Remodeling a house and a yard can often feel like a mirror for everything else that goes on in my life. I subtract to then add, fill up too much and purge, clean up, neglect, scramble, underestimate, second-guess, and conquer. I fight my instincts. I follow them. And in the end, the house creeps toward a goal and a future I can only see the fuzzy edges of, but I know it’s there.
I find I reflect most on these things when I’m out gardening. What I find strangest of all is that I’ve somehow become the sort of person who could even use a sentence like that — when not long ago, less than maybe five years? — the very idea of having anything growing and thriving like this would have made me laugh in denial. And now?
To be honest, the gardenia garden beds have had a lot of ups and downs. After first creating the raised beds and finding a proper way to mulch, they’ve stayed relatively weed-free, despite my lack of hands-on upkeep (save for clipping down the occasional bamboo shoot — which again, please, never ever grow bamboo! Your neighbors will be forever grateful and your fence won’t get destroyed like you see in these pictures).
Just a few short months ago, before the grass really started to take hold, the yard looked patchy, and the gardenia beds did, too. The neighborhood dude I’d hired to occasionally mow my yard had piled huge mounds of dirt into the beds, which smothered some of the roots and they didn’t make it (believe me, I was irritated… I had asked him to distribute a remaining small pile of dirt from the big leveling project out into the back yard where he found low spots, and he instead decided to just dump them into my raised garden beds, but in a way where the foliage kind of hid the piles until some of them started to die off until I found them this spring
). Luckily, I was able to save a few, was able to replace the ones that died (most nurseries carry 1-year guarantees if you have a receipt, so I just took the dead ones back), and moved them around so that there are 4 plants per bed, totalling 12 instead of the original 9.
This means that some of the plants have grown in healthy while others are still just getting established, but it’s better than sickly twigs and zero blooms. And the new grass is really making the whole yard look incredibly healthy. It’s like a lush, green carpet. But wet.
Because some of them are root-damaged or otherwise limping along, I decided that this year will be another year of neglect for the entire gardenia bed (except for a good weeding and mulching), to allow them to get re-established and grow a little bigger before I trim them back. When blooming season is over (these are called “August Beauty” — affiliate link — so they are meant to re-bloom all summer), I’ll do some pruning and get things looking less scraggly.
Ultimately, they should grow as tall as the fence line, giving it some much-needed camouflage for my yard’s overall aesthetics. I’m thinking of also adding a small strip of crushed stone just in front of the beds, to make it look like an even crisper division between the grass and beds and tie in the crushed stone I’m adding to the new hydrangea corner garden (more on that in a future update, of course!).
It may not be perfect. It may be right up against something else I find ugly and have very little control to do anything about (neighbor’s fences are like that, unfortunately). But after all that hard work, trial and error, I really did seem to make something better. And the intoxicating smell of these gorgeous white flowers will soon be part of my interior, too — I can’t wait to clip off some of the blooming stems and make the first “this all came out of my own garden!” bouquet!