Say Hello to My [Bushy] Little Friends

Posted on December 15, 2011. Filed under: Gardening, Home, Purdy Things |

Um. I’m a bad blogger. I don’t have many before pictures. And I’m not quite sure we’re ready for the afters, but my little friends are producing big blooms and they cannot be ignored.

There were weekends of yard work at our house September through November. Why every weekend? Check this out:

That is a lot of leaves, my friend. And that is only a fraction of the leaves in the backyard. Oy vey!

Sometime in there I decided I would focus on this sore spot:

This area in our backyard was pathetic. It had 2 deadly rosebushes with thorns as long as my big toe. There was an annoying fencing thing-a-jig (technical gardening word, people) that caused a small cliff. Then there was a random assortment of rocks and those ugly catawampus boards trying to be a border. The dangerous roses weren’t even blooming this fall. I don’t know how to take care of roses. Honestly, I’ve never tried. I have heard from wise women like my mother and grandmother that they are very high maintenance. That doesn’t sound like fun.  And considering that they were extremely spike-a-licious, meant that they HAD.TO.GO.

Because there was no ground cover here, and those stupid boards were a barrier, all the rain water that comes around the side of the house would pool in one spot, bringing a ton of debris and pine straw with it. See that pile? Tres chic.

I clipped down the rose bushes, piling the thorny branches up for compost and began to dig out the root balls. Funny story: as I was literally jumping on the spade to get it under the root ball, I lost my balance and fell backward into – you guessed it – the pile of rose thorns. OWWWWEEEE! Luckily I had pretty rugged jeans on so it didn’t hurt as bad as it could. It was a total Wiley Coyote moment, though. Thank goodness no one was around to see it. I laughed at myself for a while.

After I got rid of the rose bushes, I tugged on the fence thing and it came right up. The boards and the rocks were a little more labor intensive. The boards actually had rebar in them securing them to the ground. I used a stiff rake and a shovel to level out the slope. I also made trips to the back of the lot with the wheel barrow to transfer dirt to help with the grading. This took a while and we finally came to the conclusion that we should buy some bags of dirt. Dirt is cheap. Regular visits to the chiropractor are not.

The day before, I went to Lowe’s and Pike’s Nurseries looking for red blooming camellias. Pikes had what I needed and they have a lifetime guarantee on their plants. I bought 2 Yuletide camellias in the smaller size. They were $30 total compared to $100 for 2 camellias in the larger size. I figured the small ones will grow and we don’t have to have mature plants on the back of our house.

Why did I pick camellias? I’ve always loved them. My mom has a beautiful camellia on the back of my parents’ house and it thrives there. We needed some foundation shrubs in the back and I wanted something that would bloom in the dead of winter. They are evergreens and fairly easy to grow.

I planted the Camellias according to the instructions and added a little of my own (via my mother):

  1. Dig a hole 3 times as wide as the root ball and to a depth where the top of the root ball will be exposed
  2. Set the camellia down in the hole
  3. Fill with water and let it drain and get sucked up by the camellia (This was advice from my mother. It ensures that the plant gets plenty of water right away)
  4. Back fill hole with a combination of organic camellia soil and home soil (your own dirt).
  5. Make a shallow trough around the root ball in the dirt so water won’t collect at the trunk
  6. Scatter wood chips on the top of the soil, but keep away from the trunk. The wood chips help keep the soil moist and cool.
  7. Water again

After I planted the camellias, we spread out the new dirt we got to level out the slope even more. Adam seeded it for grass a few weeks later, I made sure my camellias were tended to, and voila (after 8 weeks of grass-growing, but who’s counting?):

Of course the camellias are still very small. They’ll start to really grow this spring and summer. We will need to seed the grass again come spring and probably in the fall too. This area had no grass before, so we figure it will take a few times of seeding and fertilizing. (Hopefully we’ll get it where we want it in the next year or so.) We’d like to seed some grass a little further up the slope where you see that bare spot between grass and fallen leaves. There is straw on the ground to protect the young shoots since the water runoff comes around this side of the house. We also discovered that the grass did a lot better where we laid down new soil. So we plan to add new soil in the spring to the barren areas to stimulate growth. Don’t mind the AC unit. I am hoping it won’t look so huge once the camellias mature and balance it out back there. No problems with water run-off and debris piles yet and we’ve had some downpours.

The grass is fescue for all those interested. You can buy fescue sod; it’s a relatively new product. But it costs this crazy number with 3 zeroes on the end. Seed costs for our size yard were less than $100, partly because we over-seeded. We decided to try the cheap way first and it’s working out pretty well.

You may have noticed something different about this area as well:

Before… in the summer. Look at all those leaves!

Before

After

After

After

Yep, the playground is gone. It’s been gone for a while now. We took it down with the help of a friend and Craigslisted it for free as long as they came and hauled it off. Someone came the very next day. The grass is growing pretty well where it used to be. We’re excited about that!

That’s a very big oak tree in the middle of the backyard. We’re thinking about having it removed since it’s placement is a little odd and it gives the only flat area in the back too much shade. We’d like to have an edible garden. Removing a tree that large will cost a couple of thousand dollars. So it’s a decision we need to think about. If we do decide to remove it, we will plant 2 little trees somewhere in the yard to appease Mother Nature – and county law.

I’m pretty excited about my bright red flowers just in time for the holiday season.

I can’t wait until these camellias are 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide, producing hundreds of blooms!

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2 Responses to “Say Hello to My [Bushy] Little Friends”

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[…] • October – celebrated our 1 year anniversary in the Smokey Mountains. I went to Nashville with my sorority sisters, visited my brother while I was there and helped him propose to his fiancée. I started working from home 1 day per week, we kept doing lots of yard work […]

[…] did yard work. I made throw pillows. I made a table runner and a wreath. We went on an anniversary trip. I […]


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