I’m not quite sure when my love of gardening began but it’s a love affair that keeps growing with each passing year. When we purchased the farm last year, I was itching to add beauty to the grounds but the house repairs took center stage. I set aside my dreams of a front walkway with larger flower beds and pushed through the stressful projects, keeping in mind I would one day have the chance to make my mark on the farm.
Even though we still have some projects waiting in the wings, I decided I couldn’t wait any longer and began work on the farm landscaping plan. I’ve been dreaming of bigger beds and a flagstone walkway for some time. You can check out my day dreams here. In order to convey to my cowboy exactly what was swirling around in my head, I created a landscape layout in Microsoft Office Paint. I created a simple diagram of borders and placement making sure to include the task at hand and future projects.
This illustrates the expanded front flower beds, additional side flower beds, the borders for our upgraded fence layout, the installation of our first chicken coop and the limestone area we would like in front of the barn. The fencing will add a dog yard for our three rescue pups and an additional front pasture for our horses. I look forward to the day when I look out my kitchen window while cooking and see our two beautiful rescue horses. We also have a chicken coop design in the works and baby chickens will be at the farm before you know it.
Since my cowboy had fishing plans on Saturday, I asked him to till up the soil beforehand, expanding the front beds and creating new side beds. The heavy duty tiller from our neighbor cut the time in half and worked really well. He finished in one afternoon and didn’t even complain too much about it. I was SO HAPPY when I came home from work to see these glorious blank canvases in my yard.
Once the beds were tilled, the hard part really began. I normally add a dirt/compost mix when planting new beds. Because we have access to horse manure compost this year, I added that instead of my usual Black Kow mix. We have an overflow of horse manure compost in one of the stalls of the barn from a prior owner and it sure comes in handy at the farm. I had already incorporated some to the beds in the fall with excellent results. I know this time won’t be any different.
To help us with the grueling task of hauling dirt and manure, we hooked up the cart to the four wheeler. This cart was one of the first purchases we made after acquiring Sparkle to help with mucking out the stall. We use it to haul just about anything around the farm and it sure beats pushing a wheelbarrow around.
I enjoy the convenience of the four wheeler and cart but had quite the time learning to back up the four wheeler to my dirt dumping ground. My cowboy makes it look so easy but I found it rather difficult turning the wheel while slowly backing up and keeping an eye on where the cart was going. Maybe it’s a girl thing or maybe it just takes a lot of practice. I finally got the hang of it but it took some time. There may have been a lot of huffing and puffing going on.
You can’t see in the above picture but there are actually three different plants in the original tiny strip of flowerbed. They were all squished together without proper spacing making the bed very crowded. The plants included Drift Roses, Shishi Gashira Camellias (don’t ask me about pronunciation) and Distylium ‘Vintage Jade’. The Drift Roses and Distylium were flourishing beautifully but the Camellias are another story. The flood really did a number on them and they never did bounce back very well. I can see green shoots on the branches which gives me hope for this Spring.
I had lots to do before even starting on plant relocation but this gypsy was determined. After a few hours, it felt as if I would never finish hauling dirt and manure compost to the expanded front beds.
To keep my mind at ease, I enjoyed some breaks admiring the farm life all around me. The neighbor’s cows meandered their way to the side pasture, peaking Sparkle and Freedom’s curiosity. The wind was blowing and the sun was shining. It was the sort of day you want to last forever.
Later on, I spotted Freedom and Sparkle taking a nap in the pasture. By the time I came around to get a good picture, Sparkle already moved to her feet and was staring me down, wondering what my business was in the pasture. She can be protective of her domain at times. I crept quietly so not to wake Freedom but Sparkle was on high alert. She kept glancing at Freedom in typical dramatic Sparkle fashion, hoping to get his attention as he snoozed. It was quite comical.
He did eventually sit up and Sparkle seemed satisfied with her duty as head lookout.
After my short farm break, I resumed my duties and transplanted the Drift Roses to the front of the expanded front beds, spread the Distylium and the Camellias out so that they each had some room to grow, incorporated new Lavender and Gaura plants in the middle row on the front stretch, added new Esperanza bushes around the bell, planted new Tibouchina as an anchor on the far right side of the house and new Bottlebrushes in the side bed next to the carport storage.
One very important step when adding new plants to your landscape is giving them a good drink of Root Stimulator by Ferti-Lome. It is a combination of hormone type root stimulator and fertilizer, promoting early root formation and lessening transplant shock. Besides Super Thrive, it is my go-to when planting or transplanting.
Once the plants were moved and new ones planted, we added a total of 38 bags of Scotts Black Mulch to top off the flower beds. That’s right, 38 bags of mulch. This only shows what I used on day 1. We made a second trip to the local Home Depot on Sunday for 23 more bags. We had a lot of ground to cover.
We started using black mulch at our old house and haven’t wanted to use anything else since. You can view our prior landscape efforts here. Bright colors of the flowers really pop against the black mulch color and create a crisp display in the garden. Ta-da!
The Drift Roses are a cross between full-size groundcover roses and miniature rose bushes. They have the toughness, disease resistance and winter hardiness of the ground cover and the well-managed size and repeat-blooming nature of the miniature rose bushes. They are low maintenance and reward you with endless color all season long. Because of their showy blooms and spreading nature, I kept them in the front. I left a little band open in front just in case I decide to add a row of annuals in a month or so. I do love my Vincas in the summer!
The Distylium is an evergreen, a member of the witch hazel family and produces petite red flowers in the winter. I don’t remember seeing any red flowers this year but we also didn’t have a winter.
I kept the Distylium in the back grow and spread them out a bit to give them spreading room. This plant is adaptable and grows in full sun or part shade, tolerates drought, heat and wet soil. Another benefit is it’s resistance to disease and insects. Nothing worse than battling a bug invasion in your garden. I have been there and done that.
Esperanza is a fast-growing shrub that blooms from early spring until late fall, providing masses of trumpet-shaped flowers in shades of bright yellow or orange. Louisiana Nursery had the yellow flower variety which stands out against our red dinner bell. Because it can reach a height of 6 or 7 feet, I will need to keep it trimmed so that it doesn’t get out of hand and cover up the bell too much.
It thrives in full sun and is drought tolerant. I initially chose it for the North side of the house but when I realized that side receives shade by noon, I knew this tropical plant wouldn’t bloom very well in that location.
The Shishi Gashira Camellias display profuse, hot pink, semi-double blooms with golden yellow stamens and are also considered a groundcover much like the Drift Roses.
They prefer filtered sun and flourish with regular watering. Our Camellias are slighter taller than what I would consider groundcover and they look pretty close to the edge of death at the moment. These are the sticks in the middle row of the front bed that you see. Pretty pitiful. When I dug them up to transplant, I discovered half of them were planted in the ground still in their pot. No wonder they are on the brink of death! I’m hoping the new home in the ground, pot free, will make them very happy. We shall see. Right now, they are the sticks in the garden.
The Lavender is a new plant I’m trying this year. It is the tall variety and has the wispy look of country gardens. I love the introduction of new color and the purple on the ends of each tall shoot is a nice break in the midst of bushes. It is drought tolerant and deer resistant which is always good, preferring full sun and well drained soil.
Gaura, also known as Whirling Butterflies, is one of my favorite perennials from our old house in Prairieville (to the far right by the brown dinner bell in picture below). After adding it to the garden one Spring, it reappeared year after year, bigger and better each time. With its pink and white blooms atop tall skinny stems, it creates a whimsical specimen in any garden, swaying and dancing in the breeze just as its name suggests. It attracts hummingbirds and bees, is drought tolerate and prefers full sun. Because we lack tree cover at the farm, there is a constant breeze in the Spring which will make the new Gaura dance up a storm. I can’t wait to watch it sway like garden fairies.
Tibouchina Urvilleana, also known as the Princess Flower, is native to Brazil and prefers full sun but appreciates afternoon shade in hot temperature areas. It will tolerate wet conditions but not soggy and will also survive short periods of drought. I chose to plant this on the far side as an anchor because it is known to grow as tall as 15 feet, lush with bluish purple blooms in the summer and sporadically throughout the year. Quite stunning!
I’m hoping it will be a nice ornamental tree that balances the red dinner bell and bright yellow flowers on the opposite side of the house. It’s a balancing act when planning a garden and I always pray everything grows according to plan.
I also shifted the rocks to just under the gutter downspout to help with drainage. Initially, we were planning on burying a drainage pipe connected to the downspout but the septic drain line runs along that side. To prevent interfering with the septic line, we chose rocks for drainage instead. We are budgeting for rain barrels on the other downspouts which will help us utilize every drop from the heavens for our gardens. There is nothing better than what drops from the sky.
We chose Bottlebrushes for the side of the carport storage room because we wanted to create a screen along that wall as a statement piece. These bushes burst with red brush like blooms that really do resemble a bottle brush, hence the name.
We prefer the large shrub variety because of its flexible leaves which sway in the wind, creating a beautiful country element to the landscape. The bright red blooms definitely attract butterflies, bees and birds which all play a part in the garden. It also is very low maintenance which will work perfectly for that forgotten area on the side of the carport. They require very little water and enjoy full sun. This variety can get pretty large, up to 12 feet in height. That was our problem at the last house. We planted them on the corner of the garage and front walkway. People were running into them because they were too big for the space. If you plan to use them in your landscape, be sure they have room to grow. They may seem small now but these grow into monsters.
The only flower bed that we didn’t finish this weekend was the side bed on the North side of the house near the septic system. I think hydrangeas will be perfect for this spot and Louisiana Nursery will have their new shipment in the next two weeks. Once they arrive, all we need to do is plant and cover with mulch. All of the bed prep is complete and covered with landscape fabric for weed control.
We have many more plans for this landscape but this is a great start to the growing season. Large river rock edge will be added to all the flower beds to create a clean edge and a small irrigation system to help with water management. The irrigation system sounds overwhelming but it’s pretty simple to install for flower beds like this. I will certainly cover it all in a future blog post.
If you thought I stopped at the flower beds this weekend, check again. I picked up a few plants from Home Depot (shhhh, don’t tell the serious vegetable garden people) and added them to our raised garden beds. We are looking forward to cucumber, squash, zucchini, tomatoes, strawberries, onions, basil and lemon balm in the future. My least favorite part about the entire vegetable planting process was the onion planting. Each individual bulb had to be planted 1″ in the ground and it took forever but I think I will be happy I did it once we harvest.
The best part about all of the hard work in the gardens is watching everything grow with a little water and sunshine. My heart is content working outside, getting my hands dirty in the dirt and spreading new life all over the farm. Their life nourishes my life. God’s creation is miraculous, beautiful and fulfilling. I may be tired, aching and slightly delirious after a weekend of garden work but every single second is worth it when I smell the sweet breeze of the roses, watch the Gaura sway in the wind or taste the first crunchy cucumber grown in our very first farm garden.
I made sure to enjoy the beautiful moments of the weekend as I worked around the farm. I don’t want to forget the pleasures I am blessed with by my all mighty Savior. He is the reason for my joy.
“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.” 1 Corinthians 3:6-9
He is the reason for all of the beauty that surrounds our lives. He is everything. He is in us and all around us. That, my friends, is a beautiful thing.