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The Back Garden Project: Planting Time

This is the fifth post in The Back Garden Project, one GOOD community member's effort to turn a neglected corner of the city into a thriving garden.

As promised, here's my first sketch at how I'm planning to lay out my new garden. In fact, I've already started on some of the ideas.

You can see I've decided to allow a few patches of volunteers to stay (including some of those troublesome Japanese knotweeds I mentioned earlier). I have two reasons for this. First, they're in places that get some of the worst light in the garden (they're the really tall bushes in the background of the shot below), so they're sort of helping fill out areas that I'm not ready to do anything with. And second, I've started to feel bad pulling up so many plants and roots, even if they are invasive species. We are a nation of immigrants after all, and nowhere more so than here in New York. These suckers have probably lived in New York longer than I have. So some of them get to stay.

I've decided to think of the plot in terms of different little areas. Not only do I think this is more appealing from a landscape design perspective, it also allows me to stick to my original idea of a garden of shade-tolerant native plants, while also taking advantage of the unexpectedly decent sunlight at the bottom of the yard for non-native wildflowers and edible produce.

But let's stay focused on the natives for now. I've been learning a lot about plants native to the New York region these past few weeks. Margaret Gargiullo's epic Guide to Native Plants of the New York City Region, which I mentioned last time, continues to be a great help. Some other handy resources I've found include the New York Flora Atlas website, the Flatbush Gardener blog, and of course the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, which has all sorts of useful information, including this "tipsheet" on native plants for rain gardens. I also can't speak highly enough of the amazingly knowledgeable folks at Liberty Sunset Garden Center and the Gowanus Nursery. Finally, at ritamajkut's suggestion, I've looked into plant exchanges around brooklyn, and I'm pretty excited about the possibilities. (There's a Flatbush Plant Swap this Saturday!)

I've only begun the process of acquiring native plant starters for the garden, but so far here's the list: the Thuja occidentalis cedar I mentioned last time, three different ferns (Ostrich, Royal, and Cinnamon), a mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) to get the shade garden started, and a globeflower (Trollius laxus) and goldenrod (Solidago cutleri) to begin planting in my metal track flowerbed (pictured). I'll be on the look out for more options this week.

For now, here's an image of the brand new shade garden with its first few additions:

As you can see from the plan at the top of this post, there are many other components to the garden I have in mind, and I'll be discussing them all in turn as they come to fruition. For example, I've already started work on making a planter out of what I think is part of a discarded Ikea bookshelf that I found back there. More on that next time.

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