1902 Victorian

Bringing our old house out of the disco era and back into the Victorian.

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Monday, April 11, 2005

Plant Lessons

I went with a neighbor on Sunday to the Friends of the Arboretum sale at the university. This neighbor (did I mention I love every last one of my wonderful new neighbors?) is a terrific gardener, and she helped me pick out a few plants to test in our yard.

I know very little about plants, except that they need water and sun, some more than others. I have similar feelings about gardening and cooking - I would love to do it, but I have so little basic knowledge that I'm terrified.

I want to take the leap and learn about gardening, and there are so many experts on the subject in Eutaw. So many beautiful gardens.

As I've mentioned before, I love our yard. It has spots of bright sun; patches of deep, cool shade; interesting trees; colorful birds. It is private without needing a 6-foot-tall fence.

But it's a bit haphazard, and not in the good "artful disorganization" kind of way. There are TOO MANY overgrown hollies, too many boxwoods (which Darwin and I both hate after dealing with the massive monsters at our previous house), too many some-other-shrub-I-don't-know, even too many magnolias.

Too few of the plants I am interested in - azaleas, camellias ... basically, anything with flowers on it. It's actually kind of strange that we have no azaleas and camellias ... they are in nearly every yard in town. I wonder how our house escaped them?

Then I think if the house has made it 103 years without azaleas, maybe I shouldn't mess with tradition. Azaleas are literally everywhere around here. They're all blooming now, and there are so many different shapes and vibrant colors.

So I'm looking for other flowering perennials and/or evergreens. I fell in love with a peony at the arboretum sale. It's supposed to have white flowers with dark pink near the center. If it turns out well, maybe I will get more of them.

I also bought some herbs - sage, lavendar, catmint, corsican mint, rosemary - to plant a little herb garden. I have never planted one before and have no idea what I'm doing. Any tips from expert herb gardeners out there?

A co-worker told me herbs need lots of sun and well-drained soil. He suggested getting sand to combine with our wet clay soil and building up a little bed. Um, that sounds complicated. What have I got myself into?


Jordana said...

You might try growing your herbs in pots, because then you can make a small amount of soil perfect. Especially grow the mints in pots though. Mint shoots runners under the ground and can easily take over a garden bed.

Peonies need to be staked up or you can get a round wire thing with legs that they can grow through for support. Look at Gardeners.com to see what I'm talking about. Otherwise the rain will beat their heads down, because the flowers are too heavy for the stalks.

You might want to look at knock-out roses. They are pretty disease free and therefore easy to take care of.

Camelias are beautiful too.

One thing that is always fun and educational is to visit all the nursery websites you can find and ask for their free catalogs. Then you can drool over the plants and learn something too. Also figure out your zone, to determine what is best for your part of the country. Even the difference between where you are in Alabama and where I am in Tennessee is huge in terms of some plants.

And when in doubt, plant day lilies. If you buy hybrids (in any color under the sun) they aren't as intrusive or as invasive as the common orange roadside day lilies and they are beautiful. You can get them in any height. They take no care. You only have to water them and fertilize them if you feel like it. they bloom in full sun and almost full shade. They are about the easiest plant on the planet, in my opinion. Plus since they are very divideable, you can almost always find someone who will give you a bunch of them for free.

5:16 PM  
Trissa said...

I think you will end up enjoying your garden. They take time and there will be successes and failures. Be sure to visit the nurseries year round to see what looks good at different times of year. Have fun!

12:16 AM  
Kasmira said...

I'd like to echo Jordana's comment on the mint - they will take over if you let them! Pots are a very good idea. I think a potted herb garden, just outside the kitchen door, is very cute.

9:00 AM  
Anonymous said...

We're in the process of trying to plant something around our house this year, after finally building the bones of the beds with landscaping stones. Looking at neighbors' yards is a good test of what works and what doesn't. Down here in Texas, where weather is brutal on plants, we're going to go native because it's less fussy and requires less supplement watering, etc.

Have fun. Share pictures of what you finally decide on!

– T-bone

2:37 PM  
SmilingJudy said...

Do NOT add sand to your heavy clay soil. It will turn it to concrete. (It kills me that this is still commonly given advice.) Add organic matter.

That said, herbs are nearly weeds in the sense that they grow best with little attention and will grow nearly anywhere. Don't fuss over them too much.

3:14 PM  
Anonymous said...

We also didn't know much about gardening when we bought our house. We basically just started buying perenials and planting it in the yard. If they died, we bought something different. That was our plan at least. Our yard has ended up a bit haphazard but we've learned a lot.

Peonies are absolutely beautiful and smell so amazing. Unfortunatly, our two bushes have never bloomed. My husband says ants are really good for the buds b/c they help to open them??? I don't know much about that.

Good luck with the garden. I'm looking forward to seeing pictures.

KimN (Inward Musings)

5:05 PM  
deb said...

i agree- don't mix sand in with your drit- just compost. peonies are really nice and you can split them in the fall- make sure that there are at least 5 "buds" on each tuber. i did that last fall with mine and they are flowering this year. we have a camelia in our yard and as beautiful as it is it's a pain in the ass to clean up after. i am a beginner gardener myself and it's amazing how quickly you'll pick it up- especially if you have a great neighbour who loves to garden like i do. exchange plants with your neighbours and soon you'll have a really nice garden!

good luck!

3:05 PM  

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