When I first married 'Pup, eight years ago, I took over the yard. 'Pup had a lawn service to cut the grass, which I had no problem with, as I have asthma and walking behind a lawn mower tends to leave me breathless. The beds were a big enough challenge.
I started off just pulling everything out, weeding down to the bare earth and turning the soil over. I was delighted to find that as 'Pup had been amending the planting beds for almost ten years, the soil was loose and friable and loamy down to a depth of my elbow. Believe me, when I say that, in this area, that much really GOOD soil is an unexpected and delightful treasure.
I didn't have much time that summer after we'd cleaned out the beds. We married on July 1, and much of my work had to be done in the afternoon, or early morning when it was still cool enough to exert oneself without risking immediate heat stroke. So I planted Mexican Heather. I knew that it would be aggressive enough to keep the beds from looking weedy, it is a pretty plant (growing in tight spirals) and it bloomed profusely with tiny purple blossoms.
Not having much of a budget left, I had to settle for some fairly small plants.
Enter the neighbor lady. You know her. Every neighborhood has one. She's pleasant, takes care of the yard (she is a widow) and is fussy about how things appear. She had long been suspicious of 'Pup, as he'd been a bachelor in a neighborhood of families. His late marriage to me alleviated some of the suspicion..or perhaps diluted would be a better term, as some of it was now splashed on to me.
As I was planting the little bushes she quizzed me. "What are those?" "Will they grow here?" "Will they grow large enough to fill the bed?" My answers didn't satisfy her completely, as this was a plant new to her, and for her, seeing is believing. Her yard, up until then, had contained a couple of shrubs, two weak looking roses and a huge tree. Her back yard was a manicured swath of lush, green Saint Augustine grass, with a young magnolia tree, and a couple of crepe myrtles.
Well, anyone who knows a Mexican heather knows that they soon did fill the bed and they looked quite nice. They were also easy to maintain, filled in everywhere and attracted bees by the thousands. The last attribute was one I'd not considered, and was a little dismayed at, because 'Pup is deathly allergic to bee stings. Needless to say, the flower bed was all mine from that point.
After I became disabled, I had time to want to branch out a little in my planting. I had the services of a nice gentleman by the name of Sr. M. who did most of the heavy physical labor I was no longer capable of, and so he and I started transforming the yards.
As we transformed the back yard into a shady garden full of pocket gardens and "rooms", I invited our neighbor to come see. We'd been friendly, if not close friends and we had achieved a certain wary warmth between us.
Her yard began to change.
She started by planting things under her huge tree. She progressed on to first pruning the shrubs in front of her house in drastic ways, on to taking them out completely...this let the roses do a little better. She started planting more flowers in pots. Then, she started on making a flower bed in her back yard.
It's beautiful. It's cultivated and well behaved and a thing of joy to her. She's even planted it with plants designed to attract hummingbirds and butterflies.
She's a good neighbor, and though our gardening styles are drastically different, we enjoy each other's gardens.