Curb Appeal

Friday, March 23, 2012
The front garden bed began as a place to spill annuals down to the street in front of a huge red oak. When it was ripped asunder by a tornado – and dropped neatly into the neighbor’s yard taking only his gutters and all our wires – the size and sunlight in the bed increased geometrically overnight. It was no longer practical to plant only annuals and I soon began growing roses and shrubs there. After the oak was gone, a little volunteer magnolia from the same neighbor’s yard really got going and took over quickly. Originally it was to be dug up for a friend, but he’d need a tree spade to get it out now. It is a tall focal point about to bloom. Scotch rose and Anthony Waterer spirea run down the side of the driveway now that a second of the spirea is in place. A few weeks ago, we yanked out a rose that had grown astray and moved it (doing fine, thank you) but I fear it will sprout again as it has twice before. This time, the hole is filled and will soon be covered with concrete rubble. That produces a spot for a sculpture but that is a work in progress. The bed is surrounded by rubble artfully chiseled into a border by a friend many years ago so more rubble is always appropriate. A treeform lorapetalum anchors the bed at the street, its shade perfect for the new hosta and Lenten roses. Closer yet to the street, a new group of four golden Lycoris bulbs will light up the space in fall. Two roses, Aloha and Natchitoches Noisette, have been staples in the bed and now soon they will be joined by at least 4 others on the inside of the bed. The ‘skirt’ of low-growing shrubs resumes with 2 Kaleidoscope abelias and a Papaya Popsicle Knifophia (red hot poker plant). This one is a smaller version of the big one next to it. I’m hoping they will help me suppress the seedling chaste tree that won’t go away. That tree is a good example of why you should buy plants with tags on them! The soil in the front garden bed is rich and organic after years of digging in mulch and adding planting mix to the clay soil native to the area. It is also full of tree roots that get cut out as the shrub planting proceeds. It is back breaking work and I am lucky to have good gardeners to help me. Digging holes for shrubs is a good example of doing work on the front end to make the rest of a plant’s care much simpler to do. Each hole is deeper and wider than the pot it will accommodate. That soil is amended with 2 cups each of WormWise Vermicompost and Mighty Grow Living Organic Fertilizer. I put the worm castings into the bottom of the hole, mix the fertilizer with the soil, and refill the hole so the plant can go in at the same level it was growing in its pot. I do spread roots, or even cut them when necessary, but these shrubs didn’t need that. The next group that went in did, however. 3 dwarf flowering quinces, two orange and one red, were sent to me to trial by Proven Winners. I grew them on in their pots and cut the crowded roots on each side before planting them. Same went for a dwarf spirea that lost its tag – I know it will be lovely, but its flower color will be a surprise. Every garden needs a few of those!
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