Sunday, June 10, 2012

New landscaping plan

Yep, we've been fooling around with the house again--or, rather, with the yard around it. Ever since we decided to take down the sick old sycamore in the front yard, we've been tossing around ideas about what kind of tree should replace it. Something that would shade my bedroom window, but not prevent grass from growing; something that won't drop nuts, seed balls, or other hard objects to be shot out from under the mower and knock somebody in the head; something tough, that could withstand the low-water conditions here, yet bear up through the little bit of sub-freezing weather and ice storms we get every winter. There aren't a lot of choices for our zone (7) that match those criteria.

Sister A. has also bemoaned the giant lack of grass in the areas of our yard that lie around the neighbor's two fruitless mulberry trees. Some idiot way back in the history of that home's ownership planted these two trees right next to the driveway, just inside the property line. I'm sure he or she wanted shade there, and that wouldn't be a problem, except that fruitless mulberries grow to be really big. Like, this big:

Examples of mature fruitless mulberry trees.
Check out the size of the tree in relation to that truck. There's one down the street from us that must be 40 feet tall and two feet across the trunk! Imagine two trees that size eating up your driveway and destroying the foundation of your house! Sometimes, people have no brains when choosing trees.

Fortunately, our neighbor agreed to go halvsies on the cost of cutting down her two trees, so A. asked our neighborhood lawn man if he knew a tree guy (which he did), then arranged for said tree guy to not only cut down those trees, but also grind up all the stumps in the front yard. He ground up the mulberry tree stumps, our sycamore stump, and all the remaining pyracantha shrub stumps. So now we have a clean slate to start with.

Our house and the neighbor's, currently treeless.
Last Saturday, in anticipation of all this prep work, we donned long-sleeve shirts, hats, closed shoes, grabbed a big bottle of water, and set out for our favorite nursery to look at every single one of their trees. We were completely dead afterward--they have a LOT of trees, we had to slog through miles of sand, and it was freakin' hot out--but we'd whittled the possibilities down to two: cedar elm and frontier elm (we'd never heard of the latter; it's a hybrid, sez my Googling). Either would be OK, but neither really tripped our triggers.

What Sister A. really likes are desert willows. Here are some samples, with a car for comparison and a close-up of the flowers:

Examples of desert willow trees.
But, said A., desert willows don't go with our "ranch-type-style tract house" (tip o' the hat to Jerry Lewis for that fun phrase).

Well, I thought about that for a week and, at breakfast the next Saturday, asked why it mattered. Turns out there was no good reason. There are plenty of xeriscaped ranch houses in Arizona with desert willows in front of them. They're pretty, the canopy isn't dense enough to kill the grass, the bean pods are small, they don't need huge amounts of water, and since they're lighter than yer regulation deciduous tree, we can get two for the same price as a single cedar elm. They won't throw the same amount of shade on my window as a big tree would, but it'll be enough. And we like them. So why not?

And, hey, said A., if we're going with desert willows, why not replace the struggling euonymus in the front of our house with drought-friendly pampas grass, which we also both like?

So that's what we're doing. We zipped back home for our hats and long-sleeve shirts, went back out to the nursery, and looked at all their desert willows. They had one with white flowers--A. hadn't seen those before and really liked them--plus one with maroony/purplish flowers that had a nice shape. We hailed a passing employee, stuck our names on those trees, and got the name of their tree guy. He's coming out Monday to look at the layout and determine where the trees ought to go (we've staked our suggested spots).

Having arranged that, we went to Home Depot for pampas grass, topsoil, and a few other supplies. Then home to plant. The euonymous in front got moved to a spot with partial shade in back, where they should be much happier.

Sister A. in her slat-bonnet, digging new holes.
The euonymus in their new home. That little stone cairn marks the spot
where caladium bulbs were planted last week, five on each side.
Then we planted the pampas grass in front, moving the holes a little to space them out better around the hose stand.

The new pampas grasses will grow much bigger--we'll have to keep them tamed!
And because it was already on our list of Home Depot-related things to do, we also got five rubber tiles to place over our poured-concrete stepping stones in back. Three of these "stones" were poured too low, so they get flooded whenever it rains, which rather negates their usefulness. These tiles are made of recycled tires, which is very cool.

Rubber tiles cover the poured-concrete stepping stones.
I weed-ate around the concrete squares while Sister A. tackled the fun chore of transplanting and planting stuff (although I did manage to dig up and place one euonymous, which hopefully won't die from contact with my black thumb). And, yes, were were totally dead again after all that. But we're very excited about our new landscaping plan. We think we've hit the nail on the head this time.


Katnip Lounge said...

I LOVE the desert willow in our yard; they are gorgeous trees.

Jeremy Beauregard said...

Hey, you live in Arizona! What’s an Arizona home without a couple of desert willows? I’m glad you decided to go with desert willows. Mulberry trees are beautiful, but with the size they grow to, they may have become a problem in your garden. How are your trees and garden coming along these days?