Armed with a magazine photo and an article on design tips for front gardens, I arrived ready to get to work. But my vision of coming up with a plan and implementing it over several trips to her home changed drastically once I saw her home in person. Although her house is beautiful and big, the yard is tiny, typical of most of the suburban subdivisions I saw. The house is about 15 years old which means there are already established plantings, so what my daughter really wanted was not coming up with a new landscape design, but rather revamping what was already there. Instead of being a designer, I wound up being a plant detective instead.
|Granddog Bear enjoys sitting by the pool.|
The only concern Daughter had about this back area was a large tree planted next to the pool. She and her husband complained that it dropped leaves and debris into the pool, and they intended to cut it down. I hate the thought of cutting down any tree, so I took a close look at it to try to identify it.
Now my Southern friends will probably be chuckling at my ignorance, but I'm not very good when it comes to identifying trees, other than the common ones, and this was a tree I wasn't familiar with at all.
The bark was certainly intriguing. Later, as I explored the front yard, I discovered two similar, but shorter trees on either side of the front foundation and noticed nearly every yard had at least one, if not more, of the same trees. A yard crew was cleaning up next door, so I approached one of the workers to see if he could help me identify it. I wasn't sure if he spoke English, but he adamantly replied "Yes!" when I asked. Unfortunately, when I asked him the name of the trees in my daughter's yard, he also replied "Yes." I was pretty sure this wasn't a "Yes tree," so I thanked him and gave up:) Later research on the internet finally gave me the answer--it's a crape myrtle! Duh...I've always admired these trees on Southern bloggers' posts, but I'd never seen one when it wasn't in bloom. When I pulled up images of it in bloom, Daughter and Son-in-law immediately agreed this tree was going to stay put, and they would put up with a few fallen leaves in their pool.
The two crape myrtles (Crape or crepe?? I found both spellings used in articles) in front of her house had been severely pruned, in what some Southern garden writers call "crape murder." It may not be the proper way to prune these trees, but it certainly is common, as I noticed similar stubby trees all around the neighborhood.
In front of her house, two narrow areas on either side of her front door had already been planted with shrubs and small trees. Daughter wanted only to add some flowers, not expand the area, and with her busy schedule, everything had to be low maintenance.
I offered to trim back all the shrubs, but I soon realized that first I needed to know what they were. I identified the lovely Japanese maples she had (no, she had no idea what they were) and pointed out the boxwoods and a hydrangea. But coming from a zone 5b garden to zone 8, I didn't recognize many of the other shrubs. Thank goodness for the internet! It didn't take long to identify this colorful foliage as a Nandina.
This one wasn't as easy, though. It obviously needed some type of cutting back, but I wasn't going to touch it until I knew what it was.
You would think with such distinctive large leaves, it would be easy to find. But many minutes spent surfing the internet brought up no conclusive answers.
It wasn't until later when I visited the Dallas Arboretum that I had my answer--Fatsia japonica. Fatsia is hardy only to zone 8, so it's no wonder I wasn't familiar with this plant. I was glad to see the specimens at the Arboretum were also in the disheveled state my daughter's were; hopefully, with the cutting back of dead leaves and pruning the stems, her plants will look much better soon.
Even though I was eventually able to identify most of the plants for my daughter, there were a few I was still mystified by. This plant in a small area in the back yard looks like it needs some attention, but I have no idea what it is.
Here's a close-up of its leaves--any ideas?? While shopping at a garden center for some annuals, I noticed some Indian Hawthorn that looked very similar. After a little research, I learned that it's hardy to zone 7 and produces pink or white blooms in the spring. Perhaps once this blooms, it will be easier to identify.
Another mystery for me in the front planting--not a great photo, but any ideas on this one? I also noticed something similar at the nursery and thought it might be an Abelia, but I really have no idea. Again, once it blooms, it should be easier to identify.
If any of you, dear readers, can identify either of these two shrubs, I would greatly appreciate it. Although I doubt Daughter will remember many of the plants I identified for her, I'm glad to know myself what she has so that I can answer any questions she might have about them later. After cleaning up her small planting beds, we added a few colorful annuals and two azaleas that she picked out and mulched everything well. It wasn't the big design job I had envisioned, but she was happy.
My visit wasn't all work, certainly--I had plenty of time to relax, including a visit to the Dallas Arboretum one day, just in time for the "Dallas Blooms" celebration. No need to be a plant detective here--this tulipaholic was in a state of bliss surrounded by all these spring beauties!