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,
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.
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
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
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
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
WHAT ELSE IS NEW?
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:
Nectarine tree in its new location
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
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???
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
Cody, Casey, and Holly-pup
© 2018 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil