Monday, July 23, 2012

landscape projects

The only place I do any gardening or landscaping work is at my mother's house.  My siblings do the heavy lifting of the fall raking (really, spring raking: the oaks hang onto their leaves until the new leaves push them off), so that by the time I arrive in June, there's very little clean up to do... relatively.  It's all relative, here.

(Apologies for the festival of bad photographs that follows.)

B.B. (before blogging)

The Side Yard, victim of both neglect and incidental destruction
when the neighbor's backyard septic system was rebuilt.

The side yard is a complete mess right now, but I'm including this to show that there is some evidence of the very first yard-tinkering I was allowed to do: about 20 years ago, I transplanted some day lilies from the woodsy backyard of my house in Natick, and that single orange bloom is evidence that some of them are still alive.  There's quite a lot of good stuff in that little jungle, including honeysuckly, azalea, and bleeding heart, not to mention the little hydrangea my middle sister planted at about the same time.  The soil here is extremely poor and the water situation is dire (as in, the plants here only get wet when it rains, and the soil doesn't hold onto it at all), so it's kind of amazing any of this is still alive.  There's also a teeny tiny Japanese red maple that you can't see, that I'm hoping will someday take off.  It's up to 8 leaves this year, so that's an improvement.  This is on deck for next year.


Center flower bed, where it's shady all the time and water is an iffy proposition.

Those little snakes of ivy climbing the tree represent a major victory.  The irises are filling in nicely, too.  I didn't do much weeding of this bed this year because it wasn't that bad, which means next year it will be horrific, or maybe not.  The good plants and the mulch seem to be keeping them down.  It was nice to see the friendly little purple vinca flowers, all 3 or 4 of them, among the ivy.
I .

Bare but not neglected, at least.

I took Mom to Mass on her birthday and then we drove by Dad's grave. In that moment, it didn't seem too overgrown, so one evening I grabbed my gloves and few plastic grocery bags to go and thin out the irises around it.  When I got there, I realized I had greatly underestimated how overgrown it was. My older sister had put in irises soon after the headstone went up.  I don't know anything about irises in general, but these particular irises multiply like crazy.  One of my brothers thinned them out aggressively about 5 years ago, and those are the irises at the house now.   But five years of unrestrained growth led to such a thicket you could see only the middle "ON" of "O'CONNELL".   It took me about 6 hours to dig up everything (no point in leaving anything there to overgrow again) and add back topsoil and mulch.

Mom wants to just leave it with the mulch for now, but I have a contact who can put in seasonal flowers and maintain it for us.  Contacting her is another thing on my constantly expanding to-do list.


What do you do with leftover irises?  Plant them, of course.

I ended up with two huge lawn-and-leaf bags of plantable stems with roots and bulbs, so I put in a bed of irises along the driveway.  By the time this photo was taken, the transplants had succumbed to the heat, but in June and early July they looked great.  My brother assures me they'll come back next year -- these things refuse to die.  It rained the entire day I put this bed in.  Most of the time it was just a light drizzle, but over the course of the day it progressed to a steady, soaking rain.  It was warm and there were only one or two cloudbursts, so I just kept at it.  The wetter it was, the easier it was to plant, anyway. 


Backyard, where chaos is only a season or two away.

See that line of rocks?  There's another row of irises in front of it -- mostly bulbs went in there.  Behind it, I put in 10 rose bushes that I picked up for the amazingly awesome price of 2 for $3 at the Christmas Tree Shop.  The roses may or may not make it, but $15 for 10 rose bushes was irresistable to me.   This was a multi-day project, too, as first I had to clear out all the grapevines and wood plants that were taking over the yard.  The good thing about the vines, etc, is that they hid the leaf pile, but they had enroached a good 4 feet and were going for an all-out invasion.   The two evergreens to the left were so entwined with grape vines that their growth was being affected, so I freed them up, and then I decided to take back the yard.  Then I had all those iris bulbs left over so I put them in, and then I happened upon the rose bushes while I was looking for flipflops for DS2.  The way I see it, those rose bushes were meant to go in, because if I hadn't already cleaned out the space, and if DS2 hadn't lost his flipflops, I wouldn't have seen the amazingly cheap rosebushes or had a place to put them.


Time spent planting new stuff > time spent trying to kill old stuff, this year.  Win!
I don't blame my Mom for putting in those yucca plants years ago.  It's not her fault I have an irrational hatred for them.(In Massachusetts. Out here in AZ, they don't bother me at all.) They are a non-native species and they're impossible to kill, but I feel as if I am making some progress in eradicating them.  The first year I put in the hydrangeas, I simply dug out all the roots (some of them as thick as arm) and thought that would be it.  That was before I knew how pernicious yucca is.  In the following years I tried digging out the new plants and spraying the roots with Roundup, but that didn't seem to have any effect.  I only started getting results after finding the definitive yucca eradication advice page, How to Kill a Yucca Plant.  By the time I read the site, I had already dug up and chopped off dozens of plants, since every time you dig one up, it seems to send up at least three more.  I used the chop off the tips, submerge them in Roundup routine a couple of years, but it leaves a lot behind to clean up, and I'm never there to do it.  So the past two or three years I've used a modified version which works well with smaller plants:  pour boiling water over them to remove their waxy coating, soak them with Roundup, and wrap them in plastic.  The benefit of this method is that you don't have to wait until the plants are a foot tall to do it -- you can go right at the little ones.  I won't know how effective it was until next year, of course.

My mother thinks I work too hard, especially since I'm supposedly on vacation while I'm attacking all these plantings.  I tell her it's therapeutic and she laughs.  The fact is, I love flowers and I have always wanted the house to have hydrangeas, day lilies, roses, and ivy I see around many other homes there.  Since I'm the one that wants it, I'm the one who is doing it... little by little.


Katy said...

It is quite surprising that the plants did not die even though the soil quality was poor and the plants were rarely watered! If the plants merely have rain as their sole source of water, maybe it would be better if you plant xerophytes around there. They are capable of adapting and surviving the driest of environments. Well, I hope all your work on the landscaping project for your mother would bear fruit!

@Katy Eagles

Jeremy Beauregard said...

Yes, I think Katy is right. Since you couldn’t do much with the environmental condition, you could only be wise with what to do with it. On another note, maybe you should try these tricks in killing unwanted plants. You can try spraying vinegar onto the plant you wanted to remove; or you can dig a hole around its base, put salt in there, and then cover it with dirt. These are both effective solutions which also help control soil damage. ;)


Shona Martinez said...

It would be great to use herbicides in removing plants that you don’t want to grow in your garden, Joan. Just make sure that you use it carefully, okay? Using herbicides can also harm the other plants that you keep. Well, it would be much better if you use organic herbicides as they are less dangerous than other market available weed-killers.

Shona Martinez

Katy said...

With the kind of soil and weather condition you have there, it's great to know that you get into the challenge of growing lovely flowers around your house. I'm sure it wasn't easy tending to what you have planted, but with the passion you have for landscaping, I won't be surprised if you overcome your dilemma.

Katy Eagles