Garden Restoration. Mistakes Rectified

About a month ago, I told you about my return to Ohio from Ireland and the weed-infested gardens I found upon my arrival. I also explained that I had recent health issues that did not allow me to perform as usual in the spring garden.

I also came back to a patio that was a wreck, never really installed correctly from the get-go. There is NO filler between the flagstones, and all the openings are filled with weeds. Because there is no seal between the yard and the house, the area between the patio and the house is now a tunnel haven for the local chipmunks.

I am so happy to see these guys here to restore my back garden. In the two months since he came, the weeds have flourished—some, now over four feet tall. I discovered a corner cove of itinerant maidenhair ferns that escaped from the other side of the garden and wholly engulfed and destroyed my cornflowers.


I spent most summers in Ireland and expanded the gardens at our cottage. Here is where I spent most of my efforts. The same mistakes in Ireland, I have made in Ohio.

I would now like to share with you some of my errors. I have always trended toward a cottage garden: freeform with mainly flowering plants and a bit wild and unplanned.

Unplanned, being the operative word, here and my mistake.

  • PLAN
  • One should make a plan—even a rough sketch of where to put what will suffice. I have a bunch of plants that never worked: too tall or short, too invasive, wrong light conditions. I have a rhody in the back of the garden that would do much better if I moved to the front; it is too old to move, so I fertilize and hope for the best. Sadly, it has beautiful red blooms that are hidden by other plantings when it does bloom.
  • Research maybe even more important that drawing out a plan. My neighbor put in a ground cover that I pull out all the time. At first, I let it travel over to my side, but once it got there, I could not get rid of it. I now find it is like bindweed, and it sends out shoots under the ground and just takes off: one-minute there’s a couple of leaves, a week later there’s a section three feet wide. Had I known how invasive this plant is, I would have made more efforts to stop it from traveling over to my side.
Called Snow on the Mountain it is also called Bishop’s Weed. We had the all green one in Ireland called bindweed. We could not get rid of it. I wish I knew that when the neighbor who has left planted it!!

Research would have also helped me locate more flower cutting plants that can grow in the morning sun and then mostly shade. Research would have taught me who needs fertilizer and when, how, and when to trim, how much sun is needed, height and width expected, etc.
I f you take anything away from my post, remember to research your plants before you buy.

Some of my Worst Garden Decisions:

Maidenhair ferns.

Once they are in the garden, almost impossible to get out, the gardener will rototill the bed so I might be able to get my cornflowers reestablished.

The chipmunk ate the lily bulb and the ferns took over my cornflowers

Bare root hybrid roses.

I love roses, but they require tons of work and need a lot of sun. Two years ago, I opened up a bed on the front of the patio for roses. I bought hybrid teas. One of my favorite, Mr. Lincoln, an old roses that I later found, was prone to disease. See the need for research here? I am on my third attempt, and it is going to get pulled.
The other mistake was bare roots from an online catalog. I will now buy established roses from reputable rose cultivators. It is worth the extra money. I have discarded three Mr. Lincoln roses and spent more than one pot rose would have cost.
The next mistake was buying a rose that was a bit fragile and required a lot of care. I am not going out daily to the garden, so I need a more hard rose.
Lastly, I will look into a rose bush, rather than a hybrid tea. The hybrid tea roses ARE prettier, better for cutting, and more dramatic, but I might have to sacrifice all that to get roses in my garden. In this restoration, I will go with the prettiest, but I’ll look for hardier and easy to maintain rose and see how it does for a while.

Let weeding get ahead of me.

I hate weeding. I hate the hot Ohio summer sun. I use those hates as my reason not to work in the garden. But, now I am paying a couple of lads to do that fo me. If I do a little every morning or evening, I can avoid that aggravation and expense.



I originally wanted a flat flagstone patio with just thin graying slates dropped onto soil and sand. The landscaper I then used talked me into this stone patio. It requires an individual grit between stones that has a rubberized cement and then requires setting with water. This water set is challenging, and you need to know just how much to wet it, etc. Then when adequately dried, the stones are sealed. Well, this patio has sunk, there is nothing in the grout lines at all, and it has separated away from the house. I have no idea what this guy is going to do, but it has to be better than what I have presently.


I have a badly slopped garden due to the lay of the land as it were. I am on a hill, and the house is cut into that hill. The house is lower than the outside yard, and that causes me water problems. I cannot add soil to the bed, because that sends water flow to thwart the house. But I need to augment my clay soil. I have recently learned about “sweet peat,” a lighter, compost like material, which I now incorporate in the plant when I first put it in the ground. The link to sweet peat has a lot of good information on the subject and a store locator near you.

Even thought they call this a mulch, it is sooo fine I mainly use it as a compost. I add regular bark much on top.


The garden will spread mulch over the gardens in the back. Mulch will help keep down the weeds by blocking the sun to those roots. It will help keep moisture in the ground for my plants and will help to cool the roots of some plants like my clematis, which likes sun but cool roots.
I also have to go around and brush most of the much off my Irises. If the top of that rhizome doesn’t get enough light, the plant won’t flower. I have the Iris that are double bloomers. They bloom in the Spring and again in late summer or early fall.

Garden Plan

Lastly, I am going to draw out the garden and decide what additional plantings and ground ornaments I want. I had statuary in Ireland and have started looking for old concrete and metal planters and statures for this garden. I will research the plants this time.
I am going to set up a design board as you do for home decor. Colors, room design, fabric swatches, but I will have colors, plant diagram boards, pictures, and research for my swatches, etc. Same basic concept. I wish I thought of that before. That actually sounds like fun.

So here is one design board I found online by Susan Cohan- isn’t that a beautiful thing?

The workmen have finished. They removed all the weeds and ferns and now the gardens look bare. I cannot believe the difference….They did plant my cornflowers and actually got both kinds: the pink and the orange ones. The birds love them in the fall when they go to seed. I did lose the two Mr. Lincoln rose bushes but will try and save the others. The new hydrangea looks very pretty. It will be interesting to see if she maintains her color as she matures. The guys still have to come back and finish the patio. He encountered some problems- so I’ll tell you about the next week. We all are learning new things together.

So, guys, that’s it for now. I will share the garden once the work is complete is done. He is going to plant replace my cornflowers and put in the third hydrangea for me. BTW Hydrangeas are one of the BEST plants I have in my garden

More garden stuff later.
Take care
Anyone else renovating the garden…Got any ideas to share???

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