by Tammy Taylor~
I’ve said it before and I can’t say it enough. I love it here! I love living in the country and the small-town feel. We’ve made good friends and feel a true sense of community here. And there’s that old 1800’s Barn that just speaks to my heart! My life here is perfect in all ways except one. I struggle to get plants, trees or shrubs to live in our yard!! Apparently we built our home right in the middle of the Botanical Hole of Death.
Oh don’t get me wrong the land here is productive, lush and green. We have a tree-lined creek and many trees and shrubs in the pastures. Our fencelines are all lined with trees and grass grows lush and thick in the hay meadows. But there’s a thin ribbon of land that just doesn’t want to grow anything but sparse grass. And even that grass gives up the ghost when summer temps arrive. Yeah, we apparently planted our house in that thin Botanical Hole of Death ribbon. Lucky us!
I’ve had the soil tested, nothing seems amiss. Areas of our property can be highly erodible and some of the scarce topsoil was moved to build the pad for our home. Perhaps our fertile layer of topsoil is just too shallow now. Over 17 various shade or fruit trees in the back yard ALONE have succumbed just 12-18 months after planting. I long for the lush canopy of trees and greenery I’ve always assured we had at any place we’ve lived.
So I started looking for plants with a strong will to survive. Those plants which would grow with or without ideal circumstances. I’ve found a few winners and I continue to build on my successes. Here are a few things that have worked so far for me.
Relocating Volunteer Trees
One day I noticed a little seedling growing up next to our home’s foundation. Now I know it can’t stay there, I’ll need to pull it. But wait a minute… If it wants to live THAT badly perhaps I should relocate it to a place in the yard where I wish to have a tree. BINGO – that little seedling is still growing. It’s tripled in size since last fall so I hope to have a shade tree here some day. It’s been so successful I’ve since relocated another elm tree as well. We’ll see how well they do. I may be able to populate my entire back yard with beautiful (and FREE) shade trees!
Decorative Native Grasses
When your home is in the botanical hole of death you need to plant things that really, REALLY want to live! A sweet friend shared with me a start of something called Alamo Switchgrass. Although our ‘flower bed’ around our home is mostly planted in an edible landscape, I planted this hardy switchgrass on the west side.
It gets hot over there, enduring the west sun’s heat bouncing off the brick wall of the house. Yet the switchgrass has grown beautifully. I recently pulled some starts & planted them at the front entrance where I’d previous planted pampass grass. Although pampass grass is considered invasive in other places, it didn’t stand a chance here and died promptly. This Alamo Switchgrass will be beautiful!
An extra bonus is the fact that although I use the native grass as an ornamental grass in my landscaping, Alamo Switchgrass is also a forage plant. It’s typically not a good idea to feed your landscaping trimmings to your animals (many innocent plants are toxic to livestock) but this switchgrass is actually a forage. Any time I trim it the calves thank me profusely! Beautiful plant, tasty treat – win/win!
Vigorously-Growing Mint, Properly Contained!
And of course in this same west-facing flowerbed I’ve planted mint. Now mint is a powerhouse by itself but it can be invasive. I didn’t want it to get away from me & invade the rest of the bed. So I made a Mint Planting to confine it and make it play nice in the landscaping. It’s grown beautifully & blooms constantly! And like the switchgrass it’s completely on its own. I don’t water or pamper it in any way.
Relocating Native Flowering Plants
I’ve also been known to plant native pretties in this ‘flower bed’ of mine. We have a plant (ie: WEED) called Bitter Sneezeweed. An ugly name for a beautiful flower! It grows wild in our pastures.
It’s a inedible weed for the cows, but a beautifully-flowering workhorse in the garden. Many years I’ll transplant some from the pasture to my flowerbed. It blooms cheery yellow even during the oppressively hot summer temps of NE Texas. Even during yet another drought and no additional care from me, it blooms beautifully all season long. When I want these flowers in the beds I simply walk to the pasture and dig up another flowering plant to beautify our landscape.
I also use some standard hearty plants such as cheery yellow Daylilies and beautiful aromatic evergreen Rosemary. These tend to be fuss-free plants that love to grow no matter what.
The Rosemary is also a delicious addition as an ingredient in our favorite Beer Bread and also used in our homemade soap that we like to give as homemade gifts. Add to that the fact that it’s evergreen and it totals up to a winner. I love to be able to look out & see something green during the dreary winter months.
Bulbs Shared From Other Gardeners
Bulbs are a nice way to add beauty to your landscape. These are my grandmothers Iris bulbs and they’re absolutely beautiful. Plus, when I see their beautiful delicate blooms I smile remembering my grandma. So that’s TWO kinds of beauty in one plant – one for the eye, one for the heart!
And my mom shared with me several of her daffodil bulbs. I planted a line of them along each side of our driveway at our gate entrance. What a beautiful welcome for our guests. AND they’re the very first things to peek a little color after a long, dreary winter. I love these, thanks mom!
So there ya go, a short list of some beautiful yet very hardy plants I’ve been able to get to thrive even in our Botanical Hole Of Death. And many of these plants were FREE – either dug up from our own property or shared from the abundance of other’s gardens. Free is in our budget for sure! What are your favorite ‘Really Wants To Live’ plants to utilize in your garden?
porch rocker with a glass of cold iced tea. There are lots of good folks sharing! And you can also follow along on Pinterest, Twitter or GooglePlus.
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