Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Great Front Garden Remodel: Before

Last year, my front garden was killed and reborn. I was the accomplice in the murder and the midwife in the rebirth. It's been scary, exciting, inspiring, and educational, and it's not over yet. A garden is never finished. Soooo, here's the BEFORE story.

Mr. Mouse and I moved into this house a few years ago, and inherited a lush landscape. Cycads, a palm tree, tree ferns, Loropetalum (Chinese fringe bush), Phormium (New Zealand flax) and blue hibiscus made a pretty picture.
The big problem was our water usage. We tried diligently to be conscientious. But those plants needed moderate to regular water. Our water usage was...embarrassing. I don't even want to admit to the numbers. Let's just say summer usage was up to five times winter usage. Each year we hoped to do better, and the natives in the back helped. But it just wasn't enough.
At the same time, we both became more and more interested in the biodiversity aspects of natives. We did some reading. I took some classes. We talked. The drought got worse. It was time to start over.
Mr. Mouse was actually ready to petition the city for removal of the Liquidambar city tree that stands in the middle of the yard. But the city arborist told me this mature tree can get by without summer water. It seemed kinder to leave the tree for humans and birds to enjoy than to kill and replace. After I saw the goldfinches do acrobatics on the seedpods in winter, and many other birds enjoy its shelter, I'm glad the tree is still there. While the prickly "hedgehogs" are annoying, the fall color is spectacular.
But the palm tree, the cycads, and everything else had to go. Still loathe to just compost it all, I found out about Tree Movers, a large tree nursery that salvages trees if they're in good shape and easily accessible. They get free trees, you get free removal. They tagged the palm, the cycads, and a few yuccas...

...and then the big day came. Four men arrived with a flatbed the length of the yard and some other heavy machinery, and the next time I looked outside, the yuccas were in the air. I left to get groceries, and when I returned, everything was neatly cut out and on the truck. Here's the picture (remember, the palm tree was almost as big as the two-story house...)

The cycads left as well, to be sold as field grown to someone thisting for a thirsty plant...While we were ready for the landscaper. But first, I'll need to explain the design process and the plants I picked, and I'll do so as soon as I figure out how to scan the plan...

10 comments:

Muddy Mary said...

It sure looks exciting and full of potential. Bet you'll never miss those sagos! Looking forward to seeing the next phase.

Country Mouse said...

Cool Pics, Ms Town - quite a garden implement they brought there - and I thought my 4-foot pruners were a big deal!

I didn't know you could get people to recycle your trees and shrubs - I'm amazed! Good work indeed.

AnneTanne said...

About 'recycling' trees: I just read an article in a (Dutch) magazine, about a man who had been growing pears for years.
After 20 years, his peartrees were to old to be used commercially, but he thought, that gardeners could be interested in such old trees...
And yes, he was able to sell every single tree from his orchard, and still people came asking for trees...
Now he isn't selling pears anymore, but old fruittrees from abondoned orchards...

SusanGardenChick said...

Love the photo of the palm being carted away!

I'm looking forward to a future post on design, you know those are my favorite kind :)

lostlandscape said...

Well, the mice have been busy! Treecycling looks like a good way to help finance a project. I dug up some cycads when we did a small house addition and I keep staring at the pots every time I go out with a hose. There's no way they're going back into the ground, but I don't really want to inflict them on anyone else... Still, 2 years later, I think it's time the plants and I parted ways.

Pam/Digging said...

It always amazes me how small a root ball a transplanted palm requires. It's great that you found out about Tree Movers. It sounds like a great resource for the ultimate form of recyclying.

I look forward to the next installment!

Ann D. Travers said...

Amazing project here. That's a great arrangement you were able to set up with the tree movers. I haven't seen anything like that around here in the norhteast but I would imagine there must be something available. Makes sense.

Looking forward to seeing what happens next.

Jan (Thanks For 2 Day) said...

Oh my, the tree looks so tiny on the flatbed! And the yuccas in the air, like grass blades!! You certainly are doing (have done) one HUGE project, TM! It's fascinating. I would just love a re-do. Your environment is so different than mine in VA, so most of our plants will not be the same. I am going backwards in your posts to make sure I haven't missed too much:) I DO understand the problems with your water usage, there has been such a terrible drought out your way for so very long. We have not had such a problem, but I still try to be conservative w/the watering.

Town Mouse said...

That tiny root ball was actually 3 x 2 yards or so, it's just that the tree was big. The hole was pretty substantial.
And just to clarify once more: I did not get paid. But I also did not pay. Very satisfactory arrangement.

esmondperry said...

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Keep it up...