Monday, April 13, 2009

My garden has warts

A couple of weeks ago I did a post on the public plantings on my campus, and showcased a couple of them that I liked, as well as explained why I liked them. You can read about them here.

The spaces I liked were designed by the current university landscape architect, Jason Hodges, whom I met a few years ago, shortly after he was hired. Jason is a long-time friend of the prairie and an advocate of xeric plantings, and as such, we've crossed paths on occasion over the years. Recently he contacted me about participating in a table session with him on sustainable public landscaping at an upcoming conference on a "green campus" action plan for the university.

We met and brainstormed, and during that time I mentioned to him that I was working on a blog post for VP's public planting meme and asked him if he'd like to participate by writing a guest post, giving the professional's response to the client's response to the work, so to speak, by giving us the insider's view of the "hidden considerations" in designing for public spaces. He thought it was a great idea and that response will be forthcoming.

In the meantime, we agreed to doing the table session about sustainable landscaping, and that subsequently spawned a presentation to yet another conference in the following week...ah, the joys of overcommitment.

Well, all that's coming up this week and next, and we hadn't really hammered out what we'd be presenting, so I invited Jason over to the homestead yesterday to have a little confab about it all. Naturally, as gardeners are wont to do, we talked mainly about my neglected front yard instead. And just as naturally, I talked mostly about what was wrong with it, pointing out all the bare spots where I can't seem to get anything to grow, the things that have gotten too big for their britches, and the lumpiness of of the design in general.

And then I gave him some left-over veggie starts.

Maybe it was the veggie starts triggering a sense of reciprocation on Jason's part, but lo and behold, we came up with a great idea for the presentation: we do another client need/landscaper response post, focusing on residential design for xeric/sustainable gardens, using my front yard as a case study.

Did I hit the jackpot, or what?

So without further ado, here is my front yard, with all the warts revealed:

This is the area immediately adjacent to the driveway. As you can see, there is a narrow strip between the plantings and the concrete, which is all well and good, except that we have to squeeze our bicycles through there. Since Walt and I both ride our bikes a lot (arguably even more than our cars during some parts of the year), this is really annoying. I'd like the annoyance factor to go away and to turn this into something attractive and open, over which we can roll our steeds.

This is a spot on the lawn where I've struggled to grow a buffalo grass/blue grama mix; it gets enough sun, so probably the live oak to the left has some alleopathic properties that are inhibiting growth. Maybe.

Sadly, last year I finally got some to take hold...only to have a drunken frat boy drive over it and churn it up. (He also took out part of a split rail fence to the left, for which I've been unable to find a replacement.) I've bought the stuff to re-seed it this year, but every time I think about having to start all over, I grow weary and depressed thinking about how likely it will be to fail again.

This is a little flagstone patio, on which I like to sit when the mosquitoes aren't biting. It started out fine, but it needs some sprucing up.

This bed used to host a giant, overgrown, leggy lavender. I finally took it out a couple of years ago and never got around to replacing it. Now I'd like to put some sort of nod to rainwater harvesting there, with a galvanized tank on a raised planter. Or something.

So here are my "client needs":

1) sustainability (around these parts that means "water-wise")
2) an attractive planter bed for rainwater harvesting
3) a "bike path"
4) a spruced-up patio on which to sit and jaw at the neighbors
5) it must look like a Texas cottage garden
6) it must stop passers-by in their tracks with its rustic loveliness

There you go, Jason. The challenge is on: Let's see what you've got in the way of treatment for unsightly blemishes.


  1. Wow, can't wait to see the progress on your garden rejuvenation! It's so frustrating to keep plugging away at trying to grow something that should work, finally have success and then have the DFB's do you in. In my case it's the deer and gophers. sigh...

  2. Wow, all of that for a few veggie starts? What an amazing bargain! :) I wonder how I could get someone to make my own warty garden a case study.... hm. I think you will come up with some great ideas together, and it's nice that you left it so open in terms of plant requests, just suggested growing conditions instead. Can't wait to see what transpires, "Before & After" being by far my most favorite of all gardening photos!!

  3. You did indeed hit the jackpot. I particularly like need number 6!
    Good luck with the makeover. I'm looking forward to the pictures.

  4. What a great deal, help and info all rolled into one. Good luck, I hope you just love the new ideas.

  5. What a wonderful opportunity! I'm sure you will look forward to what fresh eyes will come up with. Can't wait to see the end results!

  6. I can't wait to hear and see the results!

    And good luck with the presentation - that Sierra Club report hopefully will mean your attendees are willing to commit to changing the campus.

  7. Now how fun is this? It's the best kind of 'makeover'...


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