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Further adventures in the secret garden

Started: 2012-08-12 20:44:20

Submitted: 2012-08-12 21:41:56

Visibility: World-readable

In which the intrepid narrator visits his favorite garden store and cleans up the overgrown landscaping in his front yard

If I had a blog dedicated to my landscaping I would probably call it "The Secret Garden". It's clear from the physical condition of the yard, and the documentation we received when we took possession of the house, that the yard had been loved once and mostly ignored since then. Every weekend I spend at least a couple of hours in the yard, usually with pruning shears in hand, and it takes me only a few minutes to locate another wildly-overgrown tree or shrub in serious need of attention. I've spent most of my time in the back yard, where we spend most of our time; I've removed two dead trees and severely cut back two wildly-overgrown shrubs, and trimmed innumerable branches. Now that we live in Boulder, we get free curbside composting, which includes yard waste; I upgraded our once-every-other-week bin from the smallest size, 32 gallons, to the largest size, 96 gallons, and most weeks I fill the compost bin with yard waste and still have to bundle branches in twine to be picked up on the side.

I'd mostly ignored the front yard until two weeks ago, when our home owner's association sent us a letter demanding that we clean up the front yard. (I believe "overgrown" was one of the words they used.) Their critique was probably fair, since a Parthenocissus vitacea vine had gotten out of hand and was overtaking half of the yard. It looked as if a previous owner had intentionally planted the vine at the base of an aspen tree, presumably intending the vine to climb the tree, not realizing that the vine climbs by tendrils that twist around stems and trellises, rather than suction disks as on the closely-related P. quinquefolia (Virginia creeper). My preference so far had been to maintain the landscaping without significant modifications, until I could figure out my own vision, but the more I looked at the front yard the more I realized the HOA was right and serious work was needed.

Overgrown firethorn and woodbine in front yard
Overgrown firethorn and woodbine in front yard

I don't have a really good "before" picture, but the picture above shows the aspen in the front yard, to the right of the driveway, surrounded by Pyracantha angustifolia 'Gnozam' (firethorn, with the delicately-pointed fuzzy leaves) and Parthenocissus vitacea (woodbine, with the glossy serrated leaves). The aspen itself isn't in the greatest of shape, but it's still living, at least for now.

Last weekend I started by thinning out the woodbine at the front of the yard, where it had sprawled and was working on tangling itself around a large hysop, and attacking the lamb's ear that was colonizing the lawn, before turning my attention to pruning one of large shade trees in the front yard.

This weekend I got serious: I headed out into the yard first thing Saturday morning and ended up ripping out all of the woodbine, firethorn, and lamb's ear, leaving the aspen, the hysop (which had been attracting bees, wasps, hummingbirds, and the occasional butterfly) and several other plants I couldn't identify. I uncovered an assortment of large rocks used as landscaping accents, some mulch, and several spiders.

I was left with a wide patch of bare dirt that I needed to replant, so I spread paint cans out on the landscaping to figure out what I ought to put where. Kiesa and I took Calvin on a field trip to our favorite garden center, The Flower Bin in Longmont. (It was the first time I'd been back to Longmont in two months.) I found the perennial section and picked up hysop, lavender, Russian sage, and a ground cover whose name escapes me. I returned home, planted my new plants, laid down landscaping paper to keep weeds from growing up in the middle of the plants before they had a chance to sprawl, and realized I was out of both the stakes I needed to anchor the landscaping paper and the mulch I'd need to put on top of the landscaping paper. I took another field trip to Home Depot, where I bought twelve cubic feet of mulch, and returned home only to find that it wasn't quite enough to cover both sides of the front yard.

I returned to the yard this morning and redistributed the landscaping rocks and cleaned up the mass of vines strewn around the driveway while Calvin watched. I took him on another field trip to Home Depot, where I picked up another ten cubic feet of mulch, spread it on the other half of the yard, and declared victory. It might not be perfect, but it looked a lot better than when I started. I hoped it would be enough to assuage my HOA, and keep me out of the front yard for the rest of the year.

Front yard landscaping
Front yard landscaping

(You'll see the lawn gargoyle just to the right of the large hysop in the middle of the picture. When we moved, I originally put it to the left of the hysop, but it was quickly overrun by the woodbine (which, in retrospect, I ought to have seen as an omen). I did see lawn Buddhas at the garden center but did not feel compelled to acquire one of my own.)

Front yard landscaping
Front yard landscaping

In the left part of the yard, the yucca looks fairly scraggly, but I like it enough (and it's sufficiently local, and drought-resistant) that I want to hang on to it until I can figure out how to de-scraggle it. The dominant aesthetic of the front yard is semi-native and drought-resistant, so I wanted to maintain that aesthetic through flowering perennials, rather than introducing new shrubs, or planting daffodils or other showy bulbs.

I am relieved our HOA can't see the back yard. They'd have far more to complain about there.

I sometimes refer to you by your real names to real people.
- Neelix, 10 March 1999