Last summer, we had retaining walls installed to create several landscaping beds in the front of the house and side of the garage. The beds were put in during the height of the summer heat, so we opted to wait until the Spring to plant. There was no way I was going to spend a large chunk of change on plants for them to burn in the Missouri sun. It’s like the gates of Hell around here in July.
I took the better part of a year trying to figure out what plants I wanted. I realize it sounds fairly easy, but it was a huge undertaking. I mean, it’s the front of the house. Everyone sees it and it completely sets the tone for the rest of the house. Curb appeal is everything, even if you aren’t planning on selling. Who want’s to be embarrassed when they drive up to their house? My goal was to be wow’ed every time I drove home. Nothing like setting high goals!
I’ve never taken on a landscaping project, so I opted to approach it as I do when I’m decorating a room. I feel pretty comfortable decorating the inside of a home, and I tend to know what colors and designs look good with one another. I can visualize what things will look like at the end of a project, so I can mentally see what should be put where. It drives Alex crazy. Anyway, I started by figuring out the overall feel for the landscaping. I left a piece of my heart in Nashville when I was there for school, so I knew that I wanted a ‘Southern’ feel. Afterall, we have a front porch – all that’s missing are some azaleas and a jug of sweet tea. I’m also a huge fan of color. I knew that I wanted plants with blooms to add some color to our yard. Take your boring bushes and evergreens somewhere else!
I started digging deeper into exactly what plants I wanted. And, this is where is started getting complicated. You see, there are zones based on the hardness of the soil. Plants have a certain soil condition (or hardness) that they prefer, so you should only pick plants that like the zone that you live in. It’s why you don’t see palm trees in Michigan. After learning that I was in Zone 6, I then had to figure out what plants were down with partying in Zone 6 and which of those I liked. Adding to the mix, sun exposure also has to be taken into account. Some plants are sun-loving (kind of like this lady) and some plants love the shade. Some plants are easy-going and do well with both. Plants apparently have quite a few personalities. Our house faces northeast, so our front yard has morning sun and is completely shaded after the sun goes over the top of the house. As I researched, I quickly realized that I was in over my head. I knew what I liked, but I didn’t know what would work. I needed an expert.
I found a local nursery that has been in business since the 50’s. Frisella’s Nursery is a 3rd generation, family owned business that has an awesome reputation and a massive selection. I set up an appointment with one of their experts and brought my mom along. My mom happens to be a self-taught horticulture expert. I’ve razzed her for years, but she is handy to have around in times like these. We made the trip to Frisella’s armed with pictures of my house, drawings of the beds, measurements, and a plotted path of the sun.
Our first trip to the nursery was in mid-March before the large stock of plants were in or ready to be sold. Instead of going around and looking at possible plants, we sat down with Babette (one of the owners) and her horticulture books to lay out a plan. Over the course of about an hour and a half, we discussed the types of plants that should go in each area. I can’t lie, it was exhausting and rather confusing. But, a plan was hatched.
About a month later, after the temperature warmed up and the majority of the plants were ready to put on the lot, I met with Babette again. This time, Babs and I went and tagged each plant that we would use. We have about 50 plants, so it took over 2 hours to locate everything and pick the best ones. Babette showed me what to look for and gave me advice on which to pick. Trees should have a thick trunk, some plants should be full, some plants are picked for color, etc. It was like shopping for landscaping with P. Allen Smith, but not nearly as lame. The plan was for the plants to be delivered to our house the afternoon before we plan on putting everything in.
After consulting with the calendar, we set this weekend as the date to put all the plants in. It was tricky timing. We had to do it before it got too hot, but finding a weekend that didn’t have anything planned was challenging. We opted to do it this weekend. To prep for that, we lined up my mother-in-law to come up and help with the kids. We also made several trips to Lowe’s for supplies. We needed shovels and trowels and rakes and gloves and hoses and everything else. We also needed supplies to ‘amend the soil’ (as Babs calls it). We have a high clay content in our soil, which is highly acidic. To neutralize the clay, you have to add peat moss, manure, and garden soil. We made a trip on a rainy day to Lowe’s to grab the bags of dirt. It was pouring down rain. We didn’t have another day this week to get the stuff, so I got soaking wet grabbing the bags of stuff. In my rush, I accidentally grabbed two kinds of garden soil instead of getting peat moss. We realized it once we got home, so I went back out in the rain to return the garden soil and get peat moss instead. I looked like a drowned rat when I got home. These plants better eat up this neutral dirt…