family work day

by | Jun 11, 2020 | Uncategorized | 71 comments

As I shared a couple of weeks ago, this is the year we get our yard looking more presentable.  Not only were the beds overrun with weeds and filled with plants I had no affection for, but things were just looking messy and untidy.  The black plastic borders were popping up, grass was creeping into the beds, certain spots along the hills were eroding, 15-year-old landscape fabric was ineffective and exposed, bushes and trees needed to be pruned, and the area under the deck was a dumping ground.  I have been largely avoiding all of it for the better part of almost three years.  It just all seemed like too big of a project.

My renewed energy from a mostly-healed shoulder and our collective cabin fever from being under stay-at-home orders since March became the perfect recipe to get our whole family out in the yard and working together.

In the weeks proceeding our big family work day, Jeff and I have been working in the yard in the evenings…pulling out old perennials, cleaning up the trash, pruning bushes we’re keeping, and power washing.  The boys have helped with spreading the big pile of rocks, digging up some bushes, hauling rocks from the border of an old flower garden, pulling weeds, and cutting up fallen branches to burn.  And I’ve been planting and planning.

Earlier in the week, Jeff and I ordered mulch in bulk and some rocks to use for terracing the sloped areas to reduce erosion in preparation for the work day.

This year is about cleaning up and sprucing up.  It’s not about tackling ambitious plans to completely overhaul these garden beds.  It’s about making things look tidy and putting plants in the ground that I actually like.  In future years, I have some ideas for expanding the beds, but I wanted to keep this first phase fairly simple and straight foward.  There was plenty of work to do without inventing more.  We also have to redo the deck in the near future and would like to add a larger patio with a firepit down the road, so we were keeping those things in mind as we made decisions about where our time and money would be most beneficial.

The back garden bed was fairly simple.  We pulled out the bushes that were there (I’m not even sure what they were) and replaced them with Annabelle hydrangeas…

Work Day Miss Mustard Seed

We also removed the plastic edging, extended the bed a few inches with an edger, and added new landscape fabric and a fresh layer of mulch.

I decided to keep the rose bush for now.  The flowers aren’t really my taste, but it adds some nice height next to the patio.  Eventually, I’d like to curve the bed and add a small flowering tree or bush there…  Something that will provide a little privacy and shade, but won’t get too large.

For now, I pruned the rose bush and put some fertilizer on it.  That’s the first bit of attention this bush has received in a long time and it’s already looking so much healthier!  We added a few rocks between the bed and the patio to hold the mulch in place.

See those happy little buds?

Oh, the patio was such a mess.  Jeff and I have made a pact that random stuff is not to be tossed under the deck.  It needs a home or it needs to be donated, recycled, or pitched.  We have made so many trips to the recycling center over the past few weeks to drop off brush and trash.

Work Day Miss Mustard Seed

Here is how the patio looks after the family work day…

We are still planning to prime and paint the cement patio since it’s splattered with the reddish-brown paint that was used on the deck.

Work Day Miss Mustard Seed

I purchased a couple of weather-proof wicker rocker/glider chairs to put down there and we’ll string cafe lights from the ceiling to make it a nice place to sit.  It’s shaded almost all day, so it’s a perfect place to enjoy the outdoors.

Here’s another view before…

…and during our work day…

Work Day Miss Mustard Seed

Marshall was doing some pull-ups and Jeff and Calvin were toasting marshmallows for smores over the burning brush and branches while I was slaving away.


The neatnik within me feels so relieved when I look at that picture now.  The deck is still an issue (oh, that horrible paint), but everything else is neat and tidy.

The other side of the patio was one of the biggest problem areas in the yard.  This corner would become a forest of weeds every summer, filled with trees the size of small weeds…to the point where I would apologize to our neighbor on that side when I would saw her.  “I am so sorry about my weeds!  I know it looks terrible and we’ll be working on it soon.  We’ve been focusing our efforts on the inside of the house!”  She assured me she wouldn’t judge my weeds if I didn’t judge hers.  She was battling some of the same issues with gardening in 15-year-old rock beds that I was.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been splitting the hostas and making more of a border along the edge, mixing in a few sedums for a variety of texture.  I also used the power washer on the lattice and we all worked together to build up the ground with extra rock and topsoil behind the retaining wall.

Here’s how it looked after some of the initial work, but before the power washing…

Over the course of a few days, I did the power washing, put in some plants, and added new weed-blocking fabric…

I put a limelight hydrangea to fill the corner.  It looks a little silly at this point, but I’ve read that they grow pretty quickly, so it’ll hopefully fill this corner nicely on its own in just 3-4 years.  I had considered putting some vines in on the lattice, but I really don’t think it’s a good idea to have plants around the mini-split unit that cools and heats my studio.  I think it’s best to leave that area plant and weed-free and just allow the limelight to grow and hide it all.

Before putting the mulch in, we terraced the sloped area a little with some natural edger stones.  We debated getting some more retaining wall stones that matched the ones we have, but 1.) we couldn’t find an exact match and 2.) we don’t really like those stones, so it doesn’t make sense to buy more.  We envision having this area professionally redone when we do a patio down the road, so it made sense to keep things simple and use stones that we like, so we can reuse them in other places when/if this area changes in the future.  If we do leave things as-is, the stones will be less noticeable as the plants mature.

We also left the black edging in place along this bed since it helps prevent erosion.  We did build up some sod against it and will spread some new grass seed in the fall.  We’ll eventually remove it and figure out something that’s more our taste, but we were both hesitant to remove it and just edge it.  We weren’t sure that would hold up to the heavy rainstorms we can get here in Rochester.  (PS – Did you know we’re at the very northern end of tornado alley?  I didn’t know that until we moved here!  We can get some pretty violent storms, though.)

I’m hoping the border of hostas and sedums will help slow erosion, too.

On the studio/garage wall, I ripped out all of the lilies and replaced them with more Annabelle hydrangeas.  These get pretty intense afternoon sun, so I’m hoping they’ll do okay.  I am giving them lots and lots of water, but I notice they wilt before any of the others I planted.

Anyway, this was another bed that was just a mess of weeds and I am just not a fan of orange lilies.  They are very popular around here and you see them everywhere!  I tried to give them away, but I didn’t have any takers.  My neighbors all had their fill of lilies.

We also pulled out the old black edging, dug a new edge, put down the weed-blocking fabric, and added new mulch.

We also built up this area and added some stones and plants to hold the fill dirt and new mulch in place.

Again, we kept the black plastic edge in place around the corner to hold everything in for now…

I love this hedge.  It’s the most visible when we turn on our street and pull up to our house and I’m excited to see it grow and fill out.

The price difference between the 2-gallon plants and the 6-gallon ones was only $15, so I decided to go with the more mature plants.  They aready do a reasonable job filling out the space and will look even better as they grow.

In the front, I did a bit more planting, putting impatiens down in the shady area and wave petunias in the sunny spots.  (I swear, I thought those were “impatients” until the moment I typed that last sentence and couldn’t make the spell check happy!)  I also added a firework clematis to the trellis to see if that one is happy there.

My sweet autumn clematis didn’t come back on the trellis, but the other one did.  I don’t remember what it’s called, but it will have larger white blooms.  The firework clematis has very pale purple blooms and they seem to bloom at different times, so we’ll see how they do together.  That spot doesn’t get a lot of direct sun and it can be pretty wet, so I think that’s why things struggle in that corner.

The sweet autumn clematis on the porch post is doing great, though!  It is growing like crazy this year.

I also planted some phlox.  My neighbor has some in her yard and I’ve admired them for weeks.  I love the little bell-shaped flowers and how they look a little wild as they spread.

I put them on either side of the porch steps and by the garage, so we’ll see how they do!

I’ll share more about the edger I used in a different post, but I also edged the front, added some weed-blocking fabric along the grass, and put down some fresh mulch.

Jeff pruned the bush and we did more edging, put down more weed-blocking fabric, and more mulch!  You can see a theme, here.

Jeff wanted to remove the bush altogether, but I talked him into leaving it until we’re ready to replace it.  I’d like to extend the bed in that corner and plant a small flowering tree (maybe a white lilac) and surround it with hosta or something along those lines.  I’ll probably relocate the peonies.

Speaking of, they are doing so much better this year with that bush pruned way back…

Work Day Miss Mustard Seed

They are just about ready to burst forth!

One funny note…  If you notice brown spots in our yard, there is a good explanation for that.  Poor Jeff was waging war on the weeds in the lawn and bought a dandelion extractor.  He spent hours removing hundreds of weeds and then followed up by spraying the weeds he didn’t pull.  Unfortunately, he used weed AND grass killer instead of just weed killer.  I pointed it out, but it was too late and we’ve watched and laughed as brown spots appeared all over our yard.  I’m sure we’re not the first people to do that and, in the grand scheme of things, it’s a very small thing.  I am looking forward to it growing back in, though!

Anyway, on the last side of the house, we did the same thing…  fabric and mulch.  I also transplanted some hosta over to this side and we added stones to hold the soil and mulch in place.

Again, we kept the plastic edge in place for now…

Work Day Miss Mustard Seed

We’ll probably widen this bed down the road and add in some taller bushes to hide the AC unit, but this is the least visible side of the house, so we kept it simple.  Clean it up, make it look nice, and call it done.

We added a couple of stepping stones to the spigot and I installed a hose-splitter, so we could have one hose for watering the back and one for the front.  Not having to drag the hose all over the yard has been a treat!

Speaking of, does anyone have a good recommendation for hose storage?  Something that winds the hose easily and stores it?

This is where we ran out of mulch and rock, though!  So, we are going to pick up a few more bags of mulch and a few more edger rocks and we’ll get this finished up.

We all worked hard for several hours that day.  My boys hauled over 50 bags of mulch down those hills and carried rocks to where we needed them.  We were all dirty and sweaty from head-to-toe.  I even had to shake the mulch out of my hair before washing it.  But it all looks so good.  It’s not perfect, but it’s a great start and it is a vast improvement.  And the best part is that I really care about the plants that are in the beds.  I take a stroll around the house at least once a day with an empty bucket and pull up the start of any weeds, clean up leaves, deadhead the flowers, and make sure everyone gets a long drink of water.

Jeff will ask, “How is everyone doing?” and I’ll give him a report on all of the plants and flowers.

It feels worth my time now, because I want to see all of the plants growing and healthy.  I want to keep a short account with weeds and rubbish, so it stays looking tidy.  And I’m really enjoying the time outside, feeling the sun on my face, appreciating the clouds, finding amusement in the chipmunk family that has been living around our house.

The weather is supposed to be delightful over the next couple of days, so I’m painting the patio today and we’ll string lights, set up the chairs, and finish things up tomorrow and Saturday.

Thanks to everyone who’s given me suggestions on expanding the beds, plants that are good for zone 4, etc.  It’s all been so helpful as I planned for the work we were going to tackle and in planning for the future.


  1. celestial

    All your very hard work has really paid off; your yard looks exquisite! Congratulations on a difficult job thoughtfully done.

    I think that the plant you identified as “phlox” is actually bellflower (Campanula). Phlox is much more wispy and tall and doesn’t bloom until later in the season. Campanula is usually blue; it is really lovely to see it in white as well after all these years.

    If you like the look of chartreuse among your greens, you might want to look at creeping jenny. It is the most marvelous color, is a perennial that grows rapidly and doesn’t flower (at least not noticeably) and I think it would look awesome spilling over some of the retaining blocks in your yard. I have been sticking it here and there in the garden and love how it looks with the darker greens and some of the chartreuse-y hosta I have. ( I have always thought I hated green-yellows in clothing, but I find that when it is in plants, I cannot get enough. Isn’t that funny?)

    • Marian Parsons

      I’ve used some creeping jenny before at my last house and that’s a good idea!

      As far as the phlox, that’s what it said on the tag and also the way the plant identifier labeled it when I took a picture in my neighbor’s yard. I have no idea, though! 🙂

  2. Janet

    Where do you buy the plants? Online? We have lots of beds to redo as well.

    • Marian Parsons

      I ordered the hydrangea from a local nursery and had them delivered. I bought the rest of the plants at local home stores. We did a quick outing with masks to pick them out.

    • LINDA

      Beautiful hostas!

  3. A

    Sooo lovely and the feeling of satisfaction after all that work is priceless. Your patio has me thinking about how fun a porch swing would be down there!

    • Marian Parsons

      Oh, a porch swing would be fun!

  4. Diane Orciuol

    OMG the porch and the yard look great! Are you going to paint something fun on the concrete?

  5. Peg

    Clematis likes sun, but cool roots. It made all the difference in the world on my clematis when I learned this.

  6. Carole Prisk

    Your porch plants were definitely mislabeled. That is campanula and not phlox. You can get tall phlox or creeping phlox which is a spreading low grower.

    • Cindy

      So glad someone else said this… I was thinking that I had never seen a phlox like that!

    • harriett

      Yup. Not phlox. Campanula.

  7. Kathryn Walsh

    As someone who has primed and painted my concrete porch and steps and then watched them peel, I would recommend an inexpensive indoor/outdoor rug to cover the the deck stained patio.

  8. Arlene

    I’ve seen where some are stenciling their concrete patios now and I love that look. Awesome job in your landscaping!

  9. Jenny

    I think celestial is right about the Campanula. I’m not too familiar with it but the flowers I know are shaped like that. I’m pretty positive it isn’t any form of phlox, at any rate. There are many types of phlox, and some are low, creeping plants and some tall, but no matter what the habit of the plant, the various forms all have pretty similarly shaped flowers, and as far as I know, none of them resemble your plant. It is pretty and charming though, and I hope it thrives for you. Your rose looks like it may be a Rosa Rugosa, and reminds me of one I used to have called Yankee Lady. If it is a Rugosa, it should be very fragrant. I still remember the perfume of the Yankee Lady. Your yard and beds are inspiring!⁹

  10. Brenda

    I love creeping phlox. It’s low growing and spreads. I have no idea if it grows that far north. When we lived in Missouri they called it Thrift. Isn’t it funny how plants have different names in different places. Peonies are called piney roses here in East Tennessee. It looks very nice! Enjoy your renovated outdoor areas!

  11. Lindy Powell

    Looks great Marian! BTW, did your trellis come with the house or did you purchase separately? We are trying to find a trellis for the back of our garage and like the style of your trellis ~ Can’t wait to see everything in full bloom! Take care ~

    • Marian Parsons

      I bought it on Amazon and it’s very nice! Now I just need to get it filled with plants! 🙂

      • Susan

        I planted low growing sedum at the base of my clematis. They love their roots shaded and the tops sunny. The low growing sedum completely covered the ground around the clematis and it was happy for 8 years. This spring it didn’t come up. I was so sad to replace it. But I went with a different colored flower this time so am excited to see how it looks.
        Agreed with others that what was labeled a phlox is definitely something else. I have both tall and creeping varieties and neither look like that. Minnesota gardening season is so short but I love it. I do the same thing you do- a daily walkabout, checking on all my planty friends! 🙂

  12. Caroline

    So much hard work done well! It all looks great.

  13. Rosanna

    Looking great!!!!
    Can’t wait to see the patio “spruced up”,the peonies in bloom,and also the hydrangeas!!! Mmmm…hmmmm..!!💚

  14. Kimberly Westby

    HI all

    There is more than one kind Phlox. I have a short, low growing Phlox that blooms now, it is just finishing. I have light purple, bur have seen pink as well. There is a taller variety that blooms in summer, some may call it Stocks, the bloom is longer.
    Nice work on the gardens, who doesn’t love Hydrangeas !

  15. Cyndi

    Oh Marian! It all looks wonderful! The hard work and sore muscles paid off big time! Funny how one day we realize our children are old enough to help!’s their home too so they should help and learn the pride of ownership!

  16. Victoria

    Jenna Sue Design painted concrete and just did an update. You can get retractable hoses that work a little like a vacuum cable, but they can break easily. If you pull it too far the retraction breaks. My in laws’ one lasted one day before that happened. My mum has a collapsible one, like if you scrunch up a polytunnel? It expands and stretches out when you turn on the water. You probably don’t want to do permanent irrigation until you do your fuller redo, but you can lay a hose out in beds and cut holes in it as a poor man’s irrigation system.

  17. Marianne

    I’ve had a number of different types of hoses and I really like to kind that shrink up when they are empty. I don’t really care to see a wound up hose even if neat in it’s hanger. WIth the shrinking type it’s so small when not in use I can pick it up with one hand and place it behind a plant or into a decorative pot on the ground. They come in different lengths too. NB I live in a 9b zone so ours stays out year round.

  18. Jeanne

    Marion, it all looks fantastic! I heartily second the Creeping Jenny suggestion. They are such a marvelous green, and should be named “Galloping Jenny” for their enthusiastically spreading habit. Your peonies look fabulous; I’m envious of all the blooms. Just a note: peonies don’t like to be moved, so make sure you have a permanent place when relocating them, and expect diminished blooms the next year or so.

  19. Jessica

    Everything looks lovely!!! The beautiful shrubbery, beautiful green grass, and the mulch is the icing on the cake. Can’t wait to see those beautiful hydrangeas in bloom!! There’s something about doing all their back breaking work— the sense of satisfaction makes it all worth it. And it’s so great for the boys to see the fruits of all their work. Sounds crazy but the inside of the house can be a mess, but as long as the outside and gardens look good, it’s a satisfying feeling.

  20. Vickie

    Your artist eye is so evident in everything you create. Your beds all look SO much better! A little time for them to fill out and you’ll be in heaven with your choices of blooming, climbing and spreading plants. Well done!

    Hugs from Sherman,

    • Jessica

      I believe there is concrete solid stain that’s better than paint minus the peeling. Worth looking into.

  21. Jill

    It’s so satisfying at the end of a long work day to stand back and see the beautiful results of your labor. Well done!

    I wanted to second Peg’s comment. I have found that my Clematis grow much better when I put other plants around the base of the vine. It keeps the roots cooler.

  22. Cheryl W

    Everything looks great Marian! You’re doing well with the Minnesota plants; they should thrive for you. We use the Liberty Garden™ 4-Wheel Industrial Hose Reel Cart found at Menards and really like it. It’s easy to roll up the hose after use and move to another area if necessary. Good luck!

  23. Louise

    Marion, I love your house and your yard. The yard is coming along beautifully. I can tell how hard you’ve worked on it. I used to stay in the yard all the time and loved it. Still work in the yard but mostly I tell my daughter and grandson what. to do now ,

  24. Joan

    Hi Marian! WOW, it is Beautiful! Your house looks really welcoming, I love the entrance, and boy, what wonderful transitions all over elsewhere in your yard, and you should all be proud of the hard work! WAY TO GO, it’s all so pretty, PLUS! your photography! It’s wonderful, showing everything perfectly!… the rose bud, the peony buds…how do you do that! what camera!?! Wonder if you need a tripod to take those, and also a very tricky camera and lenses!you’ve got it mastered. NO SURPRISE! lol I wonder about photography alot, my camera is a 2nd hand/refurbished canon, ( older model)! a PowerShot G5,and I just point focus and shoot. It’s pretty good for me, but I know it could be better!
    Anyways THANKS for showing all your family’s wonderful work, it’s beautiful and inspiring!

  25. Mary S

    At Lowe’s, they have these large metal “tubs” that allow the hose to remain connected but you can then wind the hose and it stays inside the tub. I also splurged on a Zero G hose. I needed 100 feet and it is so light that winding it back up isn’t such a struggle. It is pricey but the best hose I’ve ever used. I ALWAYS put my hoses in the garage in the winter to keep them from freezing and they last longer that way.

    About the peonies… it’s too late this year, but next year when they have been cut down and are getting ready to sprout, a cage or metal form that will hold them up is beneficial because when they get rained on in a storm, the blooms end up all over the ground and the plant is ruined until next year. I learned that the hard way!

    Your yard is looking great! It is so gratifying to step back and look at your work and makes you feel proud. Great lesson for your boys to get involved in these work details too! Well done!

  26. Shelley

    Hi Marian we are again on parallel universes. We just put down 86 bags of mulch. I lost my mom last summer and spent the entire summer at her home working on an estate sale. Thus my garden beds which are my responsibility suffered gravely. My husband who is my grass and yard man doesn’t know what are weeds and what is plant so was afraid to pull anything. I was only able to attack the weeds once last summer. It is amazing to me how just one seasons neglect can create chaos in the garden. After much raking, pruning, transplanting, and trimming we were ready for mulch. Things are beautiful now. BTW I am of the same consensus on the phlox. Not phlox! Also, I have a battery powered hose winder called Power Wind by Suncast. It’s about 5 years old and still going strong. I placed it at the head of my deck and it is very easy to wind. I only need to charge the battery a couple times a summer. I’m in NE. As always good job.

  27. judith

    Everything looks really nice. I agree that the plant in front is a camanula and not a phlox. I urge you to NOT move your peonies. They resent being relocated and it can take several years for them to get back to the condition they are in presently. I would work around them, and I would leave that pretty red flowering bush where it is and just trim it up. If you are going to extend the beds anyway (way easier than you would think), you will have plenty of room to add more. Good work on erosion control on the side – go out and look after the next two or three rainfalls and you will see the efforts of your hard work. Thanks for sharing about your outside.

    • Marian Parsons

      Thanks for the tips! Yes, we had a huge rain from the remnants of the tropical storm that came through the midwest and everything is working nicely so far!

  28. Crystal Brown

    It’s coming along nicely! Getting the weeds out is a major accomplishment! Instead of dragging hoses have you considered installing a micro/drip irrigation system? They are DIY friendly, relatively inexpensive, the timers can water multiple zones at different times, even on different days. You’ll need a couple of gang valve, Y connecters and back flow preventers but those are also DIY friendly. Then you can roll those hoses up and only use them for washing the car. It’s a time saver, as well as environmentally friendly because it doesn’t waste water and the water gets to the plants more efficiently. Some plants don’t like overhead watering anyway and this system also prevents that. You can do your all your beds around the house, or just the ones that require wrangling the hose.

  29. Julie Holthouse

    I especially like how you handled the corner by the gutter downspout. Regarding mulch, when I first moved into my home, I had part of an old tree removed and asked the tree folks if I could have the mulch. They said of course, and if I needed any more, they would deliver it. A couple of weeks later, I have 5 dump trucks worth of mulch in an out of the way spot in my back yard. Vermont is my home state, maybe they don’t do this in other states. But at the price of mulch, it is worth the ask to your local tree folks.

  30. Julie | Home On The Hill

    Looking better all the time! Rewarding work & also good exercise I find.

    I was wondering why the downpipe from the roof doesn’t connect to anything – is that normal in the US?

    Here in Australia our downpipes have to connect in suburbia to the storm water drains on the street or tanks, & in rural areas like here on our farm the pipes are connected underground to our water tanks to ensure we collect all the rain water & it doesn’t just run away or erode the soil near the house.

    • Marian Parsons

      It does connect to a spout that takes the water away from the house, but we had it disconnected to lay down the mulch. 🙂

      • Julie | Home On The Hill

        That makes sense, I was wondering what was happening with it but being from Australia there was always the chance it was not how we do things! 😀

        • noreen kelly

          I live in Australia too and thought the same thing!

  31. Jeannie

    Your lawn is looking so happy! Love your peonies & hydrangeas. That big magenta flowering shrub looks like weigala. I had a variegated pink one years ago & it was so pretty. I really want to spiff up our property but it’s just in the cards this year. I’ll enjoy yours from here!
    I just recommended your blog to someone trying to decide to paint or not to paint a pretty little washstand!

  32. Jeannie

    oops. NOT in the cards this year!
    Thoughts get ahead of fingers! 🙂

  33. Gloria

    So beautiful. I love all of it. I stopped at a garden center today and their hydrangeas were $42. Does that sound about right. What color is the limelight. Great job

    • Marian Parsons

      Yes. The 6-gallon Annabelle hydrangeas were $55/each. The limelight has pale green flowers.

  34. Darleen Lansing

    It looks so beautiful…And I know that was a ton of work. But you guys can enjoy the gardens now..restful and tranquil. Remember what a head gardener at a wonderful estate told me …a good garden is never quite completed.

    Will you do something different with the area under your deck with stone fill? Water drips down the deck on my new patio and its a mess now…the grouting does not stay around the flagstones

    Again fantastic improvement and a pretty garden

    • Marian Parsons

      Yes, we would like to extend the patio and change the configuration of the deck, but we would have to meet with professionals to get the design figured out. Right now, it’s just an idea for the future. The deck is a higher priority since it’s starting to rot and become dangerous.

  35. Vikki

    Love what you have done. I too have been working on my yard and it is amazing what mulch can do for your yard. I hadn’t done too much in our yard and we have lived here for 17 years and it was about time to do something!! I planted hosta and hydrangea as well. I love hostas. My question is you mentioned in your instagram post that you have deer. Do they not eat your hosta? Here, in Oregon, they gobble it right down to the ground.

    • Marian Parsons

      Yes, they do sometimes eat the hostas. Not all the time, though. I see a lot more deer poking around our neighborhood in the fall.

  36. Amy

    Hi Marian! I haven’t received an email from you for 5 days…..wondering if there was a tech problem, so I signed up again yesterday, and nothing today. I waited to confirm after I received the email, but I never got one. Anyone else having this problem? Noooooo!!

  37. Shirley Graham

    You must be exhausted!! Everything looks so nice, I’m sure you are glad to get it done. Thrift is an old fashioned name & has been changed I guess since that seems to happen. I remember my Mother calling it that & we lived in Mo. at the time on the farm. Enjoy your summer!!!

  38. judy

    yep that is exactly how my garden obsession started. i didnt know anything really about gardening i just started because i wanted my house to look nice. now i spend HUNDREDS of dollars on it every year and i love it. digging in the dirt is good for the soul. your yard looks wonderful and about those brown spots use simple salt on dandlions or thisles just pour a little on and they die all the way to the roots. cheap and chemical free!

  39. Susan

    your yard is looking great! My husband and I worked most of the day burning branches of fir, holly and some bushes that have no identity! We hired a local arborist who several of our friend’s use for chain saw work. Boy, does he know how to prune and shape bushes and trees! Tomorrow our riding mower comes back from the shop with a new mower deck and new blades. Then, it will be a riding marathon to catch up with our grass! We will cut it first, let it dry out a little a day or so; then attach the bagging attachment and pick it up. We live in Washington state and have to mow every three days ! I can’t wait till my beds are done!

  40. Jeffrey Favreau

    Just a thought on all your hard garden work. Why did they not have matching downspouts colored for your house? I painted mine to match the color of the house, rub them with vinegar then paint them the same color as your house.

  41. Babs

    You may want to consider using a concrete stain rather than paint your patio. It will not peel.
    You all did a ton of work!
    Our family (3 of us) would call our day of splitting and stacking wood “family fun day.” Ha.

  42. Miep

    Hello, be very carefull to relocate the peonies, they do not like to be put in another place at all. They look very happy where they are now and would possibly not ever bloom again in a new spot. 😉

  43. Kate

    Your hydrangea obsession almost matches your ironstone one! Expand your horizons and look into native MN plants. They will attract birds and butterflies to your yard and add some texture and variety. Also think about bushes and plants with different blooming times, so you can stagger the color throughout the season. Gardening is less about personal tastes and more about finding out what’s appropriate for the land and climate and environment.

    Those outdoor patios can be difficult. I’ve found that if you approach them as rooms, it makes it easier. It also will be less jarring when stepping from the inside of your house to the outside. There was a great book published in the 70’s about house and yard architecture (can’t remember the name) which talked about the importance of providing transition space between the street/outdoors and your home. Ask yourself what the realistic use of the patio would be. Is anyone really going to hang out there? Can you make it more inviting or cozy, so your boys will be drawn there as their own private space? Do you just want it to look pleasant from the glass doors? Maybe potted shade-loving plants would do the trick. Maybe some vintage metal items – something to soften the edge between the concrete and the grass.

  44. Geraldine

    I have tried a thousand-and-one different hose storage options, and the Rapid Reel (Eley Hose Reels) is my top pick, hands down. While it doesn’t conceal the hose, it is so easy to use that there is never an excuse for the hose to be left in the yard, which was my biggest complaint about various bowls or marginally-performing auto-reeling boxes.

  45. Meredith

    I’m sure someone has beat me to it, but I wanted to mention that if you move your peonies, they will be cranky for a few years. They don’t like being moved! I moved one, and it seems I buried it a little deep, and it has given me protest for about 4 years now – not a single bloom and barely any height in growth.

    Hose – I have invested in the X-Hose… the one that expands when you turn on the water and collapses when you’re done. I have a couple of them, and I just keep a nice ceramic pot near my faucet to dump the collapsed hose into when I’m finished. I love that you barely notice we even have a hose (my longest is 100′ long!) And I *never* have to coil the thing up!

    My mother in law calls them impatients every time… I’ve tried to let her know the T doesn’t belong there, but it’s a futile effort… 😄

  46. Stacey A

    Definitely not phlox, although there are many varieties; looks like campanula.
    I have a long Annabelle hedge too and it’s stunning when it’s in bloom.
    To shade your clematis roots you might try astilbe. It tolerates wet feet and likes partial shade. Comes in Creams, pinks, lavender, red, beautiful feathery blooms that look good for weeks. Hardy to zone 3. Varieties from 6” to 3’. Just a thought.
    FYI: cement is a component in concrete, along with sand and gravel. I would strongly recommend stain for your concrete. Look online for images of stained concrete, it’s gorgeous! And it will hold up for years. Paint will peel.
    All that being said, yay for you! Great day of good honest sweaty work makes a guy feel good! And your results are beautiful!

  47. Katie McGovern

    Hi! It looks lovely…such hard, yet rewarding work! I have lots of Annabelle hydrangea in my yard (Virginia, zone 7). As a warning, It’s going to struggle hard in full or afternoon sun. Mine are in partial shade, mostly afternoon shade, which is what they prefer—they are heavy water drinkers, and a more delicate hydrangea for sure. If you find they aren’t working well, Endless Summer hydrangea is hardier, blooms “endlessly” all summer, and can take more direct sun and higher heat—also sturdier in rough summer storms 🙂 Good luck with your growing things!

  48. Mary

    Since you are just starting your gardening journey, I will weigh in on the bell-shaped flowers.They are, indeed, Campanula, not phlox. And they are commonly called Bellflowers. There is a type of low growing phlox, suitably named Creeping Phlox, but it has little evergreen needles, not leaves. The other type of phlox is tall and would not be blooming in MN for another month and is an entirely different plant. Normally I would not weigh in, but I have learned so much from you that I thought you might want to learn from a long time gardener. I find the labels at nurseries are very often mixed up. Your Bellflowers will hopefully come back and spread every year… know MN…so cold. It all looks beautiful!

  49. Elena

    Wow, it looks amazing! We are in the same boat with our house. We moved in a few months ago and are struggling with overgrown gardens and weeds.

    Btw, I was just researching grass paint for pet burn marks on grass. It’s safe for pets and kids and may work to cover burn spots on your grass until it grows in. We plan to use it while I’m training our 7 month puppy.

  50. Anne

    I have a coil hose that expands and then shrinks back when you turn it off. It is light weight and I store it in a cute wicker basket that hangs from the turn spout. My back and shoulder could not take pulling a heavy hose out, and it was worse to pull it back in. I got my hose thru Amazon. I ❤️❤️❤️ It!!!!

  51. Beth B

    Everything is beautiful! Yard work is hard work though! It’s very rewarding. For our hose, My husband dug a hole and placed a 4 x 4 about 2 feet down and poured concrete in the hole. About 4’ of it was above ground. He attached an inexpensive metal hose holder near the top and placed a decorative copper fence cap to the top. It’s very sturdy and easy to loosely wind a hose around. It didn’t cost a lot either. We actually have one on either side of our house and they’re still sturdy after about 8 yrs.!

  52. jennifer

    Your yard looks wonderful. I love your choice of plants, especially the hosta. I fell in love with hostas when I live for a few years in Pittsburgh. Since returning to Texas zone 8 it has been difficult to find a place to plant some. I finally planted some under the trees at our creek so they would get shade and some sun and the rabbits decided to eat them for dinner. Very bummed out. Do you have that problem up north? If so, what have you found that keeps the rabbits away? Thank you for sharing your life with us!

  53. Donna

    You should check out to see what someone with a deck over a patio similar to yours has done to hers including screening in the patio below. It may give you some ideas for your space.
    Your plantings are lovely and some of my favorites too. Unfortunately I have to resort to lots of (varieties of) boxwood due to deer eating most everything else except my peonies and iris. Even fencing in my backyard has not kept the deer away. I agree with the others who have expressed concerns about moving peonies.

  54. Sheri

    I love the look and smell of white lilac’s, but a word of warning with them. We found that when you plant them they have a tendency to sprout up all over the place.

  55. Kaye L Thornton

    WOW you guys did a LOT of work! It looks amazing!!!! I love all of it!!! Nothing like a freshly edged garden filled w/mulch and plants! Nice job!


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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…


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