Thursday, April 14, 2011

Back garden eyesore - Part II

Two issues to address: how ugly is ugly and how creative does one have to be to fix it.

Ugly is in the eye of the beholder just as beauty is. And, of course, it's relative. It's ugly to me because so far it has confounded my imagination and my limited experience. It's ugly because I had no recipe for revamping it. It's ugly because the plastic shed can't be painted to match the cottage-y one that's in my brain. It's ugly because all the garden magazines show pictures of plastic nursery pots in neat organization, adorned cleverly to more resemble haute couture than gardening implements, and I'd love to steal their clever ideas. It's ugly because it seemed to have no chance of being beautiful. So let's deal with the problems.
  • Neutral to alkaline soil:
I have had azaleas there and a gardenia. The gardenia died, and two 'Mrs. G. G. Gerbing' azaleas were rescued in the nick of time and relocated. The native soil under my oaks trees in the back is very dry powdery sand, whitish gray in color and in places resembles chalk. The pH is in the low 7's, very inhospitable to the typical shade loving plants with which I'm familiar. In my heavily amended shade bed the 'Endless Summer' hydrangea blooms very pink. I throw soil sulfur around in that bed regularly because I do have four azaleas there (two or three others died). One good thing it that it is now irrigated so the unwettable soil seems to be conquered. My standby, no-fail evergreen has become 'Evergreen Giant' Liriope which seems not to mind my pH because it prospers everywhere I put it, but I can't fill every nook with liriope even though I love it, gracefully waving in the breeze. Hydrangeas don't care about pH, but I care about no foliage all winter.

  •  Fairly deep shade until late afternoon
Since the spot in question is rather dark, blooming plant choices are limited.
  • Height
I think the place needs something tall-er.

On Tuesday I circumnavigated the garden center at Lowe's three times, looking for some bit of inspiration, some plant I hadn't thought of and rejected. I found it. It's a thick and heavy concrete fleur-de-lis birdbath. Not the dainty kind but a hefty one. I liked it and the price was decent - $65. I would put the birdbath in the center and plant Flax lily around it. Or maybe something else, but the birdbath was a go when I went to bed Tuesday night.

Last night wasn't very productive due to over-tiredness, but I managed to hit upon a 5-gallon hydrangea, 'IncrediBall', on Ebay for $39.95 plus $19 shipping. Yikes! Am I that desperate? Today I called every nursery in town. One has 4-gallon 'Penny Mac' hydrangeas for $19.99. Granted it doesn't have basketball sized flowers and it's not white, but it reblooms and 30 minutes after I left work it was mine. Companion plants will have to include some that conceal 'Penny Mac's winter nakedness. I see a problem there.

OK, where does that leave the birdbath in a 6-ft diameter area with a 5x5 bush in it? My heart wanted that about on the gravel where I now have the potted plants? Hmm, that could work.

I also bought some variegated Liriope to plant in front of the stockade fence that will hide the pots storage. (I also bought a huge Fuscia plant that won't survive below 28 degrees so I have to "plant" it "pot and all" so it can be brought inside during cold spells. Impractical? I guess, but it's a very pretty plant for another spot.)

So after dinner I went to Lowe's to get the birdbath and fence boards for building the fence. Didn't get the birdbath. I decided to get further along before I commit to dealing with this glob of cement (two globs, really) that weighs a ton. (Secretly, I'm having doubts about it.) However, I did buy two sections of cypress fence (why build when one is already built?). One is for the other side of the shed. I almost bought some impatiens, but the colors just didn't click with me.

Well, that's basically it - a hydrangea and a fence. I hope "the plan" isn't too anti-climactic. Do solutions have to be complicated? Simple is good. I also hope I love the 'Penny Mac'. At least it was a local plant. (#1 - better survival chances, and #2 - our economy needs the money.) I do love hydrangeas, and this spot will get more sun than the other bed does, and I love the light pink I've seen in photos of it. The plant is pretty large and was a good price.

OK, ugly wasn't really all that ugly, and I think a toad has enough creativity to have figured this one out. Now how strong does one have to be to put up a fence? Maybe boards would have been better.


  1. Sherry, I admire your energy and strong will to fix your "problem area". That is probably why you are such a successful gardener. Wishing you luck and I am sure in no time the garden area in question will be pretty again. By the way, I love Hydrangeas. I also have one "Endless Summer" Hydrangea and by putting down sulfur and aluminum sulfate I got her to flower at least lavender instead of pink, but I have to be diligent with that, otherwise she returns immediately back to flower in pink, which is nice but I prefer her to bloom in blue.

  2. I know you'll do very well with this 'eyesore' area. It sounds like you have a plan and are moving right along with it. Don't try to do too much by yourself, get some help if you need it. I look forward to seeing this reworked area, it will be lovely.


  3. I have an area just like it and has struggled with what to do about it. I now have Russian sage, cosmos, a regal pelargonium, calla lilies and Felicite Parmentier there, all of which have so far done well. Good luck!