It feels like an eternity since I’ve posted an actual garden report. I am the Queen of Unrealized Intentions, and big jobs that hurt—like removing shrubs, curbing ever-expanding bamboo, building paths, or pruning trees—tend to get pushed on the future. This year, though, at the end of the summer, I hired my talented and much stronger friend William to help me out. The fact that my garden still looks a bit of a mess is not his fault. He helped me clear all these big chores out of the way, and then I just never got around to finishing it up, by planting (read; shoehorning) all my homeless plants in the ground.
Not to say that I was entirely unproductive—I did liberate the garage from the massive Clematis armandii ‘Appleblossom’ that was eating it, and I finished pulling back the two-story Schizophragma hydrangeoides ‘Moonlight’ from the roof of the house. They both got pruned back rather harshly, so there will be no cascade of pink apple blossoms this March. But—on the good side—my husband now speaks to me again, and that is nice. I also built another couple of new fern tables, and finally made good use of a discarded café table base I found a year ago, by filling it with my scattered Sarracenias. They look so much better where they are now!
There is never a lack of things to do, but at least I can now see things shaping up a bit. Over the past few months, I have taken some pictures here and there but—quite frankly— this wasn’t a big year for photography on my end. I realized today when I was out there, camera in hand, how much I’ve missed it. Posted below you will see a smattering of images from the last few months. My goal is to spend this winter is to do some more editing, to try (again) to remove a bunch of unwanted Acanthus seedlings and Rubus lineatus suckers that are taking far too many liberties with my limited front yard space. That of course, will open up space, but don’t worry – I have plenty of options to fill it with.
One of the first things we tackled was reigning in the black bamboo, which had escaped its barrier. Not for the faint of hearts, and certainly not for the faint of arms and backs. I’m amazed he is still my friend… this was a bitch of a job, to put it mildly.
Quite heroically, William managed to cut it back to its original barrier I had so naively employed so many years ago. Back then, I dug down two feet, and used corrugated metal roofing to line the hole. It worked for several years, but like all bamboo liners, you need to switch it out every 4-5 years, I’m told. Which makes me wonder why even bother…? From now on, I will do what the Chinese do; root prune /cut of any stray shoots twice a year. In this shot, it still needs some thinning…
Behind the garage is a narrow little seating area. Here, it is still full of plants that need homes. By now, some of them have gone in the ground, but I still have a few to go. Some of them have gone back inside, as they are houseplants outside for the summer. This is my “tropical corner”, and one of the few spots in the backyard that gets some sun.
Here, it’s cleared up a little bit. The flamingo is kind of a joke, as he guards the entrance to his jungly home.
On the other side of the garden is what was formerly the Lilac corner. It was the biggest lilac I had ever seen , but it was also old. One winter storm, part of it blew down onto our neighbors’ kayaks. Yikes! Some of it had been removed earlier this year, but William helped me finish the job. He also took out a big Aucuba. There is still one left. I didn’t think I needed two, and I’m sure you agree. With both Lilac and Aucuba gone, the curvy wall I built when we first moved in, could be extended and backfilled with soil. He did a beautiful job, and then helped me move my Japanese Umbrella Pine and a few other things into the spot. It will be much happier there, and is allowed to grow as tall as it wants. Not a superfast grower, I’ll be long gone before it gets too big.
You can see a small fraction resulting from our pruning efforts piled in the fire pit. The peacock chair was a gift from a neighbor when they moved. It goes great with the capiz shell lamp from my husband’s family. The chair is just for decoration—sadly it is far too brittle to sit in.
The old Viburnum that acts as a shady roof over the table got itself a massive pruning. I always liked the tangled trunks that leaned out in all directions, but each year, it seemed, it got more and more obstructive, as it weighed down lower and lower. I stood my ground on only a couple. The rest got lopped.
This shot of the soon to be Sarracenia garden, doesn’t show the whole effect of the Viburnum pruning, but trust me when I say it opened the back along the fence up quite a bit. For one thing, you can see the metal screens on the fence a lot better.
Closeup of part of the metal screens. I made the little climbers back in school.
The Japanese Snowbell also got limbed up a bit. If I had known better, I would have taken this tree out when we bought the house. Back then, it was rather small, and much more manageable. There are so many better trees…
Not immediately evident from this somewhat fuzzy night shot through the side gate—the space inside feels a lot more spacious now than it did before.
The front yard got a big pruning job too—a much needed one. First up was the lopsided Bloodgood maple which leaned out into the driveway, driving my dear husband bonkers. I didn’t know it was alright to prune trees in the summer. It is apparently perfectly alright – it looks SO much better!
Here is a shot looking back at it from the street at the cut. Such an improvement!
And a shot from the other day—in full fall color! The rest of the family is also elated that they no longer have to crouch down when trying to get out of the passenger side.
The variegated Fatsia got itself a massive hack-back too.
Suddenly the sidewalk is perfectly navigable again. It’s been a while. My poor Daphne also got severely pruned back, and hasn’t done much since. But, I looked the other day, and there is a tiny little glimmer of green on one of the trunks. William assured me it would be fine. As of right now, there is hope, but the jury is out for a while longer. I would have sulked too – it was a quite barbaric treatment, but probably necessary. And now you can see the stacked wall I built so long ago.
For a few weeks, we were drowning in yard debris. I asked all my neighbors if I could top off their yard waste bins. (Gotta tell you, we have very kind and patient neighbors.) For weeks I filled theirs up too, and then wandered up and down our block and beyond, looking for other half empty bins. I took one big load to the dump as well. It felt really, really good to have it all gone!
Remember that upside down table a few photos ago? This is what I did with it. As you can see by the fallen leaf, it’s now near the Bloodgood in the front yard, where I can see it from the window.
I’ll end this report with a shot of Tanky-Pank, our adopted kitty who seems to have some stomach issues. (No wonder he looks grumpy.) Here he’s having a Hakonechloa snack. Not sure if it helps him, but he seems to really like it.
So there you are – a collection of summer’s big moves. I still doubt I will ever be quite done, but for now, it looks endlessly much better than it did. And I feel a deep debt of gratitude to William. Holy cow, it’s amazing he still loves me, after what I put him through. More to come…