So Sunday Whit was mowing the grass and inadvertantly disturbed a bunny nest. We like to let the grass in the backyard get high in the spring to give cover to the birds and other wildlife, and we’d seen the mama rabbit around so we knew there was a nest but we couldn’t find it. Whit looked carefully, but this rabbit had built her nest under the playset, and he didn’t see it. The babies are okay. We restored the nest as best we could, but the high grass was gone. Fortunately the mama did come back and they’re fine, but keeping Luke out of the backyard is darned near impossible. I’m trying not to traumatize them any further, but he wants to check on them every day. Rabbits are very high strung and if they’re stressed they won’t eat. Luke’s soccer rebounder is right near the playset, so the poor little things are not in the best location. I was hoping she would move them, but she didn’t. Rabbits wean pretty rapidly and with any luck they’ll be gone soon.
For reasons I don’t understand the former owner of this house has these irises planted in a big clump in the back yard. I’m so glad we didn’t dig them up last year as I’d originally intended. They’ll look lovely in the front yard. These are the first irises I’ve ever seen that are scented, they have a delightful fragrance. The brick on the fireplace is the same as it is on the exterior. I thought I saw hints of purple in that brick. The irises look lovely against that background.
This past weekend the hubster and I got to work removing some really big, old and ugly hollies from the front of our house. When I say big, those suckers were at least 4-feet high and some were at least that deep. Our house is on a sloping lot and has a low-pitched roof. Having those bushes there made it look even lower, like a short woman wearing a wide belt. Not a good look. Besides, the brickwork goes to the ground, there’s no need for foundation plantings at all. Plus, someone paid brickmason to do those arches. Why cover them up? They’re one of the best features of the house.
We’re leaving the azaleas at the front of the house, but we won’t buy more. Azaleas love water too much, and we have to go with drought tolerant plants in this area. The arches give the house a vaguely Mediterranean look, so I think I’m going to run with that theme. Of course, azaleas aren’t Mediterranean, they’re from China, but hey, we’re not purists. On the right hand corner there’s a huge old hydrangea that’s at least 10-feet tall. I think we’ll stick with hydrangeas over there since it’s almost entirely shade. I’ll cut the old hydrangea back after it blooms and I can tell what’s dead. I’ll probably put in three oak leaf hydrangeas over there. Yes, I know hydrangeas aren’t Mediterranean, either.
I’m going full-scale Mediterranean in the back yard. I’ve always wanted an olive tree and a fig tree. The fig shouldn’t be any problem, though Whit doesn’t want any fruit bearing trees, but I (and the birds) love them. Olives are only hardy to Zone 8, but that line is just to the south of here. I’m thinking that with global warming I can probably swing it. Especially if I cover it up its first couple of winters with plastic and mulch. They’re not crazy expensive, so I’ll give it a shot. I’ll also plant rosemary, lavender and a bay laurel. (I love plants that are pretty and can also be used in cooking!) Any plants we put in the backyard have to be pretty sturdy, as that’s also Luke’s playground.
Our previous house had four gardens, this one will have a minimum of six. There’s an area to the left of our driveway where there’s a huge oak tree and two dogwoods. That’ll be my bulb garden, I’ll put tulips, daffodils and lilies there. It’ll take a lot I’m estimating 200 or more. We’ve got a crape myrtle near the mailbox. I’ll add a ton of day lilies there and call it a day. It’s really hot there near the street and nothing kills day lilies.
Near the house with the little half circle of shrubs I’ll do small garden. I’ll add a bench and that might be my bed of annuals, a cutting garden. Not sure yet. And I’m still not sure what I’ll plant near the house. All around the back porch I’m putting in my salad garden with tomatoes, some herbs, and a few marigolds to ward off mosquitoes.
This is the time of year that I start getting seed and bulb catalogs. In this zone the first week of December is the ideal time to plant spring flowering bulbs. That is if you’ve had a freeze first. We’ve had unseasonably cold weather around here, so it would be an awesome time to plant tulips. Tulips love cold weather and won’t achieve their ideal height unless they’ve had a cold winter. Whit and I agreed when we moved to this house that we wouldn’t do anything outside until we’d lived here a year. That’s always a good plan because we need time to look at native plants and see what does well here. Drought tolerance is crucial here as we are on water restrictions for the forseeable future. Native plants have adapted to the environment and so would be accustomed to the local rainfall. (I suspect in the coming years we’re going to lose most of the azaleas that southerners are so famous for. They’re absolute water hogs and we can’t afford them anymore.)
Zone maps are at best a guideline. It’s always possible that your home is in a micro-climate which can affect your plant choices. For instance, in our Huntsville home we had lilac bushes. It’s supposed to be much too hot to grow lilacs there, but we did and they thrived. We learned very quickly that we were able to grow things that are not supposed to survive Zone 7 and that some things that were supposed to be perennials were annuals for us. My mama was a strong advocate of ignoring zone maps and planting things you liked. She always said that the zone people didn’t live at her house. She was legendary for growing things that no one else could grow, and also for rarely buying plants. Her garden looked unbelievable for very little money. Whit and I spent a fortune and our garden didn’t look half as good as hers.
I was looking at the This Old House website and saw this fabulous garden in Seattle. It’s totally self-sustaining and she uses no artificial chemicals or insecticides. I really like that, we were green at our old house and I’d like to maintain that She has rain barrels and, of course a composter. I think both will be crucial to gardening in this area. I haven’t investigated rain barrels all that much, but suspect we’ll be putting one in before we do any substantial gardening. We were lazy composters and basically just collected our lawn clippings, leaves, sticks and such in a pile in a back corner of our yard. We’ll probably do something more formal here and build a real composter. I’m excited about that. Compost is so important especially since we have heavy clay at this house. We worked like dogs at our old house to improve the soil, and we’ll have to do it again. It takes a while to turn heavy clay into a decent growing medium, but it can be done with lots of compost. I’d also like to put in a bat house. Bats eat their weight in mosquitoes every night and bat guano is primo fertilizer.
Isn’t the maze in the photo terrific? I want to put one in, but I have no idea where. I’ve been doing some sketches and know more or less what I want to put where, but the maze has me stumped. It can’t go in the backyard because that’s where Luke plays and he would destroy it. Plus, I’ll probably have my kitchen garden back there. I’m thinking the the front yard. Of course, every time I show the maze to Whit he asks the burning question, “Who’s going to mow that thing?” That guy has no romance in his soul. Ours wouldn’t be as large as the one in the photo, but I think they’re beautiful. Oh well, back to the catalogs and my dreams.