Stopping to smell the tulips, iris, lilacs, phlox...

I think my wife was not so much bitten by the gardening bug as that she swallowed it. Close association with her has produced a real (if smaller) love for gardening in me, and in our little girls.

So, I knew when we bought a house, a couple of years ago, that we would be busy turning its grass-and-trees landscaping into something brighter and more artistic. But it's really striking me this spring: We (by which, I mean, mostly, she) have been busy!

I've also noticed that when taking pictures of gardens, people tend toward close-up shots that bring out the beauty of just a plant or two. It makes sense when you're walking through a garden, park, woodland or whatever - you can't help but see the big picture all around you, so a photographer's instinct is to capture the smaller gems that might otherwise be lost.

But since I can't walk you around our garden to show you how much has changed, I've dug out some shots that I hope will do a decent job of showing how the property has come to life.

Take for example the area in our back yard beside the garage. It was mostly bare of grass when we moved in, and had an awkward slope to it.

 At the time we started working on the back yard, there was a great pile of dirt in the front yard, which had been dug out when we enlarged the car-park.
We wheelbarrowed a big percentage of this dirt to the back yard, and graded it to make an almost-level terrace that came about fifteen feet out into the yard. Then I re-used some flagstone and concrete pavers, also torn out during the driveway expansion, to lay down a patio.

I laid the patio directly into the dirt, instead of setting it "properly" on a sand or gravel base. As a result, it has settled already. It would be easier to sit on if it were level, but we think there is a charm to how it seems much older than it is. It also has let my wife experiment with planting things in the spaces between stones. We're trying several kinds of moss, violets, and are quite happy with how the small bulbs scilla look in early spring.

To get a more peaceful feel we planted the evergreen ground-covering plant pachysandra between the patio and garage, and let the beds wrap partway around two sides.

Pachysandra is a great shade-loving ground-cover. While not aggressive, it has filled out nicely from the cuttings we started with, and seems to have almost endless tolerance for being divided and spread around.

My wife also planted a climbing hydrangea next to the garage. Hardly taller than the ground cover now, it will eventually cover most of the garage wall, which should add some more soothing color and interest to the setting.

To help the area feel like part of the yard (and to make room for growing more plants), my wife planned a border-garden extending along the driveway from the garage and patio to the sidewalk, which I widened with some of the leftover stone pieces.

After a couple of years of planting and experimenting, there are quite a few things growing in the little border, but the dominant features will eventually be the lilac shrubs (when mature they'll make an 8 -9 foot screen and be covered with scented clusters of flowers in the spring) and creeping phlox in springtime.

I would still love to hear from anyone willing to share their own writing or photos of time enjoying nature. But, depending on how things go, maybe next month I'll indulge myself by showing you the story of our shade path-garden.

Until then, don't stay indoors!