Bob & Ellen's Excellent Adventure

Black Sheep Tower House

Digging in the Dirt

May 27, 2021 Bob was back in Maryland, it was spring, and I wanted to DO something. It seemed like not much progress was being made on the house, while waiting for this and that to happen next. Things were happening, but slowly, and that’s just how it is these days. Work is being held up everywhere due to supply issues, etc. We just have to be patient…

While the guys were digging up the backyard, I had ambitions to dig up and plant the front of the house. (Literally, just like the theatre.. get it… back of the house; front of the house…!) I do have an affinity for flowers and plants, and although this project to make the front of the house welcoming seemed overwhelming, I had some time, and this was one way I could make some kind, or any kind, of progress happen. So I decided to turn the rock wall area into a perennial garden. (And, we love the lilacs)

As you might expect, my eyes and ambition are big. I started visiting the garden center sales and acquiring shrubs and plants – and pretty much everything I bought was on sale, at least 50% off. Because, well….

Think about it. I am trying to reclaim a “garden area” that was planted with some shrubs and lilies about 15-20 years ago, and has been supremely neglected. The Yankee in me wants to preserve some of the existing plantings, and add more plantings around them, while making it look intentional and amazing, yet doing it without the benefit of “infrastructure investment” (like backhoes and manpower). Seriously – by myself? Never mind the pervasive chipmunk invasion that has probably created an ant farm-type network of tunnels throughout the ground behind the wall…. And the extremely poor sandy soil only made worse by the misguided plastic-under-old mulch strategy of the last 15 years….

I am an amateur, and although I have grand ideas, it is probably best that I limit my expenditures to on-sale perennials and my own sweat equity for this project. Because. It seems like it will be literally years until I can have a “nice” front yard with plantings and a paved driveway and all that fancy stuff… but until then I am unwilling to have it look like a wasteland where nobody actually lives. So, if I invest a few hundred dollars into perennials and shrubs, that I plant myself… even though it is not professional, it will look better for a few years, and I might even be able to replant or repurpose some of it in the future into a more glorious landscaping solution!

Ok, it seems sensible, and do-able, so that is my story and I am sticking to it! Now, here’s another thing. If you have an SUV, and you go to a garden center or nursery (or two), you can buy a LOT of stuff that will fit in the back. It doesn’t really look like much, until you realize that you have to plant it. Yourself. With a shovel. AFTER you clean out all the dead stuff already there. And you don’t have an actual plan of where to plant them either. !!!! As they say, dig in.

Lilacs are the New Hampshire State Flower, and both Bob and I love their look and perfume. Dwarf Korean Lilac (Syringa meyeri) shrubs were original to the property, but had grown extremely unkempt over the years, but this was a wonderful blooming spring for them! Remember the overgrown brambles on the wall? They choked out a few lilacs, and after I ripped out the brambles, I decided to replace the lilacs. At the time, I thought the existing lilacs were the Miss Kim Dwarf Lilac (Syringa pubescens subs. patula ‘Miss Kim’), but even though the color of the blooms and size of the plant are similar, the leaves and growing habit are different. The Korean lilac has small rounded soft green leaves (that turn a lovely reddish burgundy color in the fall), while the Miss Kim leaves are darker green and are pointed, like a typical full sized lilac. Interestingly, the Miss Kim lilac (of South Korean origin) was cultivated at UNH and released in 1954 by UNH’s renowned agricultural station. Just down the road!

Lilacs require full sun, so we’ll see how these do – the nearby oak trees are much larger now, but the lilacs bloom in mid-May and the oak leaf canopy has not reached full size, thus allowing a good amount of sun. Fingers crossed! (We hope to plant many more lilacs on the property, in the future, in the sun! 🙂

Here is an interesting article on NH lilacs


  1. Michelle

    Truly impressive and lovely!

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