Xenia, Ohio Newbie Over Her Head

(Susan) Xenia, OH(Zone 6a)

Bought cute retirement house several years before actual, fulltime retirement. First time homeowner... well the loan rates were great and the short sale proved not too short. Now I am visiting the property quarterly for 3-week "vacay" stints. Want to start establishing a cottage-style garden and don't know a soul for info and orientation on corner-lot ideas. Will somebuddy adopt me for a bit?

Present on the property now is:
. a huge multi-trunked maple shading a lot of the front,
. 1 failing rose on the lot line, amid weeds
. 2 small, narrow, shady front beds with hollies, a brave daffy and tulip, and a lone young peony clump
. 1 magnificent weed tree that was a mere shrub 4 months ago
. 1 shallow depression in med sun where a tree or shrub had been... hole w ditchy area extending out from presumed roots

First time to own what I garden. Lots of ideas but don't know squat about what grows here... budget too waste!

With only 3 weeks per visit, can I do any more than design, plan, dig new beds and mulch them? Dare I put in a spiraea and/or lilacs?

Thanks for any help!!!


This message was edited Sep 18, 2014 7:43 PM

(Susan) Xenia, OH(Zone 6a)

Bed, side yard w weed tree, mistake from interior (I can't remove), maple tree in snow.


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Franklin, OH(Zone 6a)

Oh a blank slate!! How much fun is that?!!

Okay, tell me your name and a little about yourself then come over to the ORVG chat thread and say it all again! LOL. Just kidding, you can go there first and I'm sure find some helpful answers. Where are you coming from?

Franklin, OH(Zone 6a)


This should take you to the chat thread.

Hillsboro, OH(Zone 6a)

Hi Susan,

Nice to meet you. Are you living in Xenia or moving to Xenia? I'm not too far from there.


(Susan) Xenia, OH(Zone 6a)

Thanks for the replies. Briefly-- bad eyes on tiny fone!

I'm in the midst of a quarterly visit to Xenia on time stolen from fulltime pastorwifing in N Central PA. No wifi here yet and over dataplan limit already.

Helper and I did first step of eradicating a hollow-stumped, fast-growing weed tree yesterday to open the side yard for planned beds n shrubs. All yard neasurements done to take back to still-working hubby for joint planning.

Hoping to be able to afford enuf mulch to replace anti-termite white rocks uglying up the rectangular front beds, in a curvier layout. Thinking to invest in brn Rubberific.

Have been handicap-scootering neighborhood with camera for ideas. Gathering especially ways I can decorate in spring with various hanging and containerized color when here.... i.e. start annuals in PA to display here, till we move here fulltime in 2-3 years.

Michele, are you up for a face visit? I'll be here abt 2 more wks. Love to tour a big garden center. (Stockslagers?)


(Susan) Xenia, OH(Zone 6a)

Ah HAH! I think this might work:

Landscape fabric base
Strip of leftover shingles along house (anti-termite)
2" Rubberific
1-2" top dressing of matching wood mulch (top dress annually)

With blk plastic under the mulch, in areas now grassed that I want to bed out. With all wood mulch on future beds away from the house or trees we'll keep.



(Susan) Xenia, OH(Zone 6a)

Whew and WooHOO!!!

Thirty-five bags of mulch later, it looks like a different house. The rich brown color I chose is a real contrast with the last 20 years of living in an almost topsoil-free region-- it looks from sidewalk distance like rich loam. 

What we did was use brown, shredded Rubberific thickly (anti-termite) up against the house, over a row of shingles against the house and landscaping cloth, and a thinner layer coming forward. Ditto at the base of the large maple tree. ... It's about 60 years old and very grand. (The trunk and spread of the low sub-trunks branching off are ovoid.) 

For this rocky ring we followed the line where the exposed roots met the grassless ground-- about 4-5 feet from the trunk all the way around. Huge and overbaked dry for many years. Later I can add flat stacked Pennsylvania bluestone on that rock foundation, and tuck a bit of moss and rock-garden plants into them. Until we live here fulltime, I can just add memory stones freely available in PA-- of which I already have a bunch collected in various ornamental shapes, sizes, and colors. As time goes on the mulch depth can increase as stacked stone arrives to contain it.
We used similarly-textured/colored pine bark about 3" thick starting towards the front edges of the beds and behind the tree's ring of white rocks. And raked that back to blend with the Rubberific.

This way we got good bug control and more affordable net coverage-- bark bags were more than twice as full/heavy as the Rubberific, so we just used the cheaper stuff to add depth. Rubberific was twice the cost but half the material, so actual coverage cost was more like 4/1 pine vs. Rubberific.

At the base of the tree where the dirt had eroded away as the trunk rose--where thin grass had just made a dustbowl--we tucked in more mulch and smoothed it between the massive roots, so that now you see the roots rising up as if from rich soil. 

The front beds had been 4' deep front to back and are now 7' deep. This makes the existing holly bushes a backdrop of the right height, with plenty of room for colorful lower plantings in front of them. We added a few red metal garden ornaments waving on stakes. One bed also began its curve around the corner of the house toward what will be a side bed later-- probably lilacs and hollyhocks against the house and a small freestanding arbor with benches. 

In a gash in the front yard left from a tree removal, we lined it with black plastic, filled it with white rock, and set a lone swan atop to preside. Later I'll dig up all the kilt grass and put in a Spirea and bulbs. The rocks can edge that. And we stowed about 6 5-gallon buckets of that stone for use in the patio area. OMG there was a lot of stone to repurpose!

I'm just in love with that under-the-tree "backdrop" we made. When I get back to gardenless PA life I can watch the Goodwills for light colored smallish pots/unusual containers and yard art. And I can start seedlings for annuals. On spring and summer visits back to Xenia, then, I can just plunk waterable seasonal annuals into waiting containers on the ground and hung from hooks.

Tonight I bought ilow plant-stand and furnished it with clearance mums. Later, I'll add short plant hangers set between the hollies and a bit forward of them. Hanging baskets for color. Maybe a fern or spider plants.

Photos tomorrow. I had great helpers who worked affordably, had great neighborly ideas, and set to visit during breaks so we could all decide each step along the way. I did enough myself to get good and tired and it's too dark now for pix!


Otway, OH(Zone 6b)

Hello Susan,

I live in Otway which is about 30 minutes from Hillsboro where I also have family. I have been to Xenia also. Kathy

(Susan) Xenia, OH(Zone 6a)

Hi K! Visit?


Franklin, OH(Zone 6a)

Sounds like you're making remarkable headway. Will love seeing your photos!

(Susan) Xenia, OH(Zone 6a)

Thanks. Staging beds with end of season plant material first and a few "found" pcs first. Success #1 is that it called to me when I woke up, to putter at it.... added a chunk of wood, a toddler's chair n table, a blue pot.....

I woke up a gardener. ;-) Who knew. I need a cross out there....

I have the best idea for a patio planter too now, to bring down on a spring trip: the heirloom white enamel/black cast iron stove as an herb garden outside the kitchen door. Rescued years ago from family camp when they put in a modern kitchen? Basil spilling out of the open burner lids... Potted flars til we're here fulltime..... garden nippers for deadheading in the overhead warming shelf....edible flowers trailing out the oven door, YES. Potted flars til we're here fulltime...


This message was edited Sep 26, 2014 2:25 PM

This message was edited Sep 26, 2014 6:20 PM

(Susan) Xenia, OH(Zone 6a)

Maple in ring.


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Otway, OH(Zone 6b)

Very beautiful place.

(Susan) Xenia, OH(Zone 6a)

Thanks Kathy. St. Francis is on his way to bless it.

I plan to set more items out as I go. The thirds that face the streets will get taller, showier installations. The third facing the house is a great settin' spot and I have two wrought iron rockers to set there with the tree behind us-- so that side (which is also visible from the dinette set behind the large window) will get the smaller, more personal items.

Funny how I wasn't motivated at all to scrape and Rustoleum those old rockers before. There are 3 matching non-rockers to go with them....

I had a funny idea today for the patio-room of the garden to go near the sprouting woodstove in my mind's eye. An unused granny cart stuffed with moss and leaking portulaca, that I can wheel where needed. Not sure hubby will give up the cart.... uses it sometimes in nursing home ministry. But Goodwill....

I'm going to bed early, a gardener. God help me. "HAD to read Secret Garden, so there ya go" He sez. ;-)


This message was edited Sep 28, 2014 3:34 PM

Otway, OH(Zone 6b)

Heading to bed myself as I have to be up at 4:30 to head to work. Night and have a great day tomorrow. Kathy

Franklin, OH(Zone 6a)


(Susan) Xenia, OH(Zone 6a)

Continued here with "after" fotos and unfolding plans:



(Susan) Xenia, OH(Zone 6a)

Great news for my garden planning-- I found a local master gardener to advise. She helped me start my first in-ground project-- mixed bulbs-- and liked my plans for the rest of the property. WhooHOO!

Franklin, OH(Zone 6a)

Yay, Susan!!

Glad to hear you found a helper.

Keep us posted!

(Susan) Xenia, OH(Zone 6a)

Thanks, I will. Current question is here:


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