The ornamental (mostly) garden expansion process has taken longer than I thought, since I am not super human or anything. After contending with the mulch--and recovering--I had the energy to complete the last of the remaining digging over the three-day weekend.
Here is a reminder of how the too-skinny border looked before:
Eliminating this perfectly round tree island around the Magnolia was a nice bonus:I went in stages. After I conceived the plan, realizing that just widening the border was not going to give me the space I needed, I began by creating a large bed at the right end of the back border--extending out from the lilac corner. This preserved the expanse of lawn that Mr. Do likes, and that I agree makes the yard feel spacious.
I made a walking path across the bed so I can access plants, most important the blueberries. In this new bed, I moved the Amsonia (bluestar), Baptisia (false indigo), Liatria (blazing star), and some of my coneflowers (Echinacea). I admit I do not like the neat, "plant island" mulched look, but the whole point was to give the plants room to grow, and the mulch is smothering the grass (along with a layer of cardboard)--no more sod digging for me! I will eventually plant low growers in between them--maybe more yarrow and Veronica, plus some Agastache, following the advice of this excellent post by Nancy J. Ondra of Hayefield.
Now the blueberries and coneflowers along the fence have ample room to grow, and bulbs like Allium keep it from looking too sparse.
The Liatris in the front are looking gangly because all growing season so far they were crowded and in too much shade--they will bounce back. This combo was partially inspired by the cover of The American Gardener, but you'll have to use your imagination until they fill in.
Some cooler (relatively) and cloudy weather cooperated so I could transplant some large bushes with minimal damage. First to go were the suffering hydrangeas, which found a new home in a bed to the left of Betty the Magnolia, where they now get afternoon shade provided by the garden shed, along with some new Veronicastrum (Culver's root), with sun-loving Scabiosa, lamb's ear, and butterfly weed (Asclepias) in front. I killed (tear) the seedlings I had growing under the Magnolia with leaf mulch, but there's always more seed.
Neither Hydrangea was blooming much before, but I am expecting to see lots more of this now that the shrub is getting the shade it needs
I rearranged a few other plants along the long border over the past few weeks, and this weekend I widened the entire bed about two feet, giving me space to stagger plants (and add two more blueberries!). This part is still in progress, and some transplanting will have to wait until fall, but it is looking much better already. I love it when a plan comes together--now I just need a chaise or hammock to sit in and enjoy the view.