Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Matter of Time

Although the bulk of my time is spent indoors these days in a desperate attempt to make the kitchen more user friendly, the gardens are still persistently on my mind. Occasionally, after hours of deconstructing and reconstructing cabinets have given my nerves a hair trigger, I have to get outside and make some progress somewhere. In the interest of keeping my unfinished projects to a minimum, I have been focusing my efforts on the horribly overgrown vegetation around the front porch. After a particularly frustrating day in the kitchen, I did this.

A clean slate

If you don't recall what it looked like before, the right side of the steps, which currently remains untouched, should provide ample contrast.

Much left to remove

What I cut down filled the back of my truck completely for the haul to the county composting site. It looks like I'll have to take at least three trips to remove everything from the front that got out of control. With the space empty, though, I am better able to see the space I have. I'll be drawing up some planting plans in the next week or so and taking them to my fabulous local nursery, Mill Pond Gardens, to see what plants they have that will fit the plans.

I'm also keeping the future productive garden in my mind, and I've finished drawing out the design plan for that. This weekend, I'll pick up some stakes and some twine so that I can mark out the garden in its entirety so that I can get a good sense of how it will feel and make any changes that seem necessary.

In the meantime, I spent a little time in other areas today with my camera, just enjoying the floral show. I'm not very good at taking it easy, slowing down and breaking the work down into manageable chunks, but I'm a work in progress, just like the garden. Eventually, we'll both be in much better shape.

Love seeing the sky sparkle through the leaves

I grew this salvia from a cutting! (Okay, I'm a little proud.)

The Crape Myrtle corner

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


I have always wanted a larger piece of land for my garden. I had grown tired of carving out little spaces for my vegetables in an already small space. I'm not sure that I had intended to own 5 acres, though. Now that I have them, I'm beginning to feel a bit overwhelmed by it all. I suspect that I wouldn't feel quite so daunted by the task ahead of me if the previous owners had given their land proper care. As it stands, I can't really work on laying the foundation for the vegetable garden until I get other pressing issues cleaned up.

The front of the house needs a lot of attention. It just seems so plain to me. I thought that the two blue planters that accented the entryway at the Orlando house might give it a little punch, but they seem terribly small now at the base of the massive steps.

The planters are lost in the overgrowth and steps

I decided that I would just go for immediate pleasure on my second try by pulling out all of my hanging baskets and planting them with colorful flowers. They've basically had the same effect. 

Where are the hanging baskets?

Basically, I can only enjoy the fruits of my labor when I stand on the porch and look out. Even when I try to enjoy the nice addition of the hanging baskets, though, I can see the foundation plantings screaming for my attention. They are officially the elephant in the garden. The front of the house will never look right until I rip out most of the overgrown plants and replace them. But that's a major project.

The baskets lead to the overgrown Loropetalum climbing
through the railing
With so much to do, it's hard to decide where to start. For a person who wants everything done at once, it is pure torture. I'm painfully aware of a cooler planting season on the horizon, so I would love to skip the front porch issues and move on to getting the vegetable garden structures in place. 

That area presents another major problem. The previous owners left me two large piles of debris right in the middle of the space. We first thought that we could just burn the piles, but a closer inspection revealed that they are filled with scrap metal and plastic, along with wood and weeds and who knows what else. I have to clear them before I lay the clear plastic to solarize the soil. And I have to do that before I till the soil and build the structures. Like I said, it's all a bit overwhelming. 

The future vegetable garden

In the meantime, I ordered 150 bulbs for planting in the fall. Because, you know, planting so many bulbs in Georgia clay is a lot less challenging. 

I might have to develop a 10-year plan for this place.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Name Game

Last summer, I spent 10 fabulous days in the Cotswolds with my mom and my sister-in-law. We rented a lovely 17th-century thatched roof cottage that was called The Old Cider Press, largely because the barn that was converted into three cottages had once been the site of a cider press. On the day that we arrived in the village, it was hosting its annual Open Day for the National Garden Scheme. For the price of £5 each, which was donated to charity, we were granted access to nearly 20 private gardens throughout the village. It was magical.

I need a sign!
One of the things that stood out to me the most was the fact that nearly every house had a wooden plaque attached near the front door or on the gate with a name on it, just like The Old Cider Press. That's when I became obsessed with naming my own house and garden, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't come up with anything suitable. Now that we're in a new house, the desire for a name is even stronger, but again, I'm coming up blank.

Here's another in the village

We loved this one.

I have decided to ask you, my dear readers, for your suggestions. Maybe you can help stoke the fire of creativity or even save me the agony of trying to think of a name myself. I'm including photos of the property to give you a better idea of what this place looks like, to perhaps reveal some aspect of its personality. I know that many of you are rather shy and resist leaving comments, but I need your help, so if you have a moment of clarity on this one, I'd really appreciate you sharing it with me!

View from the front porch

View of the approach to the house

Peeking toward the barn
(apparently I was leaning)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

First Lessons from the New Garden

I'm spending half of each day in the garden and half of the day in the house, attempting to make this place home. It is a lovely place. It just needs a little love. 

Just one corner of a very large space

I think we might all learn some important lessons from my first few days in the garden at the new house. Here's what I've come up with so far.

1.  Weed fabric is a certified agent of Satan. 
This is something I already knew, but my recent trials in attempting to plant anything in this garden have further solidified this important point. Weed fabric is not your friend. It does not save you any time in the garden. All it does is make it difficult to plant other things when you decide to add them. And after 15 years, it just settles further into the soil, leaving future gardeners to deal with your mistake in making friends with Satan. I have been digging into weed fabric since I got here. It doubles my work. It also chokes lovely plants that would be so delighted to spread in your garden. If you don't want future gardeners (or your future self) to curse your name for eternity, don't even consider weed fabric. This same lesson holds true for red lava rock, especially if you live in the sands of Florida. I still curse the person who put those in my garden in Orlando and will likely continue to do so until the day I die.

2. The purchase of lawn/garden ornaments is a slippery slope.
I know. I included a photo of my ornaments in a row like a police line-up last time. And it troubled me. I thought I had a problem. But then I came here, and discovered that I have a long way to go to problem. In the fenced area alone, I counted no less than 17 items. It's not a big area. If you want little creatures in your garden, choose wisely, grasshopper. Otherwise, you risk being that freaky person who is found dead with 72 animals running around inside your house and using it as a restroom. And if you're not going to take care of your garden, be aware that your little critters might be swallowed by vegetation.

An entire girl with dog is under here.

3. Ivy is a thug. 
If you don't intend to keep it in check, it will take over your entire existence…or the existence of the next gardener. Think carefully. 

My mom pulled ivy for 3 days. It's still there.

4. If you plan to pillage your previous garden to improve your future garden, mark the plants you dig up.
I dug up over 30 plants in Orlando and safely delivered them here. I recognize most of them, but since I dug up 7 different day lily plants, I have no idea what color each one is until it flowers. I've planted them in clusters, but I'll likely have to move some later. A simple label would have saved me some work.

5.  You should always plan to pillage your previous garden to improve your future garden.
I may have been planting like a maniac over the last few days to get everything in, but the plants I brought from Orlando are so beautifully filling up my garden here--at no cost to me, I might add--that if I ever had to move again (please God, no), I would dig up even more.

6. Using a pick-axe is the most incredible workout.
No one said that gardening in Georgia clay that hasn't been worked in years is easy. In fact, it has proven itself a rather formidable opponent to all my garden tools save one. The pick-axe is the bully on the block, and it breaks up everything, including my shoulders. If you have seen me previously, I just have to warn you that you should add some serious muscle to my shoulder area in your mental pictures, or you won't recognize me in future. I'm about to be ripped from swinging that axe. It's a necessary exercise if I'm to get anything planted.

That's what I've learned so far, but I suspect I'll get plenty more lessons in the future here.