Sunday, April 17, 2016

Pausing to Rest for the Summer

Last spring, on Earth Day, this was our front yard.

Of course, it wasn't our front yard yet, but this was the front yard of the house that we would buy two months later.  A couple big trees, lots of generic, box store shrubs, and a typical Florida sandy "lawn".

Between our grandson being born, a major move, selling our old house, unpacking, celebrating the holidays, and caring for Connor, we did basically nothing to the yard for months except to mow it.

"I thought you were a gardener," quipped one of our neighbors, after we'd been here for about 6 months but still had done nothing in the way of planting or landscaping.

At last, around the end of January, my gardening juices began to flow.  I had some plants that I'd purchased at the Mobile Botanical Garden during a visit the previous fall...few had been planted yet.  There were no defined planting beds except for the first few feet next to the foundation.  The yard was so open and almost barren that I felt almost paralyzed.

Here was the view from our front porch to the driveway, on January 23rd.....

...and here was the overall front yard on that day, little changed from the prior April except for the passing of seasons.

I took stock of the plants in the yard, to see what we had that I wanted to keep.  There were the big trees, although several laurel oaks in the back yard were obviously unhealthy and not long for this world.   Seven camellias - large, with lovely blooms, but planted about 15" from the foundation and heavily pruned with little knowledge or finesse.  Two healthy yellow anise (Illicium parviflorum), unfortunately planted 15" from the foundation directly beneath the big kitchen window, which they were trying desperately to shield from sight. Quite a few healthy, evergreen azaleas, almost all neatly pruned into boxes and planted right up next to the foundation.  Several Knockout roses, all leggy and overgrown, desperately in need of pruning.  Some very nice big clumps of African iris.  A single clump of narrowleaf goldenaster (Chrysopsis linearifolia) that I had found as a "weed" in the lawn.  Some seedling beautyberries (Callicarpa americana) - one about 18" tall coming up through an unhealthy Indian hawthorn and several 6" tall individuals in a clump.  A few, very small St. John's Wort shrubs (Hypericum sp.) that seemed to have come in on their own.  And some partridgeberry (Mitchella repens) growing at the base of one of the laurel oaks.

All in all, not a big start in a 0.4 acre yard. And none of it in a logical sweep that suggested a planting bed or the start to a landscaping plan.

So, I simply got out the hose and started making a big curve in the front yard.  Under the big southern magnolia along the driveway, I used the demarcation of lousy grass caused by heavy shade to get started, then I moved on from there.  The following photo shows the beginning of the middle bed, with some of the plants we had recently planted, after the bed had been outlined, but before I had finished weeding and mulching.

Here along the Gulf Coast, one of the main times of leaf fall is in the spring when the evergreen oaks shed their leaves just before getting their new foliage.  As Greg picked up the fallen leaves, he put them in the newly marked bed under the magnolia.  I found a source of shredded wood mulch from a local tree service and had them dump a load, then used that heavier mulch as a thin layer to hold the leaves in place.  With a slope from the street towards the front walkway and porch, I was concerned that, with the first big rain, all the mulch would float down to cover up the path, but thankfully that hasn't happened.

With shrubs already under the magnolia tree, defining that bed was pretty quick and easy.  Defining the remaining 2 beds in the front yard took a little more time, but we used the same general process - define the outline with the hose, then put down leaves topped with shredded hardwood. Of course, we were also visiting both 7 Pines Native Plant Nursery and Mobile Botanical Gardens to get more plants, placing those where appropriate, as you can see above.

The more open areas that we turned into beds took much more time and effort to outline, plant and mulch than the first bed - but we finally finished today!   I really wanted to get the front yard beds to a state that looked moderately finished, so that we didn't look like the half-built house slumming in the neighborhood.  The beds are still very empty, but we've been able to find and put in several shrubs that should be getting a nice start this year, plus a few perennials that we found we couldn't live without.

These photos don't really show the new beds as well as I'd like them to, but I'm still excited enough about getting the project to this state that I want to share!  First, the overview....

...then the opposite angle, ...

...and the front door gardens.

I'm excited about continuing to fill the beds.  Hopefully, the next time I share photos of the front yard, it will be because these new beds are brimming with gorgeous plants and bright, blooming flowers!


Corner Gardener Sue said...

Hi Cynthia, It looks like the front is shaping up. Thanks for your comment on my last post. I love the ground plums, too. I have three of them against the curb.

Gardener on Sherlock Street said...

That's a lot of progress. I never realized you would have leaves falling in the winter. So interesting to see gardens in the different zones. It looks good. Very fun to be able to put in so many new plants. Oh, the possibilities!!

Cam @ArcadiaTrails said...

I can already see such a lovely difference in what you've done. Bookmarking your blog so I can continue to watch the progress. I recognized the local flora pretty quickly before you mentioned places like Mobile and DeFuniak Springs. We live in Milton. What town or area are you in?

Gaia Gardener: said...

Cam, we're in Ft. Walton Beach. Nice to meet someone else here in the Panhandle!


Gaia Gardener: said...

GonSS, The new possibilities in a new garden are fun...when they're not paralyzing! Thanks for the comment about progress - some days I look outside and think it's still a blank slate and other days it seems like we ARE actually moving forward!

Gaia Gardener: said...

Sue, thank you. I'm taking care with the front to try to get it to "neighborhood" standards before resting for longer periods of time. The joys of being in a neighborhood again, instead of out in the country! LOL!