four springtimes for my lilac to recover

When we bought our house in April 2008 (OK, rented it from the bank), the front yard was tidy:

front grass yard 2008

front yard grass 2008

In February 2010, I was made redundant and went to town on the front yard, working fast and hard for several months because I knew I’d be back to work in no time (that didn’t happen):

after the sod cutter:  bye-bye grass!

after the sod cutter: bye-bye grass!

Near the front wheel of that purple bicycle is the scraggly lilac that had languished in a pot for years.  The roots were terribly pot-bound.  <:-{

Note in the picture above that Big Mister had already built the pergola for me, seen here (in a blast from the past digression) using the manly-man machine:

Big Mister and the Augur

Big Mister and the Augur

monster machine

monster machine

We now return from our digression.

In the chill of March 2010, I started transplanting from my root-bound pots right away, after hauling cubic yards of soil all round that 900 square feet:

first year garden

first year garden

first year coming along

first year coming along: the scraggly, transplant-shocked lilac is vaguely under the purple bicycle. (That window to the right of the red-flowering shrub became the viewing spot from my recuperation room.)

Ah, the garden grows in a bit:

second year garden (?)

second year (?) garden, with bowling balls atop rebar as hose guides.

[I’d already painted the (unlovely) front door orangey-red, too, which helped!]

Standing on a ladder at the front sidewalk:

front yard "aerial" view

front yard “aerial” view

The lilac still was unhappy last year:

turns out, the lilac does hate me!  it only has ONE blossom!

it only had ONE blossom!

I had a plan when I planted the lilac at the top of the garden:  I wanted that fragrant, shade-providing view to be near the front door so that my steps would be slowed by the scent and the sight.

The lilac and I have a lot in common.  Once we have room to breathe, leave us to get ourselves untangled and we start to blossom.

This spring, right now:

lilac near the front step

lilac near the front step

lilac anchors its bed 2013

lilac anchors its bed 2013

lilac blossoms once again!

lilac blossoms once again!

[there’s the front door orangey-red (poppy!) with a great glass-fronted storm door.]


28 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. neowatercolour
    May 17, 2013 @ 07:07:20

    Gosh ! very brave to get rid of the neat grass, L, and create what only looks (from here) like utter devestation in the interim !!! :-) but what a vision you had and now its a total transfomation – Well Done :-) Glad the lilac seems happy now :-) xx


    • lahgitana
      May 17, 2013 @ 07:17:03

      Hi V! Oh, it was awful for a long time, Victoria. And before, a certain unnamed person whose job it was to mow the grass hated doing same, so we always looked scraggly. Yuck.

      Thanks–I love looking out there and taking short ambles–even after a few years, I still appreciate the difference: textures, shade, color, shadows, flowers–what’s not to love?! <:-D


  2. nadbugs
    May 17, 2013 @ 08:33:20

    Awesome and totally spectacular & amazing. Genius.


  3. speccy
    May 17, 2013 @ 10:12:36

    Wow! That is astonishing. Are you available to hire?


    • lahgitana
      May 17, 2013 @ 11:09:55

      Thank you. {bowing}

      And yes! (hee hee!) Ireland has long been on my list! (I’m of the age that I thought that Northern Ireland was not a place I would be allowed to visit because of the Troubles.)


  4. heretherebespiders
    May 17, 2013 @ 11:21:17

    I’m doing mad gardening myself this month – not to your scale, but I have a lot less to work with! I also have a lilac story – I grew two from seed last year, thought one had died over the winter but no! still alive if only an inch tall :)


  5. littlemiao
    May 17, 2013 @ 19:47:36

    beautiful lilacs. Ours didn’t make it last year because the buds all froze, but this year we should have plenty of lilac blossoms. They aren’t quite in bloom yet though. My favorite flower.

    I love what you’ve done with your yard. I wish I could transform my front yard into something beautiful and lawn-free like that.


    • lahgitana
      May 17, 2013 @ 19:51:47

      Hi LM! Thank you for your kind words. Lawn-free is good, huh?! Sorry to hear about the lilac buds–how disappointing to be without your favorite flower for an entire year. arrrrgggh!

      If you ever want inspiration or ideas about getting rid of the lawn, do email me. I have tons of books and online places.


  6. ~ Ivy ~ (@ivyft)
    May 17, 2013 @ 20:27:14

    What a delight! It gave me such inspiration to read this post of yours. I particularly loved the analogy between you and lilacs… ;-)


    • lahgitana
      May 18, 2013 @ 07:02:00

      Oh that’s nice, Ivy, to give someone inspiration. Yep, that business being root-bound suddenly seemed very familiar: anthropomorphism with plants!


  7. Debra Kolkka
    May 17, 2013 @ 22:58:10

    What a lot of work you have done! I can really appreciate as we are doing that right now at Casa Debbio. I have found muscles I never knew I had and can now swing a pick with the best of them. I hope your lilac continues to thrive…I love it.


    • lahgitana
      May 18, 2013 @ 07:04:35

      I have loved your entries and photos about transforming now the outside of Casa Debbio–especially those fencemakers!

      The lilac should be safe until I decide to divide it–“free” lilac plants to transplant elsewhere! >:-D


  8. FeyGirl
    May 18, 2013 @ 06:40:46


    you have my dream garden!!! my neighbor and i are trying to do the same wayyyyy down here – get rid of the ridiculous, water-consuming grass, and plant native all around. :) your place is just divine. and oh-so-fairy-friendly, i would imagine.


    • lahgitana
      May 18, 2013 @ 07:10:36

      HI FG! That’s the way I feel about grass… and I am rewarded with a 3D texture heaven! Thank you for your lovely words. I’d love to see the transforming you’re doing–it makes such a difference to a house and to a neighborhood.

      What a lot of people don’t know is that a perennial garden is much less maintenance than a grass yard! But *you* already know that. I even forget to water because the plants are well settled. A birdbath with a mister adds some moisture–and birds!

      I have loved having my favorite plants thrive all around me… so much to look at…. I didn’t even realize what the scent was for a while–completely forgot that my lilac *could* have been scenting the air all these years (except for me letting it get pot-bound, etc.!).


      • FeyGirl
        May 18, 2013 @ 07:15:54

        It really is just so completely wonderful…. It’s a bit different down here; we’re having a tougher dry season now, for instance — making it harder for even the natives.

        But still — it’s SO MUCH prettier. And healthier. And better for the environment and earth, obviously. I don’t use chemicals, and my guys flourish beautifully. Follow nature! It’s SO EASY! :)

        This grass turf, so much has been written about the damage it’s doing on so many levels to our planet. Your garden is a gorgeous example of what could be done otherwise. Mine’s NOWHERE to your level — I wish it was! — but a few of us are trying!!


        • lahgitana
          May 18, 2013 @ 07:27:52

          Yes, almost all plants need a settling in period, so drought is not good. There are bunches of plants that are bomb-proof, which is amazing to me. I wonder if trying plants that thrive in a different (drier) climate (out of your usual planting zone) has helped? Not native to your area, in other words….

          Lots of interesting talk in landscape design circles about native v. nonnative–very intelligent discussion — sometimes native plants aren’t the right choice, which was eye-opening to me.

          I can hear the textured joy that transforming your piece of the pie is giving you, FG. That’s a huge part of gardening sensitively. Love that!

          You’re strong enough to handle a sod cutter. Ever used one? <{:-D ( They are MONSTERS, but I LOVED the sight of the sod being sliced away. I ended up using piles of the stuff as hillocks–what I didn't know was to immediately cover any grass roots or greens because that stuff will grow anywhere! Talk about bomb-proof!


          • FeyGirl
            May 18, 2013 @ 07:43:43

            Oh dear golly. Right now I live alone… That monster is terrifying! Do you know what would happen to me, or the neighbors, with that thing in my possession? You’ll see it on the news.

            I have a botanist friend who raised that native v. non-native discussion with me on a recent hike — it was really interesting. I do have a few drought-tolerant non-natives (that attract local wildlife) in here, but not many.

            I sent your page to my neighbor, and she’s squealing in delight. :)


        • lahgitana
          May 18, 2013 @ 08:01:34

          Girl, I used it–it is power-driven at least. Still a monster! I will watch for you on the news!

          Glad to hear other folk are talking about the appropriateness of native plantings… things to consider, brains to broaden….

          You are too cute, sending the page. I consider it inspiration, then, for other folks to get rid of their grass. There is a website out there called something like that–get rid of your grass!

          Gotta dash–we’re going to the ocean with the camper! I’ve enjoyed talking to you so much, dear FG!


  9. Dianda
    May 19, 2013 @ 05:00:11

    WOW, that garden!


  10. Pix Under the Oaks
    May 19, 2013 @ 07:09:57

    Pretty cool L! We have a Freedom lawn which I learned about in the book Suburban Safari A Year on the Lawn by Hannah Holmes. I love this book L! I love lilacs! Hope you had fun at the ocean.. :)


    • lahgitana
      May 20, 2013 @ 08:23:41

      Hi Pix!

      The ocean was good, but the drive was, er, challenging. The muffler under my side of our old truck blew out, so the resulting noise and attempts by Big Mister to fix, added a layer to the trip neither of us did well with.


  11. IsobelandCat
    May 20, 2013 @ 11:31:14

    Gorgeous. We could do with you here.


  12. ĽAdelaide
    May 21, 2013 @ 21:45:04

    what a great yard. lilacs need a cold winter and why i never even bother to plant them. the blue native ca. lilac is pretty and actually blooms it’s head off. but there isn’t another fragrance to beat that lilac of yours. xox


    • lahgitana
      May 22, 2013 @ 06:35:12

      Hello! Nice to see you out and about! Though how you manage it is beyond me….

      Yes, that scent spreads through the yard and right into the open windows–when we’re actually warm enough to open ’em! Right now it’s cold and rainy and I’ve got a fire in the woodstove…. brrrrr…..


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