Summer Solstice Shinanigans and Garden Tour

"Summer Solstice" and "huge, raging bonfire" are synonymous in my mind. You see, every year when I was little, the teachers, parents and students at The Waldorf School of Princeton (the private grade-school my sisters and I attended) welcomed summer with a ginormous bonfire. And yes I know that isn't a word. But I like it. Don't worry, there were calls to the local fire department beforehand, and students generally learned to keep their distance and simply marvel at the glorious flame.

Of course, later on, students were known to jump over mini-bonfires. As my sister Sarah demonstrates below:

So you can imagine that after years of celebrating the longest day of the year in such a fashion, it is a little let down when all we can create in our little Minneapolis backyard is a tiny marshmallow-roasting-sized flame in a dainty little pit.

... But what is that we're doing? Let's zoom in and see what's really going on ...

Yup, those are most definitely gardening gloves on Sarah's hands, and a wheelbarrow full of perennials in the background. (Sarah, my youngest sister, is living with us this summer, and has become our full-time gardener! And fire stoker! Gotta earn your keep! Just kidding ...)

We indulged in a spontaneous trip to Gerten's (amazing gardening store) right before close that Saturday night and couldn't wait to get some color in the ground. But we couldn't forgo our Summer Solstice bonfire, so we doubled-up and enjoyed a bonfire while gardening into the night -- far past your typical gardening hours. We felt like rebels, or else intense gardening enthusiasts, planting out peonies by candlelight bonfire-light. Perhaps not quite the rush of a Waldorf Bonfire, but it was close. (I neglected to document the late-night gardening, but just picture us with shovel in hand digging away like grave robbers!)

The next day we finished up planting our new perennials (and a few annuals too) around the patio.


We wanted to add some color to our patio area and give it that cozy garden feel, so we decided on some of our favorite perennials (a pink and white peony, Evan apparently loves roses so we grabbed a yellow one, Fern Leaf Yarrow - I love that color yellow, and the purple plant is called Marcus Salvia I think) and then we picked up a bunch of petunias and other annuals to fill in the front row.

As you probably remember, we built our patio just last fall (stage 1stage 2stage 3 and stage 4), so it's come a long ways in the last year. Just last June there was a big dead tree in the middle of our backyard, zero privacy from the lack-o-fence, and nothing but grass bordering our house.

We never really had an image in our head of what we wanted our backyard to look like, but we've just been developing our plan as we go.

After enjoying our patio and table this spring sans garden, we knew we needed something bordering the patio to help it feel settled and cozy. At one point we toyed with the idea of placing a raised bed under the window, but decided it would be better to incorporate pavers for a more streamlined and cohesive look. Evan found some great edgers at Menards for just a buck a piece (I think they were called "Harvest Blend"-- the same as our patio). He just dug out a little trench, then tapped them into place, using a little leftover sand from the big patio project. Easy peasy.

Come, let me show you the rest of our backyard and garden!

See the wood pile in the middle of the yard? That's where our old dead tree used to stand. Somehow that pit collected wood over the year (including our christmas tree) and we're gradually chipping away at it with every bonfire. Eventually we will seed it with grass. We hope to plant a new tree in that area someday, but probably a little closer to the corner of the fence because the current location interferes with walking in a straight line from patio to gate.

We have various shrubs and perennials planted to the left of this picture. Namely a bleeding heart, two hydrangeas that weren't expected to come back this year, and some grasses and hastas. We're trying to make the air conditioner and all the other above-ground cables blend in a bit. We'll see how that goes.

But how rude of me. I should've met you at the front of our house and let you in the side gate! What was I thinking. Ah, there you are ... welcome to our backyard. On your left you'll see about eight tomato plants in a rather unfinished area. We're still working on that. Then up on the left we have a raised bed made by Sarah and Evan that holds our berry garden - strawberries, raspberries, and a blueberry bush that is supposed to grow vertically. We might need to make a new bed if these guys get too crowded.


On the right is our vegetable garden (another raised bed crafted by Evan -- I'll post a tutorial on that soon!). This year we have a slew of sweet peppers, three rows of lettuce, basil (which I'm pretty sure I couldn't live without), oregano, and some zinnias (which you can't really see in this photo). This was taken a few weeks ago, so everything is a little more developed now.

S and E, spying on the neighbor? That's what fences are really for, haha ; )

I am LOVING this new space. E and I decided our patio is probably our favorite house project to date.

And this lovely garage-sale find (in the free bin of course) was so ugly, how could we not claim it? Lady Flamingo Legs is no longer camped out in our berry patch, I'm sorry to say. But she may make a reappearance when you least expect it .... ; )

... And now, just for fun, let's look at some backyard pictures of yore to see how far we've come. I'm actually really bad at remembering to take "before" photos, so most of these are just pictures documenting something else that happened to take place in the backyard. But you get the idea.

Side yard, sans fence, patio, tomatoes, raised beds.

Fence starts to go up! I don't think I've blogged about this whole process yet. We hired out a contractor, who proved to be a little unorthodox, but an awesome fence builder.

Backyard shot

Yay, for privacy!

Last August we dined in our backyard for the first time (without a picnic blanket, that is).


Anyone else out there taking on a project one step at a time? I'm excited to see how our backyard continues to evolve .... Evan already has big plans for a homemade rain barrel! Stay tuned!

I know there has to be more bonfire or bonfire/gardening enthusiasts out there!

Read more about the patio here: stage 1stage 2stage 3 and stage 4.


  1. Loving that back yard! And glad you're keeping Sarah busy. Maybe we will have to have you do the raised beds at our house.

  2. You have come a long way. The flowers have such pretty colors and your garden looks like it is coming along nicely.

  3. Great blog entry -- you guys have so much energy -- made me tired just thinking about it!


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