Monday, July 28, 2014

Last summer:


 This summer:

The top photo is a view from our old side yard (the North Garden) as it stretched towards the back orchard and field.  The second photo is from the back porch of our new house.  I have not taken measurements, but I believe that our new backyard might be no larger than the front flower beds of our previous home.   It is a startling and, at times, shocking change, but since it's almost August and a zillion degrees out there, I have absolutely nothing to complain about.  My gardening activity is always at a minimum in  August, whatever the size of the garden. 
The move honestly felt like a mixed blessing at first.  I was absolutely thrilled to be closer to those I hold dear, but the house and garden did not seem to be a good choice or fit for us.  Now that two thirds of a year have passed, I no longer have mixed emotions.  It's all good.  My life has changed, my garden has changed, and so my gardening has naturally changed.   These days, I have much less time to dig than I used to and my tiny, new garden perfectly suits my new agenda.  Where I used to spend lots of time moving plants around and experimenting, I now focus on a few of my very favorite things. 
Of course, I had to decide just what those might be.  The short list:  a prayer garden, antique roses, herbs, a lemon tree, a sweet bay tree, native flowers, a gardenia, and a vegetable patch.
The first thing we added was a prayer or Mary garden.  I was able to incorporate both roses and herbs and will continue to add and amend as time passes.
We have yet to decide if we want one bench or two and whether we want them to be concrete without backs or wooden with backs.  On either side of the statue we planted climbing roses, Sombreuil, and created two beds for Marie Pavie and her sister, Marie Daly.  These are all hardy, fragrant, old garden roses and amongst my favorites.  I don't mind that a neighbor's oak tree shades the statue.  If it wasn't there, I would have planted a tree in that corner myself.  The only thing that I must get used to is the occasional sound of golfers enjoying themselves beyond my garden while I'm praying or meditating.   
I've been reading about monastery gardens and culinary or kitchen gardens.  If I only had one bed in which to plant, it would have to be for herbs.  I have several basils, tarragon, parsley, purslane, a good variety of thyme, mints, lemon balm, lemon grass, three different oreganos, rosemary, and sage.  We have a bay tree, too, a gift from a loved one when she learned I was in mourning for the one I left behind.
I am excited about my little garden.  I will share many of our challenges and all of our garden in future posts.  Although I might wish to have room for a few more fruit trees, we really don't mind its diminutive size.  My husband used to mow and edge four acres every week or two all summer.  Now, he doesn't own a lawnmower.  While we miss having a pecan grove for our front yard, we don't miss maintaining it and our view is actually pretty open in front.  As for the back, it's an improvement on many counts.  I'm pretty sure that my husband would say that the best part is that it's nice, vast, and he doesn't have to maintain it himself.  The back view rather reminds me of favorite book illustrations from childhood, the ones that featured a green expanse (usually a hill), a town, and a train far off in the distance.  That's what I see when I look past my backyard -- the golf course being the green, slightly hilly expanse, homes comfortably situated around it, and the train out there far away but still within sight.  It's pleasant, it's comfortable, and so far, uncommonly  simple.  
What I wouldn't change at all, not one tiny bit, are our nephews showing up at our back door unexpectedly, my brother and his kids stopping by on their way to the grocery store, coffee with my sisters-in-law, weekend breakfasts with our children, and our granddaughter toddling through the front door as fast as her little legs can carry her.  Such precious flowers as these can be nurtured, appreciated, enjoyed -- the more, the better.  But they cannot be replaced. 
I'll be back soon.  I have a lot to show, tell, and ask!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

This Time We REALLY Did It!

"Move?  But we just agreed that we love this and want to stay!  We just planted all of those crape myrtles! I haven't divided all of the lilies yet!  I have no rose cuttings!  Are you serious?"

I looked at my husband and I saw that he was.  More than that, he was tired.  Between his business, a large extended family, a full social life (blessings, all) and a four-acre lot to maintain according to somewhat stringent deed restrictions, he was drained.  If I were honest, I was, too.  I knew that we were not giving anyone or anything the attention they deserved and that we were missing much.  We are not getting any younger.  Once thoroughly considered, the idea of living closer to family and friends became a tantalizing one.  While the moving process was exhausting and perhaps we made some hasty decisions, I am convinced that it's all for the best. 

Once we sold our house, we did not want to keep our belongings in storage until Spring; we determined to choose a house from whatever was available and came closest to meeting our requirements at the time.  My husband was moving his office, too.  Everything happened quickly and all at once.  It is the settling down and adjusting that has taken some time. 

Moving from four acres in a quiet, rural subdivision to a house on a golf course, zero lot-line, has been an adventure we will not forget any time soon.  But I am not here to talk about life in the fast lane.  I am here to talk about my garden, our drastically ever-changing landscape. 

I do not have access to all of my photos at present, unfortunately.  < I am not at all sure I like external hard drives at this moment.>  To compare the front and back yards in the same season isn't possible today and to use what photos I have access to really is terribly unfair to the new property.  For now, I shall limit myself to a short, one-paragraph comparison. 

Between the properties, there are two major differences that will affect my gardening.  One, of course, is that the old garden was expansive in all directions and the new garden is tiny in all directions.  The other is the configuration of the house.  Our former house was situated east/west while our new one is north/south.  All of this means that I will have to be very choosy about what to plant, whatever I plant will have more protection from the elements, and suddenly I have a tall, north-facing wall and very little "full sun".  A difference that will affect my garden, if not my gardening style, is the fact that I will have much less control of what surrounds my plantings (neighbor's yards).  It will be an entirely different gardening situation and I admit that I'm looking forward to the challenge.  I've already decided what plants must go to make way for plants I want.  There is so much to do!

But not today.  We have an unusual day of snow and sleet.  Yesterday, the temps were in the 60's and they will return to them later this week.  I hope that you are all warm and well and that 2014 has been good to you so far.

Oh!  There is one rather amusing difference!  We are now the caretakers of three very tall, hardy palms.  They sound lovely in the wind.

I'll be back soon!


Friday, September 20, 2013

Reason to Blush

I don't know how many gardeners -- what percentage -- are like me.  I don't like cutting flowers for display indoors.  I love bouquets, but I always feel I am cheating the garden out of what rightly belongs to it.  A good friend of ours, florist and gifted gardener, protested my silliness.  "But you should cut them!  It's good for them; they'll produce more and everyone will be happy!  Enjoy them!"  I know he's right, but I still have a hard time forcing myself to do it. 
I don't, however, have any such qualms about picking fruit or vegetables from the garden for our benefit.  So what if a plant I grow for its blooms also produces fruit?  One of my favorite roses, Old Blush, produces large hips if left on its own.  I've always been interested in making rose hip jelly, but I am basically too greedy for blooms to give hips a chance to grow.  Knowing that the more I prune, the more flowers this nearly ever-blooming shrub will produce, I remove spent blooms as often as I can.
The flowers, while not the spectacular bourbons I favor, are pretty, abundant, and have a light, sweet fragrance.  


Pretty, ever-blooming flowers, sweet fragrance, healthy foliage -- what more could one ask of a flower?  But that's not all Old Blush is good for.  It's a fairly large, dense shrub, growing up to six feet, sturdy, disease-resistant, and makes a fine hedge.  It is also very easily propagated.  The first photo, in fact, grew from one of my own cuttings.  Which brings me to my point:  having two large, healthy specimans, I decided to finally try and let the hips grow.  They really are so pretty.  I won't pick them until they're nice and rosy (ha -- wish I could say that the perfect pun was intended).  Yes, I want rosy rose hips!

High in vitamin C, they are good for us.  I think I should have enough for two six-ounce jars of jelly and a little left over for tea.  I'm not sure, though.  I'll be happy with one jar if that's all I have hips for.  Either way, I'll save some for tea and I might just take some more cuttings.  A healthy hedge that both flowers and feeds us as well as provide habitat is my kind of hedge.  Old Blush has a lot to be proud of.