I got some goooood plants. The only non-natives are pink catmint, bronze fennel, and a couple of hyssops–I’ve had fantastic luck with catmint and the hyssops, so definitely wanted more of those, and the bronze fennel is supposed to be an amazing plant–it gets like six feet tall and is a host for black swallowtail butterflies. The blog of a Chapel Hill gardener (which a reader suggested!) raved about them, so I’m definitely gonna give ’em a try.

Mostly, though, I loaded up on native species. Wild nodding onion (apparently this one gets pink flowers and spreads like gangbusters–they recommend it for "filling in." Given how well the chives did last year here, I have high hopes.) sundrops, woodland creeping phlox, a native purple spiderwort, a salmon-colored giant lobelia, and something called "golden ragwort" which is a native wildflower here and apparently does well as a ground cover in our moist clay soil. Given that I have a lot of ground to cover, I hope it performs as advertised.

I have this hope that by next year, I’ll know what actually works well in my yard, and then I can buy more of it.  At the moment, it’s lots of single specimens. Which can look cool, don’t get me wrong, and I’ll never be one of those people with the huge formal massed plantings of tulips of whatever, but it’d be nice to have larger groupings instead of a quilt made of very small patches.

Unfortunately, I also have this sneaking suspicion that every gardener, no matter HOW long they’re in a place, is hoping that by next year, they’ll know what actually works.

Still, it’s improving. (I’ve at least learned a lot about what doesn’t work…coreopsis, for example, appear to hate me. Probably too wet.) I now know a couple of good plants for the yard, and were I sensible, I would probably just plant a dozen of each and call it good, but where’s the fun of that? Not that the bees would object to a garden made of nothing but hyssop, lantana, and catmint, I suspect–and if I had only a few square feet to work in, I might plant just that!–but I crave more variety, and there’s more than just bees to consider.

In the interests of such variety, I’m trying a couple of grasses this year. I have generally been a fan of the flowers more than anything else, but native sea oats make neat seedpods, so I’ll give them a try, and the spectacular gold sweet flag might be a nice textural contrast. (And if they don’t work, eh, live and learn.) My tendency is to use grasses sparingly…I know too many people who have had to take out stands of pampas grass, a feat which requires either serious machinery or back-breaking labor.

To anchor the back of the border, where it joins the wooded area, I’m trying a couple of native shrubs–again, if any of them actually perform well, I’ll put in more. The one I’m most interested in is the buttonbush. (Izzat cool looking or what?) I’m also trying a small anise tree in the shade, and a painted buckeye over in the Deathbed, so we’ll see. And there’s a black cohosh, which is apparently a gorgeous full-shade native IF it blooms…we’ll see how it does…

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