In 2010, my grandson Dayan and I spent days planning and then planting flower beds in front of the porch, on either side of the steps, and in the sunny southern border on the side of the house. We worked and sweated and in the end, we were very pleased with our labors. Then, the following year, the tornado struck Joplin, and my house. The gardens were damaged. The house was empty for 18 months, as work was done, and we experienced two of the hottest summers we have ever had. Needless to say, the gardens suffered. And in some places, ran wild!
I’ve been back in the house a little over two years. The first year the yard had to be remediated. The destruction of so many older homes deposited lead-based paint in the yards in the tornado zone. My yard was tested and found to be too high in lead content. Which meant, the old dirt was removed, to a depth of two feet, and “clean” new soil was brought in. This couldn’t have worked better for me, as I was planning a major backyard garden. I planted in that backyard paradise last spring and summer. This year, so very pleased with how the back garden is thriving and expanding, I have turned my attention at last to the front and side gardens.
The neglected front flower beds
I prepared the left front bed a couple of weeks ago. Being so close to the house, this soil has not been replaced. As I removed old landscaping timbers and cleaned up the vegetation, I came across broken shingles, tar paper, pieces of glass and metal debris embedded in the ground…all reminders of the forces of nature that ripped my town apart. With great satisfaction, I chucked all those sad shards into the trash dumpster. The top 8 inches or so of soil was removed and I now had a clean bed, awaiting my creativity.
Dusk was gathering this evening as I returned from Lowe’s Garden Center, my arms full of plants. I could have waited until tomorrow to plant, however, I enjoy working outside in the cool of the evening. I sprayed myself with home-made mosquito repellant (you can get the instructions for making your own here) and in just a few minutes, I had the plants into the ground.
I have fallen in love with ornamental grasses, so I chose two dwarf varieties to plant in the front, Hamelin Dwarf Fountain Grass and Bronco Leatherleaf Sage. In between the grasses I placed a couple of Stella de Oro Daylilies. Their bright yellow blooms will contrast well with the soft green and cream of the fountain grass and the rusty brown of the leatherleaf sage. I added a bag of cedar mulch to keep weeds at bay and hold moisture in.
I tucked one of my favorite small rocks among the daylilies. I’ve had this rock for 20 plus years. I don’t even remember where I found it. It has a tiny reservoir within its craggy interior and I love keeping it filled with water. Last of all, I returned a decorative metal garden stake to the bed. This stake survived the tornado, remaining anchored to the ground, but the stake is bent, from the wind or from being struck by debris. Its little silver metal ball remains in place, amazingly. I have kept this piece as a positive reminder that when the storms of life strike, I can remain anchored in my faith, in my beliefs…and remain steadfast…although I may be impacted by what I have journeyed through. I can bend, without breaking, a beautiful reminder of my strength and resilience.
I loved the peace and stillness in the air as I completed my work, the light from the front porch illuminating my freshly planted bed. One of the benefits of gardening in the evening twilight was that I saw my first firefly, a reminder that summer is upon us. I washed my hands and arms using the garden hose. There is something magical to me about washing up with the hose. It brings back childhood memories of my sisters and I spraying each other, cooling off as the last of the day’s heat rose in waves from the ground. I gathered that deep peace around me like a shawl, entering the house. And laughed as I beheld my hands. I missed some places, washing up in the dark. I prefer to garden without wearing gloves. I like getting my hands dirty. I accomplished that….and more…tonight.
The wildness of the right flower bed. Dayan and I planted one small ivy plant, in 2010. It was not affected by the drought and heat! My next project….