We moved into our little house almost 3 years ago. To be specific, we signed on it just before Halloween three years ago although we couldn’t move in right away. The previous owners arranged with us to stay here until just after Halloween. Which meant 1) we signed the damn papers while Mercury was retrograde (not bright, but we didn’t have much choice at the time) and 2) We moved in just before the weather turned dreadful. By the time we’d moved our things over from the apartment, the snows were starting to fall.
It didn’t help that I’d only seen the house in the dark. Because it was well after Summer Solstice, darkness was falling earlier, and the only time hubby and I were able to get over here to see it, it was completely dark. So needless to say the outside of the house and the yard around it was more-or-less a surprise to me. The good news in this is that we didn’t have to deal with the leaves that the previous owners had failed to rake. The snows covered them wonderfully.
Once the snows thawed, I was able to finally see exactly what I had to deal with. There was no surprise about the “burn-pile” in the back. This should have been termed the “garbage pile” as that’s essentially what it was. They’d told us that it was legal to burn whatever we want in this neighborhood as we are unincorporated. As if they were trying to prove this, the “burn pile” in the back consisted of items one should never burn in one’s own backyard…plastic welcome mats, plastic food tubs, aluminum cans…in other words, yuck. The pile was more of a hill…about 4 foot tall or so, and plenty wide in diameter.
What made this worse is that because it was the area in the yard dedicated to burning, hubby and pops were throwing the leaves from the prior fall on top of this mess as they collected them. Well, at least they were all in one place…<sigh>
The prior owners (heretofore refered to as “the idiots”) didn’t do anything in the way of landscaping or maintenance at all. In fact, they did very little to the inside of the house as well. I’ve found out from our neighbors that prior to attempting to sell the house, they were using van seats in the livingroom which was still painted a vibrant seventies orange. Thankfully (or not, depending on your point of view) their son came through and painted the entire inside in that wonderful neutral off-white commonly referred to as “ecru.” I say “or not” because as much as it might be better than vibrant seventies orange, he was certainly not a professional painter. <sigh again>
But back to the yard. I understand that they had their RV parked at the side of the house, which although it annoyed the neighbors was perfectly legal…as long as they didn’t have a continuous driveway. So they apparently bought bulk stones, used the pebbles and gravel to build a pad for the RV and dumped the rest of the stone helter-skelter about the rest of the yard. Lovely. The side of the house is almost completely covered with fist-size rocks, whereas the larger ones were scattered randomly. And by that, I do mean randomly…
There’s a dog-run attached to the garage…which according to the idiots was also at one point used as a child-run when they had custody of their 4-year-old grandson. The mind boggles…and if that weren’t all enough, the ground around the back windows of the house was apparently banked higher than the windows. This caused a massive flow of water in the winter wells when the first snows melted, breaking the window and sending a literal waterfall into our basement where, naturally, we’d stacked all the boxes we had yet to unpack. Need I mention that all those necessities of life are also in the basement? Like the furnace, air-conditioner, water heater, water pump, laundry machines? Yeah. Fortunately, I was home when it happened, and was able to get Pops and Hubby back to the house to deal with the mess before we lost about $20,000 in vital equipment.
And I haven’t even talked about the garden yet.
My first plan was to put a garden on top of where the RV had been. The gravel would have allowed for natural drainage. No, I wouldn’t have planted right on top of it…even though the RV was only parked there, the probability of pollution from the gasoline would make that potentially hazardous. But to build up from there…layer on fresh dirt and mulch, and fence it off…that would have been something! It’s the only area of the yard that gets enough sunlight because there are far too many trees…but no. We need to leave that path clear because the septic is in the back and you can’t get around the house from the driveway side. Scratch that, then. Plan B is to use the dog run. It’s already fenced off…and large enough for a long, skinny garden with a path. Unfortunately, in order to use that we have to get rid of quite a few more trees.
Here’s the “accidental” part…and Pops thinks I’m totally insane, but then again I think he’s totally insane so that’s alright.
We do have a primarily shaded yard. The trees are fabulous, and I love them. Majestic oak and shagbark hickory, for the most part. Oh, and apple trees…which makes me excessively happy. The problem here is that most flowers dont’ grow well in that much shade. Well, hostas do…and I hate hostas. Not because they’re ugly, but because they’re seriously abused in suburban neighborhoods like ours. ESPECIALLY in neighborhoods like ours. It’s the ultimate in lazy gardening. Pops is constantly offering me hostas, and shaking his head at my refusal. He just doesn’t get it.
The first year we were here in the spring, I watched and waited. Why? Because I wanted to see what would come up naturally. Woodland plants are different from most garden flowers. They have their own beauty, and their own timing…and many of them are quite useful.
Now I know the pattern, and have identified many of the plants that I’d never seen before. First to come up after the frost is the squill. Beautiful, little blue and purply delicate flowers with grass-like leaves. Then comes the bluebells…they almost overtake our yard. After that, the toad-lilies, trillium, Dutchman’s breeches, bleeding hearts, lily of the valley, columbine and wild geranium start all sprouting up…then of course the violets.
So I’m not planting, I’m controlling. I see what sprouts up, and pull up the things that I don’t want there… like Queen Anne’s Lace. There’s plenty of it in the world, I don’t really want it in the garden. Not in the front, at least. And ragweed, which I’m allergic to. Pops thinks they’re all weeds…even said something about weed spray taking care of the “problem,” but I laugh and shake my head. People actually buy columbine plants, after all! Where else can you find plants that are so beautiful and grow so well in the environment that you have than by allowing them to grow where they would anyway? So much easier than trying to make the soil and the light into something it isn’t!
So I have a beautiful garden in the front yard which happened intentionally by accident. And I love it.
The back yard will be a challenge for next year…maybe.