Garden WorksBy ALLEN MARTINSON,
Mimi and I have had a very productive year in our yard. We have designed new island beds where lawn used to be. We have added plants in existing beds to add depth and new colors. New tree varieties were added that we just had to squeeze in. Our vision is beginning to evolve…much of the yard is now planted islands with strips of green grass for walkways throughout. Our yard is a five-acre space with half in the back and half in the front of the house. Years ago, we installed a nine-foot fence all the way around the back half because we knew with the deer population, we would never be able to have roses, hydrangeas and so many other new plants we would want to experiment with. The fenced in area includes the pond, the barn and the vegetable garden. I actually see deer standing on the outside of the fence making plans to storm the yard and eat up all our favorite plants. But not a deer has made it into the backyard for seven years, so you can imagine the uninterrupted growth our plants have enjoyed.
I love using vines in our landscape. The deer fence has provided a great way to go vertical, giving us even more privacy. I used Confederate Jasmine on every other panel between posts. I shear them into square panels twice a year. This idea was inspired by a large, Confederate covered wall on the grounds of a beautiful place we stayed in Tuscany several years ago. It was an architectural work of art that served both function and beauty with the added bonus of fragrance. Confederate Jasmine has white fragrant blooms that stick around for most months of the year…hard to beat! I also play around with some annual and tropical vines.
There is a Dutch honeysuckle, red passion vine, tater vine, Dipladenia, Allamanda, orange flame vine and a 150’ section of fence covered in evergreen Clematis called Armandii. If you haven’t experienced Armandii, I highly recommend this extremely hardy shade loving vine. It will knock your socks off.
Other than our oaks around the property which are fifty years old, about half of the trees we’ve added are evergreen and half are deciduous. I like to see some greens and blues in the landscape even in the dead of winter. As we are entering a new phase in our yard, the plants that are approaching full grown need to be pruned, tipped and fertilized to promote more blooms. Mimi and I can do most of this ourselves, but I hire a tree guy once a year to cut suckers out of our big oaks, shape the live oaks that line our driveway and trim the tops of other trees that I can’t reach. After six years of his tree assistance, the improvement in the health of the trees are very noticeable.
Everyone knows women are smarter…definitely so in our case. When we purchased this property nine years ago, one of the wisest things Mimi ever said was, “Don’t waste your one day off by cutting grass. Let someone do that for us.” It takes six guys at least three hours to make our place look spiffy. That freed us up to totally focus on what I call real gardening.
Garden Works is open seven days a week, so we take a day off every week, but separately. Mimi does her designs and planting on Thursdays and I do mine on Fridays. As you can imagine, when we leave work the day before a day off, we each usually have a trailer loaded down for a successful day off. A successful day off is to not have to leave the house. I find myself starting early in the full sun spots and easing into the shadier parts of the yard by heat:30. We spend time creating beds that Mimi and I discuss and visualize while we’re walking the yard in the evenings.
One thing we’ve learned the hard way is to resist planting things too close together. It pays off in the end to let a plant grow to its full roundness without touching. Our more recent plantings have been properly spaced. Although we want it to look full the day we plant, it’s not worth it in the long run to plant too tight.
The tasks that are specifically mine are irrigation, lighting and speakers throughout the five acres. No matter where you are in the yard, there will usually be some music playing, hopefully, not loud enough to bother anyone. Outdoor lighting has transformed our landscape. Now, evenings are just as important to me as the daytime view of our yard. When it gets dark, lights illuminate the beautiful trunks of our pruned trees, it’s like an entirely different place. I leave enough extra wire attached at each light so they can be moved around seasonally or something more worthy of being lit gets added or starts blooming. When our Oak Leaf and Limelight hydrangeas bloom, they steal the show in the evening spotlight.
Garden Works offers landscaping, lighting and irrigation services, of course, but I enjoy doing my own. It has been fun learning as we go. I shudder to think about what our projects would cost if we didn’t own a garden center. Otherwise, I feel sure there would be some sort of intervention to find out what casino I was hanging out in. I guess, in a way, spending time, money and effort gardening is somewhat of a gamble, but it is a gamble we are happy to take. I guess we could be addicted to something worse than spending lots of time and money in our yard.
Every yard, even yours, has the potential to be a peaceful retreat from this crazy world we’re living in. The premise of investing is rarely as clearly realized as it is with gardening. Gardening is an investment of time, money, physical work, planning, maintenance and patience. You will literally see your investments taking root and growing into something that you can enjoy and be proud of.
It’s great to get out there and remember that some things don’t change much, such as gardening practices and the ability to make your place your own. Come by Garden Works soon, so we can help you realize your own vision or to help you progress with your own garden projects.
Our chicken herd should be on the brink of laying some eggs. Nature offers many surprises. One of our hens has turned into a rooster and one thinks she is a dog and is happiest when she’s standing on my head. We are going to have a chicken naming contest next week. Watch for it on Facebook, Instagram and in our newsy email we send out periodically. The winners get to come pick out a free world-famous Garden Works-grown giant swinging bucket.