Home and Garden

Looking Back on Last Year and Ahead to This Year


Today we drive to Washington State, where we visit Melissa Mantey and look back on the past year in the garden.

I don’t know all about you, but after 2020 I will be more grateful for my garden than ever. Being able to keep track of the growing seasons and gardening chores that go with each new month kept time moving on in the past year and giving my brain a little break from whatever was going on. I designed every square inch of my garden, even areas I had promised my husband to leave alone because I wanted to add more color and experiment with new plants. I’ve been working on my garden in Zone 8a since 2013, but the biggest changes happened in 2019 and 2020. As with many people, my garden serves as a self-prescribed medicine for my mental health. And in the most difficult times my garden experiences the greatest changes and gives way to the most beautiful and uplifting landscapes.

While it can be difficult to be grateful for times that can cause us so much pain, I look around my room and am grateful for what I have accomplished, especially in those moments. And although some of us are just getting out of the rain, snow, and mud seasons, I keep rubbing my dirty hands together in plant-mad glee, looking forward to what this year’s garden will bring. Taking into account all of the seedlings I’ve grown in my greenhouse, some beautiful things are going to be going on in my landscape (cross your fingers!). Until it warms up, let me go through these seed magazines one more time …

‘Kiwi Blue’ honey herb (Cerinthe major ‘Kiwi Blue’, annually)

Backyard garden bed full of flowersThis backyard landscape includes Rudbeckia (Rudbeckia hirta, zones 3–7), Sedum (Hylotelephium ‘Herbstfreude’, zones 3–9), hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla, zones 5–9), Coreopsis (Coreopsis verticillata, zones 3–9), Verbena bonariensis (zones 7-10 or annually), Mexican feather grass (Nassella tenuissima, zones 7-10), blue fescue grass (Festuca glauca, zones 4-8).

Dragging nasturtiumsDragging nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus, annual) and bee

Plants under a windowHellebore (Helleborus hybrid, zones 4–9), bluebells (Campanula sp.), Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas, zones 7–10), pansy (Viola × wittrockiana, cool season annually), little heather pieris (Pieris japonica ‘Little Heath’ , Zone 6-8).

Front window box with hostasFront window box with hostas (zones 3–9), dust mill (Jacobaea maritima, zones 7–10 or annual), Alberta spruce (Picea glauca ‘Conica’, zones 3–7), pansies, hellebore.

African daisiesAfrican daisies (Osteospermum, annual)

Garden bed and pond in the shadeHydrangeas, hostas, hellebore, twilight nandina (Nandina domestica, zones 6–9)

Container planting on a fenceLobelia (Lobelia erinus, annual), nasturtiums, Martha Washington geranium (Pelargonium hybrid, annual), verbena (annual), Livingstone daisies ‘Mezoo Trailing Red’ (Dorotheanthus bellidiformis ‘Mezoo Trailing Red’, zones 10-11 or annually).

purple and white phloxPhlox (Phlox paniculata, Zones 4–8)

Garden bed in the shadeWendy’s Wish Salvia (Salvia ‘Wendy’s Wish’, zones 9–10 or annually), hostas, hydrangeas, nine bark (Physocarpus opulifolius, zones 3–7), smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria, zones 4–8), euonymus (Euonymus japonicus), Zones 5–9), black moon grass (Ophiopogon japonicus ‘Nigrescens’, zones 5–9) and sedum.

Plant autumn containersOrnamental cabbage with pansies, photographed in autumn

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Robert Dunfee