The Garden Wall

IMG_1604 (1024x1024)I just wrote about unearthing a bunch of stones in our backyard and creating a pathway (above) and repairing the wall around our maple tree with the new stones.

My next project was fixing our garden wall, parts of which were non-existent, mainly because the stones were buried so far underground. In the above “before” picture, you can see where the wall starts to disappear near the base of our Rose of Sharon.

IMG_1611 (768x1024)First I tackled the section of wall inside our backyard. You can see that the ivy and pachysandra have pretty much taken over.

IMG_1610 (819x1024)Mid-way through.

IMG_1646 (768x1024)And here’s the finished wall with Sam inspecting the new area.

Side note: Sam is always with me when I’m planting or working outside. I love working alone because I can get into my zen space, but I do really enjoy having him out there with me. He’s very curious about the worms. He’ll poke his nose to them and then jump back when they move.

IMG_1659 (768x1024)With that section finished, I needed to now conquer the section of wall beyond our back gate. What does one call that, our side yard? (Sometimes our three-year-old hangs out with me in the yard, too, for short amounts of time, digging or watering plants.)

IMG_1663 (768x1024)A view of the section from the opposite side.

I wasn’t 100% sure where our property line was, but I was 99% sure it was either right at the wooden gate or inches after it.

However, I went ahead and emailed the neighbors, just in case to give them a heads up, since the wall extends all the way to the sidewalk (after the wooden fence ends), so essentially there is a part of the wall that we share. They appeared skeptical at first, but once I fully explained the project, I was offered help and also a wheelbarrow.

IMG_1678 (768x1024)Figuring out where to put what stone was the hardest part. I worked section by section instead of layer by layer, because it just seemed like the easiest way. At least for my brain. The worst parts were having to fix multiple layers (the stones are so heavy!) in order to get the top layer just right.

IMG_1731 (768x1024)Here’s the finished wall – woohoo!IMG_1729 (755x1024)From the backyard.IMG_1732 (768x1024)And from the front yard (here’s the section of wall we share with the neighbors).

As I was collecting dirt (to fill in parts of the wall) from another section of the yard, my shovel made the unmistakable “clunk” of hitting stone. I quickly covered it up and walked away.

How Does Your Garden Grow?

IMG_1295 (1024x1024)I knew our next door neighbor was an expert gardener, because everyone told me so. “Oh, you live on such and such, do you know the ____? She’s an expert gardener.” I met Mr. M in December when he and his daughter were stringing outdoor lights, but I didn’t meet Shirley until a couple months ago.

Naturally, she was tending to her garden. We said a few nice words and I didn’t see her again until a few weeks ago, when she called to me from across the fence. She was in the process of dividing some of her plants and would I like any. Umm…. yes, please.

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Shirley’s garden

She invited me to walk through her yard to see what she would be digging up and what I might want, so the girls and I popped over for a tour. She told me the names of the plants, what kind of flowers they had (if any), what environment they liked. I learned that she is mainly self-taught, having gathered a lot of her gardening knowledge online (I still think to a large degree that gardening is a talent, rather than a skill and she clearly has that special something).

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Digging up Solomon’s Seal.

After our walk-through, she instructed me to get potting soil and any soil mixture that said “compost”on it and a couple days later, she called me over again. She had already pulled up several hostas, which are perfect for a shady yard like ours, and sedum, which is great for ground cover. I loved the Solomon’s Seal (in the hosta family) for its height and simple lines, so she dug some of it up and I added it to the pile.

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Transplanted Solomon’s Seal in our garden. I spaced them a little too far apart, but next year they will have lots of room to grow and multiply.

Shirley’s garden gets a lot more sun than we do (thanks to our two huge maples, birch and other large trees), but I decided to try some sun-loving plants anyway. She dug up a bunch of daisies….

IMG_1285 (768x1024)cranesbill (aka wild geranium)…

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The cranesbill in our garden

Example of a large, thriving cranesbill plant. Image via

dianthus, a low-growing shrub with pinky-purplish flowers…

IMG_1314 (1024x989)and a bleeding heart, which produces tiny rows of pink heart-shaped blossoms in the spring.

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Old-Fashioned Bleeding Heart (Pink)

Close-up of bleeding heart blossoms. Image via

After an hour or so (she did all the hard work!), I had a wheelbarrow full of perennials. She also threw in a pair of gardening gloves when I mentioned that I had none.

IMG_1294 (1024x1024)She walked over with me to our backyard, so she could show me the proper way to transplant, and I also wanted her opinion on where to put everything. She made a comment that she’d never been in our backyard, which I was surprised to hear (she and her husband have lived in their home for 12 years and the people we bought the house from lived here for over twenty).IMG_1293 (1024x778)

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Sedum before and after photos. You can sedum them along the border (haha).

We started with the garbage bag full of sedum. I watched as she planted the first clump. Use a shovel (she let me borrow hers. It was waaay easier to work with than our large man-sized one and a few days later I bought my own) to break up any roots and dig a hole for the new plant.

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Close up of the sedum.

After placing the plant in the hole, add a handful of potting soil and a handful of compost mix and cover up the roots with dirt, being careful not to pack the dirt too much (Shirley reminded me that plants need three things: water, sun and air). I asked if I needed to replant all the plants that day. Yes, I did and the quicker the better.

Three hours later, I was done. Towards the end, I was being less and less careful, throwing leaves and flowers into the dirt with the roots. I just wanted to get them in the ground.

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Transplanted daisies, monarda and evening primrose (the yellow flowers), in front of a lily plant, which we already had and which I later moved to another spot.

I’ve always loved the idea of gardening, but I haven’t done much of it. I come from a family of ridiculously green thumbs (my grandpa always had the heartiest fruits and vegetables, my grandma the most beautiful roses and orchids and my mom is a natural as well), so I hope some of those genes will start showing up in me.

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More daisies next to our dogwood tree.

Initially I was hesitant and overwhelmed about where to begin. But where do I put everything? Shirley told me to think about what I wanted to see when I looked out onto the yard from the patio. What did I want it to look like? And go from there. Can the daisies go over here? Try it. If something dies, you pull it up and try something else. No big deal.

I’m glad she gave me the responsibility of decision-making because ultimately my sense of ownership and pride is that much stronger. About a week after the big planting day, our lawn guys came and trampled over a bunch of my new plants and blew dirt and debris onto many others. I cried. Hard.


The rhododendron I was so worried about (I thought I may have over-pruned it) is slowly coming back.

When we first moved to Grosse Pointe and were living in our rental apartment, my girlfriend Ingrid told me to buy a plant to take care of. She said it would help ground me. Maybe I was so emotional because after a year of feeling so unsettled, I was finally starting to feel rooted to this place.

The beauty of gardening is that if something doesn’t go as planned, you can always start over. That’s also what I love so much about living with seasons – everything is constantly changing, renewing itself, reminding us that life is cyclical. You watch things thrive and die and come back to life seemingly right before your eyes and there’s something so profound about that.

Lately, I’ve been spending at least an hour a day (sometimes hours) weeding, trimming, watering, planting and envisioning our garden in the years to come. And it all started with a chat across the fence. How does your garden grow?

Grosse Pointe Homes – A Spring Photo Collection

IMG_0689 (1024x1024)I have a fascination with houses. I think a lot of people do. Who lives there? What does it look like inside? What stories happened within those walls? How has it changed over the years? Etcetera.

IMG_0296 (1024x1024)Most of the homes in Grosse Pointe have facades that are sometimes stately, sometimes quaint, sometimes peculiar. Whatever the style, most are also very well cared for, giving them a clean, maybe even weirdly pristine look. It’s very hard to explain. You just have to trust me.

IMG_0457 (1024x1024)Now that the weather is warmer (although still not warm enough – come on!), I’ve been able to go for walks and runs again. When I see a place that, I don’t know…. speaks to me (maybe the sun is hitting it just so, or maybe it’s the way a tree is standing), I take a picture.

IMG_0297The ones that I really like, I alter (not too much) on Instagram. I really try to bring out the home’s personality and what was reflected that day (a house can looks foreboding one day and cheerful the next).

IMG_0490 (1024x1024)I’m still hesitant sometimes to raise my camera (aka phone) to take a shot, especially when there are people around. What if the occupants see me? Will they think I’m casing the place? Hahaha. And don’t think I haven’t gone over in my head what I would say if someone walked out the front door (I love your house! or What kind of plant is that?).

IMG_0620 (1024x1024)And there are many times where I want to take a picture, but don’t, for fear of being noticed (yes, it’s dumb. I realize that).

IMG_0458 (1024x1024)And, as a result, most of my shots are taken so quickly that sometimes they ends up being blurry or not exactly right. Working on this project has definitely helped me (although it is very slow going) overcome my shyness with the camera.

IMG_0595 (1024x1024)I’ve been loving this project so much that I plan to continue doing a seasonal series – Summer, Fall, Winter. And Spring isn’t over yet, so I may have a part II.

IMG_0354 (1024x1024)So far, all the homes I’ve photographed have been within walking distance from my house. I need to hop in the car and drive a couple miles so I can explore the other sections of the Grosse Pointes.

I think a house says a lot about the people inside. What does your house say about you?