Evolution of a front yard meadow

Here's pictures of my front yard, with focus on the meadow / lawn. We've come a long way baby!

September, 2003. Those were Cadillac Days! When some old geezer in a walker shouted to me across the parking lot at Rite Aid that he mightily approved of that car, I knew its days were numbered. In any case, this is a good a starting point as any. Note the wall to wall grass, just like nearly every other house in the neighborhood. You can see evidence of my tendency to laziness (lawn not mown or watered well) and nascent interest in low water plants (lots of rosemary, a small ornamental pea plant from Mark and Martha, Mexican sage) . All in all it's pretty generic, water wasting (provided I want a green lawn, though accounting for that laziness factor I didn't use all that much water), and uninspired. That hibiscus by the entryway was a real downer too - it really loomed over the entry way. This is quite a large image, so be prepared if you click on it; at that time I was using a Nikon SLR and scanning the negatives.

January, 2004. Just a few months later and I was already making changes. That's the root ball of the hibiscus there on the lawn (Rotten plant, that. Full of whitefly, always blocking you with it's sickly leaves as you entered or left), and three new morea plants (donations from le jardin de mes parents) along the porch.

September, 2006. The end of the Cadillac Days (you can see the corner of my sleek blue 1985 Seville at the RHS of this photo). I had laborers scrape and pile the remnants of the lawn in one gigantic heap. I then sifted through it with a pitchfork and fingers to get the biggest and (still, after two applications of Roundup) greenest chunks of grass out. The neighbors contributed by letting me use their green waste garbage cans and I managed to reduce the pile tremendously in size. However, not enough to rake back out over the bare spots and have it go unnoticed. Thus, necessity gave birth to the idea that I'd make a swale in order to avoid hauling the dirt away, to improve visual interest, and to provide a diversity of growing conditions. There are some existing natives behind the dirt area that have been in the ground less than a full year at this point.

November - December 2006. The beginning of the Ford Truck Days (seen in the RHS of this shot). The dirt has been formed into a swale, sprinklers have been added, I've watered and weeded, and finally seeded. I think I was in a rush to take this picture because I anticipated that the native seeds would sprout almost the next day. Hah! Ironically, I'll probably not see the benefits of lower water use on the native meadow (the only part of the yard to which I added sprinklers) compared to my previous "let it brown in the summer" turf lawn. On the other hand, it'll look a whole lot better and be much lower maintenance.

13 Feb, 2007. Success! I've got green growing things! The porch rails have been demoed and the porch posts replaced due to rot, but their replacements have not yet been painted. (House painting is on the To Do list.) The jasmine has been removed to chez frere, leaving only the moreas as targets for my native plant replacement project. (Not that I'm saying those are the only non-natives, just the only ones that I have plans to replace.) I'm leaving the parking strip (seen in the foreground) in turf grass for now. For these more recent photos I'm using a basic pen camera and it leaves a lot to be desired in terms of image quality, particularly fine textures.

Here's a closeup of what's growing! I can't identify any of the plants with certainty, with the exception of the dread turf grass weeds. However, as the natives grow larger I've been able to feel more confident of my identifications. The list of what I planted is here. Based on my (obviously) simplistic assumptions about germination rates, I'm somewhat suprised to see such low diversity of plants. This picture is typical of the coverage: two types of native plants seem to dominate, with a sprinkling of one or two more in low abundance. The remaining 4 to 5 plants that I was expecting to see are present in very low abundance (at least at this stage). Perhaps they germinate later or succumbed to our poor winter. I speculate on what I've got in my previous blog entry.

In the process of writing this I decided that I've planted enough natives for one year, so I can forget about getting rid of the moreas for now. That's one more thing to mark off my list. I wish they were all that easy!

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