Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Yard Stories

So you bought a house, and all those beautiful yards that called your name on the internet become something attainable -- you actually have one of those now to mold into your ultimate masterpiece.  Only, I will maintain that a few hours in to the weeding, trimming, and bushwhacking the pleasant soft glow of those idyllic yard images seems a looong way away.  And then as you watch your black thumb wrest the life out of every attempt at flowering plants, you may find yourself spiraling into a yard depression.  I'm here to give you hope.  Yards are messy, exhausting, and the ultimate dreaded weekend chore.  But you will find happiness there in the small accomplishments of light hitting the rosebushes just right in the late afternoon or a few cut flowers from your own garden in a vase.

The Ugly Truth
This is the progress of my yard so far this year -- we started with a bunch of dead, ugly bushes.  One by one we had to dig them out.  By the way, did I mention that yards are like your own personal gym?  Who needs crossfit when you can move giant dead bushes around in a wheelbarrow?

Before:

After:

It doesn't look that much better yet -- we needs to bury the irrigation system again under new mulch, and consider planting other plant options (I would love to make a mixture of hydrangea and hosta work here but hydrangeas are expensive failures).

But it's not all failures, dirt, and death.  I've had a few successes too.  Here's a few quick tips for plants that should be easy to succeed with, and lessons learned from my own yard mistakes:

Tried and True NC Plants

If you live in central NC, I've found there a few plants that you should feel confident will survive despite your best attempts at killing them.

Azalea: These can handle partial to full sun like a champ.  And with early spring and fall blooms they get major beauty points.


Knock-out Roses: Literally you cannot kill these.  My only suggestion is that you need to hack these back pretty strongly in the late fall if you don't want them to become giants.  Rose bushes like these can grow up to 6 feet tall if left to their natural course.  Don't be afraid to hack them down to about 1/3 of their size when you are done with the blooming season.


These roses are easy to bring inside for a quick and no stress floral arrangement!
Crepe Myrtle: These are the perfect flowering tree for a front yard or to line a side yard.  They tolerate sun and heat quite well, and offer lovely color in early summer.  With time they can also grow quite tall and out of control, so if you are buying a larger species maybe don't plant too close to the house.  In early spring you'll often see massive trim backs to crepe myrtles around town -- a method that is often referred to as "Crepe Murder."  Sure it looks terrible at the time, but the larger varieties need pruning to stay under control, and as spring turns to summer your going to get plenty of new growth and flowering back despite the brutal hacking.

Expect crepe myrtles to begin to bloom in early summer in humid places like central NC via

Ferns: Need a quick fix on your porch?  Ferns are really low maintenance as long as you keep them watered.  Give them a thorough drenching 2-3 times a week (I dump water until I see it running down onto the porch) and they are good to go.  Just don't buy them too early in spring -- birds are prone to making a nest in hanging fern baskets.  Every year I think I've waited long enough to avoid the bird nest in my fern problem, but once again this year I found I had still bought my ferns too early.  I'd suggest waiting until mid May before buying your first fern, even though you might see ferns out at the store as early as late March just tempting you to rethink.  Another tip to help avoid bird nesting -- try to take your ferns down every few days and leave them sitting on the ground overnight.  Birds don't want to build in unstable areas, and especially not on the ground, so frequent movement in early spring can help deter them.




My Failures:
I can't shake the feeling that I'm supposed to be able to grow hydrangea.  For some reason, despite a neighborhood full of proof-otherwise, it is intolerant to my efforts.  I've tried rooting it from clippings, and buying it from both Wal-mart and Lowes.  Currently there is one plant of my three purchased ones still alive, and it has never bloomed since I brought it home.   So instead I just take clippings home from my in-laws and pretend like I'm a success on instagram.




My actual hydrangea (the other 2 I planted last year are dead).  Doubt I'll be getting any blooms this year...

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