Starr's Mill and Lake, Peachtree City, GA


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"The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature.   
To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but also the soul."
~ Alfred Austin

Like volunteering, gardening is also in my DNA. I grew up on a farm in Ohio and learned at an early age from my parents, grandparents, and other relatives about the joys and frustrations of gardening.

What I love most about "gardening," however, isn't the part about growing my own food but growing things that FLOWER. That I got mostly from my mom. Although I've grown some vegetables and herbs on most of the properties where I've lived as an adult, it is the flowering plants that have been my passion.

The varied colors of one of our Peach Drift roses; my mother
would have loved these as much as I do. (8-30-18)

One of the things I missed when Jim and I were traveling around North America in an RV for most of the thirteen years between his retirement in 2004 and the purchase of our house in Peachtree City last year was tending to a landscape full of flowers in the spring, summer, and fall.

The neighborhood and house we found were just about everything we were looking for.

The yard, not so much. The front sides of the yard were nicely landscaped, thankfully, but the back yard was mostly devoid of trees, shrubs, and flowers.

What is now Peachtree City used to be a huge forest with a variety of pine and deciduous trees. Fortunately, city planners left a lot of them intact over the last 60 years; a quarter of the land in the city is natural "green" or "blue" -- grass, trees, water. I think more deer (and certainly squirrels!) live here than people.

Still some trees around us, fortunately  (8-22-17)

A lot of trees came down when our subdivision was built in 1991. Most of the homeowners have taken more of them out in the intervening years to prevent damage from wind and ice storms, or to have enough sun to grow grass.

It's amazing how many trees have been removed from nearby yards just since we moved in last year, yet our neighborhood still looks "treed."

The previous owners of our home took out over 40 trees from our back yard a couple years before we bought the place. What was left was a small lawn of thick zoyzia grass, which we enjoy (especially when it's green), but two-thirds of the back yard was bare, thinly-mulched dirt when we first saw it:

SE corner of our back yard in mid-February, 2017 when we did our inspection. How boring!

Ironically, it looked better even without some leaves last winter when we had two snowfalls;
you can see a few of the shrubs I planted last year in the bottom half of the photo.
That's Casey and Holly playing in the snow; Cody enjoyed it, too. (1-17-18)

August, 2018:  Compare this with the "bare" photo I showed above
of this part of the yard, from a different angle. I like this version much better!

Not only was the bare back yard particularly unattractive when we first saw it, we also knew we'd soon have a yard full of weeds if we didn't do something to prevent them from sprouting.

I tend to be an optimist so I viewed the large "blank slate" in the back yard as an opportunity to plant things I like rather than inheriting something less appealing than my vision. Since I'd lived and gardened previously at several different houses in metro Atlanta, I already had a good idea of what I like that grows well in this area.

All kinds of azaleas thrive here, including the older Formosa type and the newer
Encore re-bloomers. I planted this Encore Autumn coral the spring of 2017.  (8-30-18)

Although we wished some of those big trees were still standing, we knew we couldn't plant an instant forest. My goal was to plant a lot of attractive, low-maintenance flowering shrubs, trees, perennials, and groundcovers during our first couple of years in this house so they will mature and we can enjoy them before we die. 

Seriously! Ya gotta think about stuff like that when you're at or approaching age 70, even if you hope to make it to 100 like I do. This quote I found on Pinterest is humorous, but I'm a bit more realistic:

I described in at least one entry last year the planting frenzy I embarked on as soon as we moved in and showed photos of many of the perennials, groundcovers, shrubs, and trees we planted in the back yard during the spring, summer and fall.

All of them have one or more features that were important to me:

  • multiply and/or spread (such as liriope, daylilies, bearded irises, spidorwort, lantana, Drift roses),

The lantanas got very large their second summer, bloomed from early May to late November,
and also attracted lots of butterflies. Their only fault is being deciduous.  (8-30-18)

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly getting nectar from the lantana flowers  (9-12-18)

  • long flowering seasons (Drift and Knockout roses, Encore azaleas, spidorwort, lantana),

  • some leaves and/or flowers in the winter (camellias, azaleas, roses, holly),

  • pretty flowers even if for a shorter period of time (daylilies, bearded irises, bleeding hearts, hostas, viburnums, redbud, dogwood, apple, peach, and nectarine trees),

One of the pretty salmon-colored Jolyene Nichole daylilies  (6-17-18)

  • or pretty leaf colors at various times of the year (coral bells, burning bushes, dwarf cranberries, Obsession nandina, Bloodgood Japanese maple tree, dogwood tree, Forest Pansy redbud tree).

I planted a third burning bush this year and it's turning bright red before
the two I planted last year.  They will be even more spectacular when mature.  (11-11-18)

The Mathotiana Supreme camellia in the next three photos checked off several of those wish-list boxes. It is my favorite of the three kinds of camellias I planted a year ago.

Its dark green leaves stay on all year and just look at these bright, multi-layered flowers that bloomed from February to early April:



It's about four feet tall now and will eventually grow to eight feet or more, according to its label.

When I had a choice of sizes I didn't buy the smallest, most economical trees and shrubs because they'd take longer to mature. Some of the trees were in 30-gallon containers, which was about the biggest we could plant ourselves. 

This 9-foot-tall pink dogwood was one of the heavier trees we've planted.  (4-8-18)

I love to garden but, wow, the yard has been a lot of work. Not only have I added a few more trees, roses, azaleas, other shrubs, and some perennials to the back yard in 2018, we also tackled a major landscape project in the front yard this spring. That's the subject of the next entry.

Planting trees and shrubs is the hardest part physically; maintenance is easier but takes more time. It's not too bad as long as I do some tasks each week and don't go away for a long period of time during the lengthy growing season like we did when we had our property in Virginia.

I dead-head roses a couple times a week during their lengthy blooming season;
that's a Knockout rose above and a Peach Drift rose below.  (8-30-18)

I enjoy everything about our yard now except weeding because the results have been very good so far. Most plants have thrived and either grown faster or bloomed longer than I expected.

I've lost a few plants for various reasons. Some coral bells and bleeding hearts died the first summer, probably from lack of moisture -- my bad. I don't know why three or four azaleas, two Rose Glow barberries, one forsythia, and a peach tree died but Pike Nursery guaranteed them for life so I got refunds for all of those. I replaced the azaleas but not the others.

Maintenance hasn't been too difficult because so far we haven't gone on any extended RV trips like we used to. Jim's kept the front and back lawns in great shape both years and helps me dig holes for new plants. He also used a sprayer to stain the inside of all our fencing in early March:

I do most of the planning, purchasing, planting, fertilizing, pruning, dead-heading, mulching, and weeding of the landscaped areas.

It's a fun and healthy hobby -- and more comfortable since I got my new knees last winter!

Redistributing mulch from the drainage area; someday we need to make a better
"dry creek bed" with rounded rocks where the water flows from one side
of the back yard to the other after heavy rainfalls.  (3-10-18)

The downside of planting so many new things is that we won't be able to take any extended spring, summer, or fall RV trips until everything is well enough established to keep growing during periods of drought or very high temperatures. Even though we had above-average rainfall this past summer, I still had to do a lot of watering to keep newly-planted and/or shallow-rooted plants alive.

We do plan to be gone for a couple months this winter when not much is happening in the yard. By mid-November the grass doesn't need cutting any more, we don't get a lot of leaves in our yard, and even though the azaleas, roses, and some other shrubs are still blooming, the first time the temperature drops to the low 20s F. those flowers will be done.

Drift roses and Encore azaleas are still going strong in November, 2018,
despite several frosty mornings already.


Avid gardeners can always find room for one more plant that catches their eye, right?

With a large back yard still in need of more "filling in the blank spots," I continued adding some new perennials, shrubs, and trees this year. I'll show some more of them below.

This quote made me laugh:

I'm not quite that bad! I did know where most of them would be planted this year before I put them in my cart.

And I admit I occasionally change my mind after I plant something. I think just about every gardener does this. When you realize a different spot is better for some reason, it makes sense to move a plant if its roots haven't grown too much. For example, within a few weeks of planting them I moved two new trees to spots where they can flourish better.

A new peach tree I purchased in the spring died during the summer so I relocated the nectarine tree I'd recently planted to its spot, giving it more room to grow:

Pretty nectarine blossoms  (3-12-18)

Nectarine tree in its new location   (4-20-18)

The nectarine tree apparently liked its new spot. Although I bought it for its pretty pink spring blossoms and not the fruit, within a couple months it had 40+ small nectarines on it:

Immature nectarines  (4-20-18)

I knew that was too many for the first year and planned to thin out some of them so the others would have more room to grow. Before I got around to doing that, the squirrels had a heyday and broke some branches while snatching the fruit. I sacrificed the fruit, tossing all of it over the fence, in order to save the tree.

When the tree is larger and the branches are stronger maybe we'll allow some of the fruit to mature -- if the squirrels don't get it all before we do! That's what happened to the peaches at our property in Virginia.

I also decided to move this 7-foot-tall Bloodgood Japanese maple tree from the back yard to the front, where it can grow bigger and be more of a focal point as it matures:

The Japanese maple tree was too far back in the yard to enjoy
and hard to see because it's about the same color as the fence.  (4-4-18)

Those were the two biggest things I relocated this year. If necessary, I'll move more things later.

My landscape plan allows for the predicted mature size of the things I planted last year, which is good because some of them, notably the Drift roses, Miss Huff hardy lantana, and Summer Snowflake viburnums, have already exceeded my expectations in their second year. All have grown taller and/or spread wider than the numbers on their tags. (I'm not complaining! I'm thrilled.)

It's a good thing I planted the Snowflake viburnums 'way in the back
because they are already 6-7 feet tall! (7-4-18)

New plants in the back yard this year include four Knockout roses, six more Drift roses, one or two more Encore azaleas, a burning bush, a small Lorapetalum Chinese fringe flower), two spidorworts in different colors than the ones I planted the first year, the peach and nectarine trees I already mentioned, and this Anna apple tree, also purchased for its flowers more than its possible fruit; it didn't get any apples this year:


The 7-foot-high apple tree is on the right, the only tree or shrub in this picture with
 leaves and flowers on it when I took this photo on March 3rd.

Although I planted six different colors of bearded iris rhizomes last fall, they didn't bloom until this year so they seemed like new plants, too.

Five are re-bloomers. I was a little disappointed in them because only one bloomed a second time. Cordoba, the one that blooms just once, out-did itself with a total of 18 flowers over a two-week span of time in May:


The only re-bloomer that lived up to its name was Pink Attraction, which bloomed in May and again in early September:


I'm hoping the bearded irises bloom better next year and multiply like rabbits because they are one of my favorite species of flowers.

All in all, it's been a very good year for plants in our yard despite an overly-rainy summer and very hot, dry six weeks in September and October. The weather put the kabosh on some of the fall leaf colors in Peachtree City this year. Although some individual trees like various species of maple are spectacular, in general the leaves were more colorful around town last fall.

Gardens are always full of surprises, some good and some not so good, like
this little snake that was in one of the bales I pine straw we bought!  (9-18-18)

On this page I've shown some updated photos of the back yard and individual plants. The next entry will show what we did from start to finish to add interest to the front yard and I'll include more photos of the different varieties of Encore azaleas we have.

Next entry:  Oh, what have I gotten myself into now???

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, Casey, and Holly-pup

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2018 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil