Nothing in my background ever encouraged me to think that my very own house and garden were in the cards. Eight years ago, my employer, of all people, nagged me into starting the search. Boy, did he ever; to the point of dragging me around on weekends to all the neighborhoods with houses he thought were ‘best’ for me. Well, in the end, the overbearing - insufferably sure of his own opinion - man was right. I was getting discouraged thinking I would NEVER come across a place I liked and could afford. Finally, after three months and dozens of house tours, I found it. It was a listing that had been previously bypassed as out of range. Then I saw that the price had been dropped, went to look, and lost my heart to it. From the first sight of the large Cedar Elm out front, to the Model T driveway, to the detached rear garage, to the 70-year-old double screen doors on the back porch, to the instant feeling of 'home’ on entering, I knew it was mine.
There was work to be done. The exterior was painted an unpleasant muddy tan and brown.
The boss fixed that with a housewarming gift.
The house had trees on three sides, including my beautiful Elm, and all needed trimming. Some coworkers took care of that chore. The yard, front and back, hadn’t been tended for weeks. Another coworker mowed and edged. And I set to work on the interior.
Once the structure was tended to, my attention turned to the outside. I had been dreaming of roses and daisies and lovely, lovely, flowers everywhere. The difference between dreams and fruition came as something of a shock. My first efforts at ‘gardening’ were dismal failures; partly from laziness, mostly from sheer ignorance. Oooh, orange Azaleas! Let’s stick them anywhere in the ground, leave them alone, and they’ll be right as rain. I can HEAR you snorting and choking on your coffee! I SAID I was ignorant! But gradually, I started reading and experimenting and buying cheap which, in turn, made the lessons cheap.
Some previous owner had planted a holly shrub up close to the house (you can see it on the left in the photos above). By the time the house came to me, it was a 4 x 4 nightmare snaring the unwary. Out it came. Three Red-tip Photina on the other side of the Elm; ouuuutt, ouuuuuuutttt, FINALLY, out they came. An eight-foot stand of scrubby, ugly, left-to-grow-all-wild Crape Myrtle on the west property line; sort of out it came; I got contractors for that one and they didn’t bother to clear all the roots. I STILL have inconveniently placed pieces popping up. On the driveway side were five graceful tree-form Rose of Sharons. Although I did eventually give one away and relocate another, THEY were staying.
I am originally from northern Indiana and Dallas does NOT have what I call real barefoot grass! Even after 41 years in Texas, I still miss it. Since conditions here are too harsh for my dream green stuff (and I REFUSE to spend all that water in a drought prone area on a pseudograss so intensely disliked), after tending to shrub removal, the grass started to disappear. Again recruiting help came from the office, a baseball diamond-shaped bed was dug out of the driveway corner.
At first planted with Iris, Liriope, Caryopteris, and Plumbago, it became a soothing, grassy, memory bed. The shape was for my mother, who was a White Sox fan. Iris for my paternal grandmother and great-grandmother, both of whom had stands and stands of the flower. Purple for my niece, some of whose ashes are scattered in the bed. Blue and white for a Marine Reservist/LAPD officer killed in Afghanistan. This year, it also contains Daylilies, Agastache, Penstemon, Baptisia, a dwarf white Buddleia, orange Asclepias, and a Coral Drift Rose. The driveway side is bordered by Provence Lavender; English, Spicy Orange, Orange Balsam Thymes; a Vinca; and an Irene Rosemary. The sidewalk side border has variegated Lemon Thyme and Oregano.
Then part of the sidewalk strip was dug out by one of my helpful guys. I laid the pavers for a street-to-sidewalk path.
The pavers and borders were repurposed from a pointless path in the backyard and the bricks from a demo at my sister's house. Recycling isn't necessarily birkenstocks and treehugging, or inconvenient.
Heavy clay soil, extreme heat, and limited water meant that each year was a continually changing palette until this year I may have found a combination that will survive my form of benign neglect. Sunshine Blue Caryopteris, yellow Iris, Little Spire Perovskia, Carl Sedum, Mexican Feathergrass, orange Lantana, Flanders Poppies, dwarf Cosmos, Frosted Curls Carex, Green Santolina, and, so far, a Moses’ Fire Daylily.
Two decorative fence panels were installed for a Rose lineup. Later, other plants were added at their feet. Julia Child, Easy Does It, Gizmo, Just Joey, Opening Night, and Fourth of July Roses. Currently, it also has Thin Man, Bold One, Missouri Moon, Lemon Lily, Victorian Gift, Chicago Apache, and Bela Lugosi Daylilies; Miss Bateman Clematis on either panel; a Hollandia broom; Butterfly Blue Scabiosa; Mexican Heather; Early Sunrise Coreopsis; and a Summer Sorbet Caryopteris.
Iris and Ruellia were planted on the west side of the house.
A curved pathway and new bed were dug out. Daffodils, Dutch Iris, Roses, Lilies, Mexican Heather, Catananche, two-tone Dianthus, Amethyst in Snow Centaurea, Daisies, Nana Coreopsis, Tutti Frutti and Purple Haze Agastaches, native Gladiolas, May Night Salvia, trailing Lantana, Gazania, and Cheerleader Chrysanthemum are happily sharing space.
Next, came a paisley shaped bed; one more time, courtesy of my generous helpers. They dug out the grass, dug in the added top soil, bordered with brick, planted, and mulched. All I had to do was provide the drinks, sit on the front steps, and supervise. They put in mostly red and purple Daylilies, adding a leavening of pink Geraniums, Penstemon, Lilies, a Pinwheel Coreopsis, and pastel Dianthus this Summer around the perimeter.
Next, an egg-shaped bed for historic Iris and pastel Daylilies. Have I mentioned my wonderful helpers? Laid the stone myself, though, which came from debris left when crews dug up the street in front of our office.
I moved a white and pink Rose of Sharon to the sidewalk strip. Dug it, moved it, and planted it my very ownself. Ooooh, I was feeling like the Energizer Bunny that day! I also planted two Red Drift Roses.
I still had a slew of daylilies waiting for ground space. So, along comes the Boomerang Bed. Solo project took some time. Don't all good things?
I intended to wait until next year to remove more of the front grass. However, I became annoyed when a lawn guy didn’t show up three times in a row.
I decided “enough” and started digging. I didn’t quit for two weeks. The red mulch isn’t exactly the color I would prefer, but of the three available choices - brown, black, or red - it was the best of the lot.
In the middle of the red, comes a memory circle for a young man killed while being a Good Samaritan. Dug this small one myself, too. Marmalade, Hot Papaya, and Orange Harvest Echinaceas.
As an ongoing companion project, the Model T driveway was greened up around the Rose of Sharon trees. Dutch and Bearded Iris; Gomphrena; Laura Harwood, Candle in the Wind, Clockwork, Wild Orange, Maltese Falcon Daylilies; New Gold Lantana; Victoria Blue Salvia, Oregano; Florida sieboldii and Malaya Garnet Clematis; Heritage, Pope John Paul II, and wild pink shrub Roses; Baptisia; a stubborn little Gerbera; and a couple of struggling Echinaceas.
Next project is the east side strip. When the weather cools down, the digging will begin! The plan is to clear it out for an "allee" of Iris. The wrought iron fence came from the back yard, left by the previous owner.
I made a start by planting a Tea Olive, some Dad’s Best White Daylilies, and a Daniel Deronda and Arctic Queen Clematis next to the Turk’s Cap to form the entrance.
Unexpected deterioration of some health conditions in the last year or two is gradually increasing my limitations, which means progress will be even slower than usual. But I am so enjoying watching the garden evolve as new plants are added and older ones are moved and trusted ones return that I do not mind all that much. And, really, the enforced measured pace has been a good thing. I truly do ‘lovemyhouse’ and am learning to be patient, to let each part of the garden tell me what it wants. Because I have discovered that it will; all I have to do is be ready to listen.
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