Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Easter Weekend Gardening Part 1: the front yard

The distinctions between the vegie garden backyard and ornamental frontyard are slowly melting away.  Apparently the (now) old couple who built and lived in the house for 50 years had a deal where he would tend the vegie garden in the back and she would do the ornamentals and flowers in the front.  Of course, when I moved in the vegie patches were just bare earth with the exception of the rhubarb (oh and a lot of weeds!), however the front yard had a lot of cottage-gardeney kind of plants.  What's even more exciting are the bulbs that keep sprouting up.  Not a month's gone by without a new variety springing out of the soil, such as these brilliantly red flowering ones to the right and below (no extra points for the old daggy plastic edging though - I think that'll have to go).

Many people have advised me to live in my house for a year before planting so that I get to know about the weather, sun patterns and wind etc. to make informed choices, however, I was rearing to go.  However, the bulb thing is another reason to wait.  The ugly plastic fenced patch above, which is in an awkward position in the backyard, was first on my list to go when I moved in, yet 6 months later I'm enjoying the near constant changeover of bulbs.  These red ones are dying back now, and there are some pink budded ones just about to emerge.  It's kind of like bulb tag!

Anyhoo, my Easter weekend list had a lot of things on it, and gardening was not high on the list in terms of deadlines.  However, as gardening is a fantastic procrastination method, I actually got quite a lot of digging, planting, weeding and strategising done. 

Firstly I got myself a couple of tiny box hedges (left) in a first step to realising my life-long dream of creating a topiary of my dog.  I figure that my sculpture major should be utilised somehow.   I planted one in the front yard, and I think I'll put the other in the backyard, just in case I find that I get performance anxiety.   I was going to topiarise (?) my bay tree that I planted when I first moved in, however, they grow so slowly and I'm chomping at the bit here!

My other purchase was a large native that, according to the woman at the Hobart Farmers' Market, is apparently very good at screening out nosy neighbours, being sufficiently tall, bushy and quick growing.  I don't think she knew who she was up against, but I bought the Dodonaea Viscosa (or Hop Bush) anyway, and strategically placed it down the side outside my kitchen window behind the bay tree.  I do worry quite a bit about blocking light to other parts of my garden, however, there are some sacrifices you have to make...

At the New Town Station Nursery, I came across a large number of blueberry bushes.  Considering the number of punnets I go through each summer, I felt that their $20/bush price tag was relatively reasonable, so I bought two.  While varieties of plants usually have fairly abstract or esoteric names such as 'Tigerella' tomatoes, 'Cox's Orange Pippin' apples, or 'Good King Henry'; my selected blueberry bushes are called Brigitta and Denise.  I laughed when I saw the names, because only the night before I'd been drinking with two women by that name (one of whom is my PhD supervisor). As a result, the plants have become quite personified in my mind. 

I planted Denise, which is shorter bush growing to about 1.5 meters and which produces big fat berries, down the side of the house next to the pepperberry bush.  Apparently blueberries can deal with part shade to full sun, and while I'm a little concerned that Denise won't get enough, it'll be interesting to contrast it to the larger growing Brigitta who I planted in the comparatively very sunny front yard.

Denise (with a small Camelia in the b'ground)

My two other major tasks for the weekend were installing a watering system in the front yard to counter my laziness in watering, and fixing the front lawn and weeding around the f#@*ing roses (which I loathe but feel guilty about pulling out). 
I've never been much of a lawn fan.  I can put this down to a couple of reasons: a) I'm allergic to grass, b) I've lived in so many rental houses where the grass has been the bane of my existance - it's grown and I haven't had a mower, it's been weed infested, it hasn't been watered so it's died, it's been killed by overexuberant house parties etc. etc. 

Little wonder then that when I moved into this house, I planned to get rid of the lawn in favour of a front yard overgrown with plants and a fairy path down the middle. However, I think I'm coming round to the grass thing.  For one, I haven't enough money for all the plants in my fairy garden scheme; secondly I can see that perhaps it might provide a nice background to my future topiary (in a kitschy, Tim Burton kind of way). Plus the dog appreciates grass.  So my task for the weekend was to scrape off the mat of brown spikey weed seeds that had scared the grass away on the southern side of the lawn, so that I can plant some grass seed (while trying not to sneeze).  You can see the patch left behind in the image below; and the bags of weeds and seed in the image to the left.

The foggy bits in the photo are due to my watering system which I finally installed (woot!).  I should point out that strangely, it's cheaper to buy the bits for an entire Neta watering system than to buy a good hose.

The end of my epic post (but not on the weekend - vegie garden update still to come)

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