Slow Yard Progress, And Some Buried Garden Treasure

After showing the state of our ugly backyard back in April, we got off to a pretty good start working on it this year. To see the steady stream of posts on the subject, check out the Yard & Garden category of this blog, where I’ve actually somehow written 11 whole posts on various yard things since that April post (many of them flower-related).

In recent weeks, though, progress on the yard has slowed down a bit — even though the to-do list still has quite a few things on it:

  • Weed and mulch the areas along the garage and back fence, and plant some non-weedy plants there.
  • Do something about the formerly overgrown area right along the house. (In the long term it would be awesome to build a patio there, but for now we’ll probably just plant some grass to try to keep the weeds at bay.)
  • Do something about the ugly, rusty old clothesline pole (which you can see front and center in the first picture in this post) — currently thinking just paint over the ugly rustyness and maybe add some hooks to hang some hanging plants from it.
  • Add some kind of lattice to close off the storage area along the basement stairs, and ideally re-paint and prettify the stairs leading up to the back door.

There’s still a lot to do, and with it already approaching the end of July (how the heck did that happen?!) it’s starting to look like a real possibility that we’ll run out of summer before we can finish it all.

Of the list above, the only item that has seen any progress at all is the first one — using the “weed” term pretty loosely, since a lot of what I’ve been pulling up in the yard actually seems like it was put there on purpose by the previous owners. For instance, along the back of the garage there was this really thick bed of some kind of leafy ground-cover plant, with a very solid mass of roots all the way along:

Digging Up Ground Cover Plant

Our next-door neighbors had some of the same type of plant growing on their side of the fence, and when I started pulling up the plants in our yard, they got all excited and happily started pulling up the ones in their yard too. It was only then that I realized that this plant is super aggressive in how it spreads, and they had just given up on trying to keep it out of their yard as long as we had it in ours. Yikes!

So anyway, it all got dug up from along the back of the garage, and so far it’s stayed gone. Although the same can’t be said for other types of weeds — you blink and all of a sudden you have what looks like a small bush growing in what used to be a completely cleared-out area:

Ferny Weed Thing

(You there… where did you come from and how did you get so big so fast?)

I guess that’s the danger of clearing sections of yard without planting and mulching right away — the work will get undone by invading weeds a lot faster than you think.

So overall, the backyard progress has slowed down quite a bit lately, with no big improvements or accomplishments to show. A mid-summer slump, you might say. But there’s been a lot going on elsewhere in life, including some fairly big and stressful work-related things for me (which I might blog about in more detail eventually) so I’ll consider it a win if we can make any yard progress at all, however small, over the coming weeks.

On the fun side of things, though: check out this nifty little “treasure” I randomly dug up while working on some gardening:

Barrel Charm Dug Up In Garden

It’s a little barrel-shaped charm. Just a plastic one with silver paint, and the paint is starting to peel off in places, so I know it’s not worth anything and it couldn’t have been back there for too long. But it was such a fun little thing to find that I think I’ll hang onto it, and maybe consider it some kind of gardening good luck charm. And it makes me wonder what else might be buried in this little backyard!

What about you guys — anyone else struggling to stay on track with big ambitious yard projects this summer? Did you ever dig up some random unexpected thing in the process of gardening? Feel free to share any stories in the comments!

Blooming Around The Yard: Lots Of Zinnia! {Bloom Day, July 2013}

Way back in April, I planted a bunch of Zinnia seeds in a seed starting tray, and despite a murder attempt from our favorite plant-eating feline, they survived all the way to getting planted in the ground. (Check out this post for that whole story.) And then at the end of┬álast month’s Bloom Day post, I shared some pictures of how those Zinnia plants were getting buds, and were on the brink of blooming.

And now, finally, the suspense is over! Behold this lovely crop of Zinnia flowers blooming at the corner of our garage:

Zinnia Plants In Bloom

I took most of these pictures a week or two back, but they haven’t changed too much since then (except maybe to get a little bit taller). There are a ton of flowers in a bunch of different colors, and a surprising variety of different shapes!

For instance, some plain-looking red ones:

Red Zinnia (Closeup)

And plain purple ones with a bit more tentacle-like appearance in the center:

Purple Zinnia Closeup

And pink ones with only a single row of petals, and what look like teeny tiny yellow flowers in the center:

Pink Zinnia Closeup

And orange ones with a double row of petals and a lot more teeny tiny yellow flower-looking things in the center:

Orange Double Zinnia

And really fluffy pink ones with four or five rows of petals:

Full Pink Zinnia

And red ones with so many rows of petals that they start to take on a rounded look, like some kind of pom-pom:

Full Red Zinnia

Quite a lot of variety to get out of those two little packets of flower seeds!

And for some reason, I wasn’t expecting how many flowers each of these plants got — how they branched and branched, with each one having seven or eight flowers. Multiply that by the fifty or so plants that made it into the ground and that’s quite a lot, with a steady stream of new ones just waiting to bloom:

Zinnia Buds

So that’s the happy ending to my first seed-starting project! It was a lot of fun to see them grow all the way from the start.

Meanwhile, in the category of “things I didn’t plant or put any effort into,” the clematis planted by the previous owners of our house, and which is growing up along the trellis right behind the zinnia crop, also bloomed over the past few weeks:

Clematis On Trellis

Here’s a closeup of the flowers:

Purple Clematis Flowers

They’re a deep purple and most of them have four petals, but beyond that I don’t know anything about it, or what kind of clematis it is, or anything else.

And moving on to the “things I didn’t put enough effort into and are now dying” category? Sadly, those petunias we planted in the garage window boxes. Now that it’s getting hotter and dryer outside, it’s been getting harder and harder to keep them watered well enough to keep them from getting all wilty. I will spare you guys the brown-thumb photos, but suffice to say, I’m starting to see the appeal of the desert cactus garden thing the previous owners had going in those window boxes. (Even if the dry sandy soil did end up making a perfect home for a gigantic ant colony.)

Anyway, that concludes another Bloom Day post! I know I’m like two days late to the party this time around, but feel free to hop on over to May Dreams Gardens and check out the 140 or so posts from garden bloggers around the world!


Fourth Of July Festivities

Last year for the Fourth of July, we were experiencing a heat wave with temperatures hovering around a hundred degrees, so we ended up staying in and trying to stay cool rather than risk bringing a baby Lillian out into the heat. And the year before that, we were too busy moving in to our house to do much of anything else. So it’s been a while since we really did anything festive to celebrate Amerirca’s birthday.

This year, the day rolled around and we somehow hadn’t made concrete plans, so I spent some time in the morning frantically Googling around for events and/or fireworks displays we might want to check out. And that’s when I happened upon the Eyes To The Skies hot air balloon festival in Lisle, IL. After calling my mom and learning that she was already familiar with it, we decided to go check it out. Here’s a sneak peek of some of the hot air balloons we would see later in the day:

Hot Air Balloon Festival

In addition to the hot air balloons, the festival had a fireworks display, so we figured we’d let Lillian take her usual afternoon nap and then head to the festival in the evening, and meet up with my mom there. It seemed like a sensible plan, except that by the time we arrived all of the closer parking lots were already full, so we ended up having to park in the parking lot for the Metra train station and then walk almost a mile to get to the festival.

To help visualize this, here is a map from Google Earth showing the path we walked, along with a hot air balloon icon downloaded from here and some super-realistic illustrations I drew in Photoshop:

Click here to see the rest of this excessively photo-filled post!