Sunday, August 1, 2010

State of the Yard Address

The miserable dry spell had put me in a torpor of neglect. I'm not going to list everything that I killed, because it makes me ill to think about. Time to move on. We've had some rain, it isn't so brutally hot, and the plants are growing again. I finally emerged from my summer dormancy and tore into the yard.

Gabe's Garden: scraggly and patchy up-close, but overall it's full of green stuff. The bee-balm needs to be moved out to the meadow. I don't know if I will stick to my original intent to make this area super toddler-friendly, since it fails at keeping Gabe contained. The biggest problem is that it's just so very dry up here in the front.

The big winners in Gabe's Garden are the tall grasses, especially paired with ground covers. Sadly, the native ground cover, common cinquefoil, Potentilla simplex, shriveled up during the drought. I'm hoping that those long roots have saved it from death.

The creeping thyme, on the other hand, is a bloody thug. That's it blooming at the foot of the grass, above. It came through the dry spell looking fantastic, and it is swallowing up a small clump of my native prairie dropseed, Sporobolus heterolepi, which I am not pleased about.

These clumps are Shenandoah switchgrass, Panicum virgatum 'Shenandoah'. They are getting wide enough to hug. I may divide them for use elsewhere.

I still kick myself for losing the plant tags for these, but I'm pretty sure they are big bluestem, Andropogon gerardi. They stood unwilted and gloriously green through the drought. The switchgrass also performed admirably.

Have I mentioned that I water almost nothing up front? I hate the idea of dumping potable water on the ground. I would have neglected more of my new plants to death, had Chris not stepped in with the hose a few times.

That rockpile on the left is my new desert bed.

Among other things, the bed contains yucca, prickly pear, hens and chicks (not native, but I couldn't resist), flame flower (a West-coast native), false blue indigo, violets, and some fantastic volunteer spotted spurge.

In my absence, the lawn made serious progress in reclaiming my new beds here. I removed ten gallons of weeds. My many, many little creeping phloxes that I so painstakingly planted in a snaking border along the edge? There were massive casualties. The next time I am tempted to work with such puny pail-order plants, I'll be starting them in pots.

You can see the spent liatris there in the rear, in one big floppy mess. But I have to give them credit: they started this Spring as enie-weenie corms. I didn't expect them to flower this year at all. Maybe next year they will be more dense. I may not mind the flopping, if it looks like a giant purple octopus is climbing out of the dirt.

The nearer bed represents what happens when I walk into a nursery when I'm feeling weak. I don't know what half of the plants are. Most aren't native. There is bearberry in the mix, but I did it some serious damage by not watering during the dry spell. Wormwood has stolen my heart, but it is also smothering my birdsnest spruce. I'm learning so much about gardening, and I see the magnitude of what I have left to learn if I ever want to get this right.


Pam J. said...

Great photo-essay! I feel like I know your yard. So many highlights: the desert bed, the creeping thyme, the honest admissions of mistakes made & lessons learned.

Michelle said...

Thanks Pam! I know now why the best gardeners are old folks. I aspire to be one of them someday!