Wednesday, April 17, 2013

the path of (most) resistance

On April 1st, we had very little green on any of the trees in the surrounding forest.

Two weeks later, we're in the jungle!

Most of the trees have completely leafed out.

Honestly, when I pull into our driveway, I sometimes feel like I'm pulling into a garden paradise.  I just can't get over the color everywhere!  Scores of dogwood trees, with their sprawling, white-blossomed branches...camillias...azaleas, still in full bloom, in six different colors... every direction, and in everyone's yard.

Not just in our neighborhood, but all over.  Climbing wisteria, blooming trees, bright shrubs...I've never seen anything like it.  Our early-bloom azaleas are starting to falter, but the previous owner added plenty of late-blooming varieties, which are just starting to bud out.

It's absolutely lovely.  Someone told Todd and I recently:  "The South is an absolute paradise in the spring," and he's right.  The butterflies are out...

...and I just saw my first anole of the year by an outside electrical box.

A neighbor told us that the pond was stocked - full to bursting - with trout, bass, bluegill, and other types of fish.  On a warm afternoon this week, I saw several shadowy forms near the surface of the water.  They were so big that I was sure they weren't fish...but a check with the binoculars told me that they were.  Some were almost two feet long!

Our heron is always nearby, watching.

Inside, I changed our fireplace mantle from winter to summer.

The living room is so tan, so I wanted to add a little pop of color.  I especially love my little wicker basket that always holds a bouquet of fresh flowers.

But there are dust balls forming in the corners of rooms and along the hallway edges...piles of laundry yet to be put away...and dishes that have been in the dishwasher for more days than I want to admit.  I can't stand to be in the house when it's so green and fresh outside, so more often than not, once I finish my work I'm outside working.  There's much to be done on a nearly 2-acre property that's covered in trees.  Leaves have to be raked...weeds have to be pulled...shrubs need to be mulched...bushes need to be pruned...vines need to be staked...and the list goes on and on. 

I earmarked two projects last week, and I'm pleased to have them completed!  The first:  we have a low stone wall that borders our driveway in the back.  It was completely overgrown with ivy.

I like ivy, so I just pulled back enough to expose the stone.

Under the ivy, I saw sedum and some ferns starting to peek out.  I pruned just in time!

My other project was on a much bigger scale.  We have a large wooded area between our front driveway and our front lawn.  I've been looking at it for weeks and considering.  Finally I decided:  I had to have a shade garden path there.


I raked back the leaves to discover...huge ropey tendrils of ground vine.

I spent a day pulling up vines and raking a clear path.  I learned that fire ants are so named because it feels like you've actually been burned with a lit match when you're bit.  Ouch!

Next, I raked out the sides and placed my plants in the general area I wanted them to be.

I made some experimental holes and found that our irrigation system covers this area.  Drat!  It's good for future watering but meant that we'd have to dig very carefully.

Todd plowed up the selected areas with our Mantis tiller.

Not only is the soil heavy clay, but it's full of huge ROCKS that ding the tiller blades.  I went behind him and raked them to the side.

Once it was all plowed...

...we added coarse sand to improve drainage...

...and mulched leaves to provide nutrients.

Then I turned it all over, dug down a bit deeper with my shovel, and created as hospitable an environment as I could for the new plants.

Now, it doesn't look like much, yet.  Have you ever heard the maxim regarding gardens, "The first year they sleep, the second year they creep, and the third year they leap!"?  One of the teeny plants I put on the left side is a limelight hydrangea, which can grow up to 8 feet tall, with considerable spread.  Those blue hydrangea you see grow to be about 4 ft tall.  I'm interspersing them with bulbs, ferns, Helleborus, and other interesting shade plants, and I'm spreading the garden out so that the area under the trees - eventually - will be a huge shade garden.   Peonies, lily of the valley, solomon's seal, creeping phlox, hostas, columbines...I just can't wait to see what it will look like in a few years!

I may make another post later this week if I have time with some cooking fun.

Have a great week!

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