Gardening : Some Triumphs and Some Tragedies

September 19, 2011 07:29 by ehouston

My outdoor “To-Do” list is off the charts right now. I was hoping for a little more warm weather before having to trudge around the yard, cleaning up all the gardening and other messes.  I guess I should be happy that I won’t be baking in the sun while straightening out this space before winter sets in.  Not only did I put together a small veggie patch this past spring, but I also toiled away at planting 16, yep, 16 Leyland Cypress trees around the property.  We have a fairly wooded lot, especially for a neighborhood.  We have wooded sections on either side, out back along our fence line and out front in between the ends of our circle drive.  We love having this added privacy, especially since we live on the main road into the neighborhood.  These wooded areas consist mainly of large and small deciduous trees, mostly of the oak variety.  Interspersed among these trees are several regular long needle pines, cedars, and many mature Leyland Cypress trees.  We also have a couple of dogwood trees and crepe myrtles in key areas for color and bloom.  The rest of the yard pretty much has small, very neglected boxwoods, azaleas, iris plants and lilies.  The previous owners clearly had some initial landscaping completed and then proceeded to do nothing going forward.  While we loved the idea of having all this space and “stuff” to work with, we did not have a very good understanding of the time and/or budget commitment our yard would take up.  So, we have proceeded with caution on both fronts when it comes to changing and maintaining the grounds of our home. 

Late last summer and early this spring we had a sudden decent in the ranks of the Leyland Cypress trees.  Here are some pictures of our backyard from early this year.  You can see the trees we lost are almost completely brown when I took these shots and since the leaves are off the other trees you can also see the views we want to block.


View to the left.


View straight toward the middle.


View toward the right.

We lost four very large Leylands out back and a huge, story and a half sized tree from the front yard. This was really quite devastating to us because to truly replace what we lost would be in the several thousand dollar range and would require bringing in large equipment. Neither bringing in the heavy equipment to make the fix, or living without the privacy the bushy trees yielded, was an option for us. So, as soon as the sale papers arrived touting the 4 to 5 foot Leylands on sale for $16.99 I jumped at the opportunity to get some screening going ASAP!


View toward the side yard, before.

After walking the yard several times we decided 12 trees would do the trick to start. I actually began the monumental task of all this planting by adding two trees to our side yard to begin the buffer between us and the neighbors.


View toward side yard, after.


Closer view of the side yard trees through the fence.  They actually grew a good foot taller and wider just this summer.

We love these neighbors and they are good friends, but we don’t enjoy looking onto their deck and screened porch while sitting out on our deck in the evenings. Plus, the sounds from passing cars out front seem to be amplified as they come into the backyard in between our houses. We figured two fast growing, bushy evergreens would cut both the view and noise in half within the next couple of years.

Then I planted the other 10 along the back fence and in the empty spots from their fallen comrades. Before I even finished the planting, which took a couple of weeks of afternoon naptimes, we realized we needed at least 6 more to fill in all the gaps everywhere else. And, those last 6 took another couple of weeks to get into the ground because I was just flat, exhausted!


View of the left side after removing the large dead Leyland and planting three along the back fence.


A little bit closer shot of the plantings and part of the view we want to block.  That’s our left side backdoor neighbor’s garage, driveway and back of their house.  They also have a shed with a HUGE pile of yard waste behind it.  They don’t see it, but we do.


View of the middle section of the backyard, including the back of the left side neighbor’s shed and massive stick pile.  You can also see some of the dead new trees in this shot.


View of the right side after removing the dead tree from the front of the bed and planting two trees along the back of the fence.


Here is a close up of one of those newly planted trees on the way to tree heaven.

Now, with the weather changing we need to get out and do that last minute clean up before we start being pummeled by the falling leaves. And, before winter really sets in. We were also considering adding some other trees and bushes to our yard to help round out the landscaping, add more privacy and some interest. While doing our research on new and different varieties we have discovered that we should not have replaced the fallen Leylands with more Leylands. Apparently there is a disease in VA that is killing them all- great! We have also noticed that several already appear to be succumbing to that disease- Double Great!

This week I have added, “remove the dead and dying Leylands” to the “To-Do” list along with purchase and plant some new stuff. Luckily I still have my receipts from Lowe’s, and luckily they have that lovely 1 year warranty for plants. Thank God! Now, it’s on to Camelias, Stevens Hollies, Skip Laurels, Accubas, Wax Myrtles…anything that will grow in mostly shade and not keel over on us within 6 months. While I am not looking forward to all this hard yard work, I am excited to see some new things out back and hopefully lose the view of my neighbor’s discarded stick pile!

So, what are you guys focusing on in your yards right now? Planting or just removing the spent stuff?

Kitsch Krafts

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Crazy Neighbors And Mondays Always Get Me Down

April 19, 2010 08:20 by ehouston

Okay, I am actually having a lovely Monday, but my neighbors are making me completely crazy.  If you are attached to me through Facebook you have already heard a bit about my woes involving our neighbors on one side.  Let me start by saying that they happen to be the nicest people on the planet and they keep their yard meticulously manicured.  Unfortunately, that latter part is what causes all the crazy.  They are a retired couple and their hobby is their yard.  According to them the previous owner never got around to taking care of things in the area between the yards before they could get to it, so they have always maintained the natural space between the properties.  From what we can see no normal human being (okay, make that regular working Joe) could get out to the yard fast enough to beat them to any of the work that needs to be done.  An example of what we have experienced would be, before all the leaves can even hit the ground they are out there to rake everything up in the natural space, shred it, spread it and keep it looking like an office park. 

Part of what made us fall in love with our home was that the yard is full of trees and has (like most of the homes in the neighborhood) a natural buffer between each home.  One side of our property looks like woods, with nice thick trees and leaves on the ground, while the other side has every twig and leaf picked clean and any tree that is not up to par with the neighbor’s standards quickly sawed right down to a nub.  I know I sound like a big whiner that should be thrilled with living by such diligent, tidy neighbors that basically keep up one side of my yard for me.  Well, I’m here to tell ya’ that living next door to retired gardeners has now made it to my list of “Things I will never live by” because during the summer and fall last year there was a constant sound of lawn equipment emanating from their yard.  The space between our homes looked like a video rolling a little two fast with the two of them running around busy beaver style trying to rake up every last leaf and get it through the shredder at record speed.  If it weren’t for the annoying sounds that radiate from their yard starting around 9:00 am and going until about 6:00 pm or later, the scene would be pretty hysterical.  The other issue is that the area between our yards is mostly ours.  Only a narrow strip of that space is actually their property.  Now that we are coming in to spring and early summer The Mister and I are starting to plan for a little yard revamp and are having a tough time figuring out what to do about the folks next door.  We are at the point of wanting to plant a thick hedge or add a fence right down the property line to keep them over on their side, but we think both would look weird in a space that is supposed to be just woods and not manicured at all.  Ideally we would like to see the middle section left alone with the leaves left to naturally compost in the middle.  Then  along the sides near our driveway we would like to keep up mulched beds with small flowering shrubs and seasonal bulbs and flowers.  The photo below shows an area that, although it needs some work, is exactly what we would like to see all the way around this buffer between our yards.


(The front edge of the natural space between our homes.  We would like more of this look all the way around,with a natural look in the middle.)

I have mentioned this to the neighbors twice and they insist they don’t want the leaves…they have allergies (this makes no sense to me at all).  They also have mentioned other plantings that we should  do since apparently what we have in mind is not up to their standards.  So, here we are wanting to fix up our little dream home and feeling sick about the idea of upsetting the people we have to live next to for God knows how long!?!  We know we need to speak up and take back our land…ha!…but we just don’t know how.  The reason I am writing this today is not just to vent, but to ask for some advice.  If any of you have a gentle way that we can get through this problem, some simple words of wisdom, or planting tricks to help us out we would really appreciate it.  The Mister and I are just starting to crumble and while we don’t want to give in to living with part of our yard being commandeered by another we are afraid that speaking up with only make things really terrible.  Please, please leave a comment and let us know how you would handle our situation.

Some other things you may need to know before making a judgment call:

-They mow their lawn 2 to 3 times a week during the summer

-Rather than sweeping their walkways and drive they crank up the old two-stroke motor blower and spend FOREVER blowing the dirt and debris away

-They recently cut down several (what appeared to be perfectly healthy) trees in their yard, claiming they were dying

-They mentioned to us that they hate oak trees (our entire yard is one big oak grove)

-When they blow the leaves up in the natural space between our yards they come all the way over to the middle of our front yard and blow everything off one side of our yard and into the middle of the side yard before shredding

-All the other neighbors we have encountered roll their eyes when mentioning these particular neighbors

-Even the guy that helps us mow our lawn (we don’t own a mower, just all other lawn tools) mentioned they are fanatical about their lawn (he maintains the lawn on the other side and behind our neighbors)

-When asking our lawn guy about buying mulch for that area even he suggested just covering the area around the edges, while leaving the middle natural (he was surprised to learn that the property was almost entirely ours since they are always in that area doing something to it)

-While their yard is gorgeous and full of specimen plants it looks like it belongs in a brand new community with no trees rather than this long established neighborhood that takes pride in all the natural space that has been maintained over the years

Keeping these last few things in mind, I will now commence to begging for any advice at all.  Please, throw it at us!  Again, I don’t mean to sound like a big whiner I just want to keep a healthy and good relationship with my neighbors while also having the yard I envisioned to go with my home.

Feeling like a prisoner in my own yard,

Kitsch Krafts

PS-I decided I was going to say something about the latest transgression involving a couple piles of yard waste that they raked up from their side and pushed on to our side of the property (see below).


(Black circles indicate the piles.  The black line way in the background is the property line)

It has been sitting their a week and making our blood boil every time we see it.  I decided today was the day I was going to say something, so I went out to water some plants out front and try to talk to them.  Let this go on record as being the first time I have ever been in my yard in full view of the neighbors when they have not come right over and started up a conversation with me.  It was strange, but they must have been really busy.  So, I let it go.

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