Garden description: Two years ago when we moved to Wilmington, this back yard was full of 5 huge Norway maples, enormous burning bush shrubs and lots of forsythia. One of the first things we did was remove all of those. We then got rid of loads and loads of gray, smelly clay and brought in a dump truck load of mushroom compost. I learned where the garden centers are in DE and PA and went to town buying and planting. I have planted for bees, butterflies, birds, and fragrance, and have many natives and perennials and some annuals. The yard also had a dying crabapple and a diseased yellow wood which we hated to lose. We replaced those with native magnolias, holly, amelanchier and viburnum. Things have grown larger than we ever thought possible and I am now calling the back garden the ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ though happily it is full of color and life and wildlife.
Who are the gardeners: My husband, a lawyer and environmental activist who loves brightly colored (i.e., orange) annuals and perennials and I, a master gardener, are the worker bees here. His grandmother was one of the first female landscape architects and lived in Philadelphia. He caught the bug from her. Our daughter is a horticulturist and offers extra trees and plants from her arboretum garden and lots of free, gentle advice.
Why do you garden: It gives me much peace and joy to be in the garden and to plant and dig in the soil. I come from a long line of gardeners and it seems to be in my DNA. I say I need a 12 step program to help me with my plant buying addiction. There are worse things….
How has gardening impacted you during this time: I have helped the local garden centers survive, for one thing. I can’t stay away from them. And we are so fortunate to have the extra space and rooms in the garden to watch the nesting and feeding birds, the bees and hummingbirds, to enjoy coffee and wine in the shade of the new trees, and to wonder at how robust the garden has grown in such a short time.
What do you have in your garden? One of my favorites is a hardy artichoke that has gorgeous lapis fuzzy blooms and is covered with bees when in bloom. Rattlesnake master is an odd plant that I like the name of and it is a tall accent in the gardens. Lettuce, kale, arugula, parsley , other herbs and pansies in pots keep our salads fresh and pretty. Foxglove, hibiscus, a number of varieties of helianthus, hellebore, clematis, ferns, lilies, bulbs, hydrangea, rudbeckia maxima, and a new one to me – hairy balls – are some of my happy plants. Tiger eye sumac, a gift from a landscape designer friend, really catches your eye. I also like to have pots of water plants in pots and this year have papyrus and a variety of elephant ears. While every part of the castor bean plant is poisonous, the leaves and flowers are beautiful and it is so easy to grow from seed. While our dog does dig lots of shallow holes in the shade, she fortunately does not eat the plants we have.
Do you have any problems with disease or pests? If so, how are you dealing with this problem? We are overrun with squirrels and rabbits. I do trap the squirrels and relocate them across the river with hopes that they won’t return. I now put a bit of pik paint on their tails so that I can see if they make their way down Kennett Pike. Another huge pest is landscape fabric which some past owners put down almost everywhere. It makes planting very difficult and maddening.

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