The Green Gardening Chronicles, Vol. 1, #2

Pruned butterfly bush

Checked one thing off my list this afternoon—I cut down the butterfly bush in our backyard. My friend and extraordinary gardening resource, Jen, tells me that it’s quite a hardy plant and I can cut it back severely and still keep it healthy. Let’s hope so, because it is now nearly stumpy (okay, not quite, but I cut A LOT off today). The reason she suggested this plant to me a few years ago was that I wanted something simple to care for and lovely to look at. If we didn’t have this plant, we never would see hummingbirds in our yard! I didn’t realize until recently that this is an invasive plant, so I’m not going to recommend it as a great plant for southwestern PA; but if you already have one in your yard, it’s a beauty.

My wonderful cat, Bentley, accompanied me outside to cut the bush. He pointed me in the direction of a rather large and quite expired rodent—a vole, or meadow mouse—in the window well of our basement. I’ve had the displeasure of cleaning one out of that window well in the past; so I’m passing this cleaning assignment onto my husband. I didn’t think anyone would be interested in a picture of the ex-vole, so instead I substituted a lovely hyacinth that continues to grow across the yard from the butterfly bush.  In fact, voles are quite small—but when on display near my house, they appear rather huge. I’m a cat person, so I’m not really rodent tolerant. I’m all for its natural predators helping to eliminate it—no need for nasty pest control practices unless all other methods have been exhausted.

purple hyacinth flowers

Since it’s such a lovely afternoon, and I’ve actually gotten one thing done, I’m inspired to order some plants for our front yard. We share our yard with neighbors since we have a townhome, so we have a rather small area outside our front door–part of which we keep as a garden. We dug up most of the plants that were there when we moved in six years ago as they were generally out of control and not exactly what I wanted. I just ordered some pink tickseed, white turtleheads, and wild bergamont from Peace Valley Nature Center (, which is not only close to our home but where they grow their own native plants to sell to the community. I like the idea of buying plants that would naturally be grown in our area, and I also like contributing to a local nature center. The park is lovely and a wonderful outdoor resource for the community. We’ll be picking our plants up in mid-May so that we can plant them as soon as we get home. Out in our front yard, we currently have a dwarf maple, one transplanted bleeding heart plant, three rather pathetic peonies, a blue aster, two unidentified plants that I thought were annuals, and lots of lamb’s ear. I’m thinking of trying to move the peonies to the back yard (where they will get more sun) and replacing them with these new plants. Wish me luck!

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