Friday, January 22, 2016

Time for a New Beginning

As I sit down to write a new blog post - the first in many months - the joyful screams of laughter coming from our grandson, Connor, are ringing through the room.  Grandpa is rough-housing with him, and 7 month old Connor loves it!

Life has changed a lot since last I wrote.  We're fairly well settled in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida, now.  Every week day we care for Connor, generally for 8 or 9 hours a day, sometimes for as long as 11 hours.  Greg hasn't gone back to work; he will probably start working part time soon, but for now he is deeply enjoying this time with Connor.  Thanks to long hours during training, Greg missed much of our children's early years.  Even for me, who stayed home and raised our kids, there are new observations and opportunities.  I'm getting a chance to notice things I was too busy or too stressed to notice when our kids were young:  the development of smaller muscle control, the personal preferences that show up almost from the first day, and the changing patterns of babble, to name a few.

Between settling in and caring for Connor, what I haven't done in the last several months is garden much or blog at all.  With the holidays behind us and spring looming soon, the gardening juices are finally beginning to flow again through my veins.

I have no idea where this new garden will take me yet.  I definitely plan on using mostly natives, but I'm floundering a bit for a central theme, like "restoring prairie" was for our land and garden in Kansas.

This is a completely different situation, not too surprisingly.  We're in an older, suburban subdivision, developed in the late 1960's, about 4 miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico.  Located on a small, man-made, freshwater lake, our lot is about 0.4 acres in an area of sand hills.  In the neighborhood, there is an overstory of sand live oaks, live oaks, and southern magnolias.  I suspect there were longleaf pines originally, too, but most of them have been removed.

While the neighborhood has a great deal of landscape personality, our lot is fairly bland.  There is a large live oak (Quercus virginiana) and a large southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) in the front yard, with some foundation shrubs and a few non-native plants under the magnolia.  The rest of the front yard could euphemistically be called "lawn."

The back yard is fairly similar, with a younger southern magnolia, 3 pignut hickories (Carya glabra), a sand live oak (Quercus geminata), a healthy live oak, and 4 unhealthy live oaks.  There are foundation shrubs along the back of the house, a tangle of azaleas and undergrowth along the west side (a city right-of-way over a drainage pipe), and a lot of open "lawn" dominated by dollar weed and assorted other nongrass species.  Next to the lake, two sea walls have been put in to terrace the hill, with an area of bare sand in between them that sits about 3' above the level of the lake.

The post I did last June, "A New Chapter Begins "Down South"," while we were here on "baby watch" shows our yard in its "virgin" state.  I've made a few changes - and, of course, it's winter now - but the basics are unchanged.  Since writing that post, I have realized that we actually only have one sand live oak - the others are live oaks, a similar but larger species.  Also, the hickories in our backyard are pignut hickories (Carya glabra), not bitternut hickories, as I originally thought.

I know that I want to add sand live oaks and maybe a few longleaf pines (Pinus palustris) to start restoring the yard's canopy.  I know that I want to add some shrubs, both for wildlife habitat and for privacy from across the lake.  I know that I want to add flower gardens for color and pollinator habitat.

And there my mind just sort of stops.  How much lawn should I leave?  How big should the perennial and shrub beds be, and how should they be shaped?  We want a vegetable garden (probably raised beds) - where should it be located?  How should we lay out the path leading to the dock and lower deck?  I feel like I can't place trees or shrubs until I have the answers to these and similar questions.

Winter is the best time of year to plant woody plant material here, so it's (past) time to begin.  Have suggestions?  I'd love to hear them!  Have other design ideas?  The more, the merrier!  It's a new beginning, for us...and for the garden.  There's new territory to chart and discover, so we'd best get on our way....


Gardener on Sherlock Street said...

Looking forward to seeing what you decide.

Gaia Gardener: said...

No, no, no, GonSS! You are supposed to HELP me decide what to do! LOL! I am having a terribly difficult time deciding where to begin or even HOW to begin!