Sunday, January 31, 2010

Plants Inherited

The previous owner actually rented my house out for the 5 years, which explains to a large degree the state of the gardens (and the house). College kids are not known for their neat and appreciative style of living. I am still cleaning up the college compost of cigarette butts and bottle caps all over the place, after nearly 4 months! That said, some things are indeed alive and well despite absolutely no care.

In October, while moving in, my green thumb Mom looked on in horror when she saw one of the vines living on the back fence (and trees, and into the lirope, up the light pole etc). Passion flower! It too is very invasive here, which was somewhat self evident, BUT the flowers, which I had never seen before that I could remember, were so pretty and purple and well, pretty and purple. I did end up ripping all of it out I could find with a heavy heart.

One day I was making up the guest bedroom and I looked out of the window towards the back garden at one of the evergreen trees which I don't know the name of, and what did I see? A canopy of purple flowers intermixed with the dense leaves! It was stunning!
So I am keeping it. Every time I walk out to the car, I rip any of it down that I see has overstepped its bounds (the tree), as it has climbed back down onto the fence and into the lirope and can do so overnight even in the dead of winter, but I love it just the same. I know the lantana is jealous. It helps that it doesn't smell like cat pee.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Starting in October

So whats a girl to do when you don't step foot in your new garden until October 5th of the year? A heck of a lot of dreaming, of course. It didn't hurt that the entire house needed an overhaul, and still does, so as much as I wanted to sip my cool lemonade out in my new back garden, it actually made things like painting, sanding, spackeling, and electrical work a little easier to hack.

Not that I did nothing, because there was a heck of a lot to do on those gardens before plant one made it in there. Here's an idea of what was awaiting me in November in the back garden (trust me the other 2 sides looked identical):
Thats right, 350 sq feet of unadulterated magnolia leaves. All totalled, it was 23 extra large black trash bags of magolia leaves. And now everyone don't go and kill me, but I had the magnolia tree removed. I really can't think of a tree I like less, due to copious amounts of shedding leaves year-round that in the southern heat create an oven for anything underneath, able to kill plants quicker than roundup. It also leaned towards the neighbors house, blocked both our gutters, and clogged the drainages systems, which are way way important here. I felt a little bad, but truth be told, as the light shone on the cleared flagstone a week later, I didn't miss it one bit, and I regret it even less.

The front garden wasn't so bad, but it had 3 unknown bushes that had not been trimmed in many years, height 8 feet, 1 camillia, full of scale, and 6, count 'em 6 lantana's all but one of which were over 5 feet in height and covering about 25 sq ft of space. They are a wee invasive here, I hear. I have 'removed' 4 of the 6 lantanas, and shall hope that they stay removed. And those other two better think about their next moves if they plan on staying unmolested.

Despite the look of the wreck of the backyard, there are a couple of plants I did inherit that I plan on keeping. If you look into the far back of the picture behind the back rocking chair, you can see a bunch of Japanese Holly Ferns. They are beautiful large specimens, 7 in total. I am planning on digging up two to make room for something other than holly ferns back there, and they will make the journey up to Virginia to join the 7a gardens. If they transplant well I might move the rest of them elsewhere in the back because they are located not in the greatest spot for something 8 inches tall but 10 feet wide. Also, because of the removal of the Magnolia, I think the spot might be too sunny for them come summer.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

For the love of 4 o'clock

Just a little in the way of background.

I fell in love with my mothers garden this past summer, when I visited for an extended bit. Sure I had always known my mom had the greenest of thumbs, and the loveliest of gardens. She prescribes to that 'english cottage' look by default, where, within reason, reseeders can flourish, things run into each other and over each other, and a riot of sizes, shapes and colors run rampant through the multiple gardens of my childhood home. I had, thanks to a childhood of living around the plants, a passing knowledge of many of the cottage variety plants; beebalm, four o'clocks, nasturtiums, zinnias, catchfly, dahlias, and more were familiar to me.

I had been home several times during the summer season through the years since I moved to the big city after school, though more often than not, I visited home during the winter season, when all that was left of the ephemeral paradise were a few brown husks, and various pots and garden statuary standing oddly by themselves, looking out of sorts and out of place. I do remember coming home in May once, maybe 10 years ago and being astounded how beautiful the yard and gardens were, but it was filed away in the 'cannot use now' category as were most living green things in my 600 sq foot Manhattan apartment. Maybe someday.

Anyhow, for several weeks this year, I sat out by the pool surrounded by four o'clocks in every direction. Nasturtiums were blooming directly in front of them, and some sort of flowering vine had taken over the side of the 'cabin'. The soft buzzing of tiny bumblebees in the afternoon sun was always present as was a ever so slightly amazing smell of plants far and wide, and cut grass from the yard. I would round the cabin and duck the clothesline to the dedication garden, and would be met by a profusion of zinnas, beebalm, garden phlox and catchfly in their late summer splendor on my right, intermixed with dozens of flowers I had seen before but couldn't remember because my mom always called them by their latin names, which without context quickly went the way of most foreign words. On my left a rose of sharon was 15 feet tall and tons of little roses's of sharon (to my mom's consternation) were trying to sneak a living into the surrounding bed of coreopsis.

Every morning, myself and Shorty, the cat, would walk out to the front garden at the head of the driveway and visit the dahlias, now so heavy and tall that half had flopped over and then decided to continued their vertical climb up. The remnants of agapathas had given way to cleome and others. I would skirt up to the driveway entrance to see what was growing down the hill and kick a few of the black walnuts off the lawn and down the hill to make my stepfather happy. Shorty and I would then round to the front of the house, never used, where the boxwoods grow unhindered and wildflowers and roses have joined them in the chaos. Next stop was following the house around to the shade gardens, and peeking to see if the bleeding hearts were still doing their thing or had succumbed to the viney neighbor, then joining the impatiens and begonias on my way back into the house for another cup of coffee.

What was different this time? I now have a PLACE to fall in love with the growing of flowers. I moved cities, and though I don't have 5 acres to grow plants, I do have a front garden and a back garden in Charleston, SC at a house I had just put an offer on. And I was going to make my gardens grow. Starting first with some 4 o'clock seed stow-aways, stuffed sneakily in my bag by my mom, who must have suspected I was in love with them.