Sunday, April 6, 2008

If Gardens are a form of autobiography, then I'm in trouble

A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows. My backyard is full of these black-belt masters, let me tell you.

On Pioneer Woman's website recently, she talked about gardening, and it got me thinking. I should really think about gardening in my backyard...or at least making the yard look habitable!

A little history is necessary here. I grew up on a ranch...but have lived in apartments for the last ten years. So, now, having moved to north Texas, we have a house and a yard for the first time in ages, and I don't know what to do with it! We are renting, so I don't want to take on major projects...and I don't have much of a green thumb, but I'd love to learn.

So, I need your help!! Any advice or suggestions would be GREATLY appreciated. Here are lots of pictures of my backyard currently. We will start off with the palm tree (yes, I live in Texas, not Florida, weird). Is the Palm Tree supposed to look like this?

All that brown stuff doesn't look good. So, I'm guessing I need to trim the tree. The only problem with that is that if you look up close, the tree is covered in these sharp, little teeth, every bit of it:

Makes for very painful trimming, I have a feeling. Now, the only bright, pretty flowers in the back right now are the ones my son bought with his grandmother yesterday after building and painting this planter (to add to his collection) in a Home Depot Kids' Workshop (which are free, first Saturday of every month).

The other pretty site in my backyard is this big elm tree. So pretty! Ignore the balls EVERYWHERE in our backyard. They can't seem to stay in the ball basket.

Now, here is a flower bed that needs help. It is FULL of some kind of weird weed, I know not what it's called. I don't seem to speak plant. (also, more basketballs and soccer balls)

This is what the weed looks like up close...

Here is another planter around my gigantic pecan tree that used to have pretty plants that have apparently died over the winter. What should I plant in here? It only gets a few hours of sunlight a's a very shady yard.

See dead plants up close...

I have these interesting planters on the walls...what on earth do I put in them?

My mom gave us this neat bird feeder as a house-warming gift, we kept it filled with bird seed and attracted tons of birds...and a squirrel that learned to hang upside down and shake ALL the bird seed out, the little bugger. So, we didn't refill it for months...but now I am thinking I want those birds back...and even the squirrel! Plus, Annie our lab would love to try and capture that squirrel (he lives in the Pecan tree)...he's her nemisis.

Here's a reminer of what else lives in my backyard at times...Sweet Annie, so all planting needs to keep her in mind. (She's an indoor dog, but likes to make little trips outside during the day to pee and sniff the wind...and search for the squirrel.)

She thinks our garden needs she leaves copious amounts of this around:

I don't know why she feels the need to leave this on the stepping stones and not in the grass. She also likes to walk on the stepping stones (she's very dainty about getting her paws dirty).

Please help me with my backyard!! I need it. My front yard's not so bad, it looks like this:

Ok, just kidding. That's a neglected mansion in New York. hehe. I'd really like to have my front and backyard looking like this:

This picture was NOT taken by me. This gorgrous photo is courtesy of the magnificent photography of SKeller, and you should check out her blog, Short on Words, for more beautiful pictures.


Skeller said...

hehe. Funny post, Rhea.

Now, about some gardening help.... Back in NorCal we had palms like yours (btw, I think it's called a Mexican Fan Palm). Did you have a cold snap? That might account for the browned-out fronds. The good news is, that particular kind of palm is pretty dang hardy. Get some good pruners (one of those with a curved blade) and cut off all the brown fronds, as close to the trunk as possible. The more you trim this particular palm, the faster it will grow. And you want fast - so that eventually those nasty thorny things are way above kid level!!

Ideas for shady planters - azaleas, perhaps?

Warning: take my "advice" with a grain of salt. I'm currently crying crocodile tears over our poor palms in our yard. Methinks they've caught some disease - they're rapidly turning yellow to brown to black. bwaaaaah.

Irene said...

Starting with the last photo, right away I recognized the flower fields in Carlsbad. So pretty. But I was very disappointed that about a year ago driving down to that area all the new construction has totally blocked the view from the freeway that one used to have. We stopped on our way home but the fields had closed and there was this shopping center right in front of it and more building go on all around it.

I am looking at Skellers blog and it looks like she lives in So Cal. Even though I live in So Cal I know nothing about palm trees ... go figure. Another suggestion for the shady area is Impatiens. Hardy little things that can grow up nicely and love the shade. For the planters on the wall you might want to try Stag Horn Ferns, though they might be expensive, not sure.

Good luck. And by the way, your backyard looks way better than mine!

Michelle said...

Loved all the pictures. Hey thanks for the comment. You should check out the music video that I just added to my blog. My husband makes video and he made this for me, just for fun :)

Valarie Lea said...

Dont think a palm tree is supposed to look like that, so you might want to check into that. As for the planter around the tree that gets lots of shade. I highly suggest filling it with somemore dirt and then putting in impatients. They don't like a lot of sun. Actually if they get to much they wilt. My daddy used to have a greenhouse and he kept impatients under his trees and they looked absolutely wonderful. Highly suggest that.

Rhea said...

Susan - thanks for the advice! We did have a cold snap. I'm sorry to hear about your palms. We have two trees in the front yard that seem to have a disease also...the landlord may have to replace them.

Irene - Your backyard can't look worse than mine! We need to seriously scoop some poop...and deweed!

Michelle - thanks for coming by my blog. I'll check out that video. Sweet of your hubby to make one for you!

Valarie - I agree, palm trees aren't supposed to look like that. That's awesome your dad had a greenhouse!

Thanks, everyone, for coming by!

tearese said...

sorry, don't know about planting much.... apartment dwellers here too. Love Skeller's pictures, nice.

Jeff B said...

Holy mackarolly, it looks like the angel of death waved her crooked little finger over your poor yard!

The best advise I can give you is make sure you have really good soil to start with. You can buy the best plants from the most expensive nursery and if the soil is bad you will watch them die a slow agonizing death.

Nurseries are the best place to get advise on what will grow in your particular zone (a growing region)

I grew up in the desert southwest with palm trees in every yard. My advise for that one would be a gallon of gasoline and a match!

Rhea said...

Tearese - I was in the same boat until we moved over the summer. I used to dream of being able to plant things and have my own space. Skeller's pictures are incredible. Keep checking her site daily, it always lifts my spirits. :o)

Rhea said...

Jeff - the angel of death, huh? Well, that made me feel better. lol You sure have a way with words. I have a feeling our landlord may not appreciate a little backyard bonfire ala the palm tree.

I'm actually going to have my mom come over soon and give me her advice. She knows the area and what will grow and all that. She's my expert consult. But, I like getting other's advice as well. :o)

Thanks for coming by!

Lynn said...

How easily can you get to Nicholson-Hardie on Lovers Lane in Dallas, by the Tollway? They should be able to help you identify the weeds, plants, etc., and they are experts in what to plant, where. When we had our house in Irving, and the children's father was much into gardening, that's where we went for advice and plants. Redenta's is another good resource.

Barb said...

Thanks for the comment and congratulations on my blog! I am just beside myself with excitement! It's nice to meet you!

Cherrye said...

Very funny post. And, the big tree in your yard is beautiful, btw.

When I had a "flower bed" in southeast Texas, I planted lantanas and they LIVED! Despite my efforts! I vote that you plant lantanas somewhere!

CrystalChick said...

Jeff is right... good soil!
I shouldn't even be commenting as at my house the mail carrier always leaves things in the box addressed to Morticia Addams and Lily Munster so I feel for ya girl!
I do have a few hostas, green leafy things, that come back every year with varieties for both sun and shade. They are pretty hearty. Coleus and impatiens are good plants for color and seem to hold up fairly well and like shade.
I pretty much wing it after that. Hubby does a veggie garden that is fenced in so the dogs can't tear it up like they do the grass, er, I mean weeds. Good luck!

Kiera said...

I love your backyard, just the way it is. Seriously, I am imagining many a fine picture taken in the overgrown vines and broken bricks...However I understand the need to make it pretty. Good luck with that, I've never been a gardener and Im embarrassed to admit that my backyard is way worse than yours. : )

Birdie said...

Ha! This was so funny. Thanks for the laugh (I found you at Peace & Pandemonium)

Rhea said...

Lynn - It's about a 30 minute drive into Dallas. Thanks for the resources, that is super helpful!

Barb - You deserved to win, although I will still be green with envy for a long time. Thanks for coming by my blog!

Cherrye - Thanks! Our big Elm is gorgeous. The pecan tree is even bigger and just starting to sprout leaves. I can't wait until it's full of leaves. Lantanas sound nice, I'll remember that.

Crystalchick - You and Jeff are both right, and I hadn't thought about that. Soil is important, I guess. lol I did have some coleus planted back there in the fall..but I guess they died over the winter. Darnit.

Kiera - thanks! I think you're in the minority. lol I do like a little wildness in the backyard, I admit, that may be the country girl coming out in me. :o) I want to see pictures of your backyard now!!

Rhea said...

Birdie fka that girl - I'm glad I could amuse you! That's what I'm here for. hehe Thanks for coming by!

~**Dawn**~ said...

I have even less of a green thumb than you do but I am sure that your palm tree needs a trim. I am not even going to pretend I read all the other comments so if I am just repeating someone else, ignore me. I know that here in Florida they sell a special tool with a looooooooong handle that is used for sawing off the dead palm branches. No clue what it is called or where you would get one though. =P

Rhea said...

Dawn - the palm tree is definitely looking scary, I know. A special tool just for cutting palm trees? Cool!! What will they think of next?