I apologize for being away so long, but I have been occupied with my newest project. I knew the time would come when I would have to tackle a certain area in my yard. When I first moved into my home it consisted of almost every plant that I detest: Popcorn trees, Chinese Privet, Nandina, Cherry Laurel trees, Smilax, Japanese Honeysuckle, Ivy, and Monkey Grass. Pictured below is the jungle that I had inherited.
In fact my first thoughts when I walked into my back yard for the first time was, “Well, that will all have to be ripped out.” The length of this area is around 35 feet. So this past winter my husband and I got out the saw, shears, shovel, and began to re-claim our fence. We kept chopping and cutting until we ran out of steam. Then left it until early spring when I went at it again clearing more debris.
Each time I worked in this space I was unsure of what I wanted to grow. It is a very shady spot, so I knew that would limit my choices. I’ve made lists of all my favorite shade plants, but still did not know how I wanted to place them. What I came to realize was this area intimidated me because it was so large and a major focal point in my back yard. I had only ever filled in little nooks and crannies between already existing shrubs and trees. To gardeners this is laying the foundation.
Not so long ago an opportunity presented itself that would make it possible for me to build a garden in this space. I was intimidated by the massive size, but also due to the slope of my yard a retaining wall would need to be placed to keep the soil from washing away. That means I would need compost/top soil to fill in leveling out the bed. Thirty-five feet makes for many bags of soil amendment that we could not afford. Then one day my husband called me from work to say, “I found you some free horse manure if you want it.” Did I want it? A truck load of manure for free? Christmas come early this year!!
This forced me to consider a plan for my shady border. I walked outside with my measuring wheel and outlined a bed 33 feet long and 7 feet wide. Then I started making lists of shrubs/perennials I loved for shade. I compared size, foliage style, and flower color schemes. I searched the internet for pictures of mixed borders while trying to decide what look I wanted to achieve.
Finally I decided on a small list of plants and began to draw their placement in the bed. Although, as soon as I had it drawn I began to panic. Did this look okay? I needed another gardener’s perspective. So I called one of my neighbor’s who has a stunning garden and left her a message saying, “Garden Design Emergency!” She came over with a southern landscaping book (just in case) and patiently listened as I pointed out what plant would go where. Then I said, “So…what do you think?” She smiled and said that it would be beautiful and that she couldn’t wait to see it! Whew!
Now that I was certain that I had a good solid plan, I began to stop by local nurseries to make sure they had the plants I wanted and at a decent price. After searching through 5 different nurseries I found what I needed and went out to purchase the materials for my first foundation planting. I was glowing as I unloaded the plants from my car.
Then the day came for us to head out to the country to retrieve my manure. It was a lovely little farm with small ponies, donkeys, goats, chickens, and peacocks. The goats were hilarious to watch as they leaned their wide bodies into the wire fence to scratch an out of reach itch. The manure was loaded and brought home. I was so excited! Everything was ready to construct the border. My excitement unfortunately did not last long because the next day I had a very sore throat. I was forced to take it easy a couple of days, which meant I had to sit and watch my rich aged manure outside not get dumped into the garden.
As soon as I was well I grabbed my hat, garden gloves, wheel barrow, and shovel to start hauling my precious manure to the back yard into the new flower bed. It felt so good to be finally doing some real garden work in my new home. Then tragedy struck, the worst fear a gardener can have came true. I was running out of manure even though the bed was not finished. We tend to be eager to get the plants in the ground and admire our hard work. All gardener’s look forward to that moment when their project is complete and they can sit enjoying a glass of sweet iced tea. That would not be me on this day.
I called my husband to say that I had run out and asked how long his co-worker thought it would take to um…acquire enough manure for a truck load. A few moments later he was calling me back with the question, “What are you doing on Thursday?” I said, “Nothing…why?” He replied, “Because we’re off to get another load!” Woo hoo! So here I sit in deep anticipation of completing my new garden space. I can see it through the window as I type, the plants set about waiting to put down roots in their new homes. Stay tuned for the finished product of the foundation planting. I will have pictures and reveal what plants I finally chose! To think, all this was made possible by this little fellow.