I’ll tell you right up front, this is hard to admit.
My family and I have now been in our new (to us) house for just over a year. The landscape (and I use that term loosely) was less than “curb appealing” to the eyes of any passerby but, especially, to a professional gardener, like me.
Anxious to utilize my skills, I quickly went to work to rip out inappropriate shrubs, concrete statuettes and scalloped edging. I eradicated the weed-infested lawn and scooped up many loads of granite mulch. The end result was a perfectly blank slate ready for the master’s touch.
One year later, I still have a perfectly blank slate. Well actually, the weeds moved back in, so the lawn area appeared to be green thanks to a carpet of crabgrass. I recently removed that too, so I’m back to square one and ready for that radical front yard makeover – now more than one year overdue.
My overall plan called for a modest kidney-shaped island of turf surrounded by mounded raised beds. I plan to fill those beds with perennials, mixed shrubs, conifers, and three strategically-sited Japanese maples. A curved fieldstone path will welcome guests, as they make their way to the front stoop which will be flanked by large containers of seasonally-striking plants and cascading vines.
Finally, an understated picket fence will envelop the front yard, softened by a wide swath of perennials to fill the void between it and the street. To complete the picture, two barn-red Adirondack chairs, angled slightly towards each other, will sit open to the street and perfectly placed under the shade of the large oak. Believe me – it’s truly a stunning site. Unfortunately, that image exists only in my head, where it has lived for the past 13 months.
Well now, it is finally time to make that vision a reality. With a relatively light travel schedule over the next two weeks, I’m on a mission to complete (alright…start) this long overdue renovation project. The work has commenced.
First step: Prepare the center island for the lawn seeding. First problem: There seems to be a large root mass buried just under the surface – right in the middle of the new lawn area. First decision: Do I take the easy route and cover it with soil, or do I attempt to dig out this mass of unknown size and solve the problem for good?
Having never been one to run from a challenge, I choose the latter. After two painstaking days and using every tool in my arsenal, I have reluctantly surrendered my first battle, completely exhausted. My joints ache. I’m so tired I can’t even speak intelligibly, and my hands are covered in blisters, despite protective gloves.
On Monday morning, I called my friend, Kelly, of Southern Horticulture and pled my case. Five hours later Mike arrived with heavy equipment and promptly extricated this beast from its subterranean home.
I feel better about my decision. It had seemed as though this benign-looking stump could be removed by this stubborn and determined army of one, but after seeing what ultimately came out of the ground, it’s clear I made the right decision – albeit about two days too late.
Tomorrow, I’ll fill the void left by this massive root system, regrade the area and spread the grass seed. Aside from consistent irrigation to keep the seeds moist, I’ll be through with Phase I. That’s assuming, of course, that I don’t run into any surprises tomorrow. With gardening and landscaping, there are always surprises and challenges.
I can’t say I enjoyed this first challenge, but it will add to the memories and enhance the satisfaction and pride I’ll have when this landscape is finally complete. Yet as gardeners and weekend warriors, we know a landscape is never truly finished. That’s what keeps us young, excites us about tomorrow and, frankly, makes us so tired…but isn’t it a good tired? I think so.