spring garden update 2019

by | Jun 12, 2019 | All Things Home, Gardening, spring | 49 comments

Now that the kids are on summer vacation, spring is in full swing here in MN!  Seriously, that’s how long it takes!!  The garden is finally more than just a few sprouts.  It still has a ways to go, but I thought I would share how it’s coming along.

The house finches vacated their nest on my Christmas wreath, so I was able to take it down and swap it out for a simple artificial boxwood wreath.  I know this wreath is boring, but I’ve used it for years and it gets me from spring to fall.  (I think I need to turn it or squish it or something to straighten it out…)

I decided to try ferns in the concrete urns this year, instead of flowers.  They seem to be doing well so far.

I filled the large concrete urn in the middle of the front garden with petunias and a trailing vine.  I can’t wait to see this urn overflowing with flowers.  The ring of hosta bulbs I planted last year came up beautifully!  (I’m always impressed with perennials.  Do they seem like a miracle to anyone else?)

I still don’t know if this concrete urn is the perfect thing for the center of the garden, but I’m just going to go with it until inspiration strikes.

I replaced all of the small boxwoods that were killed this winter.  I did a lot of reading on boxwoods and how to winterize them for next year.  I think there were several issues – they didn’t get enough water in the fall before the ground froze, they had too much heavy snow sitting on top of them all winter, and it just got too cold.  Two of them survived.  All of the rest were so dry and dead, they were almost white!

So, I’m trying my boxwood hedge one more time and if they don’t make it this year, even when babied through the winter, then I need to forget the idea and go with something heartier and lower maintenance.

I also planted some perennial mounds in a few places and sedums that will creep around a bit.  I admit that I can be a little too “tidy” when it comes to planting.  I really should have a Victorian-era English garden plot that can be planted in diamonds and rows with a boxwood hedge around it.  So, I’m planting some of these mounds and creepers to let it be a little unstructured and wild.  I actually really love gardens that look a little wild, I just don’t know how to do that well!

I just don’t think I have developed the eye for gardening, yet, but I’ll keep trying!  I get a little impatient with the fact that plants don’t stay put and they don’t always do what I think they will do.

I planted Artemisia (Silver Brocade, perennial) and Dichondra (Silver Falls, annual) and a sedum variety to creep around the stones…

For the flowers, I planted petunias and lobelia.

Now, I know this is just about the most boring picture on the internet (well, I’m sure it has competition for that title), but this is another miracle in my eyes.  it’s the sweet autumn clematis sprout!  It looked dead as a doornail, but then I saw a little green shoot popping up and it’s been growing steadily ever since.

The other one was a couple of weeks behind, but it’s growing as well!

I cannot believe I didn’t take a good picture of it last year when it was in bloom, but here are the pictures I could find…


And here is a blurry iPhone photo (with a smudged lens), showing the one on the trellis…

The sweet autumn clematis was my favorite gardening thing ever.  And, I know I’m pronouncing it wrong, but I still think of it as clem-ah-tis, not clem-aa-tis.

Anyway, you can see how much healthier the hostas are this year, too.  I transplanted them last year, so they always looked a little ragged.

I finally went to the garden center yesterday and had two of my big boxwoods replaced.  Well, big-ish.  Initially, I showed them the pictures and they explained that I just needed to trim off the burned parts.  “Yes, I realize that, but then I only have about 1/4 of the bush.  I was hoping you’d replace them.”  And, true to their guarantee, they did.  I’ll get the new ones in the ground in the next day or two and then I’ll add a fresh layer of mulch.

The only boxwoods that did survive were two of the $10 teeny guys from Home Depot.  They are the second two in on this row and they are doing so good.  I feel like a proud mom that they are doing so well despite my ignorance when it came to winterizing.  (Don’t mind the other ones that died.)

And, the Annabelle hydrangeas have all sorts of buds on them.  I am already looking forward to fall when they start to turn green and I can trim them to dry.

There is still a lot of work left to do on the landscaping around our house.  A lot.  But, I am just chipping away at it here and there.  The back of our house looks like Little Shop of Horrors was let loose on the garden beds (Minnesota has the biggest, meanest, spikiest weeds), but at least it looks like we’re making an effort in the front!

As a recap, here is how the front garden looked last year…

That picture actually makes me laugh.  I’m sure it was pretty at some point, but it just went nuts.

Anyway, it’s sometimes easy to focus on how much still needs to be done, especially when it’s hard work (like pulling out huge bushes and moving wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of rocks), but these before pictures remind me how much we’ve done.


  1. Sue

    You’re doing great figuring out Minnesota climate friendly bushes, plants and flowers. Looking good! I just have to ask… where did you get the urn planter with the rusty metal belt? Did you add that or find it at a flea market? I love that style in my garden! I want one (or more)! 🙂

  2. Sheila

    You can grow Boxwood in Minnesota, you just need to grow varieties that have been developed for cold temps. I believe a Canadian breeder did breed boxwoods for cold Canadian winters and they would work for Minnesota. Don’t assume that nurseries, be it big box stores or local nurseries , will carry the appropriate varieties. You need to do your research to know which ones they would be. If you have varieties that are on the edge as far as cold hardiness, you can wrap them in burlap each winter to protect them from the winter winds.

    • Kim

      I live in Canada (the national capital region, Ottawa) and we can definitely grow boxwoods here, and we’re on the same latitude as Minneapolis. This winter was particularly problematic but my large 3 foot diameter boxwoods are just fine! Some of the smaller ones have some dieback. Keep trying, all winters are different. Most of mine are the variety ‘Green Velvet.’

      • Marian Parsons

        Thanks! Yes, all of mine are green velvet, which are supposed to do well in harsh winters.

  3. Donna

    I think you’ve done a beautiful job. I propagate my own boxwoods. Just cut a twig off your boxwood and stick it in a pot with dirt and put a plastic bag over it and keep it watered. And after a couple of weeks take the plastic off but still keep it sheltered on your porch. And then after several more weeks plant it in the ground. I do starts off of all of my plants, flowers, shrubs… and you can divide your hostas this fall and spread them around your yard also. I love an English cottage garden look also. I call mine organized chaos. It looks very natural, but it really is organized, organized to look natural I guess. My boxwoods survive harsh winters and they’ve lasted 15+ years. Don’t ever give up.

  4. Cheryl W

    Your gardens are coming along nicely and you’re learning a lot about our Minnesota plants! I went to a container planting class a few years ago sponsored by Sargent’s. (Have you been there yet?) They recommend a thriller, filler and spiller in a container garden. It looks like your big urn has a filler (petunia), and a spiller (trailing vine); maybe you could add a thriller? Thrillers are typically taller plants to give it some height, like a spike or grass of some sort. The garden centers have some fun ones to choose from. Good luck with all of your greenery!

  5. Caroline

    I enjoy reading your reactions and opinions on Minnesota gardening and weather. I’m a native, and never having lived long anywhere else, it’s interesting to read what you experience as different from your Pennsylvania (and maybe other?) homes. I didn’t know that our weeds are mean and spiky! And I’m endlessly impressed with all of your industry and beautiful decorating.

  6. Chris Moore of Seattle

    Love your garden! Tip: Clematis like ‘cool roots’. I see your garden stones there with the dichondra etc. If you have more or use 2 of them, put one each over the clematis. NOT the growing part. It will keep the roots cool and the plant happy.

  7. cyndi

    Looks wonderful Marian! I am more of an indoor gardener! I do love the skinny trellis and do recall that you and your hubby made it but can; find the post! Do you recall when that was? Thanks

  8. Diane Ruebel


    What a hospitable entry you’ve created. It all says welcome, come in, stay as long as you’d like. All the culling of rocks and experimenting with plants has been decidedly worth it.

    Please keep us up the clematis show!

    Diney on Camano Island

  9. Kathy Thompson

    Be careful with the variegated vine in your planter…it looks like Bishops Weed, which grows like mad, but can be impossible to get rid of once it gets into the ground. If it trails down into the garden it can root itself and will spread like kudzu!

    • Katie on Whidbey

      Looks like variegated vinca vine to me. Not invasive like bishops weed.

      • Marian Parsons

        Yes, it’s vinca vine!

      • Julie | Home On The Hill

        Here in Australia that Vinca vine is a real pest, has taken over a garden bed & hard to get rid off altogether.

        Maybe your extra cold Winters kill it off so it’s more like an annual over there? But I would keep it out of your garden beds regardless.

        • Kathy Thompson

          Glad it’s vinca and not Bishops Weed. Vinca is definitely an annual throughout most of the US (even in my Zone 7 in the South) especially in containers. It’s good to be reminded that there’s a reason to think before using non-native plant species. After all, someone, somewhere loved kudzu as a well-behaved ground cover. It wasn’t until it was brought to the Southern US that it revealed its evil plan to take over the world!

        • Marian Parsons

          Interesting! Yes, it was sold as an annual, so it must die off in our winters.

  10. Catt-in-KY

    A cool iron tuteur in the center of your urn would look great and give the planter a bit of height and a focal point….maybe a small base for the urn too. That’s a classic look. Maybe you are wanting something a little less formal?

  11. Vanessa

    I think you would love Angelonia – it would go with your white and green theme and it’s the softest most romantic looking annual with pretty little white flowers. Most of it grows upright but there are some cascading varieties too.

  12. Catt-in-KY

    How about a painted wooden garden obelisk? I googled country obelisk and there are some beauties that you could make yourself.

  13. Margo

    We lost boxwood at one time as well. Turned out we had planted them too deep and the cold is not what killed them. I like your urn and have been searching for a smaller one for indoors. I don’t know how you find the time to garden with all your other interests!! And I totally agree, seeing the first green sprouts on the clematis is the best! Tomato, tomahto!

  14. Joan

    hahah, so cute,…I chuckle and smile as I read your descriptions and find your writing is always sooo entertaining !
    I read somewhere that Clematis like to have COOL roots if in full sunny area, so I put slabs of rock/stones around the roots or base of the plant so that the sun doesn’t heat that area so easily…maybe you are in shade/if so all the better, but I wasn’t sure….
    a question: your clematis photo on the trellis, oh I LOVE LOVE the teeny stars blooms, what is the name of it, sorry if you mentioned it anywhere and I missed it? that IS your clematis??? it’s beatuifullllll,
    would love to buy one of that kind for my porch/woodland theme going on this year! 🙂
    it’s a veryyyy slow spring this year here too in Ontario!
    I have some weeds in a pathway in the backyard that needs my attention so badly too!
    calla lilies can take full sun, I’m trying them this year in urns and large potted containers…they are BEAUTIFUL mixed in urns and with hostas, and ferns…etc.

    • Joan

      oooops. beatuifulllll = beautifullllllllllllllllllll lol

    • Deborah Harris

      I was wondering that myself. Looks like Star Jasmine to me, NOT clematis!

      • Marian Parsons

        It looks a bit like it, but it’s a variety of clematis called Sweet Autumn Clematis. If you look it up, it has little white star-shaped flowers. I believe that star jasmine wouldn’t survive our harsh winters.

  15. Deb H.

    I so agree with you…. Miracles indeed and God is so very, very good! You are to be commended (as usual) on a GREAT job!

  16. Denise Bertrand

    You have a lovely start! If you watch Utube videos, go to the search and type in Garden Answer. This lady lives garden life and has been doing it her whole life. She has a baby maybe a year old and her parents garden is what everyone dreams of. Laura she has videos several years back and even if you watch only the one on her parents garden and her own, you will be amazed. You are welcome.

  17. Carolyn

    You are doing great. Love the green and white. I think the urn with hostas around it is lovely. Thanks for sharing.

    • Marian Parsons

      Thank you! I think green and white looks best with the color of the siding.

  18. Maureen

    I love your urn …reminds me of an English Garden. I agree with another writer to think about a “thrill”. ..a spike or other tall plant for the center of the pot to give it a little height.

    I love your hostas I HAD a love hosta garden with a beautiful variety but our neighborhood deer enjoyed them for dinner, breakfast, lunch and midnight snacking!! lol

    • Marian Parsons

      We have a large one in the back that the deer eat regularly, but they seem to leave these alone.

  19. Karen

    I love your white trellis! Where did you buy it?

    • Marian Parsons

      We bought it off Amazon!

  20. Valene

    You’re off to a great start! Garden Answer on YouTube is a great resource for planting “recipes”…and she loves boxwood!

  21. Beth from Iowa

    The Annabelle hydrangea will be beautiful but just a cautionary tale – they get large. We had one the got about 6 ft tall and 8 ft wide – it was in a good spot so we just let her go – in our side yard. You may have to consider pruning her at some point. Keep going everything looks great!!!!

    • Marian Parsons

      Yes, I think I might’ve planted them a bit too close together, but I’ll just trim them if they get too big!

  22. Christina

    Hi Marian,
    Your garden looks great so far! I love seeing how people use their spaces and what plants they choose. I would recommend watching Laura on Garden Answers. She has such a beautiful garden and a wealth of knowledge about gardening. She lives in Oregon and has really harsh winters too. She may have some good tips on your boxwoods. She just planted a hedge of them not that long ago, maybe in the last year or so.
    I look forward to seeing updates on your yard!

    • Marian Parsons

      I do follow her, but I need to pay more attention to what she’s up to! I have been referred to hear many times.

  23. Diane

    The Sweet Autumn Clematis is beautiful right now, but I’ve read it can be invasive and takes over rapidly! I hope it doesn’t infringe on the rest of your beautiful garden! I have the purple Jackman Clematis and love them.
    I planted an innocent container of “Snow on the Mountain” some 25 years ago and have been battling it ever since. Should not even be sold at garden centers to unsuspecting consumers!

    • Marian Parsons

      That apparently isn’t an issue in my zone, but can be a real problem in southern climates. I spoke with other people in my area about it and the spread hasn’t been a problem for them.

  24. Sue Anderson

    Love the Sweet Autumn clematis! Mine did well with aggressive pruning in the early early spring to keep it in bounds and full of blooms. Cool roots and sun above are a perfect combo for clematis. Which direction does your house face?
    For a spring surprise next year (and a bit of orderly disorderliness) you might try a grouping of white Allium somewhere off center.

    • Marian Parsons

      I’ll look into Allium! I like the sound of that. Our house faces northwest, so most of it gets full sun (it’s not in the shade of the house except for the back of the garden.

  25. Jennifer Anderson

    Gardens take time for sure. I’m more of a cottage garden girl, but it still took me ten years to get my garden the way I wanted it. Just keep trying stuff and move stuff around and experiment. You are off to a great start! And yes, perennials are amazing. I use as many as possible and I harvest the seeds to use the following spring or divide plants to use in other places. Enjoy your garden!

  26. Amy Brawley

    Beautiful beautiful. Would you please let me know the paint color of your front door? I think this would of be perfect for my new Arizona home. Moved here from Mn this past January. Finding out how to landscape with cactus and the heat. 112• today

    • Marian Parsons

      Sure thing! It’s Card Room Green by Farrow and Ball. I got the paint chip and had it matched by Benjamin Moore.

  27. Kim-Pacific Northwest

    The fun of gardening is seeing what flourishes and what fails. It is ever changing and is never the same from one year to the next. Also, I find if you love gardening, your garden is never done- it changes with you and your lifestyle just like your interiors.
    This year, I am experimenting with vertical gardening which is something I have always wanted to try but just now got to it. This year I have a couple wild bunnies that have taken up residence so vertical gardening is allowing me to grow things without the bunnies eating them. It is a really enjoyable experiment.
    Don’t take your gardening so serious- it is supposed to be fun and enjoyable.

  28. Christine Irvine

    Hi Marian,
    What’s nice about boxwoods is you can prune them in the winter a little bit to use them in Christmas wreaths or other decorations. I only had one medium size boxwood ( from Home Depot) and it did very well for me, and that’s how I would prune it. In early December.
    I live in Massachusetts so it was very cold.

    Happy gardening. Looks good so far!
    New Hampshire

    • Marian Parsons

      Yes! I love using boxwood in Christmas decorating. I look forward to when mine are larger and I can give them a little haircut.

  29. Erica H

    We’ve had better luck with the plants we bought from HD or Walmart than the stuff our overpriced landscaper put in. If a plant can survive those stores, it will do great in your garden!

  30. Lynn Y

    I live in northern Illinois and have had boxwoods for 20 years. They did wonderfully and looked gorgeous . . . until this past winter. I thought it was the cold winter, but then my husband’s friend, who is in the landscaping business, told us that blight hit the boxwoods hard this year and all we could do is just yank them out. I’m not sure if blight is what your issue is or not, but I thought I’d throw that in for you to possibly look into.


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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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