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The area on the east side of our front yard provides some unique habitat within our property. The north side of the house remains in deep shade throughout the year and the rest of that area is also shaded by large trees. The drainage near the house is poor, resulting in an area that stays damp enough for ferns to flourish.
One of the last gardens we created was the front island, shown above while under construction around 1996. In this case, construction meant putting in a rock border. Part of the incentive for this added garden was to accommodate several small trees, some of which the squirrels had planted. Although the garden received a fair amount of sun in the beginning, this has been gradually reduced as the surrounding trees grow. Also visible in this photo is the east side garden, which runs parallel to our neighbor's back privacy fence.
By the next year, bulbs and other flowers we'd planted were providing some welcome color to the island garden. Since we are never short of rocks to use for landscaping, we even put a couple of unusually shaped ones in the garden for added interest. The fern garden can be seen in the background, along the front of the house.
The above photo was taken in 1999. The pointy rock used for the near corner is so large that, although it is firmly planted into the soil, it still projects up about 18 inches. Some of the plants shown in the closest section of the garden include fennel, mountain mint, purple coneflower, and slender vervain.
Taken in 2003, the above photo shows the east side garden to the left and part of the island garden to the right. The tree in the foreground is the younger of two silver maples planted in each front corner of our yard.
The builders had installed the requisite 8 shrubs necessary for our loan approval at the time. It didn't matter whether or not they were appropriate for the location. The photo above was taken around 1990, and shows that the shrub by the front door (right side, dark green) had already grown up to the eave of the house. I would continue to battle it with pruning shears for the next 13 years until it is now a small, multi-trunked tree. As the icicles show, the water drips, and sometimes gushes, off the roof and right onto the plants below, which made us a bit hesitant about putting a garden in this location.
By 1992 or 1993, we did create a garden around the shrubs, and it turned out to be perfect for wood ferns. The two center shrubs were a kind that needed full sun and they were regularly attacked by insect pests, to the point that we had to severely prune them back. Although they look pretty nice in this photo, they were often just an eyesore. The gold dust plant that was to become the central focus of this garden was only a tiny plant when this photo was taken.
By 1999, the date of the above photo, the ferns had become well established, the gold dust plant in the center had grown only slightly, and the only remaining shrubs were the two boxwoods at each end of the garden. These require regular pruning, but don't seem to mind the lack of sun.
There is a narrow garden (pictured above in 1998) between our front walkway and the east side of the garage. It is similar to the fern garden but dries out faster and gets a bit more sun. The ferns thrive here as well, and 3 of the 4 original shrubs are still alive. One pittosporum froze out soon after we moved in and left a gap in the pattern. We have had a large potted asparagus fern on a pedestal in its place for many years now. The shrub on the left is an overgrown privet while the one on the right is a pittosporum. The asparagus fern is located between them.
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