My Suburban Backyard Garden

By Mary Ellen Ellis | April 12, 2021
by Mary Ellen Ellis
April 12, 2021

My garden is my yard in suburban Detroit, but it is also my patio and front porch, my big indoor peace lily, and my beloved terrarium. Suburban gardening with cold winters isn’t always ideal but I make it work. 

The Backyard – Shrubs and Perennial Beds

I have a corner lot with a nice, big lawn. The lawn is part of the garden, I guess, but it’s not the crowning jewel. My lawn may be only half grass, the other half being made up of moss and clover. But it’s green, so I don’t mind. 

The better part of the backyard contains the beds. I have four main beds in the backyard. One is a corner with deep shade, anchored by a big lilac shrub, my favorite flower by aroma. I struggled for years to find something else to grow here until I put in ostrich fern. Now the bed is a lush corner of green from spring to early fall. 

Another bed is also shady, but not quite as much, so I grow a mix of hosta varieties and sedum. The largest bed is mostly daylilies but also my favorite plant, a towering rose of Sharon. And the fourth bed is spirea, hostas, poppies, astilbe, and a bleeding heart. In this bed I had to tear out overgrown ornamental grass from the previous owner, a big job but well worth it. 

My Patio Garden

The yard is the big job, but where I really enjoy spending time reading, hanging out with friends, and admiring the garden is on the back patio. Here I can see many of the beds, but I also grow an extensive container garden. 

I love to use tropical annuals here, plants that wouldn’t otherwise grow in Michigan. Coleus is my favorite, and every year I buy several varieties in all colors and patterns. I love the leaves on these plants, and so far, I have found that wildlife doesn’t care to eat them. 

Inside Gardening

For the indoors, my plants are limited because I have cats and I don’t want them to eat anything toxic. I do have a massive peace lily from my grandma’s funeral decades ago, but for some reason the cats leave that alone. 

My favorite garden is the terrarium. I have a large, Victorian-style glass terrarium that I change out regularly to grow air plants, African violets, peperomia, and other tropical plants, even the occasional Venus fly trap. I love all of my gardens, but this one is my favorite because it cheers me during long Michigan winters.

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