When we moved to this house, our yard was such a mess that we had to start over. With the exception of several rose bushes, a snowball bush, the arborvitae, and an apricot tree, it’s all new.
How things looked when we moved in
Pdad and I were both completely ignorant about landscaping and plant selection. The only thing we knew for sure was that we needed expert help. We hired a consultant to come talk to us. That experience underlined the fact that we didn’t even know what we didn’t know. Well, several classes, and three additional consultations with different horticulturalist and landscape design experts later, we knew a lot more. We had some expert suggestions and sketches of what we should do.
However, I had meanwhile become obsessed with plant selection. In informing myself of what I didn’t know, I had fortunately and unfortunately developed strong preferences. Although definitely still a novice, I couldn’t but help but question every suggestion we were given. Ultimately I realized that what I really wanted was to plan which plants we would get and where we would put them myself. I didn’t want to follow someone else’s plan regardless of whether it was well or carefully done.
So here’s why Pdad is so great:
When I ultimately decided to set the experts’ counsel aside in favor of carrying out my own plans for our yard, Pdad gave me his blessing. a) This was brave. He knew what a novice I was. b) This was brave. We’d paid good money for valuable opinions and were tossing them aside. c) This was brave. He knew I was planning a design burdened under constraints he didn’t understand and/or agree with. For example, none of the local professionals we spoke with was particulary knowledgeable about or interested in waterwise gardening. By contrast, I insisted that all of our landscape plants be waterwise. This was not important to Pdad, and it was a constraint that made things a lot harder (waterwise irrigation anyone?). But he allowed me to carry out my vision. Another example of this was when I decreed that we would have no yellow flowers of any kind. Pdad saw no reason to ban yellow flowers from our premises (“Why is it we’re not doing yellow, again?). I attempted to explain how it was like poetry: by operating under artificial constraints (such as using a limited number of syllables or only certain colors in the palette) we would birth beauty through discipline. Pdad rolled his eyes at me. (I deserved it!) But then he cheerfully worked with me to accomplish my vision of a purple, and pink, and red, and blue, but never yellow, yard.
This Spring I have felt smitten by our plants every time I walk outside. I feel stunned every time I walk out the door that the Nepeta (Catmint) can look that beautiful, that the May Night Salvia pairs with it so perfectly, or that the crimson creeping thyme has become so vigorous and spread so far. Please don’t misinterpret–I don’t make this observation so that you will know what a showpiece our yard is. In retrospect, I can see that I have made some significant mistakes. I was a novice after all. So, even though the Nepeta is ravishly beautiful, I look at the garage window next to it, and realize that the spot called for something much taller –probably a bush or small tree. Eventually, I think we will be digging that gorgeous Nepeta up and planting something else–probably a purple leaf sandcherry like the experts recommended! Also, I marvel at our Red Valerian (Jupiter’s Beard), but then notice that the Rose Glow Barberry behind it is the wrong backdrop for it. The valerian’s blossoms disappear against the barberry’s red foliage. And what of the Compact Pineleaf Penstemon, the Zauschneria Arizonica, and the blanketflowers? All big failures in our yard. But Pdad seldom talks about the failures (until I bring them up). Mostly, he notices the things that look nice.
So, because Pdad helped me carry out my vision, we have wasted a lot of money and will have many additional hours of work ahead of us. But I love our yard despite all the mistakes. And I so appreciate Pdad for allowing me to play artist on such a large scale. The canvas has been expensive and the mistakes are obvious, but I don’t regret doing it myself.* This yard is mine. And I am surprised to learn that if our yard is an unfinished novel, I am eager to continue to revise and delete and add. What fun, what excitement, what suspense! I look forward to the writing of it and I am glad that Pdad will be writing it with me.
* Let me be clear: The only part of the landscaping we did ourselves was the plant selection and installation. We have had a whole lot of earthmovers, sod installers, arborists, sprinkler layers, etc. to help us in the past few years. Bless them! And bless especially the man who suggested digging out our backyard rather than filling it in. Genius! Professionals can be very worthwhile.