The Gardens - In the Beginning

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Gardens: The madness of Perfection verses Imperfection

                                               I had that dream again...
                                               Andee in his nifty little artist beret
                                               with brush betwixt his teeth
                                               in the golden full moon light
                                               scampering up that huge maple
                                               towering above yard next door
                                               painting an O for obnoxious
                                               on just one dainty green leaf
                                               an O from brush dipped
                                               in a bit of concentrated Round Up -
                                               and as time passed from summer
                                               to fall to winter to spring...
                                               that giant ever so slowly
                                               dried up into lovely firewood
                                               as we drank a toast to the last
                                               of those zillion sapling babies
                                               we chopped, dug and whacked
                                               from our yard each of the
                                               twenty-one previous years.
                                               ...just a dream for now.

It's a bit of an understatement to casually say my gardens are slightly waterlogged.  My soil resembles silly putty, and rain runoff down the street challenges the Mississippi River.  Zoe swears a pair of little green frogs camped out under the deck table during that last straight line wind/rain deluge we had, most likely weary of blender ice crunching speed slushy waters in their smallish pond.

Everything in yard must be anchored down by roots or man made conglomerations to withstand anything short of a tornado, as horizontal winds and rains are not that uncommon of an occurrence here.  Backyard swing canopy was banished to the trash can, and heavy concrete blocks were braced against swing legs to smother all attempts of it ever becoming airborne, and crashing once again into that huge rebar trellis jutting out of dual planters on patio.  Trellis did manage to halt the airborne swing with no damage to trellis, but who wants to try for a second chance of it landing on the neighbor's roof.  

Wild Geranium

Allegheny Spurge

This huge trellis that spans the large planters on patio has a pattern to the way it was put together.  Sunk to the depth of the planters, it spans both planters, each piece held in place by pure pressure against other pieces.  Measurements were exact (hahaha), and I was working just off the top of my head with the idea of how the finished product would look.  Ask me now how I managed to make it all come together as one, I honestly couldn't tell you...just pure luck, I guess.  I could never do that type of work now, as my hands aren't strong enough anymore.  I do wire the joints with copper wire when all is as it should be, just for safety's sake; but that trellis was the second rebar project, and it has been only half wired for a decade now.  Hasn't budged an inch even with the swing slamming into it.  It is home to a group of native passion flower vines; although, I do have to leave the dead winter stems in place, so it can climb back up in late spring, as the rebar is a little too thick for it's tendrils.

A carolina wren house hangs from it, an english (house) sparrow claimed it, and babies chirping fills the air.  I'll be cleaning that nest box out after birds have fledged and tucking it into a corner of the garage.  I'm giving up with the nest boxes and feeders for a few years, as the english sparrows have taken over my yard, and I need to be rid of them.  Nothing is immune to the english sparrow, the bad boy of non-native birds, and a double dose headache for me.  He will nest anywhere, bird box, no bird box, loves the ones that are built to repel him, he's a robber of other bird boxes that already have inhabitants...he's an all around please-take-it-back present to the US that a homesick dude with no proper sense of native habitat saddled us with.  I live with them, as I haven't reached the point where I am comfortable killing them.  We are allowed to kill them, as they are not native song birds, and many bluebird trail managers do just that, as they are one of the main reasons all eastern bluebirds were on the verge of extinction the later part of the last century. 


mild sweet fragrance

A walkway arbor was my first project, basically put together the same way as trellis.  Sunk about three feet into the clay's going nowhere.  It does need the copper wiring to keep the top bars from rolling off the edge, but it also has lasted forever without any movement.  A large grapevine adorned it until a few years ago when it up and died a quick silent death.  Now it's just clematis and two wren houses, one of which is always occupied by a house wren come summer.

Second trellis spans about one fourth the length of the back fence, with the notion of blocking the neighbor behind us out of our view when using the patio; but the grape vine is a slow one to mature, so it is still pretty airy back there.  The idea is to wrap the limbs loosely the length of top and keep it pruned to let downward branches block the view.  

Lily of the Valley  'Fortin's Giant'
beautiful fragrance

Hosta 'Halcyon'

Yellow Trillium, Columbine, Jacob's Ladder

Yellow Trillium

Mr. Dandy Lion

Backyard stepping stone pathway from patio to the side fence line is in reality a dry river bed, which turns into a raging river when it rains.  It was set up this way to divert rain runoff from slamming against the backside of our home.  Termite inspections kept yielding the same dampness results under house, so rain water was diverted also by blocking half of the patio with steps up and over a low concrete block wall sending that water down the driveway to street instead of under the back deck.

We purchased our home during dry weather, and after the first rain, the cable man told us we had a swimming pool underneath.  The drainage pipe opened to underneath house and the street, but RotoRooter could not unblock the obstruction, forcing us to find the contractor still working in the area.  Digging a trench from street to house revealed a three foot section of drainage pipe from street, and a three foot section of drainage pipe from house, and the rest of the distance in between was pure clay soil.

Complicated business working with so many problems that should never have existed in the first place. 

Fragrant Sumac

Wild Hyacinth

Flowering Dogwood  'Appalachian Spring'


Glossy Black Chokeberry

Multiple bird houses can co-exist on a property that's not large, if you choose birds to attract that are compatible with each other and remove all the feeders.  An overcrowded yard of birds constantly visiting feeders will most likely ruin any attempts of nesting.  What are birds that are compatible with each other?  The ones that don't kill each other.

Nature has a way of grounding your feet in reality when native wildlife gardening.  She's not always double rainbows, sweet sticky lollipops, and colorful yummy gumdrops.   Last year I cleaned out a bluebird box after the english sparrow family had fledged, and was disappointed beyond all disappointment that there was another nest under the english sparrow's nest that had three dead baby bluebirds in it.  Year before last when no more activity was coming from the chickadee nest box, I found the dead female on her nest of eggs.  The native house wren is the only other bird that can fit through that small hole sized for chickadees, so it is a good conclusion that one was the perpetrator of the death.

Don't get me wrong, as I do have good birds that fledge in this yard every year.  It's the ones using bird boxes that are in need of being monitored closely every day, and their survival in my gardens is as good as I choose to make it.  It really is a dog eat dog world out there; truly survival of the luckiest and most aggressive.  Takes a little hardening of the heart, and a cast iron stomach to accept nature as she really is.  In the old, old days everyone knew how nature was, now days not so many do.

Pesty plants
that are taking over my gardens

Spring Vetch

Catbrier - monster vine

The Cleavers Plant  - Velcro Plant
Every flower becomes a burr seed

At last count, close to five years ago, 172 species of plants inhabited this yard.  As a Master Gardener, I even had a map, used for my garden tours, of the entire front and back yard with all plants listed and their areas within the gardens identified.

Adversity met me head on in the beginning when gardens were first being converted to native plants.  People would yell at me out of their car windows when they drove by, screaming at me to mow the whole damn thing down.  I even had someone send the health department to check up on me, claiming I had too much vegetation.  I guess mother nature's friends don't ever live in the suburbs.  Health department didn't know what to write up or what to tell me, as they saw nothing wrong with it all.  Advised me to remove all seed heads first of winter, it would be void of all natural bird food, beneficial insects would be evicted from their winter homes, my yard would be more like everyone else's yards; therefore, no more complaints.  I left the bird food alone, but began to work on giving it more of the appearance of a city park.  People did stop by who adored it, and requested tours of the gardens.

If I could go back in time and live life over again here, would I have changed anything?  Of course I would!  I would have started native wildlife gardening from the very beginning.  I love sitting out in the wilds with a cup of coffee and a delicious breakfast before me, fresh breezes caressing my face, bird songs filling my head, butterflies, dragonflies, and bees always in house, and perhaps a glimpse of a bunny or two, while I eat amidst all this flowery green.  I don't see how it can get much better than this, even though at times I whine a bit too much about all the pain it is to my patootie.


Azalea 'My Mary'
fragrance of cloves and beeman's pepsin chewing gum

Coral Honeysuckle

I have a passion to document everything that blooms or comes into its own in my native wildlife gardens this year...hopefully my friends will not weary of this seemingly endless barrage of photos :)  Previous garden posts this year now have plant photos labeled, if anyone gives two hoots.


  1. Beautiful photos today. (not that that's unusual) I can promise you that I won't tire of them! So many handsome plants, but my favorites are the Lily of the Valley (so short lived) and the Flowering Dogwood.

    If it wasn't for these constantly stiff and throbbing joints 24/7, there are so many things I'd love to do in my front and back yards. I just have to be happy filling my porch and deck boxes these days, instead. Thank God the weather is finally here to do that! Really lovely post my dear!

    Be Well,
    ~Mrs B

  2. Great pictures! I am sooooo glad spring is here!

  3. I really appreciated your comments about nest boxes. We've just put out our first one, and it's probably too near the feeders. I'm gradually moving to more native plants, too, but it's going to take time. Don't have quite the energy and flexibility I once had!

  4. Hi Im a new follower love your blog
    Please come visit me anytime

  5. Vetch showed up in my yard too this year, first time. Didi you send some this way? LOL
    Love seeing all the photos! Don't stop ♥♥
    Wishing you and yours a wonderfuly happy Easter!

  6. We just bought a bunch of plants last night. Here's to hoping that they all do as well as your gorgeous garden looks!

  7. This is a beautiful post and garden ! WOW you worked hard !
    Come follow me back ! Happy Easter !

  8. I am a new follower thru the blog hop and so happy to see a fellow gardner although mine is probably gonna die this year. I had both knees replaced last year and have RA & Fibromyaglia so it is hard to get down on the ground now. I would love a follow back thru GFC. Have a great weekend and Happy Easter!


  9. Your azalea My Mary is delightful. You've got a lot going on there...lovely.

  10. I think you did a great job on documenting and taking pictures!

    Thank you!

  11. Fantastic pictures although its kinda disappointing to see mr. dandelion again :) I never knew there are giant lily of the valleys. I got small versions of them. Been busy for Easter. Sorry for my late visit but my post is not late :) Hope you can visit my Fertilizer Friday here.

  12. your garden is perfect for photos! I love seeing all the wonderful things going on in gardens that are no where near here...yours is just one of the prettiest!!! I have finally got some spring showing up here...we got to spend the day on Saturday and again on Monday out getting cleaned up from the winter!
    My next post, possibly tomorrow morning...will explain to you what snow mold is! lol
    Thanks for linking in and again...thanks for the inspiration to make this next post! I hope to see your garden again and again for Fertilizer Friday!

  13. don't we all just strive for perfect in our gardens? it is almost an the funny part is that we are the only ones who see the imperfect parts...every one else just sees the pretty!

  14. Following via Flaunt Your Flowers
    Thanks for the inspiration!
    Life Below Zero


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