Terraforming the Martian Landscape

So began my gardening journey.

This is my front yard in March 2014 (iPhone 4s). It’s typical for a city lot–about thirty feet wide and eighteen feet deep. There had been decent ivy that lasted while four overgrown red-tipped photinia bushes kept the entire yard shaded most of the day. Those were cut down in 2012, and after that, the ivy started disappearing. 

The best ivy years, we discovered, were due to a water leak that went unnoticed for a long time. Apparently, that leak irrigated the ivy and kept it healthy. At least, that is what I tell myself. There is ivy in the backyard that I have tried to kill, but it grows anyway, and my neighbors across the street never water their ivy, and it looks fine. So, I suppose it’s just me. Maybe the backyard ivy bad-mouthed me around the neighborhood…

Anyway, this is the Martian landscape as it appeared when I decided to take up gardening and re-do the front yard. Why did I think anything would grow? 

Digging out the liriope was a lot of work. Fortunately, my brother handled most of it. The root balls are dense and hang on to soil for dear life. Weedkiller only made it ill; it would not die. Tip: Never plant liriope unless you intend it to be there forever—trust me. Gardening articles suggested getting rid of weeds along with any seeds hidden in the soil, so I tried killing off all weeds and seeds by burning them out by covering the space with black plastic.  

iPhone 4s

 The plastic stayed down for eight weeks. During that time, I created a map of where the sunlight fell in the yard (the yard faces north) in an attempt to see where the “full sun” area would be. Next, I created a layout and began considering plants to buy. Knowing nothing about gardening while attempting to plan an entire yard is a crazy thing to do. Of course, I know this now. 

Five growing seasons later, some things have worked, many have not. Many plants have been replaced each year as I try to determine what will work. The summer heat with unpredictable rain is the main problem. Getting the colors and textures the way I want is proving to be more difficult than expected, as well. Some of my favorite plants, like hyssop, cannot survive more than a season. Many hybrid coneflowers died off for no apparent reason. But I persevere, trying to get that impressionist vista of yellows, purples, and pinks that I imagined five years ago. All that being said, I have had enough success to keep me going.

A very dry June, 2019 (Lomography 400, Maxxum 5, 50mm, f1.7)

The garden peaks the last two weeks of May until mid-June—I live for those weeks. Despite the setbacks, I’ve managed to learn enough about gardening to make a place for plants, bugs, birds, and myself. If you want to know how we got here and what we’re up to, I have five years (and counting) of stories to tell. See you next time…

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