Home » Home and Garden » No-Cost Garden Make-Over on Ridge Road

No-Cost Garden Make-Over on Ridge Road

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One reason I moved to Greenbelt was to downsize, especially in the garden, and with my small townhouse property new, mission accomplished.  But I soon realized I needed more, more, more outdoor spaces to make-over, make-overs being the most fun gardening projects there are, right?



So here’s a nearby spot of land I’ve tackled this season and last, as it looked mid-make-over.  The Azaleas aren’t blooming and the messy vines are partially removed for the project, but you get the idea.  It’s at the very back of my next-door neighbor’s back yard, between 5 and 7 Courts Ridge.



Here’s what it looks like now, a result that didn’t cost a dime.  I moved some of my neighbor’s extra plants here, included lots more from other neighbors, and later this season we’ll all enjoy some ornamental grasses donated by a grower I know.  I’m thrilled with the result, and others seem to enjoy it, too – a predictable result of gardening in such a public spot.

So do so many people express shock and wonder at the very notion of toiling on a bit of land you don’t actually hold title to?  We all benefit from public beautification, and I do include increasing property values in the calculation of the benefits, especially for spots near your own home, like this one.  Not to mention that this is a co-op community, so we really do all own our gardens collectively.



Alternative Groundcover for Sun

The lower part of the pocket garden was once turfgrass but had been replaced with vines in hopes of their not needing as much maintenance.  Turns out, vines are an unruly bunch, and they had to go.

So I yanked out all the vines and replaced them with this very short Sedum that grows around here like a weed – a good thing when you’re trying to cover ground lots of ground quick.  Sedums are the number one plant used on green roofs, and no wonder – most will stay 3″ or shorter, they’re succulent, so don’t need watering after the first week in the ground, they never need feeding, and they’ll quickly fill in thick enough to prevent any new weed seeds from germinating.  In the lower part of the close-up you see them newly planted 3-5 inches apart; they’ll completely fill in by mid-summer.  And because they’re weeds, they’re free.

Finding alternatives to lawns is a hobby of mine, and Sedums are a great choice for sunny spots.

Massing Plants 

For make-overs that cost nothing – the most fun kind of make-over – big improvements can be made by simply rearranging existing plants together in masses, rather than alternating different types or sprinkling one or two of something everywhere.  When plants are massed they create a calmer look that people seem to prefer, and I think it’s because it mirrors the way plants grow in nature.  Naturalistic garden design is what people are responding to these days – a trend I’m loving.  Not only do plants look more natural, and more beautiful when grouped; the whole garden becomes less work to maintain.  So we’re seeing curves used more, and more natural materials, not to mention plants that aren’t fussy.  My kind of plants.

In this pocket garden we were fortunate to have pre-existing azaleas already massed.  Post-make-over there are also sweeps of Black-Eyed Susans, Bearded Iris, Hostas, Comfrey (donated by Mary Lou Williamson, which replaced the Tartarian asters donated by Rachel Channon, which turned out to be too tall in this spot), a new mass-to-be of Lamb’s Ears, and a new chunk of Coreopsis from Bonnie Schrack that will be a nice mass next year.

Future Make-Overs

It’ll soon be too hot to move plants around safely, so for more make-overs it may be best to wait until the fall.  We’ll be having another Plant Swap then, which can facilitate massive rearranging of plants from overly full gardens to overly empty ones, with no money being spent at all.

We can look forward to more plant swaps every spring and fall.  And for the next one we’ll be soliciting suggestions for ways of running them that aren’t so gold-rush crazy.  More orderliness has been suggested, and this organizer is happy to comply.

Follow Susan Harris:
Susan started blogging about Greenbelt soon after moving here in 2012, and that first blog has grown into this nonprofit community website. Retired from garden writing and teaching, she continues to blog at GardenRant.com. In 2021 Susan joined the Board of Directors of Greenbelt Access TV. Susan launched the video blog "Susan's Hoop Dancing Journey" after trying hula hooping during the 2022 Crazy Quilt Music Festival.

3 Responses

  1. rachel channon
    | Reply

    it really is a beautiful spot. i would definitely like to try that sedum too…

  2. Rebecca
    | Reply

    Lovely work!

    I was wondering, what would be your favorite recommendations for lawn replacement for areas that are close to full shade?

  3. Beth C.
    | Reply

    Gorgeous makeover! You have a wonderful eye for beauty, and your neighbors were generous with beautiful plants. I’m going to look into sedum for my own yard; I bet I have some growing in it already.

    I’ll have to stop by this beautiful plot.


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