Thursday, June 7, 2012

More to this Delicious Potager than vegetables

A few years ago, when we'd only owned our house for a year or so, I was at my mom's house sitting on her brick patio enjoying a beautiful evening (probably drinking a glass of nice wine) admiring her flower beds around the patio. They were in full bloom and spilling over with so many different colors and textures and interesting plants just absolutely thriving. And I looked around the rest of the yard and I hoped that one day my own backyard would be such an enjoyable and idyllic place.

Our house wasn't occupied when we bought it. While the inside was kept neat and clean in the absence of the owner, the landscaping was completely hopeless. Weeds filled the stone flowerbeds in the front yard and the small flower bed in back. English ivy was quickly overtaking what was left of the back yard and threatening the front steps and a crab apple tree in the front yard. While the Hubs probably would have been happy to just keep the grass cut and disregard the rest, I didn't waste much time before I started exercising my green thumb.

I hoed the weeds out of the stone flowerbeds in front, and found a sweet note the previous owners had left in the concrete: their initials and the date. I planted tulip and daffodil bulbs, and was delighted when they came up the following spring.

Not long after, we tore down the lattice around the patio that was collapsing under the weight of the English ivy, and cut the ivy off of a huge poplar tree it was choking. For things like this I am grateful that the Hubs makes his living as a forester and knows his way around with a chainsaw like it's second nature. Had the ivy continued to grow up that tree, it would have killed the tree, requiring it to be cut down by professionals at a cost of around $2,000, lest it fall on our house.

Summer before last, that English ivy did bring a tree down. A tree that was on our neighbor's property fell across our fence and into our yard. We spent a day cleaning the mess up cut it up for firewood. The trunk of the tree is still laying across our fence, actually, because it is too big for the Hubs to get himself. It's something we need to finish soon, and get that fence repaired.
Again, I am lucky Jeremy is a certified faller.

The following summer after we bought the house, I cleaned out an unkempt flowerbed out back and planted a few tomato and pepper plants. And the "Delicious Potager" was born. The original bed is still a garden plot, only now it's twice as big, and has four raised beds around it.

garden plot and raised beds, June 2011
Last fall, we dug out a flower bed along the front of the house and planted grass. Because of the eaves of the house, it didn't get enough rain, and I could never get anything to grow in it. Even hostas sucumbed to the conditions. We hauled the rocks edging that flower bed around back, and I expanded the little flower bed I had just off the patio. The small flower bed had three hostas, which were there when we bought the house. In the years since we tore out the English ivy and lattice, I had added sweet williams and buttercups from my mom's flower bed, three varieties of mint from a coworker's herb garden and echinacea and bee balm from another coworker's yard.

When we added the new edging rocks and expanded the bed, I moved several iris rhizomes and grape hyacinth bulbs from the front unsuccessful bed into the back bed. I had several tulip bulbs languishing unplanted in my garage that went in, as well as red hot poker plants from a coworker's flower garden. Beginning about Mid-March, this bed has put on one stunning display after another. I have more bulbs in the garage from daffodils growing wild that I dug up from the bottom part of the yard, as well as snow drops and more tulips. And another coworker recently gave me a canna lily rhizome, which I am super-excited to see blooming next summer.

The thing that I love most about the flowerbed in back is that it's full of things given to me. I haven't bought any of the plants in it. It's nice because the flowers are sorta left to chance. You take a chance planting something like that and in some cases, I wasn't even really sure what the flowers would look like. The bee balm and irises were a surprise when they bloomed the first time.

Along the white vinyl fence I have a narrow herb garden with four varieties of mint, rosemary and another bee balm plant.

Last year for my birthday, my dad gave me the WVU windchimes and the wooden sign that reads "Jennelle's Garden." The blue plaque in the center of it says "Grow, Damnit!" The echinacea in the left of the picture is twice the size it was last summer and ready to bloom any day.

Last Sunday, was a perfect day with cloudless blue skies and temps around 72 degrees. I took advantage of the weather and spent some time cleaning up the patio. When it gets miserably sticky, we tend to neglect it, instead staying holed up inside with the AC cranked. But after I finished sweeping it off and arranging the patio furniture, a took a few minutes to rest and enjoy the backyard, and I realized, that while my mom's flower garden is more established and spectacular, I did finally get what I wished for a few years ago--that same feeling from my very own back yard.

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