Monday, February 11, 2013

And so it begins...

I finally find that I have something to say, about gardening and about the nearly unbearable obstacle that a job presents to my being out in the garden. But I will only post once a week, largely because I know who I am, and that means I'm aware of my tendency to be a little distracted by myriad things. Daily posts would kill me if only because I'm averse to routine. 

So this week's post, as well as next week's, will briefly cover the last 2 1/2 years so that we might get up to speed. After that, I'll just fill you in on what I'm growing, what I'm doing with it, and why I think gardening is better than a desk job!

In the Beginning...
We bought a foreclosure in Florida nearly 3 years ago. It wasn't in terrible shape, as some of them can be. But the property could be described as a barren wasteland. Well, barren is a bit severe. We did have a magnolia tree that had grown into our septic system, and fed for years by the of the home's residents, it had increased to gargantuan proportions. In fact, I could not photograph the front of the house. Every attempt simply made it appear as if I had a tree fetish. 

The Tree...and maybe a house behind it?
The remaining inventory of growing things was especially brief. We had 3 holly bushes on the side of the house that were so large, they had overtaken 3 windows, blocked out all light, and made the side yard look as narrow as an alley in Venice. We had a lime tree that had never been pruned or cared for, so we didn't recognize it as a lime tree. It just looked like another enormous bush. And we had a palm tree that had never been cleared of dead fronds, so while the tree is 50 feet tall, the dead fronds stretched from the 5 foot mark to the 40th. It was like a tiki hut drawn by Dr. Suess. Other than that, we had sand and weeds.

From the start, I spent part of each day in the yard (after I finished tiling in the house) just trying to clean it up and carve out a space for myself. If I didn't, I knew I'd fall quickly behind in the battle over turf...literally. What is it with men and lawns? I always think that if I were as cool as Alys Fowler, I'd have convinced my husband that the entire back of the property could be a good and proper ornamental and productive garden. Seeing images of her back garden just fills me with envy. But I'm not that cool. Instead, I wage a war of a thousand rips--I rip out a little more of the lawn each month. But in the beginning, I took the portion of the yard on each side of the house and dreamed of purloining additional swaths from the turf. Below is the side I designated for the vegetable garden. Tippy (in background) seems to be asking, "Seriously? We're going to live here?" The fence was so wretched that the little girls next door would unabashedly peel off pickets to see what we were up to.

The Future Veg Patch with Inspectors Tippy and Wolfie
Though I regret it today, I did not take photos of the holly side of the house. I think it just felt like I would be taking pictures of greenery. But here's a photo that reveals one of my character flaws: I like to start in media res. Why? Why did I place the fountain pot, plant a mandevilla, and install a trellis before clearing the weed grass or cutting down the holly bushes (encroaching on the left)? But these are questions better left unasked, and so I will move on. It took us two days to remove each of the bushes. So basically 6 days. And we thought it was good, so we rested.

The grass garden? (which is destined for greater things)
 And if I fast-forward to a year or so ago, these photos show our progress.

The Magnolia-Free Front, circa 2011

The Veg Patch (with freebie rain barrel in right foreground!), also 2011

The Former Holly "Garden"
As anyone with a garden knows, this is just the work in progress, which is always in progress and always will be. By late 2011 (which was the 1 1/2 year mark of ownership), we had accomplished quite a bit, and we have finished a few more projects. I'll quickly cover those next week, in addition to some of my great successes and failures in learning how to garden in Florida and some ridiculous tales of my trying to do everything by myself (like building the arbor above in the driveway and carrying it to the complete opposite of the property).

I hope you'll all come along for the adventure!


  1. Your yard looks awesome Dr. G! I loved the before and after pics (and of course, the pictures of Tippy and half-Wolfie!) and I can't believe that you did all that work on your own!! I wish I had that kind of patience! Keep up the good work and I can't wait to hear more gardening adventures. All I see is snow and rain out my window lately...a little greenery helps cheer me up!


  2. So happy to see you are writing again, Becky! And your love for your subject comes across loudly and clearly here already. I look forward to the weekly words and the pictorial accompaniment. Wonderful job!

    Scott R.