Tag Archives: landscape

Enter the trees

Trees in 30-gallon buckets, awaiting planting.

There used to be a joke about things being so slow you could see the grass grow. It doesn’t really apply in Texas, where during the summer we have to mow about once every two minutes to keep the St. Augustine from enveloping the house.

I don’t really have quite that problem, given that about 80 percent of our front yard has been covered in weeds. But now we have something that truly will take some patience and time to grow: new trees. I came home the other day from the city to find a dream delivered, thanks to my husband and my dear friend, tree wholesaler Suzanne Longley:

2 Arizona cypress, 1 olive, 1 Mexican buckeye, 1 Texas persimmon – gorgeous shape!, 1 roughleaf dogwood, 1 yaupon holly, 1 fig, 2 ‘Crepuscule’ roses and 18 ‘Martha Gonzales’ roses. The next day, her crew planted them. She helped us place them and thought we needed one more cypress – so it came a day or two later.

Almost immediately, I could see the need to move some plants and small beds I’d thrown into the landscape earlier this fall because I just had to get something into the ground.

Arizona cypress is like a small blue spruce. I believe this gorgeous, weepy-limbed variety is “Carolina sapphire,’ and they should be about twice this large in five years or so. Given the color of the house, how could we NOT have them? In this corner of the front yard, they will also help block the view of a busy street at the end of our block.

The trees turned out to be the easy part.

About a ton and a half of stone, ready to line a new bed.

When a palette of stone has your name on it, better get the epsom salts ready.

2,268 pounds of 6-inch thick Lueders Caramel Tan Wet-Sawn Limestone.

I pride myself on being quite the stone slinger, but Don had to do most of these. Very heavy.

‘Marthas’ in place, lined up like chorus girls.

Ah, the satisfaction when you’re done, of putting plants into well-prepped soil. Underneath all the weeds in our lawn is the most lovely sandy loam you can imagine. We plumped it up for this bed with 10 bags of Lady Bug Rose Magic Mix, then topped it off with five bags of native hardwood mulch.

Bring on the next project.

If you have been paying attention, you may notice some things missing now: New Plough & Hearth arbor, removed to the back yard for some other use; the stakes on it were too short to secure properly out here, given the downward slope of the yard – not from front to back but south to north – and the conundrum we created with the limestone edge of the rose bed.

Also gone: Those beautifully blooming Lindheimer muhly grasses, moved to a spot at the left back corner of the front yard. Soon to go: A silly round bed featuring the David Austin rose ‘Jude the Obscure,’ bought on impulse because a single bloom seduced me.

Soon to come: Daffodils and spring annuals to spill over the limestone edging, which looks a little too formal right now – like it’s in need of a Tuscan McMansion.

Gardens vs. Landscapes

Now the real fun begins.

Only about five bags’ worth of gravel still left on the driveway, with several mud-prone areas now looking much neater and the front walk ready for the next phase: more digging, garden prep and planting. Oh, and if we must, planning.

Rough sketch of backyard paths.

We’ve dutifully measured every aspect of the yard – distances between fences, between house and fence, between house and street, between house and Parthadon (more on that later) and applied it to graph paper. I spent a good part of a Saturday toying with the way the front might look using the garden planning tool at Better Homes & Gardens website, www.bhg.com. They’re just approximations because the plants on their list aren’t the plants I have on my list, or even right for Brenham’s climate, but I just chose things that looked similar to what I have in mind to create a picture. It’s a fun exercise.

The real problem with formal planning? Unless you hire a professional designer or use the most common plants, you’re going to go to the nursery with a list, find maybe a third of what you’re seeking and a half-dozen plants you hadn’t considered yet and, well, it just goes where it goes from there.

Gardens have to evolve over years, anyway. Otherwise they’re just landscapes.

I am, however, trying to be disciplined this time with a palette: I have made plant lists all summer with the idea of keeping the front yard to three tones: silver/blue gray, burgundy and apricot.

So… We stopped Sunday on the way back from Houston – a particularly long, roundabout way – at one of my favorite nurseries, The Arbor Gate, to see if we could find the perfect arbor for that new front walk.  We had the small car already crammed with the dog and some citified groceries and whatnot. It was unusually cold and blustery, on the heels of a front, but it didn’t take long to spot a few discoveries I will now have to go back for — plans be damned.

Barbados cherry was one of my all-time favorite shrubs at our last garden, both for its carefree nature and its pretty little pink flowers. I was pruning them into small trees. Until Sunday I’d never seen them any larger than a gallon pot at a nursery.

Swoon. ‘Rio Bravo’ sage alongside salvia leucantha.

And how could you not love this? Westringia rosmarinifolius – as the name suggests, a little like rosemary but delicate-looking.

Lavender is trying to creep into my scheme. Good thing the car was full and we weren’t dressed for the chill.

We had room for exactly two plants, which I scored in about five minutes:  Artemesia ‘Colchester White,’ which apparently doesn’t sucker; and David Austin’s “Jude the Obscure” rose, which seduced me with one gorgeous, peachy-cream blossom.