Whenever faced with a difficult season of life, it is good to start planning ahead for something in the future as a way of relief or light at the end of a tunnel. Whether it be a trip, an outing or some fun activity, it is a way to help us muddle through whatever situation we currently find ourselves.
Gardening has been a way that I have found hope for the future, especially during particularly dry spells. There is something exciting about seeing signs of life stirring in a dormant winter garden. New green shoots that protrude through the ground from crocus bulbs, Lenten roses or cheery yellow blossoms on forsythia bushes are often the first signs of spring that I spy in my garden during late January or February on warm winter days. It is always uplifting to my weary soul.
This year, I am more eager than usual to find the ever-comforting signs of spring to offer me hope for my current winter doldrums. I especially need a little boost of encouragement from my plant friends since my mother’s recent heart attack and health challenges.
We have begun phase one of a beautification project in our backyard since the city’s crews have finished digging and have removed their dirt moving equipment. They pushed and moved dirt around for about two weeks beginning by 8 each morning and quitting by 4 each afternoon. Fortunately, the weather cooperated during that time and even the threat of hurricane winds and rain did not blow or wash their work away.
First they dug and removed cracked concrete drain pipes. Next they dug out a deeper trench. They left a four-foot deep ravine along the back of our property which leads to a creek on our neighbor’s adjoining property. They smoothed out the dirt piles then laid out bundles of straw and burlap mesh which then was covered with grass seed.
The landscape area looked bare when they finished. We decided to plant a row of fast-growing shrubs that would eventually hide the ditch and landscaping fabric along the slope facing our property. The problem was that the ground back there stays fairly wet during rainy seasons. We had to decide what could tolerate damp ground conditions. We decided on tea olive shrubs known as Osmanthus. They are evergreen, have a holly type leaf and have sweet-smelling white flowers that bloom both in the spring and the fall.
I shopped around until I found a reasonable price since we had to cover a 140 foot expanse. We got 25 shrubs to be spaced out 6 feet apart. The nursery delivered them. We had our yard guys dig the holes while my husband planted the shrubs. Four hours later, I had three tired, sweaty fellows but a beautiful hedge of shrubs. They planted them in a curved rather than straight line for better aesthetic appeal. The plan is to later fill in with some camellias and Little Gem Magnolia trees in front of the hedge.
Sometimes we are visited by the neighbor’s cats. We have found the yellow tabby curled up on a sunny spring day taking a “cat nap” in a flower-pot beneath our deck. There is a black, brown and white calico that wanders through the yard occasionally and teases our Cavalier while she sits at the picture window in our kitchen longing to tear after him. Our Cav loves to go out on our deck where she can get the best vantage point to scan our property and a corner of our neighbor’s yard. Their yard is heavily covered with foliage from which the cats can peer out and easily find a camouflaged spot to hide from our furocious sounding dog. Our Delilah has caught these intruders by surprise when we have taken her on walks. She has gotten close to them but never quite close enough for her liking. She lives frustrated because she can do no more than bark at them to temporarily frighten them away.
This week we have had a different type of “cat” in our backyard. I am talking about a power-operated form of equipment that is used to move dirt around.
We have lived with a ditch in our backyard where water drains from surrounding properties into a drain field and eventually into a creek beside us. The drainage ditch has gotten bigger through the years and the water run-off has begun to create some gulleys on our property. A complaint was filed before we bought our property five years ago and we hoped one day the problem would be addressed but had almost given up thinking they would come to fix the problem. We tried to work around the problem and made a garden plot beside it in the spring. A team of workers from the city came to inspect our property about a week ago. They have to excavate through our garden to work on the project. I am really not upset. I believe it will be worth it in the long run. In the mean time, I am having to look out in my yard at some monster “cats.”
I was returning a plant to a local Home Depot store today. It was a crape myrtle with purple leaves. I thought there was only one variety but apparently there are several. I had already planted one in my yard . It was supposed to have pink flowers. I missed reading the label that said this crape had red flowers. Being the OCD gardener that I am, I had to return it to get another one to match the one already planted.
I ran to get a buggy to haul the crape to the return aisle at the store. I parked it near my car and went around the back to unlock the back door. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed the buggy beginning to roll down a slight incline. It was headed straight for a blue SUV in a space parallel to mine. I watched as it banged the front left fender of the other car. Upon closer inspection, I found an orange mark on the other car from paint off of the buggy. I felt horrible! I decided to go into the store to report what had happened. I spoke to the man at the checkout counter. I explained what happened and was prepared to leave my name on a piece of paper should someone file a complaint. The man stood with his mouth open in amazement. He said that it is very rare for anyone to report an incident like that anymore. He said most people wouldn’t think twice about walking away from damaging another vehicle these days.
How sad it seems to realize that the days of doing the right thing out of “common” courtesy for our fellow man are becoming quite uncommon.
I still believe in complimenting others for jobs well done. I believe in paying forward acts of kindness, looking for ways to make people feel appreciated. I believe in helping older people, those less fortunate or children. I believe in giving away without expecting anything in return. I believe in saying “please” and “thank you.” I believe in writing thank you notes, sending get well cards or notes of encouragement and remembrance. I believe in responding to invitation RSVPs, returning phone calls or emails. I believe in doing hard work and not looking for shortcuts when I am being paid for a job. I believe in giving others good tips for serving me. I believe in paying and not cheating on my income taxes as well as paying the bills I owe. I believe that I should return money that is not owed to me or does not belong to me. I often pick up trash that is strewn along the street in my neighborhood. I donate clothing to Goodwill and small items to the AmVets. I give to my church. I take welcome treats to new neighbors.
These are just a few of the common courtesies that I have been taught. We should serve others as in the golden rule, not expecting things back from others but treating others as we would like to be treated. By definition courtesy is displaying excellence in social conduct. It is polite, respectful or considerate behavior and acts of expression. It is living life unselfishly and looking for ways to be a blessing to others. It is not looking for ways to take advantage of others.
We finally did it! We were tired of looking at the weeds in the back corner of our yard that had slowly grown wild since we moved into our house almost five years ago. It has been one of those projects we kept saying we would get around to one day. It seemed too overwhelming to take on. I never could do it alone. My husband works long hours and never has energy for big projects anymore so it was one of those things that got put on the bottom of the “honey-do” wish list. We decided to hire some help.
I should have taken a before picture so you could see how overgrown the garden plot had gotten. Trust me, it was a mess! A friend’s husband cleared the garden plot and tilled it for me. He is Peruvian and speaks broken English. My daughter attended college with his wife. They live in a nearby community and have stayed friends. Last summer, Amanda travelled with them to do mission work at his family’s church in Peru.
My new yard guy does gardening the way he did it in Peru. He uses a machete to clear out debris. He does it faster than anyone I know working with power equipment. Coming from the jungles of Peru, he has seen a lot of jungle creatures of the slithery sort. Those things do not bother him like they scare me. He told me he killed 4 snakes as he was clearing my garden. Two were small and two were of average size. He showed me the smaller ones. One appeared to be a copperhead. It was greyish with brown markings. That’s all I need to know. A snake is a snake and I don’t want them around. My Cavalier would probably try to kill and eat a snake as she does the lizards on my back porch so I have avoided letting her go near that section of the yard. I feel much better now knowing those snakes are gone.
I began laying out landscaping fabric to make walkways through the garden. I added newspaper for an additional weed block. I used man power to carry bags of mulch into the garden since it is at the bottom of our hilly backyard. We spread out the mulch on top of the landscaping fabric. I used 100% cedar shavings as it is supposed to be a deterrent to insects. I am trying to go as organic as possible. Next came the stepping stones and rounded edgers for a circular bed in the middle of the garden. I plan on making this area the herb garden. I will have four quadrants in the rest of the garden, two for flowers and two for vegetables.
I will keep you posted on the progress of my garden.
I am working on pot- scaping in my garden. At a recent gardening symposium, I learned to make potted plants interesting by mixing together a variety of plants. You want first to add a focal plant that has the height in the middle of the pot. This is called the thriller. A pencil post holly or boxwood works well here as it stays evergreen throughout the year. These typically only can stay in a pot a couple of years as they will outgrow the pot and need to be transplanted. A dwarf ornamental grass would work well here also. There are some pretty red fountain grasses available at plant nurseries.
Secondly, you want to add plants to fill the pot or the fillers. A mixture of colors and textures are good to fill in. You might add some flowering plants as well as plants with interesting leaf textures for continued interest throughout the season.
Lastly, the spiller is plants that cascade down the edges of the pot. There are a lot of these to choose from in flowering forms. You could choose a “wave” petunia which come in a wide variety of colors. For interesting foliage or contrast I like creeping jenny or sweet potato vines for a shot of Chartreuse. There is a red potato vine as well. Ivy or Vinca vine are commonly used also.There are some pretty variegated green and white species that are stunning in pots. Any plant with white coloring adds a pop to a pot.
The thriller, filler, spiller principle applies to artificial arrangements as well. Here I have put in floral picks with height, filled in with some colorful Hydrangea and even added fruit for interest. The draping grapes and ferns are the spiller in this arrangement.
On my front porch I have filled a pot with a variety of plants. An asparagus fern is my focal or thriller. The colorful coleus and begonias fill in with pops of red and yellow. The ivy is the spiller over the edges of the pot.