A Stuck Foot in November



A garden is not a picture confined to a frame left hanging on a wall; it is something that changes with the movement of light and the passing of time.  ~Beth Chatto



Autumn has been good to me.  Our weather had been a bit cool, but we did not have a hard frost or freeze (or what we call a killing frost) until mid November thereby giving me a few flowers here and there to admire and cut for a vase for many more weeks than I would normally expect.  And so I thought with the better weather, this November would be a great time to look about my garden and take a closer look.

I have long ignored parts of my garden due to a variety of reasons, but this coming year I want to know them from soil to plant, from an DSCN6998up close view and from far away.  It is intriguing to take this complete look around a garden, especially my garden as it extends all around the house and property.  My garden is divided into many smaller gardens usually named for the location, the surrounds or type of plants in the garden.  And I will be taking a closer look at all these gardens in the coming year, probably years, as many need work from maintenance to redesigning.

But I thought I would venture into the most neglected area of my garden, the Center or Tree Garden which is located in the middle of my backyard.  For this post I will not talk about the changes I want to do here.  That is for another post.  But I will look at what is in this garden now after so many years of neglect.  Fall is not a great time to see what is growing, but it is a great time to see the bones.  I will note plants, locations and other important aspects of the garden throughout next year.

And a wonderful method for delving into this garden is by doing a Stuck Foot post.  What is a Stuck Foot post?  I read a post from Lucy@Loose and Leafy a while back about what she called a Stuck Foot post.  As Lucy says:

A stuck foot post is where you plant your foot firmly in a roughly random place and see what you can see without moving. Best is when you plant both feet but sometimes, as in this post, where you are on a slope or some other kind of difficult ground you may need to move the other around for the sake of balance. But you mustn’t move the ‘stuck’ foot. You can bend your body this way and that. You can lean forward and twist at the waist – but you mustn’t swivel that stuck-foot.


This type of observation intrigued me, and I wrote a Stuck Foot post back in August.  So I am doing a second post, and linking in with Lucy on the 21st.  Lucy’s Stuck Foot posts will happen every other month on the 21st.  I hope to join in regularly as I find the method of observation most satisfying.

I am also linking in with Christina@Creating my own garden of the Hesperides for her Garden Bloggers Foliage Day on the 22nd as this post is chock full of foliage.


So let’s get started……..



The trees, at the top of the collage, are our destination.  These trees are the major focus for the back garden as they were left when the land was developed for building houses.  These trees were the reason we bought this land.  And here is how we can get to this garden on this early morning, just as the sun is rising above the neighbor’s trees to penetrate my garden.  

Of course I can also enter the back garden from either side of the house through a gate.  But for this post we will enter the back garden from the back of the house; out through the kitchen’s French doors….down the steps, across the patio and down the path that runs between the pond and large rock.  I can also get to the Center Garden from either side of the patio, but this is a favorite shortcut.

The Center/Tree Garden, or as I like to call it Between-The-Trees, is pictured at the top of the post.  That is the view I see as I approach.  And I hear lots of woodpeckers in the garden today,  not happy that I am invading their favorite spot.




DSCN7000When I enter the center of this not-so-circular garden, I find lots of leaves that cover the ground every year providing a great base and cover for the plants.  It is a mix of white ash and silver maple leaves.  There is one silver maple, the tree I am following as part of  Lucy’s Tree Following meme.  And 3 white ash trees; one we cut down, one that we had to cut 20 ft off of the unstable top, and one that is still fully in tact.  You can also see vinca growing throughout this garden as well as weeds and grass.



What else do I see growing here….


plants ctr garden

The top left shows one of the honeysuckle bushes that has invaded my garden.  These are the invasive Japanese honeysuckle that grow behind my meadow in the wild area.  When we weeded this area in fall we found almost 50 seedlings, and missed many more.  The rest of the gardens are also sporting these honeysuckle seedlings brought here by berry-eating birds.  

Next is the skeleton of hosta leaves.  Many grow here, but not very well due to the grass and weeds impeding them now.  The hellebores are doing well, and beginning to grow into nice clumps here and there.  There are a few sedum and the tell-tale berries of my beloved lily of the valley that dot the front of the bed in May.  And hardy cyclamen all around (as pictured at the end of the post).




between trees

As I stood in the middle of this bed behind the ash and maple tree, I looked through the two trees and saw this…the yellowing leaves of the lily of the valley and the green leaves of the Golden Alexanders.  The Golden Alexanders create a great drift of wonderful yellow blooms in spring.  

And as this is the north-side of the trees you can see the moss growing there at the base of the trees.





Here’s a close-up of the moss in the early morning light.





 Now if I look up a bit more I see one of a few ornamental grasses growing in the garden.  





And just to the right of that grass, in the picture above, is my wonderful, native bayberry bush.  I am still trying to grow more bayberry so I can finally have some berries on one of them.  I love the leaves of this bush, and how they stay green and remain on the bush for so long in winter.  And it provides great protection for the birds especially the wrens.





Just above the bayberry, on the 80 foot white ash, is the coveted wren house, all cleaned out and waiting for next year’s guests.





If I turn to the right a bit more there is the stump of the white sash we cut down as the emerald ash borers were in the area, and we were advised to cut some or all of our ash trees before they became infected.  I put the remnants of the big sunflower’s seedheads on the stump for the squirrels and birds.  You can see the stump in the first picture at the top of the post.





This clump of mint is growing controlled around the stump.  It has to compete with tree roots and drier conditions here which impedes its invasion thankfully.




360 view

Now let’s take a 360 degree view of the surrounding gardens from my center spot.  Looking up from between the trees you can see the French doors and patio where we started our trip.  You can just make out the baptisia, viburnum and some grasses that grow in the garden surrounding the patio.

Looking beyond the trees, we see the arch garden and left fence garden.  The arch is blocked by the trees as is the shade garden next to the house.  

Turning again, we can see the back fence and gate where the meadow lies beyond.  To the left, in the picture, is the edge of the back corner garden and to the right is the edge of the white garden.  Trees block the rest of the back corner garden.

If we turn a bit more we see the stump, and our new linden tree which is covered by netting as the deer were attacking it.  Then there is the gazebo and white garden.  I did not get a picture of the garden in this corner of the fence where there is a rain garden and lots of Obedient plant swallowing everything.  

But you can see as I turn again, behind me is the veg garden or some of it.  And then turning a bit more we see the pond nestled in the garden and just below the corner of the patio.  Way in the distance is the side gate, pergola, composter and more gardens on the other side of the pond.





And finally I thought with the leaves gone, it would be fun to look up as I am surrounded by trees.  The top two views are what I see when I look up and then over my head.  Great shots of the silver maple I am following.

Then I stepped out to capture this view of the two front trees so you could get a better picture of our newest resident.  Or I should say one of his homes…the new squirrel’s nest in the white ash that we decapitated.  By the way, this tree has been stabilized now and continues to grow.  Although technically, it is dying slowly due to an invasion of carpenter ants.  We just can’t cut it down as the critters love this tree, and it provides great food for the woodpeckers, like the female downy woodpecker at the top of the post who is visiting one of our suet feeders.





So as I walk away from the bed and face the bed again, I feel like I really got to know my forgotten Center Garden.    Maybe now you can see this garden’s details too.  It has so much potential doesn’t it?  I will have lot’s of food for thought this winter as I think about how to better maintain and redo a bit of this garden.  I hope you enjoyed this Stuck Foot garden visit. 



Have you ever stuck your foot in your garden and looked closely to see what is there?  Give it a try.   





By letting yourself get in contact with the earth, by dealing with plants instead of people, you will feel refreshed, calmed–and gratified because you’re accomplishing something.  ~Thomas Hobbs






Next up on the blog:  

Monday I will have another Garden Book review.  And Wednesday, it will be time to profile another favorite native plant for Wildflower Wednesday. 

I am linking in with Michelle for her Nature Notes meme at her blog, Rambling Woods.  It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every Tuesday. 

65 Replies to “A Stuck Foot in November”

  1. What a great idea! This is a de-LIGHT-ful post. You have captured the essence of the low sun-early morning light for this time of year especially on the tree trunks and branches.

    1. It is my favorite light in my garden Jane…. and that garden was calling to me that day with the light hitting it perfectly!

    1. It is loads of fun and fascinating Pam. I am thinking of doing this in coming Stuck Foot posts in other parts of my garden. Have fun if you try it!

  2. Oh, I must try this Donna! I love this idea. So wonderful to have mature trees and even a living snag – valuable wildlife habitat! I noticed your mason bee house, too. I have the same one but it has declined and I want to make a new one and a bug hotel. Maybe come April! I have Obedient plant as well and it is taking over the back of my Potager – it is one of the many plants responsible for snuffing out the poor little Alberta. I hope you didn’t get too much snow. We didn’t and thankfully, the wind has subsided somewhat.

    1. Kathy, when you make the mason house/bee hotel post the directions so I can try as well. One of my stumps was made into one by the bees themselves…I love that about nature.

      I would love to visit some CNY, WNY and Northern NY bloggers this coming season so if you are game let me know…perhaps we can do a project even and my garden is always open too!

      We had NO SNOW!! I love that we are sunny although windy and frigid…glad you escaped too.

  3. There’s so much to see when you plant yourself in the garden for a while. Those trees are a great centerpiece and I don’t see much you’d need to improve.

    I might try sticking in one place since I’m always moving with the camera.

    1. Thanks Shirley. We need to weed, edge and improve the soil a bit. I am thinking of expanding the bed to add more bayberry and a few evergreens as I know the other 2 ash trees will be lost in the next few years. Then we can add a few more native plants for dry shade.

      Enjoy sticking your foot in a part of your garden and snapping the surroundings. I would love to see what you come up with!

  4. Hi Donna,

    I am feeling the need to reconnect with all my garden atm, although the weather has mostly been OK this year, over the past few weeks it’s been quite damp and I can’t spend much time outside watching the changes because I’ll damage our clay soil and make the drainage even worse. So I can only look from afar until hopefully we will get some settled weather soon.

    Must admit, I was surprised you didn’t have snowy photos, but it seems you missed out on it. Hoping we get no snow again this winter… But I’ve probably jinxed myself now.

    1. Oh Liz that does sound dreadful. We were under siege with loads of rain that did turn into snow, 8 inches worth. Then frigid temps. Snow is gone but not the frigid temps. I’ll have snow pics in my Dec. 1 post. Hoping you have better weather soon.

  5. What an enjoyable look at a part of your garden, Donna! Indeed there is much potential there. Just dream it, then do it. God bless you and your garden! 🙂

    1. Thanks Michelle…it is a great idea that Lucy had. And I agree you really do pay particular attention to lots of details.

  6. This is a brilliant idea Donna, and if it wasn’t so muddy out there I would go and plant a foot in a random place and take some photos too! It’s good to see a 360 degree view as well, which has provided me with some food for thought. I really enjoyed this post Donna! Thanks, and hope the bitter cold weather isn’t heading your way – it was headline news here today too.

    1. Thanks Cathy. If you get a chance in the coming months and it is dry enough, try it. Oh and the bitter cold has been here all week with some snow, 8 inches, but not the many feet north and west of us.

    1. Absolutely Sallie…that is why I love it because so many can join in from anywhere…Lucy did have a great idea with this.

  7. Ha, there would be no point in doing that in my tiny garden. I stand in one place and get most of it in. Where is all your snow? No lake effect? Six feet in Buffalo area.

    1. No snow here. We had 8 inches over the weekend and then it melted, we had lots of rain and then the vortex hit with frigid temps but no snow. We have been lucky Donna. I hope you have been spared too much snow.

  8. What tremendous photos! I can’t get enough of looking at your garden with the pergola and the white picket fence! We hear on the news that you’ve had some whopping cold weather, but it sounds (from the comment above) as though you were spared some of the heaviest snow. Good going there! Happy Thanksgiving if I don’t “talk” with you sooner….

    1. The garden hides the fence but fall is a great time to see it. And yes we were spared. Frigid cold all week with a dusting sometimes, but the storms on both lakes went NE and we are SE off the lake that brings our snow. I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving too Susie and many blessings!

    1. We were thankful it did miss us Susie. We were too centrally located for the storms. They came off of both Great Lakes and went in a NE direction. We have had the frigid cold with highs only in the 20s and a dusting of snow here and there.

  9. I love your Thomas Hobbs quote. Beautiful photos and collages. Glad to hear the snow missed you. Looking at the news it must have been horrendous.

    1. I love that quote too Denise as it is how I feel about my garden. Thankfully we missed the huge storm. We get this lake effect snow all winter which is why with each lake effect snowfall we usually get about a foot of snow….hence the 12 or more feet of snow we get every year. I am happy to not get a lot of snow already.

  10. ‘Stuck foot’ is an incredible idea! Hats off to Lucy for writing about it and for you to following through in such an amazing way (and I love Beth C’s quote at the start and Thomas Hobbs at the end … what peace of mind those words bring to the gardener who the rest of the world thinks is ‘barking’!). Can’t say how much I’ve enjoyed this and been stimulated by it Donna – thanks!

    1. Thanks so much Cathy….I love Lucy’s ideas as they really are so different and make one think. And how lovely of you to say the post stimulated you!

  11. Wow. This is a great post. Love the quotes and the photos. I want to try this, too. So much of the time I spend outside I am moving or working or doing. I think this technique will force me to stop and really pay attention. And bayberries! Lucky you. =)

    1. Glad you enjoyed the post and process Debra. I definitely plan to do more of these throughout my garden in the coming months snow or no snow.

  12. Have never done this but it’s a great idea. I never knew that Lily of the Valley has red berries. Is it considered invasive where you are?

    1. Not that I am aware of Jason…it has always been a favorite spring flower, and I know they can get out of hand, but I have had them in my clay soil for about 6 or more years and they still have barely spread beyond the few I planted. I have a few rare pink ones that are my real favorite.

  13. The wren nesting box is great, I would love to see wrens in my garden, they are so cute. I like your evergreen bayberry, it’s nice to have some nice glossy green in the bleakness of winter. I like the vinca for that also. I like to have some patches of mint too, it’s so useful and the bees just love it.

    1. Thanks Hannah…that vinca that I was sorry I planted will make it into many vases this winter so it will be of good use. And actually I like it in this garden as it has not escaped after all these years. Mint is a love, hate as I have patches that run amuck and others that stay controlled a bit….but the scent, the taste and the flowers not to mention the pollinators make me love it most of the time….I hope you get wrens in your garden one day!

  14. so much to see in standing still – am intrigued as to what your plans are now you have thoroughly investigated here. Beautiful sunny day for your stuck foot post too

    1. It was a great day Laura. I am hoping to expand the bed as there is loads of room to do so. Then add some good soil, shrubs and rearrange the plants a bit so it has a plan. I will not touch the front of the bed much because I love how the Golden Alexanders grow there, but there are some other plants lost amongst them that should be moved. Just some starting thoughts.

  15. And now we, too, are more familiar with your “forgotten” Center Garden. How fun, Donna.

    HOWEVER! Please let me caution you about one stuck foot and the swivel! I did something similar to that while playing volleyball back in 1971 and tore cartilage in my left knee, part of which had to be removed that first year. By 2009, all the rest of the cartilage had to be removed, bone on arthritic bone…and now, in January, I will finally have a knee replacement. It gave out this year and said “No more!” Not that it would happen to everyone but I just had a little cringe at the thought, that’s all. Just be careful. It may be better to move your feet around in a circle and be safe?

    1. Oh I do move my foot Ginnie….I have old knees that don’t like to swivel too fast…good luck on the knee replacement too and good advice with your warning.

  16. Another lovely post so beautifully presented. I am delighted with the ‘ stuck foot’ idea and if it wasn’ t raining I’ d go and try it out right now.
    It is wonderful to have such mature trees and lovely woodpeckers.

    1. Thanks so much Chloris…how very kind of you to say so. Hopefully if the rain let’s up in January you can try it then. Lucy will host another Stuck Foot then.

  17. Couldn’t see the comment I left when you first posted this Donna, must have missed it. Thanks for linking to GBFD and sharing some lovely foliage. I’m sorry you are getting so much snow and cold weather already; it makes me feel very fortunate, we were able to have lunch outside today, a real treat in November.

    1. It is sad when the cold and snow come so early but I hope we will have some above freezing weather for a while perhaps or maybe an early spring…I can wish and hope!

  18. A “Stuck Foot” post is a great idea! I once did a post on views from my blue bench, a similar approach. I love the view across your fence toward the meadow.

    By the way, were you affected by any of the snow dumped on New York this week? I was thinking of you, but my New York geography is not very good.

    1. Wonderful idea of a view from the bench…you have given me another idea. And thankfully no we did not get the snow just the frigid cold. I live in the center of the State and the snow was in North and West of NY.

  19. Donna interesting seeing the 360 degree view, I like the looking up view with the tree branches against a blue sky, good to read you have had some milder weather for November and can still enjoy flowers, Frances

    1. That was a particular favorite of mine too Frances…I love seeing the bare branches this time of year. With the recent snow all the flowers are gone so just a bit of foliage here and there now…we did not get the several feet that other parts of the State received. We had 8 inches about a week ago but it is warm for a few days now.

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