June 1, 2014
My yard is a paradise for possums, birds, coons and squirrels. And me.
I have a mulch pile in my front yard. The mulch pile is snuggled under the most beautiful magnolia tree anywhere within a few miles of my house. Its branches cover most of the front yard, making it easy to pick a big, white, lemony flower and foist it on any neighbor who has been neighborly enough to wave at the old lady with the overgrown bushes. My yard features the garage door. The rest of the house is obscured by the magnolia tree, some giant crepe myrtles and other property line overgrowth that I whack on from time to time during the summer so that it looks like it grows in a somewhat orderly manner, part of the time.
My boxwoods are trimmed like little trees rather than bushes, and as soon as the black-eyed susans start blooming in June, the shrubs have flowers, toads and lizards under them until fall. The yard is small, being the point of a pie-shaped lot.
In the big backyard at a “big backyard party” once, a guest (a farmer) said, “My god, we bush hog out most of this stuff you’re growing back here.” Wild impatiens, thorn trees, volunteer cedars, stray ferns, monkey grass, turkey vine, honeysuckle … you get the idea. Also, azaleas, forsythias, runaway daylilies, potted jungle undergrowth that spends the winter inside the house, redbuds, dogwoods and three varieties of magnolia trees under huge oaks. There are also some areas that get mowed every week in the summer. I call it grass. It is a mixture of assorted weeds, violets, wild onion, mint and a little grass too. The yard backs up to a wilderness with several small lakes and several acres for wandering around among the honking geese, hiding coyotes, and the occasional deer.
Then, there is the bamboo next to the house. I could use a panda or two among the possums and snakes. That bamboo comes up in the spring like a rude greeting. The shoots come up by the hundreds in early spring and grow three or four inches a day. I begin whacking it back and loping it off every day that I’m able. I have shaped – well, loosely shaped – some of it to look like hedges to hide some rather unpleasant terrain that showed up when I removed a rotting deck. The hedge stays green year ‘round and is the only genuine single-stalk bamboo hedge I have ever seen. It all started from one little ole bamboo shoot that I carried home to Memphis awhile back from Jackson, Mississippi. Did you know that the darn stuff doubles every year? Yes sirree, every shoot grows another shoot each year. Year two: two shoots. Year three, four shoots. If you do the arithmetic for more than twenty years, you will know that my neighbors to the west of me are in for a bamboo battle and they do not, at this time, have a clue. Probably, by the time they begin swearing over the back fence, I will have moved on, one way or another.
I am a messy gardener, as distinguished from a tidy gardener. I have the messy designation from good authority, a landscape designer who, many years ago, helped me begin this endeavor of talking to plants, hugging trees and fondling bushes.
The most often heard remark in my backyard is, “This is beautiful!”