Those are wildly overgrown compacta hollies on the left. This photo is from June and shortly after it was taken, my mom came over and literally cut the things in half. They looked so sad, but at least they weren't blocking the windows anymore. Twenty years of tenant neglect resulted in that mess.
Then, on Monday, I had the guys from the gardening center come and pull them out as well as plant my sweet Natchez crepe myrtle:
It may look small now, but in about ten years, this thing will tower 30 feet in the air, providing lovely white blossoms in the spring and much appreciated shade in the summer.
And because, in a strange intersection of circumstances, I didn't have class yesterday, I decided to get that flowerbed into shape. On Tuesday, my mom and I went to Lowes and picked out 4, 1-gallon Encore Azaleas of the "Autumn Twist" variety.
I know I had dithered here about what variety to plant, but honestly, the Twist have been my favorites since day one. And at $10 a plant (1-gallon, that is), it was hard to be the price at Lowes. So I (or rather my mom) took the plunge and whipped out the card. Our supplies totaled around $150 and I acquired:
4 Encore Azaleas in "Autumn Twist"
6 small variegated (clumping) liriope
2 "Razzle Dazzle" Crape Myrtles in "Sweetheart Dazzle" (These are going next to the shed in the back.)
6 bags of locally manufactured mulch
75 ft soaker hose
1 package of WeedFree weedblocking cloth
1 package of WeedFree clips (to hold the cloth down/in place)
I'm thinking I'll need to spend/my mom will need to spend another $50 (which, by the way, I think is fair because I'm doing the hard part and as property owner, my mom reaps all the benefits of my improvements to said property) on metal edging to keep the mulch from washing away/help keep the grass from creeping into my newly weed-free bed, but it can wait until this weekend.
Anyway, I started my little adventure by pulling up all the old bricks that had been crammed in the ground and used as edging. This was so tiring, as there were a total of 76 bricks half-buried in the dirt. Did I mention I have clay soil? It's this terrible mix of hard clay (think dried potter's clay) and dirt, so when it's dry, it's nearly impossible to get stuff out of it. Seriously back-breaking work!
The little pile I formed with my newly excavated bricks.
Each spring and each fall, my neighborhood brings in a big dumpster for people to toss all their trash that isn't picked up by the garbage collectors. That's where those bricks will be heading as soon as that dumpster arrives!
After I pulled the bricks up, I went to work pulling all the patches of grass, vines, ferns, and oak trees (?!) that had set up shop beneath and behind the compactas. This was the hardest part, especially since there were two very menacing bees that kept buzzing around me. Eventually, once the grass was gone, they left too. I had all sorts of nasty vines growing up and under my siding, so I pulled those suckers out, as well as some toxic baby pokeweeds (you know you're in the South when...). This was the hardest, least rewarding part because the beds looked worse when I'd finished than when I'd started. It took about 3 hours. Then the fun began!
I dug my holes for my new azaleas, spacing them four feet apart and two feet from the house and either end of the bed, as they have a mature circumference of 4 feet. I popped those babies in the ground and covered the whole bed with the Weed Free cloth. Cutting an X over each plant, as per the instructions, I then tucked the cloth around the base of the plants. My bed was too wide to use a single strip, so I used the Weed Free tacks to tack down a second length, overlapping the two sheets to prevent weeds from creeping through a gap.
Then I went back and planted the liriope (both the storebought and the clumps I stole from the overgrown liriope near my driveway). This was stupid of me. If you're going to try to rehab your own flowerbeds and you want to use the Weed Free cloth, be sure to plant all your plants before rolling it out and tacking it down. It makes it much much MUCH easier than having to lift and retuck over and over again.
After the plants were all in place, out came the mulch. I started with just two bags but eventually had to go back and buy 4 more to cover all the cloth so it didn't show. After that, I twirled the soaker hose around the plants and turned it on for about three hours. I would have snapped photos yesterday, but by the time it was finished, it was too dark outside. I really love my new flowerbed and think that it will look amazing in about two years. The Autumn Twist variety is supposed to be a rapid grower and a natural attraction to butterflies. I can't wait for next year, especially since the Encore Azaleas grow from spring to fall, giving me about six months of pretty flowers!
I love my little plants (please excuse the siding, which is in desperate need of replacement), and I'm slowly but surely turning this little house into a home I can be proud of!