April 18, 2008
From the Producer: 4/19
After last week’s visit to the Wildflower Center, I thought I was almost finished. I got home and realized I really need another white winecup for the cat cove on the other side of this one.
Here’s the calylophus and blue-eyed grass in the cat cove. And it looks like the old cenizo in front has died; too much shade and rain last year. Back to the nursery! Aside from that, the front is finished and mulched.
Final leg of the tour: the crepe myrtle island. When Greg and I were house hunting, we fell in love with a “gingerbread” house (according to our parents). A fixer-up bungalow, it was as cute as it was impractical. Outside its leaking French doors was the most magnificent tree I’d ever seen, covered in pink flowers. On the phone, my mom said, “Oh, Linda, that’s a crepe myrtle (duh).” By the time we decided we could afford dream house (just barely), an offer had been made on it. I cried for days, until Mom said, “You can plant a crepe myrtle wherever you live.” Actually, I cry now because dream house would go for $350,000.
A month after we moved into the “sensible” house we bought, one of 1958’s low-end models, with walls painted chocolate brown in a later update, I went in the rain on Thanksgiving weekend for the most pathetic little crepe. It took me hours to place it just right—centered in our den window in the middle of the yard. In the spring, I borrowed some rocks from the creek for a little border and planted dahlias inside its circle. They were lovely, but as suited to Central Texas as lilacs! I’m kneeling here to get the crepe in the picture.
But with this short-term success, the garden bug had bitten. I dug out more grass, including crabgrass, and widened the circle.
Then, I got interested in herbs, so I cut a rectangular bed a few feet away. I remember Greg proudly telling our parents, “This is the herb bed.”
Mowing between the two was a pain, so one year I connected them to make a big island. I crammed landscape timbers—the “in thing” at the time—into my first hatchback, laid out borders, and cut pieces to make curves. Correctly, Greg noted that my design was based on how much wood I had.
You can see that Amelia’s fence and the storage shed (now one side of the cat cove) are bare. Also, Cecile Brunner climbers now cover the shed’s front sides. In the bed, note the tiny mountain laurel behind the rosemary. Now it’s a fluffy tall shrub. At the bottom edge is our first kiddie pool, my way to stay cool when gardening in summer. We also installed a ceiling fan on the patio, so after getting wet, I stand under the fan, down some water, and get back to work.
This bed has been through countless renditions, as I discovered new plants, and sunlight changed. At one point, we added a desert willow between the crepe and mountain laurel. That was crazy, so the desert willow got moved to the front curb bed. A few years ago, I put the wood edging out for bulk pick-up, and replaced it with rough-cut limestone.
Now 12’ by 30’, sometimes I’m not sure an island bed was a great idea. But when I’m not mowing or edging around it, the island’s a wonderful axis, a wandering-around adventure, and a good view from the den window, the patio, and from the back gardens. These days, the crepe’s so tall that mainly you see its beautiful branches from the den, but if you stand close to the windows, you can see its flowers too.
Recently, the island’s lighting has been the biggest struggle. Some parts get full-blast sun, followed by shade. The back is mostly in shade by summer, and the front gets hot afternoon sun for a few hours, but with the crepe’s canopy, still too shady for sun-lovers. I’ll save the plant tour for next week.
Finally, even though this house wasn’t my youthful dream house, I’ll never forget the night we sat on the concrete patio slab and looked out over the yard. Fire ants, weeds, struggling lawn, chainlink fence, and such dreams as we never thought could happen to us: our very own yard!
Until next week, Linda