My wife has always had flower gardens. Lately she has been cultivating dozens of varieties of hybrid irises and lilies. The lilies have been been blooming like crazy lately. Here's some recent pictures of her beds.
Her Asiatic lilies just started blooming a few days ago. These have a strong odor that originally I did not care for, but I have gotten to like it OK.
A few years ago she created her experimental butterfly garden. Towards the back left is a volunteer butterfly bush that has been very popular.
The only big butterflies we get consistently are tiger swallowtail like this male.
We also get a lot of bees of all kinds. They also like to drink from the bird bath. If you do not have a bird bath, I strongly recommend getting one. Birds, insects, squirrels, and chipmunks all drink from it. I had been told that it will also help keep the squirrels from eating your tomatoes, but that doesn't seem to be working out for one of my daughters. Recognize that, like bird feeders, putting a bird bath out is a commitment. The critters will come to rely on it, so you must keep up your end of the bargain.
She also recently found a woman out by Georgetown with a hosta farm. The back of our yard is very shady, so it is becoming a hosta garden.
The 1st spring after I retired I (actualy Carlos Villanova and his guys) put in a vegetable garden. It is 1x2 railroad ties (8'x16'), and was started with 1/2 ton of topsoil and compost. It is now in its 3rd year. It only gets about 7 hours of direct sun/day, but does pretty well anyway. I did not realize when I got into it how much bending over was involved :-O
I started early this year. January 15 I covered it in a wheelbarrow-full of compost from our heap; turned it over with a shovel (took around 40 minutes); and spread 120# of cow manure over it.
March 15 it raked out easily, and I planted lettuce, mixed greens, spinach, carrots (1st time), and snow peas from seed. It froze 4 times after the lettuce, greens, and spinach started coming up, but they did fine. We got maybe 12 gallon bags of lettuce, greens & spinach and I got in a habit of having a big salad for lunch. We got 3-4 gallon bags of snow peas, which we throw into our veggie mix on the grill.
April 1 I planted 6 broccoli, 6 brussel sprouts, and 6 radicchio (1st time) starts. The broccoli are producing 2ndary heads now. The brussel sprouts are just getting close to harvesting. The radicchio has been a great addition to the salads. Radicchio is a member of the chicory family and is a perennial. All 6 plants are growing their 2nd head now.
I also planted some beets from seed at my wife's request. They look like they are doing OK, may have to try to harvest some soon. Growing stuff underground is more challenging. I didn't thin my carrots near enough - in general, I find it hard to thin stuff, I'm afraid I'll get rid of too much. It is definitely a learning experience.
Last year I tried planting kale and swiss chard seed August 1 as a fall crop. But I found that, after September, the garden only gets 3-4 hours of sun/day, so they didn't do anything. This year I tried putting kale & swiss chard in right after the lettuce and spinach were done, around June 15, but again, nothing. It's too hot for them. So I guess I'll have to try them early, with the lettuce et al, next year.
It is of course great to eat stuff right out of the garden. It is also nice to share with your neighbors. I gave away lots of lettuce and will do the same with the cucumbers and tomatoes. I got some nice radishes and onions from my neighbor across the street.
But the best part is how the grandkids interact with it. Last summer, my grandson, 13 months old, just walking for a month, started picking grape tomatoes and popping them in his mouth. Totally instinctive behavior. He would juice them in his mouth, swallow the juice, and spit the seeds and skins out onto his belly - nice! And my 5 YO granddaughter, who last year loved the cucs sliced with hummus, this year took a cucumber and ate the whole thing like an apple! She was also picking snow peas off the vine and eating them. Seeing them interact with "food in the raw" like that definitely makes it all worthwhile.