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Vintage Urban Garden | Chloe’s Garden’s Story

By: Chloe Deike
I’m working to restore my vintage garden into a space for pollinators, produce, children and all-around appreciators of beauty. Come enjoy the process with me!

Chloe-logo Vintage-Urban-Garden-Lead

If you made a list of everything you love about gardening, what would be at the top?

As gardens are awakening for the growing season ahead, I can’t help but keep a mental running list of my favorite qualities every time I step into my own garden: the smell of thawed earth, the lush young grass, the resilience of sprouting plants in the face of temperamental weather (spring means 80 degrees F one week, freezing and snow the next in an Iowan garden, by the way.) But above all, my list-topping favorite quality is the story each garden tells.

Chloe-headshot3-fad

Let’s swap gardening stories!

From the soil to the seed to the sights and smells, there’s so much life and loveliness to appreciate in just one garden. So I want to invite my fellow gardeners — novice or experienced, green thumb or black — to come along with me and experience my lovely little garden for yourself.

To you give you some context, here’s a little run-down of who I am: I’ve got gardening in my bones. Going to grandma’s house meant following her around my family’s garden center and landscape business, leaving toys in trugs of soil and tricking koi fish into nibbling on my finger. Family vacations with landscape designer parents meant many stops to scope out a garden center or admire a garden.

I got to spend a lot of time working in a greenhouse deadheading thousands (upon thousands upon thousands) of annual geraniums and in many stunning lakeside gardens installing breathtaking landscapes. It was a good way to grow up, and it inevitably lead me to find my way into the garden industry as an adult. After college I worked as a recreational therapist and horticultural therapist, helping older adults and people with disabilities garden. And now I’m here at Garden Gate magazine, growing alongside you as a gardener and sharing all that I learn along the way.

chloe’s front garden in spring 2019: Our first spring in the home in 2019. This pretty spring scene appeared without me even lifting a finger.

A little vintage urban garden

We bought our home in the city in the dead of winter 2019 without the slightest idea of which plants — if any — might be nestled in sleep beneath the snow. But stone edging faintly outlined beds and borders, giving me just enough reason to hope for some plants to pop up in spring. So, all last year I practiced restraint and just let the garden grow to see what would happen. (Very convenient as we welcomed our second child midsummer and, yes, my hands felt a bit full.) My evening strolls around our yard were a lot like slowly progressing through the chapters of a novel.

Chapter one: There are plants! Lots of flowering perennials!
Chapter two: This is a pollinator’s paradise!
Chapter three: OK, things have gotten out of hand.
Chapter four: This garden takes on a new beauty in fall. It was thoughtfully designed.

Many important parts of the story are left blank (Like who gardened here? How long ago was this designed and installed? Where did the plants come from? ), but my interested is piqued and I can’t get enough.  

My garden goals

You know how renovating old homes is really popular these days? I feel tasked with a similar opportunity to restore this garden back to its former beauty, and at the same time infuse it with as much personality and function as I can. The garden is an important space for me and my family, and I want us to be able to retreat to a place that feels like ours while still honoring its history.

What kind of goals do you have for your garden?

If you want to share, post a photo on social media that sums up your garden well and include one of your garden goals in the post. Tag it with #MyGardenGoalGGMag so we can all see!

Gardening is a slow and steady process that requires care and skill. So I can’t expect instant results. But I’m not going to sleep on the chance to fill our space with things that bring me joy, to stir up a fascination for the outdoors in my kids and very literally sow some seeds that can be reaped in years to come.

It might be scrappy, folks. But in the spirit of 1930, which is when our home was built, I’m ready to get to work, make use of what is available to me and fight to find the beauty in this very odd time in history. (I’m talking about you, COVID-19.)

What’s your garden’s story?

Please join me. If you’re an aspiring gardener who needs to know where to begin, watch me start and take notes. If you’ve been gardening for much longer than I have, I welcome you to follow along and find inspiration — and go ahead and “tsk-tsk-tsk” at my inevitable foibles. But I think all gardeners have something to share with each other, and I’m quite eager to share with you!

Scroll below through some iPhone photos from last year and catch a glimpse of my garden. Check back in the coming weeks for a look into what’s currently growing, the projects I’m working on (with step-by-step information!) and for all sorts of tips about growing vibrant plants, taking care of soil, watering, weeding, pest management and — well — who knows what else! It’s a real garden after all, and thus, in the way gardens go, I’m sure many surprises await.

Some sweet discoveries from my first year in the garden

Early spring beauties

Early in our first spring in our new home, these dainty golden crocuses (Crocus spp. and hybrids) were the first flowers to emerge. They only lasted a day or two before the bunnies munched them down. (Oh, the bunnies that live in my garden...)

Reseeded phlox — a lot of it!

We spent a lot of summer days with the swallowtail butterflies. Our big patch of phlox (Phlox paniculata) is their favorite buffet, and they are some of our favorite entertainment.

An overwhelming patch of bee balm

In the golden hour of the evening, the bright pink monarda (Monarda spp. and hybrids) glow. This must be an aggressive variety as it has taken over the garden bed. The bees and hummingbirds were aplenty here!

Vibrant white and green plant combos

This shady bed in spring is ultra classy with a strictly white and green color scheme. The planting is so dense and lush, and the bridal wreath spirea (Spiraea x vanhouttei) had such graceful arching stems that were drenched in a sea of white petals.

A handful of out-of-the-ordinary daylilies

In addition to lots of the classic ‘Stella de Oro’ daylilies (Hemerocallis spp. and hybrids) and tawny daylilies (Hemerocallis fulva) (often called ditch lilies), there are about 4 or 5 different daylilies in reds, oranges, peaches and purples. I love an out-of-the-ordinary daylily!

Resilient volunteer tomatoes

I mean it when I say I just let whatever grow last summer. Many volunteer tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) plants popped up from seeds of the prior year’s plants. One poked through the crack in my cement patio, and I left it there to see what would happen. It quickly took over the back stairway, but my son loved to pick his own snack. Also, Tonka trucks are common garden decor for us.

Early spring beauties

Early in our first spring in our new home, these dainty golden crocuses (Crocus spp. and hybrids) were the first flowers to emerge. They only lasted a day or two before the bunnies munched them down. (Oh, the bunnies that live in my garden...)

Vibrant white and green plant combos

This shady bed in spring is ultra classy with a strictly white and green color scheme. The planting is so dense and lush, and the bridal wreath spirea (Spiraea x vanhouttei) had such graceful arching stems that were drenched in a sea of white petals.

Reseeded phlox — a lot of it!

We spent a lot of summer days with the swallowtail butterflies. Our big patch of phlox (Phlox paniculata) is their favorite buffet, and they are some of our favorite entertainment.

A handful of out-of-the-ordinary daylilies

In addition to lots of the classic ‘Stella de Oro’ daylilies (Hemerocallis spp. and hybrids) and tawny daylilies (Hemerocallis fulva) (often called ditch lilies), there are about 4 or 5 different daylilies in reds, oranges, peaches and purples. I love an out-of-the-ordinary daylily!

An overwhelming patch of bee balm

In the golden hour of the evening, the bright pink monarda (Monarda spp. and hybrids) glow. This must be an aggressive variety as it has taken over the garden bed. The bees and hummingbirds were aplenty here!

Resilient volunteer tomatoes

I mean it when I say I just let whatever grow last summer. Many volunteer tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) plants popped up from seeds of the prior year’s plants. One poked through the crack in my cement patio, and I left it there to see what would happen. It quickly took over the back stairway, but my son loved to pick his own snack. Also, Tonka trucks are common garden decor for us.

Published: May 21, 2020
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