August 27, 2021 by LittleMouseling

July 2021 Garden Journal — LittleMouseling

  • Location: Southern Ontario, Canada
  • Zone: 5b

We had a transformational July in the garden! One spur-of-the-moment decision helped turn a fine, maybe oddly sized flower bed into an inviting garden (if I do say so myself.)

A recent photo of the garden.

The main change was that in mid-July, with our second vaccine shots taken care of and the prospect of having friends visit on the horizon, we realized we needed more outdoor seating. Why not, we decided, a nice garden bench?

Some Campanula and ‘Chocolate Drop’ upright sedum.

Most of our favourite gardens have benches; we are always struck by one neighbour’s stunning, flower-filled front yard, beautifully accented by a bright yellow metal bench.

Veronica spicata ‘Royal Candles’ at the beginning of July.

We ordered the bench; it arrived; we put it together and immediately began to disagree about where it should live. I said outside the garden; my fiancée said in.

The original bench location, with Lucy.

It took me about a day to see the logic and the possibility of her proposal. The bench could slot between two currently small but eventually very large shrubs, namely a panicle hydrangea (‘Fire Light’) and a ‘Royal Purple’ smoke bush we want to trim into a small tree over the next few years. It would get afternoon shade, provide a place to enjoy the garden without crouching in the grass, and a few natural stones would make a charming pathway to it.

The garden immediately pre-bench

She was absolutely right; the addition of the bench and then the stone path have made all the difference in the world. A visiting friend was struck by how welcoming the garden was — the most flattering word she could have chosen!

But it’s been more than that. Rather than taking space away from plants, the path has actually added it. Where a few large shrubs were going to dominate the area, now new groups of smaller perennials — sun-loving on one side of the path, and shade-tolerant on the other — made more sense. Euonymus fortunei ‘Harlequin’ was the only big move, from the path over to the fence, where it should be happy enough to be trained as a vine next year.

The garden, post-bench.

There are still plenty of changes to make; it’s a first-year garden with lots of growing-in and design “editing” to be done. But this one change, coming in only because we needed seating for guests, has had the most wonderful knock-on effects, not just on us but even on the local wildlife.

The birdbath, now tucked closer to the lilac, the fence, and the staghorn sumac, provides a safer-feeling zone for the nervous birds — and a constant source of bird-sprayed and human-dumped water for the new surrounding astilbe and toad lily.

New Astilbe ‘Amethyst’ in the shade area adjacent to the birdbath.

On the bench, robins hop onto the birdbath right in front of us, moths and bees flutter around the bluebeard close enough to enjoy, and squirrels run the fence right next to us. The garden has a whole new character when viewed from inside. My friend was right: it’s inviting. As obsessive as I have been about it this year, I haven’t spent nearly as much time with the plants in the months pre-bench as I have in the scant weeks since!

A robin visiting the birdbath very soon after we moved it and added shade plants nearby (and failed to clean up the resulting dirt on the rocks!)

Get a bench, or a chair, or a big rock to perch on. Just having a seat inside the garden does wonders, it turns out.

Cabbage butterfly on the bluebeard near the bench. All photos by LittleMouseling.