Monday, April 19, 2010

It's Starting to Shape Up

We now have two complete sections of our backyard planted, mulched and finished with border edging. We can really see how beautiful our completed landscape will be. Sunday's steady rains made our plants very happy. It also replenished our ran barrels, which were nearly empty.

We still need a few more coontie, and a bunch of giant liriope (which we are using as an inexpensive, easy-care groundcover) but all other backyard plants have been purchased. We still need to plant the 12 anise bushes that will border our wood fence, and we still need to install a few more muhly grasses. The roots continue to make planting very slow going, but now we have the end in sight -- at least for the backyard. Our front yard is much smaller and does not have so many tree roots so it should be a breeze compared to this!

I also have my butterfly garden planted alond the side of our back deck, and the milkweed just hosted the first monarch of the season! I'm still looking for purple coneflower and few other butterfly plants but the bed looks colorful and, hopefully, enticing to the "winged wonders."

By the way, Rick says that anytime a product is touted as "EZ to Install," it actually means just the opposite. Such is the case with this snap-together edging we bought. We need 150 feet of edging just for the backyard so we purchased this product because it didn't cost a fortune. The picture on the product wrapper shows a tiny little woman putting the edging together without even breaking a sweat. Hah! Rick had to dig a trench (through roots, of course) just to get the stuff installed at an even depth, then snap it together ( usually multiple times before he could keep it in place), then pound it into the ground with a rubber mallet. Nothing ever seems to be as easy as we hope, but it does look good and it will definitely keep our mulch from floating out of the beds into the walkways.

Speaking of mulch, we tried to get melaleuca mulch because we loved the idea of finding a positive use for a highly invasive plant, but the nearest supplier of any bulk quantities was in Ft. Myers, and the delivery charge was a bit excessive. I guess this is because there really isn't that much melaleuca in the Tampa Bay area -- though there is gobs of it further south, from Lee County into the Everglades. So we settled on medium-size pine bark mulch as a nice-looking, fairly durable and reasonably priced alternative. There is now a small "Mulch Mountain" in our front yard that we are gradually whittling away.

One member of our family, our cat Belle, is extremely interested in our yard makeover and feels that it is her duty to supervise our progress. Belle stays right with us as we work, hiding amid the muhly grass, and napping in the newly installed mulch. She seems completely fascinated by the yard transformation.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Can anyone spare some Advil?

I have a feeling that the next time my husband hears me say "Hey, I have a great idea," he's going to leave skid marks on the floor trying to run for cover.

We got the landscape plan for our backyard and went on a plant-buying spending spree last weekend. We purchased all three of the trees in the design (two East Palatka hollies and one weeping yaupon holly), along with three coonties, and about a dozen each of muhly grass, flax lily and bulbine, a hardy little clumping groundcover with dainty orange and yellow blossoms.

Matilda, our truck, was completely full. But, when we got home and laid out all the plants where they are supposed to go according to the design, it was somewhat disheartening. They barely made a dent in our now bare desert of a backyard!

On top of that, it is taking a lot longer to plant everything than we anticipated. Not only do we have to slice openings in the weed mat fabric that we laid over our entire backyard, we also have to cut through a never-ending supply of roots. It seems like we can't stick our shovels more than two inches in the ground without encountering a root that has to be bypassed or cut in order to plant. It took nearly one hour to plant each of the three trees. Some of the smaller, 1-gallon plants are taking 15 minutes or more apiece. We put in about 17 hours on the yard from Good Friday through Easter Sunday. At this rate, we'll be retired by the time we finish the entire yard!

Despite the discouragement, we have planted enough to see how beautiful our new landscape will eventually be. Even with only about 20% of the backyard plants installed, we can now visualize the finished design of meandering pathways surrounded by densely clustered groundcovers, flower-filled shrubs and our small native holly trees. We will get it done, and then we will enjoy a  nice long sit on our soon-to-be purchased garden bench near the bird feeders.