Digging In

Insight into garden design, photography and growing life.

September 30, 2009


Big steps were made in the last two days. All (almost all, seems you can never really get rid of creeping grass) of the Bermuda grass was dug out of the flower beds in both the front and back yesterday. This alone took two landscapers a full day.

Today, barrier edging was installed installed in both sets of beds. Two different kinds of composite edging were laid. These are great, not because they are made out of recycled plastic, but because they have rounded edges, which won't cut little feet or doggy paws. And the best part is the edging fronting the flowers beds in the back yard is 5 inches tall. That means it should be much more effective in stopping the nasty grass that runs UNDER and OVER the edging. Regular metal edging, in brown to match the fence and mulch, was installed at the backside of the fence, to keep the neighbor's grass at bay. I saved money this way, hoping that the dog will not trample on edging directly on/under the fenceline.

Then came the soil amendments. I spread 75 bags of compost (which could easily have been double the amount if I had the budget to do so), 20 bags of cow manure, 10 bags of peat humus, 6 bags of expanded shale (pricey stuff), 10 lbs. of green sand and half a bag of organic slow-release fertilizer granuals. The landscapers tilled the compost, manure and humus into the existing compacted soil. I sprinkled the fertilizer, green sand and shale in by hand during planting.

Finally, planting! Eight trees went in the backyard. Hooray! Three 30 gallon 'Nachez' crepe myrtles were planted along the back fence, bordering the alley. Three 15 gallon 'Teddy Bear' magnolias set the anchors for the pathway along the sideyard. I tucked a 15 gallon 'Possum Haw' (deciduous) holly in between a couple of the magnolias along the shared fence. Saving the best for last, I placed the beautiful 45 gallon 'Mexican' redbud as a specimen tree on the southern fenceline, in direct line of sight of the opening of the back (driveway) gate, which will be relocated at a later date.

Now we have to fix the sprinklers. Only one line was cut for planting, but we have to convert many other sprinkler heads to soaker hoses. Also, we cannot add mulch soon enough, will will be bought in bulk. The dog already had black paws this afternoon. But he told me he loves having trees to run around again. Or he was happy to poop. Either way, he's happy. And the boy loved "helping" plant the garden. There are little muddy shoes and paw prints at the back door.

Pictures to come soon.

September 25, 2009

Getting ready to git 'er done

I'm getting excited. If everything goes as planned, all the foundation prep and planting may be done this coming Tuesday! Of course this is all on the landscaper, whom I found working down the street a couple of days ago. But let me start over . . . .

Landscape plan drawn? Yes (about 30 different times, but I'm finally sticking to one). HOA application for moving fence and creating and adding to garden beds and planting plan? Approved. City permit for fence? Approved.

To do: Rent trailer. Borrow wheelbarrow and tiller from R.Y. Buy all the raw materials for bed prep: 80 bags of compost, 80 bags of mulch, 8 - 10 bags of green sand, 5 - 10 bags of expanded shale (which is very expensive!), approx. 250 feet of composite edging. Haul it home and unload. Whew. That sounds exhausting. Figure out what to do with sprinkler heads and lines in the way of new trees. Dig? Then cross my fingers on Tuesday. Hoping the trees arrive in good shape and the landscaper shows.

BYW, it is really hard to rely upon and watch other people work when you are a control freak.

September 01, 2009

Tree sale

Bought more plants, trees actually. Finally the tree sale is on and I took advantage. In addition to the 5 trees already purchased, I got 2 'Teddy Bear' Magnolias and 1 'Possum Haw' holly. The holly has a great vase shape already. Hope it will have lots of winter berries. It's a cultivar (cutting) from a female plant, so it should. There are a few buds on the magnolias too, but I may not get to see them since I don't plan to take possession of all my pretties until later in October.

The boy and I worked up an appetite from all the tree hunting. So we brunched at IHOP. FYI: you can totally order chocolate chip pancakes without raising an eyebrow when you are sitting with a two-year-old.

August 25, 2009

Planning, shopping and planning

Yeah! I'm so excited to have finally reached a decision on my landscape plan. I had a rough layout in my mind and then went to my favorite nursery to be inspired. Word of caution, I do not recommend buying plants, especially pricey foundation plants, without a firm landscape plan in place. Of course that is exactly what I did. My hubby just shook his head. Happily I'm the one in charge of the landscape design and I don't feel the need to ask permission. This way I only need to argue with myself.

So I've been back to the nursery two more times, reevaluating my purchases. I originally bought the most beautifully-formed, container-grown Mexican Redbud. Once I saw it I knew I would regret not buying it as they aren't easy to find in large size with good form. I instantly decided this would be my specimen tree. Luckily it still is on the final plan. This was definitely a keeper.

The second plant I bought was a very large container-grown Lacebark Elm. Oh, it's so pretty and will have beautiful bark for winter interest. But this one got returned (much easier do to if you have not taken any of the plants home and go back the very next day to change your mind). I decided this moderate growing tree would be too big for space and would shade out other potential plantings and the lawn. So I exchanged it for two white 'Nachez' Crepe Myrtles. Another tree I had always admired, in addition to the redbud. These crepe myrtles can get pretty big too, but will still only be half the canopy width of the elm at maturity. Now where to put them, and then what?

The third plant I bought on my first outing was a lovely dwarf crepe myrtle called 'True Blue.' I had never seen the almost blue flower color before on a crepe, so that's why I chose it- blue is my favorite flower color. I have since returned that too, but it's still on my short list. So I may buy it again!

So after all the hemming and hawing, here are my final purchased selections:
  • 3 Crepe Myrtles 'Nachez'
  • 1 Mexican Redbud
  • 1 Viburnum 'Rusty'
My shopping list for the tree sale next month includes 2 'Teddy Bear' Magnolias and 1 holly (either Needlepoint or Nellie R. Stevens) for hedging. Other possibilities include 2 dwarf wax myrtles as evergreens between the crepe myrtles, 3 'Cassandra' hollies for border edging, and maybe a weeping Yaupon Holly or a 'Possum Haw' holly for winter interest. Of course I should be patient and purchase these secondary plants at a later date. We'll see.

Now I just need to send off my plans to the HOA for approval, get permits from the city, move my fence line up, rip up grass, find a landscaper move and convert sprinklers, and to pick up/deliver and plant these big old container plants. Oh, and figure out how to pay for it. Easy, right?

August 12, 2009

Ain't this cool?

This pic, which I found on one of my fav blogs desiretoinspire.net, grabbed my attention. I want to crawl into this image and walk around this little garden. There's a lot of interesting stuff going on in there. It give me lots of ideas for my backyard garden pathways, lighting and water features. Love it.

August 06, 2009

Summer rain

More rain begets more flowers. Below is a snap from my friend's garden. Her wisteria is blooming again and really taking off. She's had it growing up her pergola for a few years now, but this year it's starting to gobble up the structure. Now she finally has some shade!

I was entertained by toddlers smelling (and picking) the very generous neighbors' roses tonight. The little ones are practicing sharing and sniffing. Very sweet. Luckily the thorns were avoided. Guess I'd better add "sharing" flowers to my front beds.

July 28, 2009

Rain, rain go away; Hello humidity

Today it stopped raining. We got quite a bit the last two days. It rained steady all day yesterday, which is unusual for this part of Texas. Usually summer storms rush in and out quickly. I guessing those cracks under the fence line are filling in now.

I haven't done anything garden-related, except getting my two newest garden books from Amazon a few days ago. Garden Planner by Robin Williams (not the comedian), is my new favorite. Easy planing ideas, with the great tips on design. The other is Big Book of Garden Designs. Haven't cracked this one open yet.

This is what I've been up to recently.

July 21, 2009

blogs, blogs, and more blogs

Aside from tending to/being dragged down by a tired two-year-old, I've been sucked into so many great blogs today. Most focus on design. A few are local (yeah, sources!). And a couple mention garden design and outdoor living. Let me share:

Houses Gardens People (dallasdecor.com)

We had a nice break from the heat the last few days. Cloudy mornings are great for sleeping in. We definitely appreciated the rain too. But I still need to figure out why there are crevices in soil under the fence. Argh.  

Oh, I test painted a dark teel blue on large cards for my office. Not so much. Think I'll stick with shades of chocolate. Maybe I'll work up the guts for a lighter gray blue in the bedroom. Still want to paint the office ceiling dark chocolate brown. Thoughts? Opinions? Send 'em.

July 19, 2009

Photography in the garden

Garden photography combine both of my passions. Getting it right is a challenge for both the photographer and the garden designer. When both are on, it's brilliant. Even without perfection, the results are usually pretty decent. So keeping an eye on the finalists for International Garden Photographer of the Year will prove pretty interesting. The National Trust in England and Wales even offers workshops and advice to those whom enter. Pretty decent of them.

July 16, 2009

Something's out there

The dog's got a new fascination. Something (I hope, I hope not a rat) is in his backyard. It's still 95 degrees outside at 10:45, and he's on the hunt, in the dark. Maybe it's the same mystery guest who knocked down our garbage can and pulled three trash bags into the street.

July 15, 2009

Must have plants

Need to make a list of my must-haves. Since I have lots more space, I hope to squeeze in plants I always wanted to incorporate into my garden but could never find the room.

Gotta Have Plants
Mexican Bush Sage
a Redbud tree
more ornamental grasses
shrubbery (hollies & maybe boxwoods)

Also wanna have-its
a swing (for big and little people)
a fun/dramatic fountain
a really great garden gate (actually two, one tall exterior and one short interior)

These lists have the potential to get really long. Better stop now.

Keeping busy

Nothing too exciting to report. Just keeping busy with the kiddos at VBS, chasing after the boy and waiting on servicemen to fix things at the house. The construction next door is in full swing. They're almost done framing the neighbor's house; wasn't it just a slab on Monday? 

A very helpful landscaper was out yesterday to fix a broken sprinkler head. It was a construction causality; probably the first of many. I'm now becoming very aware of how much light is going to be blocked by the new house. It's on our north side, where we did enjoy an unobstructed view, if only for a short time. But we knew it was coming. I predict we'll have a warmer and more shaded micro-climate between the houses. Hmmm, maybe this is where I can plant my camellia (currently pot-bound at a good friend's home)? Hubby wants a fence there, pronto. But that will just get damage by construction too.

Since I don't have anything in bloom here, I'm sharing eye-catching colors from the past. From my old garden and garden travels.

July 14, 2009

Inspiration is everywhere

Those smart cookies at DesireToInspire inspired me to blog my passion. Not only do I have the opportunity to design my exterior view, but I have option to design my interior spaces too. New house, new possibilities. I'm trying to talk my hubby into going for a "dark chocolate" office. He's more comfortable with cafe au lait.  It's just paint, right? 

Since I'm in my office typing away, I'm daydreaming (at night) about dark brown walls and what the view out my front window should be . . . . gotta accentuate the positives. No houses obstructing the view down the street, lots of eastern light (more intense than you'd think) and decent builder's landscaping plants, which are not yet established. That means I can move them. Musical plants starting this fall.

Wild America

We hadn't been in the new house for 48 hours before we met the locals. By that, I mean rabbits. I was warned we would have rabbits before we moved here. But they were not warned about us (meaning the dog). Our golden mix was delighted to find a bunny nest and was chasing the freaked-out little cuties around the backyard. Luckily, I was able to get to them before much damage was done. So I spent the next few days tending to the adorable furballs. Keeping them out of harm's way. Happily, the left the nest box on their own, and I haven't seen them since. Sorry I don't have any pictures to post. They were super cute, but I didn't want to stress them any more than necessary.

Shortly after the rabbits were handled, we had new guests. Bees. On our first Monday morning at the house, construction workers started grading the empty lot next door. After one pass with the skid steer, the work abruptly stopped. Then I saw the most interesting site, cottonwood tuffs or dirt flying through the air and organizing in my front yard. What?!? No, wait, it's a bee swarm! And they're swarming before my front door. Now they are heading into the water shut-off box in my front flowerbed! Are you kidding me? This is crazy. 

So it seems the construction disrupted a bees' nest in the ground next door. Now those sweet (thankfully) honeybees set up shop in a box in my flowerbed. I'm all for bees. Great pollinators in need of all the help they can get. I just didn't want to host them so close to (inches from) home. 

Well, we finally found an available bee keeper to remove the majority of our honeybees. Dr. Dean Hansen, a large and small animal vet for 32 years, was great. He came over late on a Friday night, donned his full beekeeper's whites, and got to work. Since it was dark, all the bees would be in their new "hive." Dr. Dean then used a crowbar and a painter's scrapper to remove as much of the comb as possible. He put the comb and two handfulls of honeybees (approximately 5,000) into coolers in the back of his pickup. He hoped to integrate them into another half-hive box had had going on his property. Like many beekeepers I discovered, Dr. Dean is quite a generous and interesting person. 

After he was done removing what he could and the bees once again calmed down, Dr. Dean showed us a portion of the honeycomb he removed. The honey was the lightest I'd ever seen, and so sweet. Can't get any fresher either. So we've already enjoyed our first (and probably last) honey harvest at the house. 

I do have a few worker bees remaining in the box. But I'll let them stay. It's not likely they will make it through the winter, but they aren't bothering anyone. Wonder what will show up next?

A fresh start, new homestead

We moved in to the new house at the end of May. It wasn't too hot yet, but the Texas summer came in quickly. Now it's 100 (plus one or two degrees) everyday. Now is the time to dream of leafy shade trees and a splashing waterfall fountain. I'm just starting to sketch out ideas now. No dirt will move until late fall, after the heat leaves for good. 

My first order of business is to establish and draw our my landscape plan. Anything we do is going to cost money and require a lot of work. I hope to only do things once. Digging was a lot easier when your yard was half the size and there were no irrigation lines to consider. 

We've already decided to move the fence-line up toward the front of the house, possibly putting a kitchen garden (potager) in this reclaimed private space. Then the herbs and veggies will be near the kitchen and grill.

I want to create a good foundation and strong structural elements in this new new landscape. Visions of garden rooms, evergreens and cedar structures are floating around in my mind. Of course I have to remind myself to accommodate playareas, dogs and kiddos too.  Fantasy will be replaced by practicality and function.

Blank slate

Welcome to my first post on the Olivia Garden blog. I have high hopes of maintaining this blog and filling it with anecdotes, pictures and lessons learned from my garden-related experiences. "Blank slate" not only applies to the start of this blog, but to the start of my new garden. Both spaces are wide open, offer loads of potential and carry the burden of labor. 

I recently left my first garden, which wasn't easy. Our family relocated to a bigger house and bigger lot with the idea of more room to grow - both in family and horticulture. We loved our first home and garden. I felt totally free to experiment and play with design inside and out. My husband and I got our hands dirty, as the majority of the work was DIY. We've learned a lot, and I have learned the value in hiring helping hands. With the combination of tighter work schedules and a toddler, I'm applying the Murtaugh List (I'm too old for this stuff) to doing all the heavy lifting and digging. 

So stay tuned to see what unfolds.