Saturday, April 26, 2008

Plant dreamin'

With all this talk about moving, my guess is that "normal" people might be spending their time packing. And when that's done, they might be planning where they are going to put their furniture in their new place. I admit I've wondered where I should put the sofa in our future 1962 rambler, and I do have one POD filled and another sitting there mocking me in the driveway (I know, I know! I need to get on it!).

But oddly enough, I get the most fun out of dreaming about where I will put my favorite plants around our new house. There are two mature, 60 foot high oak trees in the front yard, but in typical used-to-be-a-real-farm form, they are 50 feet away from the house, presumably to provide a wind break (they also look like they haven't been trimmed since 1962).

So my first priority will be to put in two or three trees that someday (when I'm either long gone or have enjoyed the benefits of buying low and selling high) will provide shade to my west-facing house. Since we're in Texas, they will be some combination of Live Oak or Red (Shumard) Oak.

(By the way, have you priced good trees lately? Oh. My. Gracious. I am ashamed that I once even considered taking out one of our 50 foot live oaks in our current front yard because I didn't like the location. Now I know that tree (if it were even possible to dig up a 30 year old tree) is worth about $20,000. I will now go out and kiss the ground it gracefully shades.)

I'll be putting a couple of twigs in the ground and praying for rain. Of course, I am also planning on taking a bucket full of acorns which I used to consider a nuisance from my current flower beds. I will throw them out along the back fence and see what happens.

While those are busily growing, my attention will turn to creating some kind of privacy screen like this one from Better Homes and Gardens:
I probably will not plant one plant from their plant list, but I will look at the layout, and then figure out some plants I like that are the same size and shape as the ones they recommend. I like to have landscape that looks good year-round, and I've noticed that BHG plans like to use lots of perennials - which means that in winter you have a couple of shrubs and a whole lot of nothing. I ask them, Are they thinking we only need privacy in the summer??

Especially for a privacy screen, but really for all my beds, I like to have a "backbone" of shrubs and evergreen ground covers of varying foliage to avoid that "empty" look come fall. Then I can put in a few perennials and annuals for added punch in the growing season.

Since our property is 171 feet across, I will have to repeat this plan several times to span the length of the front yard, which will take a few years. But at least I have a goal.

Then on to a couple of ornamental trees at either end of the house. Since I'm a color fanatic, I have to have one that has flowers. Most houses around here go for the crape myrtle, because it blooms from May through November. (Again I hang my head in shame for complaining about my 25-footer in the back yard because it drops flowers on my car). Good thing these are fast growing and cheap. Here's a nice collage from the Clemson website:

After that, my plan is to do what I did with our current house. Start by extending the flower beds (about five feet wider than you think you will need because, well, plants grow). Then I'll add plants in sections of about $50 each.

Here are some of my favorite shrubs/plants that meet my criteria of looking good all year:
  • Indian Hawthorne (blooms in spring, grows in a mound shape to a certain height and STOPS. Yea! No trimming!) Comes in regular and dwarf height depending on what you need.
  • Nandina (several varieties - look feathery and add foliage interest, turn flaming red in fall). Also comes in dwarf varieties to keep trimming to a minimum.
  • Boxwoods (yes they are boring but they provide a green "backdrop" for more interesting plants in front of them). These grow slowly so you are not constantly having to trim them. Can you tell what my least favorite job is?
  • Azaleas (and their northern cousin, the rhododendron). If you have the right spot for them (they need a little more care in placement and bed prep), these look great all winter and bloom in spring and early summer. I have two of the new variety called "Encore," which is a biennial bloomer. Here in the South, mine bloomed almost continuously from April to November last year. You better believe I will plant this at my new place!
  • Texas Mountain Laurel (sorry, if you live north of the Red River you will just have to come visit me). My sister-in-law has hers trimmed like a shrub, but as you can see, it can be trimmed into a small tree. This plant has the most beautiful clusters of purple flowers in early spring that smell like - no joke - grape bubble gum. I can't wait to put one in for myself.
  • Fringe flower (not really a shrub; more of a specimen plant. It has purple leaves and "fringey" flowers). I have personally never seen one this big, but isn't this gorgeous?

Then I will turn my attention to the front flower beds. But that's for another post.


Jennifer@DoingTheNextThing said...

Sounds like fun - I wish I had your green thumb!

Susanne said...

Wanna come for coffee or tea and do my plan?

Rachel Anne said...

Can't wait to see it!

Les & Sweetie Berry said...

In our fair city it is common to find carefully dug out plants sitting on the curb on recycling day from folks who decided they didn't want them anymore...we scored beautiful true pink azaleas this year and a crepe myrtle that was several years old! Love seeing your plans, this is all new to me, our farmhouse had had 100 year head start on it...

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately I'm completely landscape challenged, but I did plant two four foot trees (don't what they're called - tall and skinny ever greens) 10 years ago in our new then yard. They are both now at least 15 feet! I'm worried now that they're too close to the house however. Anyway I love the look of that purple tree thingy ... have fun and post pictures!

secondofwett said...

I'm with the other people that would like you to come and help....two years ago we put on an addition to the front and back of the house....all the big machines went back and forth on my lawn and garden...they have never recovered and i just look at them in despair...not knowing what to do to make them look better. :>(

Julie said...

OOh, I love the Texas Mountain Laurel. We saw some when we went to Florida. I've never seen them in California. Do you think they would grow here?


Beck said...

Once you finish designing your own yard and then Susanne's, I'll need you to come up and do mine, okay? :)

katherine said...

just wanted to say that i've been reading your blog for a couple months (and as i nurse our little guy, i've been reading your archives). as a new mom, i deeply appreciate your candor and wisdom into this thing called motherhood. thank you for bravely going before young moms like me and for honestly sharing what you've learned along the journey. i appreciate the way you make me think about marriage, family, parenting and faith. thank you for putting your heart on the page!

Jen said...

We just re did our entire landscape front was a booger. But it's done..we still have some small little projects to do and of course the back yard....but one thing at a time.