Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Plant People Are Taunting Me

Every year around this time, the usual stash of catalogs gets infiltrated by devious, devious nursery catalogs, and every year around this time, I immediately start planning how best to turn my back "yard" (for which read: jungle) into an American Garden of Versailles.

There are not enough machetes in the world.

This year, I am happy to report, I actually managed to have my act sufficiently together to get some bulbs in the ground, so I look forward to seeing how THAT experiment works out. I also just finished giving our wisteria tree a vicious pruning, and hope that it flowers this year. For something that left to its own devices will haul your house off into the wilderness to digest it, wisteria sure is pissy about being moved. Last year was its first year in our yard, and it just refused to bloom. Ingrate. However, I think all of my perennials came back, and my clematis geeked out, so hopefully that extravaganza will be repeated.

Hoped for Results from Things Currently in Ground
1. Clematis blooming and accepting a transfer to the lightpost.
2. Wisteria blooming
3. Rhododendrons finally achieving inner peace after years of neglect
4. Bulbs blooming without incident
5. Sweet Bay Magnolia surviving the winter and flourishing

Okay, so some things are in motion, and the front yard is mostly in good shape. However, the back yard still has miles to go, and I need to fill in the front gardens a little. When I started out with the front garden, I left some pernicious spiderwort to its own devices because it was clumpy and fleshed out the spaces between what I could actually grow. I have since ousted it from the yard, and let me tell you - if you have spiderwort, just get rid of it. Holy CRAP. If that stuff wasn't plotting a takeover with the wisteria, it was in cahoots with the Soviets.

So there's the layout - the blob with a dot in it at the end of the driveway is a kind of scrungy dirt patch with our giant oak tree in the middle (the blob). When we moved in, there were two beautiful but ailing rhododendrons on the property, one at the bottom, near the oak, and the other up near the steps to the front door. They hadn't been pruned or...dealt with in general until we got there and I gave them a violent but effective pruning. Now, they seem much happier, and the one from the bottom of the driveway is now on the other side of the steps with it's cousin, and we put two more really stunning rhodies in this amazing reddish-purply color I'd never seen before, a red azalea, and a smallish pine tree in the same bed. Right now, there are some daffodils gestating in the same bed, as well.

The floating garden in the middle was a huge project - it was a weed factory when we moved in. I ripped almost everything out, and we regrettably had to take down a totally glorious and wonderful Japanese Maple from the same area. I still am sad about that - we would have moved it, but it was dripping water onto the roof, and it was also where the carpenter ants lived, so it had to go. Totally sucks. However, I got some edging into the defoliated garden, used the rocks I found (NB: Holden is made mostly of rocks) to edge the back of the garden, and planted a bunch of perennials, which seem to be happy. We also put the wisteria in the vicinity of the Japanese Maple's previous spot.

This year, I'm comin' for the backyard.

Here's the grand plan for the Total Garden and Yard Makeover. I want to get a tomato plant cranking from the little hookie-do I mounted on the garage, because it's supersunny and the tomatoes will love the heat from the blacktop. I want to put some kind of bush at the bottom of the driveway with the oak tree. The front garden needs to be filled in, hopefully with some nice perennials, including a sorbet peony, which is gorgeous.

In the back, I want to install a shade garden in the back behind the shed attached to the garage, and in so doing remove the random rubbermaid bins that are back there for no reason. On the opposite side of the house, I want to put in a nice garden that will detract from the bulkhead (hate!), and use a birdbath for both cat entertainment purposes and space filling purposes. In the back corner of the yard (read: the only section thus far cleared of brush), I'd ultimately like to put down a stone patio, with corner pieces drilled with holes so I can set up the cabana back there in summer. Finally, I want to deal with the heinous AquaFresh-green chain link fence. I'd REALLY like to get one of those white picket-y fences that are made of plastic so you can just hose them off, but since they're freaking EIGHTY DOLLARS A SECTION I have to wait until I hit the lottery. In the meantime, I think I'm going to spraypaint the current fence black, then plant some lilacs along it so we don't have quite as clear a view into the nice people next door's yard.

All that being said, here are a bunch of pictures of pretty stuff I hope to put in my garden this year.
This is a ground cover rose called Apricot Princess (I think they should have the OPI nail polish people start naming roses, because it's seriously getting tired...is there any color on earth that someone hasn't slapped a "princess" at the end of and called it a day?). It's low to the ground, it's orange, the colors change as it matures, and it's pretty. Plus, Speed loves orange, so this should get a thumbs up from him.
I hope to put a couple of these suckers along my hideous fence in the backyard. This particular color is the Beauty of Moscow lilac, and I just love it. I also should admit here that if you make a Russian Connection to anything, I'll probably at least try it. I am cheap.
These are Green Envy Coneflowers, and let me tell you, the picture here is doing them zero justice. I don't really love coneflowers as a genre, but I think the green with red is just so interesting and pretty that I'm totally won over.
I love how a lot of flowers sound like horrible, usually venereal, diseases. This one is an Isaac House Scabiosa. "What'd you do this weekend, Jos?" "Oh, not much...picked up some scabiosa." "*hushed voice* Oh my god, are you okay? Did they give you medication?"

I am not a hosta person. My mom is MUCH more into the foliage Thing than I am, and she LOOOOOOVES hostas, as do many people in this area particularly, but I have never really gotten into them. I mean, they're...fine, but boring. THESE, however, are fabulous. I love how clear the contrast is between the green and white. They're called Loyalist hosta.
When I was little, we had this random kids book called (I think) "The Lupine Lady," which involved a woman who went around flinging lupine seeds all over the place, and then one day the lupines all bloomed and she had single-handedly made the world more beautiful. It was a really beautiful book, and I loved the idea of all these lupines springing up everywhere, so I have totally romanticized them by now and thus very much want this mix of them. The Magic of Google tells me that the book was actually called "Miss Rumphius" (...obviously) and was based on the author's great aunt, which is cool. Oh and PS she totally spends her life traveling and being fabulous and not fitting gender stereotypes, so y'all KNOW I just ordered that shit to put in my Pile of Potential Kid Books That Mostly I Read Because They Are Great.
Eeeee ranunculus! So pretty, no?? I TOTALLY cannot grow these in zone 5. That sucks so bad. Actually, I should consult Mom the Green Thumb, because she's always coming up with zone-defying tricks and calling shenanigans on assorted nurseries, so there could be hope. I just adore these...the bi-weekly floral arrangement at work today has yellow ranunculus in it, and it is MAKING my day. I might use some of these in my wedding flowers, especially since they come in every color ever.
This is apparently Thomas Jefferson's favorite plant, if the Spring Hill Nursery people can be believed. Well, I'm with ya, TJ, this is good stuff. I just think it's so interesting and funky, and it's definitely one of those "does as advertised" type things...it's called a shell plant.

THESE are the glorious sorbet peonies I mentioned above. I have had good luck with peonies, because as I said previously, Holden is made of rocks. This is great for peonies, because they apparently hate...nutrients. When I told Mom I was putting a couple in, her first comment was "okay, well don't put any manure near them." EVERY OTHER PLANT IN THE WORLD is all "yo, give me some of that good shit" but the peonies are like "I am rugged and independent. Keep your manure and leave me to produce giant, glorious flowers." No problemo, my surly friends. If you're going to bloom like this, that is a-ok with me.

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