Showing posts with label front yard. Show all posts
Showing posts with label front yard. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

We are officially no-mow in the front yard

In the list of Things I've Spent the Majority of My Life Doing, removal of sod is quickly catching up to sleeping, reading, and perusing the Annie's Annuals website. For the record, those latter three things are way more fun than sod removal.

Despite the fact that everyone I know loves smothering, I have not had good results with it. The neighborhood cats dig up my newspaper, things never properly decompose, and the sod always seems to come back to life. I've read reports online from people who claim that, within six weeks of applying the smothering layer of choice, they had lush, crumbly topsoil. I call bullshit.

Anyway. I had very little sod left in the front garden but it needed to be removed very carefully with a pickax, so I wouldn't disturb the roots of the 75 year old dogwood tree. I had this stupid strip along the new pathway just to make mowing awful for Greg. You're welcome, buddy.

I used the same rock I've used throughout the garden and did a terrible job preparing the ground. I want people to know that I DIYed this.

And along the property line . . .

The hope is to give my neighbor a level surface to run his lawnmower along. And I'll have a clear demarcation of where wood chips or mulch should begin.

Now I just need to fill in this area in with dry shade plants. I have three Amsonia hubrichtii planted around the dogwood, along with Geranium macrorrhizzum, which will hopefully disguise the abrupt transition from fine hemlock mulch to cedar chips.

I planted a tiny variegated flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum 'Variegata') in this area (just to the left of the pouty Sesleria autumnalis), since that native can take an awful lot of abuse. I've also got a smattering of random hellebores and volunteers like Persicaria 'Lance Corporal,' Phlomis russeliana, and Parahebe perfoliata. Anybody have a favored 3-4 foot dry shade subshrub or evergreen plant? I need some variation in height.

I also need a bench or comfy chair so I can sit under the dogwood with a glass of wine in the evening. And groundcovers. I need something to knit this mess together.


Who needs lawn? The whole front garden was designed to be watered twice a month or less. It's crazy but it's fun and we have zillions of pollinators.

June of this year

We don't miss mowing at all.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Dasylirion texanum is my favorite plant in the garden (this week)

When Greg and I were in Amsterdam we went to the Botanical Garden. I flew halfway around the world to see gunnera for the first time, a plant that grows incredibly well in Portland. I had no idea it existed! I also witnessed the biggest agave I'd ever seen in the flesh and a Dasylirion acrotrichum. I was totally fascinated by how soft (looking) and kinetic such a spiky plant could be. I fell in love.

Two years ago I picked up a Dasylirion texanum at Rare Plant Research.

It's taken its sweet time bulking up but it's finally starting to come into its own.

The filifers are perfectly coiffed.

Those perfect ribbons of green sport teeth that glow in the sunlight.

I can't wait to see how it fills out the berm as it continues to grow.

It's a tough SOB, zones 5a-11. It can form a trunk (which may be partly buried beneath the ground), with an eventual height and width of 3-5', depending on who you ask. It needs well drained soil but handles the ample moisture in Portland well. It's heat and drought tolerant, liking sun to part shade. It has handled the recent freeze as well as some scorching heat with no sign of stress at all. It will eventually form a 9-15' flower stalk. BITCHIN'.

My favorite plant in the garden this week is hosted by Loree at Danger Garden. Be sure to check out what she's liking this week!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Hellstrip redesign

Back in the spring I dug up the tiny hellstrip area to the right of our driveway. There were two arbor vitae planted here when I bought the house.

After I removed them, I hoped the groundcover from my neighbor's hellstrip would spread here. Instead, grass popped up. And then all the neighbor dogs used that area as a toilet. I finally got sick of cleaning up poop and removed the sod, then amended the soil with crushed basalt and compost.

I banished a number of plants that I didn't love anymore to this spot, figuring they'd all die. It's difficult to get the hose to this spot and it gets baked in sun all day. I tried to make it as crowded as possible so dogs would be discouraged from pooping here.

Euphorbia 'Blackbird' has not done well in my back garden. It constantly fell over, like it couldn't get a proper root system going. Instead of throwing it in the compost bin I plopped it here. And you know what? It totally rocked this spot.

That's not morning dew, that's dog urine. It gets marked several times a day and it got almost no water after May. It's been stepped on, neglected, and it looks a thousand times better than it ever did elsewhere.

The main area of my hellstrip was never planted with any proper plan--I just threw down kinnickkinnick (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) and coastal strawberry (Fragaria chiloensis) and called it a day. The coastal strawberry covered everything and tried to eat the sidewalk as well. It sent out runners and rooted in the cracks of the street. It was so aggressive it apparently ate my camera because I can't find a single picture of my hellstrip. I am such a useless blogger.

Right before the freezing temperatures hit Portland, on a brisk day in December, I tore out the strawberries and replanted.

The plants include, from left to right, Pennisetum spathiolatum, Arctostaphylos 'John Dourley', and Euphorbia 'Blackbird' (I like it again!).

Agave pups will be worked in to deter would-be poopers.

In the spring, once I can find my Agastache 'Golden Jubilee' seedlings again, I'll work some of those in for brightness.

I'm also going to plant Grosso lavender, whose scent I like the best of all the lavandulas. I normally hate lavender as a landscape plant; in the NW it gets woody and awful looking after a few years and then people prune them into nightmarish shapes. To avoid this, I'll be treating mine like annuals and replacing them every year. I just love the way they smell and how many bees they attract so I'm willing to put in the extra effort.

I'm really excited to see how things fare this summer and how they jibe with the rest of the front garden.

I'm getting so excited for spring! I know winter just started but I'm already earmarking plant catalogs for purchases and thinking about seed starting. I've also got some wildlife upgrades planned (we're not getting a bear, don't get too excited) and maybe some more sod removal. What is life without sod removal?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Rules I have flouted, grasses I have loved

If there are two things I should've learned by now, they would include:

  1. Short plants go in front and tall plants go in the back.
  2. Read the plant tags (and then count on them getting bigger).

When I asked Scott to help me design my meadow he gave me these really great plant lists and three different planting schemes but I went sort of off-script and then I forgot about the two bullet points above. I planted little bluestem grasses (Schizachyrium scoparium 'Blue Heaven') right in the front of the meadow, thinking they'd stay two feet tall even though the tag clearly said they'd get four feet tall (and because this is Portland they'll probably grow to six).

So while the grasses were beautiful, they were obscuring the lovely fountaining of the Pennisetum 'Redhead' just behind them and generally looking inappropriate for front and center placement. And they were straight up hiding the Panicum 'Shenandoah.' They're in there, I swear.

So I relocated them to the back of the meadow. I'm hoping they'll continue to bulk up and I'll get a nice color block there. Even with their smaller stature I'm enjoying them in their new location.

And now Pennisetum 'Redhead' can really strut her stuff.

It's hard to tell, but there's a ribbon of Sedum 'Matrona' along the front of the bed. Hopefully that will bulk up next summer, too.

I am a little concerned that the little bluestems won't get enough sun next summer at the back of the bed. "Right plant, right place" has also been a hard one to learn. What other rules of thumb can I ignore next? Plant in groups of odd numbers, work the diagonals, never wake a sleep walker . . . what else?

Of course, all I can see when I'm in the front garden is Muhlenbergia rigens. I am so head over heels for this grass right now.

After its brief foray into bondage with the insulation installation, I decided to move it toward the front door. Greg didn't like the way it reached out and tickled him when he'd walk up the driveway (it's kinky, what can I say).

Because I'm a dick I moved it right in front of the outside faucet (M. rigens up! your! nose! every time you turn on the hose!). This grass can tolerate a lot of manhandling (especially after the bondage) so it will still look nice even if I drag the hose over it again and again. Or step on it to get to the faucet.

I've thought about getting bee hives but who knows what it would do with the hot wax?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Michelle Duggar of agaves

I was deadheading yesterday and I noticed that I had some agave pups that I could relocate. When I looked closer, one agave had a petticoat of pups that you could barely see, they were so smashed underneath. I actually had to dig Mama Duggar up, unwind all the pups, and put her back in the ground.

Mama Duggar this winter, plotting her fecundity

All but one of these came from this agave.

NOID Agave americana?

I thought it only right to give them names.

Edited to add: if any of you are unfamiliar with the Duggars, they're an obnoxious family that had their own show on TLC because they had 19 kids, all of whom were named with J names. She was going to keep having babies "as long as the lord wanted her to." Now they lobby Congress to outlaw birth control. Ick.

Now take it easy, lady. You've given me something to take to the next plant exchange! Your work here is done.

How's your agave crop this year?

Friday, July 19, 2013

Happy Friday!

I'm deeply, madly in love with my meadow right now.

A neighbor walked by last night and said, "Wow! The lawn looks great!" :)

Monday, July 8, 2013

I like dogs more than I like dog owners

Overnight my Devon Skies blue-eyed grass went from looking like this:

To this:

I'm thinking dog urine is the culprit. Anyone have any other theories? I think it's going to live but it looks UGLY right now.

The other day I was weeding in the front garden and a woman came by with her two dogs. One went into my hell strip and peed all over my Aristea inaequalis and she looked right at me and said, "Good boy." People can be jerks.

Monday, June 24, 2013

At last

 . . . my love (that is not Greg) has come along to my garden.

How did I get joint compound on that green pot?

In April a friend gave me a gift certificate to Garden Fever. I'm at Garden Fever all the time and I could've spent it before now but I didn't want to use it on tomatoes or compost or filler plants. I wanted to use it for something special.

I finally got an Agave 'Blue Glow.' I was so excited I bought two. Because I'm a greedy little plant-pig, I wish I had bought three.

These guys are hardy in zones 9b-11, so they'll have to come inside for the winter. They reach a mature size of 1-2' by 1-2' and apparently they are fast growers. I could have purchased a larger size but they didn't look as nice as the smaller ones did.

As long as we're talking about pokey plants, I thought I'd give you an update on some of my others . . .

After sitting like a bump on a log for a year, my Dasylirion texanum has pumped out a ton of new growth. He's surrounded by biennials and easily moved grasses, so he'll have plenty of room to stretch to his full size (3' tall by 3-5' wide). This one is hardy down to zone 5 and it hasn't been fazed by the heavy rains.

My agaves have gotten hugongous. Three of them are more than a foot across. Too bad about that tenacious petticoat of oxalis, grrr.

This guy had some damage from the wet spring. He's also a little sheltered by the milkweed and crocosmia, so I don't think he's drying out enough.

Those low white blooms are Lewisia cotyledon 'White Splendor'. They have been blooming without stop since the first of April. They are hardy in zones 4-10 and only ask for excellent drainage.

This one's going to get her own MTV show. A baby having babies! You're too young!

This is a pup I recently unwound from one of the larger agaves and it's only a couple of inches across. They grow up so fast these days!