Sunday, April 19, 2009

Growing a green thumb, one spring at a time

DH and I have been attempting to spruce up our "curb appeal" since we moved into our house two years ago. The former home owners focused on the inside of the house (stripping wallpaper, installing hardwood floors, etc.) but neglected the exterior of the home. We have about a half acre so there is a lot that can be and needs to be done. The front of the house is very different from the back. We've done a bit more in the front so this post will focus on that. I will attempt to include the names of all plantings for any other gardeners in the southeast.

The Home Depot Expo was going out of business in Charlotte so I picked up two containers for less than $40 each for the front door. My mom planted the annuals in here and they all take lots of sun. The plants are Red Fountain Grass, Purple Queen, Petunias and Blue Lobelia.

My main goal in selecting plants for the front yard is to find plants that bloom primarily in the spring and summer. I haven't focused yet on adding autumn color but I'm sure that will come in time. I also tend to select perennials for their lower maintenance. My mother is a big believer in adding pops of color through annuals and I will do that as well once the perennials are more established. The biggest challenge is that a significant portion of our yard has clay soil. For anyone who hasn't had to deal with clay soil, you are very lucky. The only way to get rid of it is slowly amend it with peat moss and compost as plantings are placed. Even then more plants die than they should because of the thickness of the clay. I lost about 12 perennials last year because of it. And FYI, Home Depot does not always refund your money. So keep that in mind!

This bed is to the left of our driveway and because it is a raised bed it is a great spot for plantings. The back border features bearded irises. They are actually irises that my mom gave me that she got from her grandmother. Pretty cool, no? A few bloomed last year but it usually takes until the second year for them to bloom. I've seen yellow and purple blooms so far. There are some marigolds tucked in along with creeping jenny, echinacea flowers, a blooming bush and some other bulbs. The back bushes are rhododendrons and they flowered amazingly this year. We actually got a lot of rain this winter which explains why the blooms were so great.

This small area is to the right of the house and gets a lot of sun. As a result it has some liriope (make sure and cut that almost all the way back every February), balloon flowers and a clematis. We are particularly excited about the clematis because it will grow up the bird house and can be 4 feet high and wide.
The first project we did was to line the end of the big bed in the front yard with stones. It really helped add definition to the space and keep the mulch from running off (it's a small hill) during rain storms. It was a huge project for us and took an entire weekend in 80+ degree weather. I sweat my ass off but it was a great bonding experience for me and DH. Except when we kept running into old tree roots. Very big old tree roots. Thank goodness for the reciprocating saw!

There is a Japenese maple in the center of the bed. Also featured is an eldeberry bush and some liriope around the edges. Last year I planted some dianthus which is still doing well and primrose which is really starting to spread. New spreading plantings this season include creeping jenny (in the back) and creeping phlox.

This last area is just to the right of the big bed and we planted some guara in the back and tickseed in the front. I'm a bit worried that this area may not get enough sun for these plants so I'll have to keep an eye on them and move them if needed.

What other plants should I be considering? We also get a ton of shade in the backyard so suggestions about shade plants are also welcome.


Susan said...

Wow, it all looks beautiful. When we moved in, our exterior was awful, just awful and it has taken me a few years but it is getting there. I enjoy working outside. You have a huge jump on weather from us here in MI. It is getting nicer but we can't plant annuals for awhile yet and be safe ;)

Gretchen said...

I'd recommend hostas for the shade areas - they come in crazy varieties (some with lime green, red, purple, and some that actually flower). I have some beds that are shaded by my house and a large tree and the hostas look great.

It looks fantastic, though. Good job!