Back And Sides

Most of the horticultural drama around here is in the front garden. But we shouldn’t forget that on either side of the house there are narrow strips within our property lines. And then there’s the back garden. Let’s take a look at what’s going on in those relatively neglected areas.

Wild Columbine flower

The east side of the house has my biggest and best concentration of Wild Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), especially where the East Side Bed meets the Front Foundation Bed. Right now they are at peak bloom.

I like the how Columbine flowers are so dangly.

Columbine flowers remind me either of chandeliers or of a whole host of skydivers descending to earth in red and yellow parachutes.


It’s a shame that this part of the garden doesn’t get more attention. You don’t pass through on the way to anywhere – you only see it if you make a deliberate point of visiting.

Ostrich Ferns, Spanish Bluebells, and Wild Columbine.

OK, now let’s head over to the west side of the house. On the way we’ll pass a spot where at this time of year you’ll see a combination of Spanish Bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica), Ostrich Ferns (Matteuccia struthiopteris), and Wild Columbine. I really should have planted the Bluebells closer to the front of the border.

‘Guernsey Cream’ Clematis

We’ll also pass a tuteur planted with two kinds Clematis, including ‘Guernsey Cream’, which was planted just last fall. Though less than 3 feet tall, it’s the first Clematis to bloom this year. It’s supposed to grow 6-8 feet, but I suppose that will come with time.


The route to the Back Garden lies along the shady west side of the house. It’s planted with Bleeding Heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis), Great Merrybells (Uvularia grandiflora – no longer blooming), Lady Ferns (Athyrium filix-femina), Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense), and ‘Annabelle’ Hydrangeas (Hydrangea arborescens).


Click this link if you want to know why I used to call Athyrium filix-femina the Cat Lady Fern.


OK, here we are at the entrance to the Back Garden.

‘Purple Sensation’ Allium

There’s another patch of ‘Purple Sensation’ Alliums. I’m surprised that it has prospered and multiplied in the dappled shade.

Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’

There’s also a Bluestar cultivar called ‘Blue Ice’. Not to be confused with another cultivar called ‘Ice Blue’, which is a Clematis.


‘Blue Ice’ flowers are a bit darker than those of the straight species Amsonia tabernaemontana, and the petals are not as elongated.


I didn’t get our little fountain-birdbath set up this year until the middle of May, which is late for me.

Common Camas

Last fall I tried planting Common Camas (Camassia quamash) for the first time. I placed the bulbs in a concrete container (it used to be a birdbath) with no protection to speak of. Happily, most of them made it through the winter. Common Camas is supposed to be pretty tolerant of wet soils.



I filled in with some white Nicotiana, but the container does not look as full as I had wanted. I may add a few more bulbs in the fall, or I could wait for them to multiply.

Are there parts of your garden that you feel aren’t visited enough?


47 Comments on “Back And Sides”

  1. I love clematis! Growing up, we had deep purple ones (I don’t know the variety) growing up onto the deck and spilling over. Our efforts to train them to the banister didn’t work, so they just sort of covered a portion of the deck floor. They were really beautiful, even if they weren’t great for the deck itself. Your garden is amazing!!

  2. Narrow sideyards are often too narrow to do anything with. A home that I lived in a long time ago had bedrooms facing the front and rear, with sidelight windows into the sideyard. They were easily changed out for doors that open into small atriums for the two bedrooms on that side of the home. It works out nicely.

  3. Hello Jason, those aquilegia look lovely, I miss having them in my garden (one day, though). I saw Guernsey Cream Clematis when we were at the Garden Centre but because I have a couple of other clematis that look similar, I wan’t allowed to buy it (it’s not fair, I know). I looks like you have a errant sycamore growing among your alliums too?

  4. It is a shame that the side gardens are not ventured into that often – they look lovely. I wouldn’t mind setting up a chair in that grassy bit in the east garden border & do a bit of reading (a gardening magazine, of course!).

  5. I love your native Aqueligia canadensis. Some might call it an alien invader over here – but in fact here it in York it is quite difficult to grow
    I love your shuttlecock fern. Mine had been underwater for three months this wet Winter but has loved it and is really luxuriant now

  6. The south side of my house is visited only when I drive the mower through that area to get from front to back (and back again). I did spend some time there today, yanking thistle and such. There was a huge clump of yellow sweet clover, too – where did that come from? And why only one?

  7. There is much more to look at in your unvisited area than in mine. The North side of my house is the least looked at by me. They only ones that see it are my neighbors. They might like it if I kept the weeds out a little better. The river of Columbine looks lovely. Those rascals can take over.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: