If I had a choice, I would live in the woods.
I would take my house, which is currently sitting smack dab in the middle of suburbia, and copy and paste it to a couple acres of secluded woods.
I dream of a yard that ends not at the neighbor's fence, but one that wanders off towards the trees. Rather than clipping and pruning every square inch, I'd like to embrace the wildness, and cultivate a natural, organic and slightly messy vibe in my gardens.
But alas, I'm not expecting to move any time soon. Instead, I've settled for a solid compromise.
If I can't bring my yard to the woods, then I invite a woodsy vibe into my little plot of green.
And my project today is a perfect example.
Bright and spunky primrose. This classic northwest beauty is easy to grow in our wet and cool climate, and commonly planted in color-coordinated rows or precise geometric arrangements.
But I strive for a naturalized style. Three simple steps help me create a woodsy little primrose garden that keeps my forest-dwelling fantasies alive.
1. Lay out the bed to look organic and natural, rather than stiff and formal.
The overall arrangement of my primrose patch is a loose oval shape; any planting that is circular or rounded usually reads as natural. I eyeballed the plants to keep them roughly the same distance apart, but intentionally avoided planting these beauties in straight rows or precisely spaced measurements.
Similar colors are grouped together, just as natural drifts of wildflowers often grow in clumps and bunches.
I try to lay out the colors in such a way that as my eye travels across the planting, the various hues will mix and mingle in my line of sight. I also think about the shades of the colors, and intentionally weave the bright and dark colors, the warm and the cool colors, to create a pleasing effect.
2. Buy plants from the half-off rack.
Most nurseries sell their tired and less-than-perfect specimens for deep discounts, and I not only like to save money, but I prefer the imperfect look of these babies. Once I pinch off a few spent blooms and fluff a few faded leaves, these rejects actually look more natural than their greenhouse-perfect counterparts and that's my jam.
3. Mulch with fallen leaves.
A forest floor is littered with an accumulation of past season's fallen leaves, and my garden is no different. While I do sometimes mulch with my own compost, or when my supply runs low, a bag of store-bought, my favorite way to keep down the weeds and protect my plants' roots is by tucking handfuls of old leaves around them.
I love the texture. I love the color. I love the virtually impenetrable shield against weeds.
The only thing not to love is the slugs who love these leaves too. Perfect hiding places for the little devils.
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My primrose patch may not fool anyone into thinking that they are miles from civilization. But when I peep out my living room window and see this tiny island of color in my mostly brown spring garden, I feel like I've stumbled upon a sunny wildflower meadow in a forest glade. With a little imagination, I can almost forget that my neighbor's yard is just five feet away.
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The story of my gardening season: