Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Attack of the Daylilies

I like flowers as much as the next gal, but I would be lying if I said I really appreciated the work and effort it takes to make a yard beautiful with them before last spring. Last spring being the first spring in our new home. As the snow melted I anxiously awaited for something, ANYTHING to grow up from the earth of our smallish city lot. You might recall this photo that I posted on Facebook, with MUCH glee, last April 24th:

Coincidentally, April 24th is still two weeks out and our Rhubarb already looks like this:

In case the full impact of this difference isn't sinking in, let me just point out that the wing span of this here Rhubarb is nearly 4 feet. Dang!

I digress.

Truthfully, there wasn't a whole lot going on in the yard on the flower front. Two lovely Peony bushes in the back yard, a bombastic strawberry patch, and a row of Hastas lining the garage. Oh and this cutie, which I believe is a Loraine Sunshine Sunflower:

My mother likes to brag that she had 17 flower gardens at the house I grew up in AND all of the flowers she either got free from someone who was thinning out their flowers or that she split from her own flowers. I don't have the green thumb she has just yet but I like this idea of splitting plants that you have and making the most of what other people don't want.

So, when my buddy Dave from The Small Cities (shout out! ;-) told me he was going to be thinning out a section of overgrown daylilies from his yard, I choose to see this as a golden opportunity to add some curb appeal to our sad but getting there front yard. See, we have this little patch between the sidewalk and the road that could use some lovin'.

Why focus my attention here? I have a few reasons for this. First, we are planning to put in a lovely retaining wall in the front yard to correct an unfortunate slope issue (sorry, I don't have any pics right now) so planting anything in the front yard at this point would be futile. Also, since this patch is on the road, it tends to be a landing ground for peoples garbage. Seriously. Cigarette buts, candy wrappers, bits of paper. It's annoying. My hope is two fold, that flowers here will discourage folks from dropping their garbage on the ground in the nearby areas because its so pretty and inspiring (okay, that might be asking a little much - sadly) but also to perhaps conceal a little bit of that trash if it must exist.

First thing first, I split the flowers into small bunches so I could plant a decent spread and let the flowers grow out at their out pace. There were quite a few. (Say "Hi" to the garlic!)

Then I got down to the real back breaking part, removing the grass. (Bonus, I skipped the gym in light of this projects sweat factor.)

I actually removed the grass/planted the flowers in two phases because I started this after work and couldn't get it all done in one night. This is phase one: 2 deep, 4 wide:

This is phase two: 2 deep, 7 wide (I realize the sun make its kinda hard to see in this photo).

As it turns out, the width of this patch is more or less perfectly centered in front of our house. (Again, you are just going to have to trust me on this one because I don't have a photo for you.) I actually didn't plan that, I just used what I had and the fates worked with me. When it is all grown and flowering, it's going to add a nice bit of symmetry to the space.

When you transplant flowers, there is always a chance they won't actually flower the first year they are in. I know this to be true because last year we transplanted a ton of flowers from my mother's yard in Illinois, some flowered, some didn't. But landscaping is a long term project if there ever was one - particularly if you are going with the cost effective reuse - recycle method. There are some advantages you can give your plants though.

  1. A healthy dose of organically rich soil right around the roots. We have a compost bin in our backyard, so every time I put a plant in I scooped in a few handfuls of that compost, the flowers didn't say it out loud, but I know they were thankful. 
  2. Once all the plants are in, I sprinkled a little Miracle Grow over all of them. Yeah, Miracle Grow, don't knock it; it's not cheating. It's basically the equivalent of taking your vitamins. There are organic versions and versions that keep weeds at bay - so go on and feel good about using it.
  3. WATER. WATER. WATER. When you put the plants in, water the crap out of them. Again, leaning on the wisdom of my mother, "once you feel like you have watered them enough, keep watering." These little ladies really can't be over watered at this stage in the game. Then water again every few days until they start looking real healthy and are standing at attention like they should be.
  4. Finally, if you feel like they are looking a little droopy and sad after a week or so, I highly recommend cutting back the foliage, to just a few inches. Easier said than done when all you want are the flowers, I know. But the important thing here is that what is happening under the soil is getting a chance to take root. Everything above ground is taking energy away from what is happening below ground. Cutting back at the get-go, even when you first plant (I couldn't bare to do it on day one) is going to give your flowers the best chance of rebounding and growing up strong and healthy. 
  5. Did I mention water? Yay, water some more.
We still need to mulch this patch, but we need to mulch the whole yard, so that is it's own project for another day. 

Before I go, I wanted to give a little shout out to our Cherry Blossom Tree in the front yard. It's starting to cherry blossom all over the place. And it's SOOO pretty!!

Also, if you live in St. Paul I know of at least one plant exchange you might be interested, brought to you by the West Side Community Organization. They are awesome. What up, West Side!?!?

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