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Good To See You!

by germinatrix | April 20th, 2010

this is what spring looks like in my front yard


It’s been a while, right?

Spring is a VERY busy time for gardeners, and for those of us who also make gardens for others, it can be CRAZY! But an invigorating sort of crazy – not a ‘pull-your-hair-out’ kind of crazy. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to be as bloggy as I like to be, and for that I hope you’ll all forgive me!

So there’s something else you haven’t seen in a while, and that is my front yard. “Hmmm”, you might be saying to yourself – “I could swear there have been photos of the front yard on the blog this past year…”. Well, yes – but they’ve been from previous years. Last year my garden suffered two devastations – the summer’s rampaging gopher  was one, but the most awful was my garden janitor’s misinterpretation of some simple directions I gave him. I asked him to remove some ivy from the ground; I have ivy climbing on the front of my house and it was taking over too much garden space. I gave him specific instructions, in Spanish. He removed ALL of the groundcovers in the garden and limbed up my agaves. I was devastated.

I think he was just so eager to cut (I NEVER allow him to touch my plants, only rake and weed) that he went bezerk. I couldn’t take any photos of my front yard for a very long time. I spent all last summer re-planting, re-thinking, and recovering. I was SO sad. My lush curbside garden, with all of its agaves, grasses, phormiums, and euphorbias has always been such a source of pride. Seeing it bare and awkward was startling and painful. I used to spend every morning in my front yard, saying hello to my plant-friends and taking everything in. Last summer I avoided it and let my back yard aloe haven be my favorite place. But it’s a new season, and I’m taking a peek out front and liking what I see.

hello there front yard - how nice you look today!

One of my favorite additions is the Bulbine latifolia – the yellow bloomspikes gently curve in a beguiling way, and the plant doesn’t look like a bulbine, but  like an aloe masquerading as a bulbine. It looks wonderful with the Phormium ‘Tom Thumbs’ and the Euphorbia ‘Blackbird’s that I have scattered around. I’m still missing my giant sweeps of Erigeron karvinskianus – but I’ve happily replaced my puddles of Senecio serpens with different varieties of purple basil. I’m excited to go back to my gothic roots while fitting more edibles into an ornamental setting!

the cotinus is extra dark and beautiful this year...

Looking back, I see that what happened was just an important part of the garden experience. Things go wrong. Varmints attack your favorite artichokes, Winter freezes melt your Agave attenuatas, helpers misunderstand directions and run amok. The spirit of a gardener isn’t about sulking and whining; it is about going back out and doing it better than before. It’s not seeing the disaster, but the opportunity. It took me a little while, but now I’m excited about the new direction my front yard is taking. It isn’t as “macho” – there is definitely a softer side emerging, with more flowers (gasp!) thrown into the mix. I’m pleased – I feel like this is going to work out nicely.

And I seriously pity the gopher who dares even THINK about my garden!

pretty, again.

XOXOThe Germinatrix

23 Responses to “Good To See You!”

  1. You are kinda ridiculous. In a good way. I’m saying that to your front yard…

  2. Well, welcome back! Your front yard is uniquely gorgeous, especially with the combos of this and that. I was gutted to read about the overly-ambitious clean-up. But, it looks fabulous now. I especially like how the first photo looks JUST like your header illustration — life mimics art!

  3. Nature Assassin says:

    Holy crap! That is the most beautiful front yard I have ever seen! If that is what spring looks like in the southwest, I am moving post-haste. Not that a Midwestern spring isn’t glorious, of course, but the colors you’re growing are blowing my tiny mind. And I can’t get over your A. mediopicta… what a gem. I would express condolences for last year’s maurading, but clearly you’ve already recreated your piece of paradise. Nice work, more photos!

    As a houseplanter, I’ve got to respect my gothic roots as well… covertly, of course :) Gynura aurantica really does it for me.

  4. I remember you mentioning the ambitious (ambivalent?) worker but I had no idea how bad it was! Your positive attitude is to be commended. And the current version of the front garden is pretty amazing! Of course I had to immediately look up Bulbine latifolia, only to find out it’s (tragically) a Zone 9 plant. What does the pink/red bloom spike in the first photo belong to? A Beschorneria?

  5. Roses??? Shocking! :-) I love the white Rugosa with the Variegated Agave, quite elegant, my dear!!

  6. I have a weakness for roses and agaves, so I LOVE that last image, Germi. Like Loree, I had no idea how badly your front garden was scalped last year. I would have cried. I can’t imagine what you must have said to him afterward, or did you even try?

    Can anything be done to salvage agaves that have been limbed up? A big variegated A. americana in my old garden was limbed up recently by our renters. I could only stare at it mutely.

    Your garden does look softer than it used to. I loved it before, and I love its new look too. Change is good!

  7. Hi, Germi — I had a gardener run amok in my garden right before a tour. Cut everything back to the line of the pathways. Shaved a juniper so you could see the ugly limbs inside. Coulda killed him. Yours looks lovely now. “It’ll grow back” say hairdressers to unhappy clients, and that’s true of plants, too. Am curious about the “limbed” agave—was it pineappled? Or (unholy thought) the leaves were trimmed halfway?

  8. He did not misunderstand your directions (trust me, I can tell you from decades of collective experience in the Caribbean and Latin America). He did not care for your directions, his directions as far as he was concerned, was to make the plants/garden look the way plants/gardens are supposed to look ( his version).

    We gardeners in the Caribbean who do not like the hedged, cupcake, pineapple agave or other “groomed’ look know to never, ever let one of these guys near your plants with a machete, hoe, weed whacker or clippers unless your eyes are trained on them, 100% of the time. And they can hear you shout. Especially “DO NOT CHOP THAT PLANT”.

    The new front yard is coming along nicely. With the price of plants on my island, I would have cried.

  9. Lovely pic.. and awesome banner pic, too!

  10. Love the contrast of textures! I love succulents but I always see them used in sterile, regimented, minimalist gardens. I am not a minimalist… Your happy tangle is something I can aspire to.

    I am also definitely not macho… so don’t feel bad for liking a flower once in a while, they look great and give your garden a little change during bloom time, and when they’re not blooming, there’s so much else going on no one will ever notice.

    What’s the pink sticky-looking bloom stalk at the back of the first photo? I’m pretty sure I need one, even though I have absolutely no room for it anywhere.

  11. P.S. Slap that landscaper!

  12. so so lovely, but that cotinus especially makes me swoon!

    i don’t know what has happened to me recently, but i’m starting to like flowers (gasp!). i know, a larch who doesn’t like flowers? i’ve always been more into the structured architectural plants… not even much into color, but i’m softening up in my old age i guess :) it sounds like your garden is softening up too, and in a lovely way….

  13. OMG! I thought my new neighbor’s dog trampling a section of my garden was traumatic, but it’s nothing compared to yours. It’s looking great!

  14. Hi G.

    Your garden looks amazing! Wow!
    The top picture looks remarkably similar to your banner! Are you copying your banner G :-) You are aren’t you!

    Such an abundance of different kinds of plants, it just works!
    I really like that Bulbine latifolia, it looks great weaving its way through the agaves. I do not think I have seen that in Austin, (the latifolia not the weaving that is).

    I lost all my true bubines this winter.

    Q. What are the red “bottlebush” looking things on the right?

    Great pictures and welcome back.


  15. James -you are RIGHT – my front yard IS kinda ridiculous … I take that as a total compliment. And if you kinda meant that for me, too – I STILL take it as a compliment!!! XO!

    Blake! I didn’t realize how much the first photo looked like the header until you pointed it out! WEIRD! I drew that straight out of my head w/o looking at any pictures – as kind of a dream garden – and whaddaya know? My dream garden IS my garden! Hahaha!
    Thanks for the head’s up!

    Wow Nature Assassin (that is a name to make my heart go pitter-pat!), thanks for the extreme compliment! My A. mediopicta alba takes a little bow for you…
    We Goth Gardeners have to stick to a tight palette – yours in darkness…

    Loree! Yes! It is a Beschorneria yuccoides! It’s so amazing – I’ve had the mother plant in place for about 6 years, and now I usually get a bloom every year. This years is a small bloom – one year I had the monster blossom from Little Shop of Horrors!
    Oh – Bulbine latifolia… Loree! You need a summer house down HERE!!!

    Dearest Christina! I am so glad you like that combo – it is one of my favorites, and I can’t believe it because it’s pretty understated for me! There is an Aeonium Zwartkopf right below the rose that I couldn’t get in the shot – but that completes the association for me. That wouls look great in one of your containers, wouldn’t it? Maybe with a drippy Ipomea “Ace of Spades” or “Blackie”?

    Oh Pam – I can’t BELIEVE your renters touched your PLANTS!!! How DARE! And they did the worst thing … sigh – some agaves like attenuatas can be planted lower, so the cut leaves can become rooting points below ground – but that is only on agaves that attenuate, and most don’t. Sadly, my only solution is to let bushier things grow below them to hide the sad, awkward leaf scars. BOO! Eventually, they do look better. My Mediopicta albas are reaching towards the ground again – THANK GOODNESS!

    Debra WHY do they DO this to us? Mine pineappled them – they looked like bart simpson! And yours did it before a TOUR? GASP! How could you sleep away from your garden? I know what torture it is. My sharp, spiky heart is with you!

    Oh Nicole – you are SO right. He didn’t have any intention of following my instructions once I left him alone. He just did what he thought was right (I actually feel lucky he didn’t chop the leaves of my phormiums in half!). So I’ve learned my lesson I told him that if he does anything like that again, I will dock his pay. Is that mean? It seems to have worked – he now weeds with the keen eye of a surgeon – avoiding all my important seedlings. I should have done this docking of the pay thing LONG ago!

    Thank you Dirty Girl! My banner is going to change soon – I’m going to draw another one in about 2 months – and I’m having a giveaway of the original!

    Oh, Summer, show me a minimalist planter and I will show you someone I will have no truck with! I want complicated, messy, beautiful gardens, where plants TOUCH each other! I do tend towards being a flower snubber – I only like little flowers for pollination and bird food – but I’m loosening up, thanks in large part to Pam from Digging! Her gardens have been a great mix of flower and architecture – so I started adding more in. Good timing – just when I REALLY needed some beauty!
    You spied the Beschorneria yuccoides, too – and if you spied it – you NEED it!

    - and while he is not slapped, he is now a better garden janitor!

    Oh, Vanessa, YES – That Continus ‘ Purple Robe’ is just the living end. The leaves are bigger and darker if you cut the shrub back at the end of the season. You sacrifice next seasons flowers – but it is SO worth it for the brooding foliage! LOVE!
    I think lots of us are responding to flowers lately. It’s not a time to turn our noses up to beauty – so I’ll take what I can get! Thank you for the nice words about my front garden – she appreciates it!

  16. Oops – Megan – I missed you and ESP in my answer! If a big dog trampled my garden I would be a huge baby about it. Actually, I’m a big baby about EVERYTHING associated with my garden! One day I’ll be a grown-up!

    Leave it to you, Dear Friend ESP, to spot my prized Grevillea ‘Robyn Gordon’ – I love that plant with a PASSION! I’ll bet you could grow it in Austin! I’d LOVE to see what you do with it! The flowers are a shrimp married a toothbrush and had babies. Who wouldn’t want THAT?
    …And I SWEAR I wasn’t copying my header while planting – nor was I thinking about my garden (consciously, at least) while I was drawing the header picture! It is just one of those things – my dream is MANIFESTING! Now I hope the part where the Borg Cube lands in my back yard and assimilates my dog Dexter and he gets satellite dishes for ears gets left out of the next dream manifestation…
    Must visit The Patch soon – need to catch up with the antics going on there!
    Busy G!

  17. Elizabeth Murray said it best with: Gardening is the art that uses flowers and plants as paint, and the soil and sky as canvas.

  18. Ooooooh what a neato plant. But it is strap-leaved, the cats will destroy it. (They’ll even bite my agave.) Maybe I can find one to foist on my mom… that’s what I usually do when it doesn’t work for me…

  19. Your front yard is such an inspiration! I will get there one day! First…how to ditch the lawn?

  20. Did you take pics of the carnage? You can always do a post on ‘what not to do with your desert plants’

    And, nice piece of work in this month’s Sunset. I was craving those canna lilies even before I saw that it was your composition. Yay for publications!

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