Skip to Content

The Joys (And Surprises) Of Inheriting A Garden

by Amanda

When we first moved into our new house, everything was Lupine, Daisies and Evening Primrose.

For the past five years, I’ve been cramming perennials, bulbs, vegetables and annuals into my city garden of about 200 square feet. I was (extremely) lucky to have any outdoor space in my town and got so much joy from shifting things around, failing, succeeding and re-creating my tiny gardens each year.

But as things changed (myself included), I decided I didn’t want to live in the city anymore. I wanted land with room to create a wildflower meadow, to get chickens, to not hear my neighbor’s discussion about dinner plans, and to experiment with my gardens in a larger space.

Another early summer surprise: three fairly mature blueberry bushes!

And space I got! After several years of looking, my partner and I found an old farmhouse – built in the 1830’s – with several acres of land. It hit all the marks for us: a barn, a large fenced-in area for our dog, an old house full of charm, and best of all, plenty of room to garden.

What I didn’t realize when we first toured the home in the beginning of March was just how much the owners before us shared our passion of gardening. As my mom said several months later, sitting on the patio after a full day of moving in June, “It takes decades to get a landscape looking this beautiful, Amanda. I know you’ll appreciate it.”

And we do appreciate it – every day. Each morning as I head out to water the new perennials, tiny wildflower seedlings and vegetable gardens, I bring my camera along to see what else is popping up in our inherited garden beds. I can’t describe my level of excitement when I realized the entire meadow next to our vegetable gardens is filled with Milkweed.

The hustle and bustle around Milkweed is so much fun to observe.

When we first moved in, I was delighted at the abundance of Lupine, Daisies and Bearded Iris everywhere on the property, giving everything a casual, somewhat magical feeling (especially after a rain). As the season went on, three distinct garden areas became clear on the property. I’ll talk a little bit about these gardens and how they’ve evolved so far this season.

The Yellow & Pink Patio Garden

Part of our yellow and pink patio garden.

This name is very literal; this garden is near our patio/screened porch and everything is pink and yellow! It’s apparent that the past owners put a lot of time and thought into the gardens in this area, which makes sense because we look at them every day.

The Evening Primrose added a great blanket of color to the front of the screened porch.

Everything is pink, yellow, and white, including Evening Primrose that just finished blooming, a variety of Yellow Daylilies, Rose Mallow (which hasn’t stopped blooming since we moved in), pink Peonies and charming Daisies. My mom and I planted one of the big wooden buckets the previous owners left, staying true to the color scheme with a variety of pink, yellow and white annuals. It looks great with the perennial gardens and has filled in nicely.

A beautiful whiskey barrel container and Bee Balm.

So far, the biggest delight on the property (I think) has been the Bee Balm, which lives mostly in this patio garden. The previous owners must have planted the Bee Balm years ago, because it’s about six feet tall and gives us the perfect show while we’re sitting in the screened porch. At any given time there are at least a dozen bees, moths and two very fast hummingbirds that still haven’t allowed me to snap a photo of them at work.

The bees have been enjoying our Rose Mallow as much as we have.

I’ve already spent time and effort on this part of the property, feverishly ripping out the overgrown area around the backside of the patio and replacing it with a variety of (pink and yellow) perennials. More about that in another blog post.

It's fun to sit in the screened porch and watch the pollinators party at the Bee Balm.

The Picket Fence Garden

The fence needs to be painted, but the flowers (Rudbeckia, Echinacea & Bee Balm) help hide it for now!

The garden planted in front of the picket fence (which needs to be painted) at the front of the property is also a gem. Bearded Iris and Evening Primrose added spectacular purple and yellow color in the beginning of the season, followed by Daisies, Black Eyed Susans, Lilies and now, much to my delight, Coneflower! The Bearded Iris are also re-bloomers and I can see hundreds of buds ready to open up in the late summer.

The Lilies stole the show in this garden earlier in the season.

This season I tucked some dwarf Oriental Lilies into this garden and we have plans to extend it across the entire front of the property in the fall.

The Wildflower Meadow

Right now the meadow is filled with Rudbeckia.

Our wildflower meadow is in “the back 40” of the property, which is what we call the area that isn’t fenced in, holds our vegetable garden and is a little too easy to ignore. So far we’ve enjoyed Lupine, Daisies, Milkweed, Daylilies, Black Eyed Susans and Gloriosa Daisies in the meadow.

When I do spend time out in "the back 40" I usually harvest from my vegetable garden and cut some flowers to bring indoors.

I think this meadow needs some work and may need to be re-seeded, but we’ll see how the rest of the season plays out. It’s a big job that keeps falling further and further down the list.

My one issue with the gardens on the property – I wouldn’t exactly call it a complaint – has been the amount of Original Orange Daylilies we have. I know that sounds ungrateful, but in full peak I think there were more than 1,000 orange daylilies. They are gorgeous, but come on! I’d love more variety – there are more than 60,000 cultivars of Daylilies out there. I will be happy to divide and conquer these beauties in the fall and my friends and family will be thrilled for the new Daylilies they will be getting for their gardens.

Orange Daylilies and wood that has since been stacked.

How To Keep Track Of An Inherited Garden

Once I realized how in-depth the existing gardens were, I made a conscious decision to leave them alone for this year. I haven’t done much except watch, enjoy and take lots of photos and notes. The first season at any new garden can be extremely overwhelming, so it’s been nice to observe – while weeding, of course.

Pro tip: Don't let your dog kill one of the only beds of Daylilies that isn't orange! (Also, this is her "I know I'm not supposed to be laying here" look)

At the beginning of each week I go out and assess the property, taking note of new varieties that are blooming, particularly ones that I don’t recognize (which have been many). I then write these down in my garden journal, research and identify the varieties I don’t know, and once the season is finished up I can look at where I have gaps of blooms in my season. I already feel a huge gap in color now that my orange Daylilies have passed (hmm, maybe I like them more than I’m letting on).

Regardless of whether you inherited your gardens or built them yourself, it is really helpful to take stock of what's blooming when and jot it down in a garden notebook.

Inheriting gardens can be tricky because you never know what you’re going to get, but we’ve been very lucky so far to enjoy colorful, easy-to-grow varieties popping up. It also feels good to have a little piece of the previous owners with us at the property, giving us the chance to build upon their work and make it our own.

One of my first cut bouquets when we moved in.

I’m still failing, succeeding and experimenting in my gardens this season, just on a much larger scale. And I can't wait to see what's going to surprise us next in the garden; there are hundreds of obscure-looking, spiky blooms in the meadow that look like they'll open up any minute. I'll post photos on our Instagram account when they do!

Yes, we did get our chickens (and ducks, too)!