Thursday, September 20, 2007

Making it look good

One of the things we liked most about our house when we bought it was the fact that one of the longest sides of the house faced south. All the better to help heat it in the winter time we thought. It is so nice in fact that we had to reduce some of the glass to reduce the amount of heat that came in during the winter---another "story" altogether that I will blog about later. This story is suppose to be about plants and landscaping not low E glass and windows.

The gentlemen that originally owned the house before us was quite the "scavenger". He did not believe in beauty so much as saving a buck. That could mean anything from using something to build with that just didn't quite match the rest of the building OR even, as we have found, some slightly dangerous "jury rigged" things.
So, somewhere along the span of his ownership of this house he built hideous brick planters along the southern side. Of course these were one of the first things to go since they were so ugly and just filled with a bunch of weedy plants. They also stuck out onto the patio by quite a bit (I think so they would catch rain). After our removal of them, and the reduction of their footprint, we filled the remaining sections with medium size river rock. Why rocks and not some good looking plant? Because we have a two foot over hang and rarely does water get near that area of the footing. So it stays fairly dry---really dry. Placing plants there is a kind of hit or miss situation in regards to water---a few windy storms will throw water against it but overall it is pretty close to the Sahara. Why bother I thought---besides after living in Texas I am all for a more xeriscape style of planting. Less water, less grass.
After living with and looking at this for a few years however, I decided it was...well..a bit boring. So after mulling my options (for quite a while since that is my best skill :-D ) I purchased two agapanthus plants to see how they would do. I figured that even though my "philosophy" is to place only plants that can make it on their own, I wouldn't mind watering the agapanthus once in a while since they are so pretty. They are actually one of my favorite flowers and though we usually get enough water for them (remember it's a drought this year) they need a sheltered spot since I am at the very tippy edge of their hardiness zone.
There is one variety that grows a bit more North than I am, but most need it a bit warmer. I thought that since I was at the very edge---they would do great planted against this southern wall that stays so warm, warm enough that it once grew a huge fig tree that was very prodigious. So much so, that it grew into the septic and had to be removed the year before we bought the place (to bad---we love figs).
As you can tell by the picture on the upper left hand though, I was wrong about the agapanthus doing well on the wall. Yes, I did water them but the heat radiating off the rocks and wall got them. Maybe they would have been fine in the winter but with many many record setting days over 100---they cooked.
Too bad since the flowers were very attractive when I first planted them.
So, after looking through many many catalogs without success, one day I rounded the corner of my house and there in almost the same growing situation were my red yuccas. Ah hah! That plant will for sure be successful I thought, and though a more "traditional" flower might have been a bit more to my liking, the hesperaloe (or Red Yucca as it is also known) should do really well there.
Now, I am not a big yucca fan-- but I do like red yucca. It is much more sedate (tame?) and has beautiful striking tall strands of pink flowers. Everyone comments on them when they bloom--even men. (I believe I have posted pics of them previously on my blog) They have not only done well on the rocks but have thrived so that this year when they bloomed and the pods dried I saved some of the seeds and planted them. They quickly sprouted and have done very well for me with barely effort on my part. About the most I did was give them a bit of water and make sure the seed made contact with the soil.
So next year, after these guys grow up a bit, I will plant them in places of honor along the southern wall of my house. Not only should they be able to take the heat but maybe I won't even have to water them.

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