May Day at Green Half-Acre

MAY IS BUSTIN’ OUT all over on my property in Springs (Long Island, N.Y.) Here’s how things look now, on the three-year anniversary of my buying this cottage in May ’09, above: filling in by the minute, poised on the brink of floral pleasures to come. I’d wrapped a lot of stuff in burlap over the winter and have been spraying Deer-Out like crazy. A lot of work, but it seems to be paying off. Still, I keep looking longingly at other people’s deer fences.

For comparison’s sake, a look back at where things stood two short years ago, when I had just begun the conversion of a packed-dirt driveway to perennial beds along the side of the house:


These days, with what seems in retrospect just a modicum of initiating effort on my part and almost all due credit to Mother Nature, most of the soil I created in this area from dead oak leaves, the most plentiful free resource, plus a purchased truckload of top soil and compost, is pretty much covered with greenery. Below, the same area as above, different angle (also different camera: I’m working these days with an iPhone only, and as much as I love it, buying a proper camera is a priority). The two brown boxwoods, which didn’t make it through the winter, are coming out as soon as I get around to it.


Kousa dogwood on the right was newly planted about three weeks ago and thus is barely leafed out yet. In foreground, lespedeza (bush clover) looks like nothing but will be four feet tall and covered with purple flowers in August/September. Ruby glow barberry is reveling in the full sun of this area, and the deer leave it alone.


Around the other side, above, two old pieris (Japanese andromeda) have been likewise chopped back and are putting out lots of new reddish growth. The viburnum in the center, which I had planted in fall of ’09 and which didn’t flower last year (deer ate the buds), is covered with them, and I look forward to it blooming in weeks to come.


Above, the first rhododendron bloom on one of about seven huge old rhodies I inherited from previous owners.


Above, copious buds on the viburnum plicata tomentosa.


Euphorbia by the front door, early and yellow, with a yellow spirea in the background.


Perennial cranesbill geranium are among my favorites for shade tolerance and spreading, but the deer will eat the buds and flowers if I miss a spot with my spray bottle.


Irises and Japanese anemone, above, both more substantial stands than last year.

Now let’s go around the back:

Newly planted dogwood (cornus florida) is blooming crazily from the five foot mark upwards, suggesting that the deer had their way with the lower half — though they’re not ‘supposed’ to eat dogwood, so I’m not sure.


View toward the back deck with stand of old ferns in foreground.


I call this my ‘last frontier,’ above: an area in the rear corner of the property, bordering Town-owned woods, where deer bed down and I’ve planted little but daffodils, and recently, the dogwood and a red Japanese maple, which was nibbled the first night and now resides in a cage, below:


Above, bit of a disaster: three old never-blooming azaleas which I had moved to a bare spot but which seem not to have survived the transition. The deer eat the buds despite spraying. They were too unwieldy for me to wrap. I’m giving them a little more time (they’re not quite dead yet), but they may have to come out.


Above, the cornus florida in top-half bloom, with my inherited pinetum (grouping of evergreens) in the background on right.


It’s almost container planting time, hooray! Annuals are an instantaneous and rewarding way to get color on the front and back decks. My first pot of the season, above: cold-tolerant pansies plus amaranths or ‘Love Lies Bleeding,’ which I bought as much for the name as for the exotic dripping flowers. Let’s see whether the deer like them as much as I do.

About cara

I blog (for fun) here at casaCARA, and write (for money) about architecture, interiors, gardens and travel for many national magazines and websites.
This entry was posted in GARDENS & GARDENING, HAMPTONS, LANDSCAPING, LONG ISLAND and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to May Day at Green Half-Acre

  1. Jan says:

    congratulations. I have been watching for all 3 years. Nice changes all round.

  2. Barbara says:

    Lovely! Thanks for the little tour. I feel as if I’m there.
    Can’t you just hear those azaleas piping up with “I’m not dead yet!” a la Monty Python? (They sure LOOK dead tho.)

  3. cara says:

    Thanks, Jan. So nice to hear from a longtime lurker (I know you’re out there!) Re the azaleas, Barbara, it’s so hard to tell…they *might* be a variety with brownish leaves, I keep telling myself…

  4. Elke says:

    Look out Diane B. another Garden Star is tip toeing into your spotlight………

    Amazing what you have accomplished/created in 3 short years ….Happy Birthday house and garden!

  5. GAP says:

    Amazing difference. “Before” and “after” pictures tell a stunning story sometimes. Inside and out, you have transformed this place.

  6. Eileen says:

    Wow, Cara, your garden looks beautiful! Congrats!

  7. Becky says:

    It is just spectacular! Gorgeous transformation. You would meet lots of gardener friends where I live!

  8. cara says:

    Thanks for the supportive comments, friends:-) You’re all invited to visit!

  9. GAP says:

    By the way, your title for this one made me laugh out loud.

  10. Anonymous says:

    It’s coming along beautifully! Thanks for sharing

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