Time at home means yards have never looked better.

By Steve Bender
April 23, 2020
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Credit: Laurey W. Glenn

Every yard has one – that tree or shrub you planted next to the house 15 years ago that grew and grew and grew. You started disliking it. It got it the way. It blocked the view. It made your house looked deserted. Eventually, you hated it, you wanted it gone, but between your job and the kids you just never seemed to have time.

Now with shelter-at-home in force, you do.

People are taking advantage. Grumpy’s neighborhood is reborn. Formerly neglected lawns are mown and edged. Dead dogwood trees that stood for ages in the front yard stand no more. Weedy, garbage plants like Chinese privet, brambles, ‘Bradford’ pears, and thorny elaeagnus that germinated by the fence and grew into monsters lay dying in heaps awaiting pick-up. People are taking pride.

Folks are adding color too. Our garden centers remain open (they are considered agricultural and therefore essential). Cars fill their parking lots every day, not just on weekends, as masked, socially spaced gardeners take home flats of annuals, pots of perennials, and hanging baskets overflowing with flowers. Instead of dwelling on doom-and-gloom, they opt for the joy of beautifying their pieces of the planet while spent time in the sun and fresh air. It gives them hope.

At Grumpy’s house, pots of gorgeous amaryllis blooms decorate the front steps. I’ve also just finished planting the mixed border in front of the house. It will feature flowers and foliage of yellow (‘Everillo’ carex, yellow creeping Jenny, blanket flower, ‘Cheyenne Spirit’ echinacea), orange (crossandra, ‘Cheyenne Spirit’ echinacea, blanket flower), burgundy (‘Dark Tower’ penstemon, ‘Illustris’ elephant’s ear, ‘Lizzard Leaf’ celosia), and blue (‘Elijah Blue’ blue fescue, ‘Coolvista’ Dianella). I expect great things.

My woodland garden in back gets in share of attention too. Recent additions to its shade include sweeps of fall-blooming silverleaf cyclamen (Cyclamen hederifolium), double white sharp-lobed liverwort (Hepatica acutiloba), bold Japanese beech fern (Thelypteris decursive-pinnata), and two cute, dwarf hostas named ‘Mini Skirt’ and ‘Pandora’s Box.’ Finally, I ringed my vintage Milk of Magnesia cobalt-blue bottle tree with red ‘Postman Joyner’ caladiums. I told Judy they were red hostas. She didn’t buy it.

Every afternoon at cocktail hour, I do a “sip-and-stroll” inspection of the gardens, inspired by the practice of Charlotte landscape architect Jay Sifford. Gardens can change dramatically from day-to-day, and it’s mighty restful noting that my cinnamon clethra just leafed out whilst quaffing some good rye whiskey.

Well, what do you know? Cocktail hour has arrived! I’m going out to greet the garden. You should too.