The New Gardening Initiative

I’ve mentioned a few times that I’ve exhausted myself over gardening lately, and now I feel the need to get you caught up.

This year’s gardening initiative began when we decided to tackle some of our front shrubs. I talked about this and included a delightful photo of Cute W taking a chain saw to one of the shrubs in this post.

First, you’ll just have to be patient with the cropped photos. I know that it’s irrational, but publishing photos of my house, complete with house number, would just make me feel overexposed. Like posting pictures of me in my underwear. So I know that this is mildly annoying, but you’ll just have to bear with me.

Here’s the before picture:

We had these massive, massive shrubs. I think that they were yews? Whatever they were, they were big, dark, nondescript-looking evergreen shrubs that were already huge when we bought our house. There are four of them in the picture above, although only three are really easy to see. First, the ginormous shrub on the left, just in front of our front door, then a manageable-sized one directly in front of our chimney in the center. A third one is difficult to see because it’s directly behind our red bench (and just below that little window). On the right is the fourth (giant) shrub.

We’ve managed, now, to chop out all four shrubs, and we’ve removed the main root system for three of four. The only roots remaining are from the smallest and least-noticeable shrub behind the bench. So here’s the clean-ish slate photo:

Wow, that looks pretty bare. It’s easier to notice, in this photo, that we have some lovely and healthy-looking hostas over on the left as well as two other little bushes that we don’t love, but which we don’t hate with the white-hot passion that was reserved for the big suckers that we just ousted. There’s also a spindly little shrub just to the right of the front door that I transplanted from the backyard when we took down the ugly fence shortly after we moved here.

Even though I’ve never been much of a shrub-and-flower gardener before, I hate to condemn plants to death. For example, even when a houseplant appears to be entirely dead, I don’t throw it in the trash. I take the pot and leave it outside where I won’t see it, and then a week or two later I go and peek, just in case its Will To Survive saved it. And one year, I planted a grocery-store mini-rose bush in the ground just because I couldn’t bear to trash it, and it shocked Mary and I; it remains alive and well, with about ten flowers blooming today. So, anyway, I tried transplanting this spindly little thing. It flowers every year, but it’s looked pretty anemic ever since the move. I wonder if I should just prune the hell out of it and either it will die or come back stronger than ever? Any thoughts, gardening people?

One challenge here is that the two hugest shrubs were so overgrown that they took up a ton of ground space, so when it came to replanting, I knew that we’d have a lot of extra dirt showing. I went on a hunt for phlox like this, but apparently all the cool people who know how to garden planted their phlox, like, six weeks ago. So none of the nurseries have it anymore. But that’s what I want, so I’ll have to wait for next year, I guess.

I had three big holes to fill, and at this point panic set in, because the Niska-Day parade was due to arrive within a day or two. I’d done some preliminary investigating at Kulak’s, where I explained that I was both inept and lazy, and that my front yard was a partial sun/partial shade kind of place. I’d brought home photos of all sorts of options to show Cute W, who recognized my frenzied state and wisely chose to defer to me.

Here’s the “after”:

My three new shrubs (bushes? I don’t know if there’s a gardening-technical difference) are:

  1. “Gabrielle Hill” Azalea just in front of the door. I chose this one because it’s flowering and evergreen, and because the flowers were a bit orange-ish. There were tons of pink and purple flowers that I wanted to avoid, because I thought that they’d look bad with the yellow siding and orangey-red chimney bricks with which we are sadly stuck. The azalea is doing well and growing already, which is good, because it has plenty of space. But the flowers have gotten pinker since I’ve planted, which I think has to do with the soil that I have. I have to research that and see what I can throw in there to get back to the original color. Still, I’m happy with it.
  2. “Winter Gem” Boxwood is in the middle, just in front of the chimney (and the lighter color to the left is more hosta plants, which have grown quickly, too). I picked this because it’s a hardy evergreen, and it’s basic, but pretty. It’s growing a bit already, too. Another important factor here is that I didn’t want anything with prickers. In my last house and in this house, we’ve got injury-producing shrubs. I think it’s some standard burglar-deterrent thing that landscapers do. But honestly, I picture most burglars as fairly tough guys in jeans, and I’ve never seen any around my house (knock on wood!). However, I have bare-legged little girls running around my yard constantly, and they’re always getting balls and flip flops stuck in pricker bushes. So I’m done with prickery shrubs.
  3. “Nikko Blue” Hydrangea is over on the right. I chose this one because they’re supposed to be vigorous and hardy, and the flowers are gorgeous (and hopefully not too pink or purple). Plus it’s supposed to get big fast, which means it’s a value, people! They are so pretty dried that I always want to steal other people’s hydrangea blooms. And, most important, I chose this because Mary Hatch hid naked in the hydrangeas in It’s a Wonderful Life.  A movie which makes me cry like a baby when I watch it every year. So maybe ten years from now it will be huge and one of my daughters will be flirting near the hydrangea in the moonlight. But hopefully not naked.

Right now everything looks teensy, I know, but I love them all. Every time I see my yard without those big, boxy yew  (or yew-like?) shrubs, I take a great big breath full of joy. Which inspired me to start thinking about the overgrown and shabby perennial garden. But more on that later.

And I owe you posts on our camping adventures as well, of course.


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