The Oak House Garden 2023-Notes and Plans

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Going on the Midtown Garden Stroll last week was such a treat and such a treasure trove of garden ideas. If you haven't seen the gardens, you can click to see Part 1 and Part 2.  One thing I left with was a much deeper appreciation for azaleas.  I inherited quite a few when we moved here.  I really wanted to rip them all out and plant hydrangeas.  In fact, I did take out the ones in my front garden...kinda regretting that now.  But so glad I didn't take out the others--for two reasons.  One, the existing ones look a lot better with a bit of TLC, and two, the deer would have chewed the hydrangeas to nubs.

April 2023 | Pre-Pine Straw

These are more azaleas from the back of our property.   All gifts from the previous homeowner!

Look at these same shrubs back in 2017 (pre-sod!) much bigger now.

I think when you garden, getting it right is something that takes time.  You learn over the years what works in your light, your soil, and with your wildlife(hehe!).  Some things die, some things have to be moved, and some things have to be reimagined.  It takes patience, which I don't always have, and trial and error.  

Honestly, I've been a little, no very, irritated about my garden this year.  I was sick a good portion of the early part of the year, so spring cleaning was delayed and took way longer than usual.  I lost plants in The Artic Freeze, in fact there's still a few half-dead Pittisporum I need to take out.  I needed to transplant lots of plants.  Weedy, choking vines had overrun large sections of my garden even suffocating two of my snowball bushes.  And I couldn't seem to get pine straw laid for the life of me. 

However, literally as I was writing this post over the week, I finally got my pinestraw!  And now everything seems alright in the garden.  It never ceases to amaze me how that fresh straw elevates everything.   I fought weeds and seedlings all spring trying to prep.  Some are still under the pinestraw, but it's  like a fresh coat of paint for the garden.   Below is literally day one on the mulch, so it still needs a good rain to settle it down.

I'm always studying my own garden and trying to learn from a variety of other gardens and gardeners.  
Below are some of the things I've learned and want to apply:

Notes from the Gram

Jess @youcandoitgardening is of my favorites! She walks you thru doing so many tasks in caring for your garden from pruning to dividing plants, reshaping beds, and transplanting.  I would almost describe her as a Garden Surgeon.  I could never imagine cutting into someone and taking something out.  But we need surgeons, right?  We need their skill and whatever quality they have that allows them to stomach that.  With plants, sometimes I can be too 'precious' about 'oh, I don't want to break a stem'.  But not Jess, she just matter-of-factly gets in there and divides, prunes, and transplants them with a confidence that plants are far more resilient than we give them credit for and that they can take it and will heal and thrive.  One of my favorite videos of hers is How to Save Money on Plants, her ruthless division made me chuckle!  I'm linking to her website You Can Do It Gardening here as well.

Another of my favorites is Mary Beth @mcdaniella.This post  gave me the answer to what I felt has been missing from my garden.  Winter structure!  In the winter, the deciduous trees and shrubs are bare.  The left side of my yard didn't have any significant evergreens.  And the four little shrubs I had planted were killed in the Artic Freeze.  So I've really been trying to re-imagine how to achieve winter interest that flows around the entire garden perimeter.  Her account has so many beautiful pictures of her garden that looks beautiful year round.

Other lessons:

Plant in large swaths and sweeps and clumps for impact.  
I have to take into account the scale of my garden.  Planting 2 or 3 plants plants or flower in a row will not have impact in a large yard.  Especially viewing it form the deck or street.  Clustering or sweeping sections of the same plant will give it more presence.

PRUNE the azaelas!
Azaleas, I think, by nature can get a bit leggy.  I'm imagining pruning will encourage branching and a fuller plant structure.  I am such a hesitant pruner and I do appreciate a more relaxed/natural garden aesthetic, but the azaleas I saw on the garden stroll are encouraging me to prune.

Amend the soil, not just the hole.  
I think a lot of my plants aren't thriving because they are surrounded by hard clay beyond the initial planting hole.  

Harvest more native georgia stone from my personal rock quarry
I think I sort of forgot how many rocks were in the back section of my yard, lol, but I want to get more of them out of there and use them for lining and extending the pathways, etc. I saw lots of stone lined pathways on the garden tour this past weekend, so I feel like I'm on the right track.

(New stone harvested from my 'quarry'; love the color!)

This area is what I call the 'back woods' of the yard.  I've been rearranging it over the past 5 years, but I like where it's headed.

(My first rock pathway; created in 2018)

Strategic fencing
I'm debating the use of 'strategic fencing' to create more privacy for the garden, since I'm on a corner lot.  Instead of doing one long fence down the side of the yard, I'm considering installing sections of fence up against existing natural shrub fencing to create screening and keep out deer, and to preserve the natural beauty of the side yard. 

Notes to self
I need to pretreat the weeds in my wooded area in Jan/Feb next year, because they takeover and create so much work to pull out.  Every year I tell myself I'm going to do this, and then forget.  

Outside of these things, I have grass that has struggled because of shade and perhaps soil quality.  I did have the trees limbed up quite a bit two years ago, but may try to re-sod one more time before giving up.  I put down grass seed last year, but it did not fill in.

I got my first Rhodies this year and am looking forward to seeing them grow over the years.

Of course garden work is never finished, but it's oh so enjoyable when everything is alive and you have fresh mulch and it's not to hot.  Ok that's all, I hope you get to get outside and enjoy a bit of nature wherever you are!

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