selling in the Chicken Run. Have faith!)
  • The Wild Columbine is maybe struggling, but I also know from my experience at home it’s slow to establish.
  • The Lance-leaf Coreopsis, to my surprise, did not survive the winter for the most part. I wondered why this tough plant didn’t do well, then a friend pointed out it was near the sidewalk and probably got poisoned by salt over winter. I think she’s right – a lesson learned when it comes to siting plants.
  • The shadier, north side of the garden is looking good: the Nodding Onion, Pearly Everlasting and Prairie Smoke are doing well, as are some of the grasses, especially the cool-season species. I’m not sure about the Sideoats Gramma, however. I will give that few more weeks as it’s a warm-season grass.
  • Overall, I am pleased. But I’m also frustrated. I’m trying to fight my desire to have the garden looking wonderfully complete. This teenage stage is an awkward place to be. I know it will look great when it matures, but it’s not there yet. Another month – and then this time next year – it will look different.
  • To help it along, I am going to do something with the curved path on the north side – either add woodchips or gravel. It will make the garden look more finished – paths such as this are “cues to care” which help everything look intentional.
  • I’ve also decided this will be last year I use woodchip. It’s forest mulch in the garden’s first year for me from now on. It looks better and is probably better for the garden too. I only use mulch in the first year, and only when weed pressure is likely to be significant.

So that’s the update! The next month will be telling, so I will check back soon.