Mista Lista: They See Me Mowin’

Mista Lista’s changing things up at the ‘Zoo.  Each month, Mista Lista will be taking a closer look at one part of the ‘Zoo to see how things are shaping up. This month, Mista Lista is checking on things in the yard.

Front Yard

Our goals in the front yard were fairly simple: Take out overgrown landscaping and disintegrating edging; replace with new landscaping and new edging. We didn’t take a close up of the front flower bed when we bought the house, but it was primarily a thick row of overgrown grass with a few snake inhabitants. We tore out most of the grass and replaced it with a white climbing rose, hydrangeas, hostas, and a few flowering plants, primarily mums.  After a year, everything is thriving, and we even had to widen the bed to make room for our hostas.  I’m probably going to have to divide them next year, and my neighbor is planning to give me some of her divided hostas, too, which will mean even more hostas.  Yay! I just love hydrangeas and hostas together, though this year our hydrangeas bloomed pink instead of blue.  I love the deep purple-blue, but the pink were a nice change. I envision pink in the front near the house (near the foundation it will be a tough battle to maintain the right soil ph for blue) and blue in the back along the new white fence.  We’ll see.

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 Side Yard

Yes, we have two side yards, but only one is pictured.  The other one hasn’t changed much. Our west side yard was the priority, primarily because of the magnolia looming over our house (the roots were too close to the house foundation to be safe) as well as the other overgrown shrubs. We replaced them with a variety of plants including knockout roses, loropetalum, canna lilies, caladiums, purple fountain grass, and monkey grass. Everything has grown so quickly that is hard to believe it’s only been a year since these were planted. The pavers and the pine straw that our neighbors had spread on our yard have now been replaced with flourishing grass.  

                                 Last Year                                                                                 This Year

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Back Yard

The backyard has also changed dramatically.  Again, our goals were primarily to take out overgrown and ill-placed shrubs and trees, and down the road, replace the fence.  We added more flowerbeds, filled with canna lilies, lantanas, banana trees, roses, etc. We also tried a fruit/vegetable garden this year (mostly not a win), and started replacing the fence.  After buying a new outdoor area rug and some lawn furniture, we actually had people over for a cookout, with enough seats for all.  Yay!

Last Year                                                                                 This Year

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Overall, here’s what’s been accomplished thus far:

  • Moving gate latch to the inside of the backyard (Surprise! We discovered we did in fact have a gate latch already, but it was put on the outside to allow free access to our backyard to any interested parties…what-tha-what?)  We now realize how the neighbors were able to show other interested buyers the backyard while we were looking at the inside with our realtor!) (1)
  • Cut down imposing magnolia in side yard (2)
  • Trim trees, shrubs, and grasses (2)
  • Remove sago palms in the way of mowing (2)
  • Replace rotted fence board (2)
  • Test/correct sprinkler aim (2)
  • Clear easement behind fence to keep weeds out of our yard (2)
  • Remove overgrown (ugly) hedges and grasses and snakes, oh my! (2)
  • Remove scalloped landscape edging (3)
  • Add new plants, mulch, and edging (3)
  • Replace odd flower bed between entry and driveway with brick pavers so that we aren’t stepping out of our car into the flower/weed bed (2)
  • Cut down magnolias in backyard (3)
  • Paint faded mailbox (2)
  • Shadowbox wood fence (3)
  • Line fence with crape myrtles for low maintenance privacy and shade (3)
  • Add edible plants! (3)
  • Upgrade fence (4)
  • More patio furniture for people to be able to join us in our back yard (3)
  • Expand patio area (4)
  • Add gate on garage side for convenience (4)
  • Add sunporch? (4)
  • Add pool? (4)

Staying on top of things with the yard hasn’t been the easiest during our flooring project. We are constantly battling the weeds in the back, so we are brainstorming solutions for keeping them out more easily (that don’t involve lots of toxic chemicals!).  We also hope to finish the fencing and rearrange some plants in September to give them time to get established in their new homes before cooler weather arrives.  Ah, so many projects, so little time.

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Something Old, Something New: Herb Garden

In honor of Halloween,

SPOILER ALERT: This is not a Halloween-themed post.   Sorry, folks!  I threw caution thematic blogging to the winds and decided to post about herbs, especially now that we have had our first hard frost and people might be thinking about bringing delicate plants indoors (or mourning their brown-and-black outdoor plant life).

We have started cooking with fresh herbs and love it.  I have totally joined the fresh herbs fanatics camp. It all started when I wanted to make homemade margherita pizza using fresh basil, which resulted in buying one of those wee organic basil plants so that I could have enough leaves to cover a pizza at a reasonable price.  That was last October.  Unbelievably, I have kept an inside plant alive for an entire year.  A. Ma. Zing.

I loved landscaping back when we owned our own home (and yard!) and didn’t have HOA restrictions on the kind of plants you can put in your yard. “No, you are a Bradford pear yard, so you can’t plant a Japanese maple.”  #Renterville This pretty much dampened any enthusiasm we had for improving the curb appeal of our current location…but not our enthusiasm for plants.   Consequently, I’ve been restricted to containers. On a small deck.  In full sun. In the South.  Le sigh.  Perhaps this, rather than the pizza, is what drove me to indoor plants despite not having the best track record with remembering to water them….

Anyway, given this surprising success with a lone basil plant, I decided to risk succulents.  They don’t need much attention, right?  I love succulents, and I like that their colors tend to coordinate nicely with all the fall/winter harvesty things like pumpkins, kale, etc. but also look crisp and cool in spring/summer.   I was really hoping to put some in a set of three glass containers my mom gave me I rescued from my mom’s giveaway box and make an entire succulent garden in an antique washbowl that Chris’s grandmother gave us was also giving away.IMG_2372

So in typical fashion, Chris and I headed to our local garden center/big box home improvement store (we prefer Blue but Orange has some good things, too) to look at the discounted/end of season plant selection.     The previous year, we lucked out with some ridiculously cheap gerbera daises and other flowering plants that somehow survived dying in the winter to bloom again this spring/summer.  No such luck this year, though.  I joked that the succulents were actually “sucky-lents” (yes, Chris groaned, as I’m sure you are doing, too).  The only ones that did not look pitiful were $$$ or mixed with cacti, which should not be part of a household with curious cats who like to rub on everything with texture. Trust me.  Plucking cacti stickers from a cat’s face is not a happy experience for anyone involved. Lots of gnashing of teeth and bleeding.

We went home empty-handed and sulky.  Okay, I went home sulky.  I think Chris might have been silently cheering.  Plants are not his thing.  He says it’s because he’s allergic to grass.  I think he’s “allergic” to plants in general, seeing as how he doesn’t seem to like eating many of them either.  Iceberg lettuce, raw carrots, and canned peas and green beans = the vegetable group for most of his life. [Shudder].   Thankfully he’s expanded his horizons in the last seven years since we got married.  Now he’s even eaten collards and fennel.  Ah, the things he does we do for love.

Then I saw this soup recipe in the Williams Sonoma catalogue that I wanted to try, now that colder weather is here.  The recipe called for fresh herbs…so I decided to create an herb garden in the washbowl instead of pining for puny or pricey succulents that just “look pretty.”  Chris heartily agreed to this idea, so we bought a rosemary plant and a parsley plant to join our beloved basil.

In the washbowl, I first laid a bed of river rock to facilitate drainage around the roots.

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Then I topped the rocks with some potting mix (aka whatever was leftover in the garage…not sure this is typically what you’d typically use for herbs, but it was already purchased).

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Then I planted and watered the herbs…and ta da: herb garden!

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With regular misting, the herbs are flourishing and are making regular appearances in our meals.

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In fact, dear Basil seems to be doing better than when he was a lone ranger.  Is there such a thing as a social plant? Who knows.  The herbs sit in the microscopic “breakfast area” where they can receive enough sun but not freeze with winter approaching.

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PS: That soup recipe didn’t turn out so well (too expensive for the tastiness factor, which was lacking greatly IMO), but at least it was the catalyst for the herb garden and the subsequent tasty meals it has provided! 🙂