August 2003 – First summer in our ‘new’ home – garden journal entry

August 2003

Our first summer in the house we are buying. It comes with some already mature landscaping. Noteably the front yard has the 90 + year old Monkey Puzzle Tree. But it is showing it’s age now, and appears more brown than green.

The first year here I asked our neighbor to cut off the lower branches. Since the tree was planted on a corner where 2 streets intersect, it made for poor visibility and our neighbor was happy to open up that space to help prevent accidents for cars trying to make the turn. I learned something though; dear hubby was heartbroken at the trim job on that tree. Seems he had already developed a fondness and ownership of that historical tree.
Next is the raised bricked garden areas at the front of the cupola. While a bit overgrown, the mixtures of small trees, evergreens, and a well developed and aged rhodedendrom give a calming, relaxed feel to that area. Sweetie just had to do some serious pruning to the overgrowth of the ivy and straggling blackberry shoots. For the most part, I have no plans for this area except maintenance, as it works well in it’s present design.

I do need to learn the names of the spreading evergreen. It’s an expensive variety, low growing with primary branche that grow outwards horizontally on one side. I believe the orange flowering small tree is a type of rhodendrom. It looks also like a rare and exotic species. And there is a yellow flowering tree that is prickly. Maybe a type of holly but the yellow blooms are gorgeous.
Future plans for this area include taking out the small area of grass as it is impossible to get in there and mow it. And there is a small patio area in need of some refining, maintenance, attendance and planting to sparkle it up.

There is no ‘back yard’ to speak of, rather a strip of what is a pathway to get to the side yard. While there is a nice, sunny spot in a square shape at the juncture of the original house and the added on section, someday it will make a nice wildflower garden. For now, it needs nutrients, attention and a plan.
The side yard, which really serves as our back yard has the Harry Lauder Walking Stick tree. That is also an expensive variety with twisty limbs and curled leaves. Initially, it looks like the leaves are withering, but it is the nature of the leaves and limbs. I had to look it up to learn what kind of tree it is and have developed an immediate fondness for it already. My mother thought it was a sadly neglected tree and I had to explain to her it was a rare type of tree and is supposed to look that way.

There is a mature lilac which is old enough to be more of a tree than a bush; another very mature bush grows next to it and that one is a wild fushia bush. There is an overgown cluster of camellia close by so it looks like a concentration of plantings that have matured now are a bit too close together and growing into each other.
Someone put in a raised bed next to part of the brick wall that lines the yard. It has left over yarrow, I believe, still growing in it. Probably I will start with this raised bed and work my way outward as I decide what to do with this yard.

The yard has a small hill so that it appears to be an upper and a lower section. The lower section is the septic tank and drain field and I’ve heard it is not a good idea to plant in the drain field area. There is a brick wall at the back of this drain field area. Along that wall are several trees. Tall natural growing evergreen, and then 2-3 other natural evergreens. Not sure if they were already there and part of the original land or if they were planted deliberately years and years ago.

A couple of rhodedendroms are also along the brick wall. Sparse and hanging in there but not flourishing. There is a maturing maple tree at the corner where the brick wall forms the right angle. And it looks like big rocks were brought in to hold the bank of the hill or for decor or….and I can envision a rock garden there easily.

And it looks like someone planted what might have been a christmas tree or perhaps a forestry tree at the corner of the rock garden right under the very mature evergreen. The branches of the mature evergreen are growing into this planting and affecting it’s shape and growth. So a serious cutting of the lower branches of that old evergreen will become a project.

At the back porch area of the house are 3 too mature rhodedendroms which will need some serious cutting back. They look to be the variety that grows naturally in Washington, so they will get too large for the spots where they have been planted and will be some annual pruning work to keep them in control.
Well that is it; the lay of the place when we bought it in November 2002. This is our first summer here and we are without yard and garden tools, so some must buy items.

Projects accomplished in the first summer here;

— pruning back the front yard raised beds and shaping the mature rhodendrom. I will call this area the front oasis for lack of knowing what else to call it, due to it’s serene setting.
— pruning back the over mature rhodendroms at back porch area.
— serious limb removal of the Monkey Puzzle tree
— generally just removing weeds and overgrowth all around the house
— hoeing and planting the raised bed in back yard along the brick wall. Biggest accomplishment with that was the massive Russian Sunflowers that I planted.
— with no garden, tried the split the top soil bag and grow vegetables directly from the bags. This worked out fairly well. I got squash, and cucumbers, and a sprinkling of tomatoes. The rest was container gardening and container flowers. Not a too bad first effort, but I will want a true garden space in the back yard. And over time, I will want wildflower garden and a herb garden.

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