TGGR Progress Report: Wrapping Up the Projects

Yes, despite the time of year I really did mean to type ‘projects’ instead of ‘presents’ … although being able to cross some things off my TGGR List does feel much like a gift! About two weeks ago I was able to have a few more taken care of, although not by any means completed. Here are some of the before-and-after highlights. In the ‘before’ photos red ribbons denote plants or areas to be ripped out; yellow ones are things that needed moving.

(Disclaimer: Between my upper and lower back, and the poison ivy risk, I cannot take credit for any of this except the inspiration and payment.)

Three Berberis atropurpurea directly in front of several rhodies have been a thorn in my side (often literally) for four years. I finally got them all hacked back to a couple feet high without looking like I’d been in a street fight but I wanted them gone, baby, gone.
I am thinking a couple of nice evergreen azaleas that will screen that low fence opening but never get tall enough to obscure the rhodies. This is an eastern exposure so they’d work nicely (in more ways than one.)


I had to hunt up a photo from last year of this small but miserable corner area. There’s a sad-looking variegated aucuba near a VERY large pine, and the understory had become filled with Rose of Sharon saplings plus some wild blackberry and poison ivy thrown in for good measure. My neighbor’s side of the chainlink fence is basically a junk dump. Luckily I don’t see that area often but the R of S population had gotten way out of control.

R of S dug out (I hope), landscape fabric and Timberlite mulch down. Originally I asked them to bring the mulch out right next to the pine but was told that roots made the area un-diggable for the edging so that’s as close as they could get. The area in front of this refurbished corner is going to be paved either next month or next spring – more on that debacle later – and so when all is done I’ll probably throw down some extra fabric and Timberlite afterward. The aucuba looks happier already.



One of the many oak stumps left after last December’s massacre of the not so innocents; because of the shape I call this one the Clover Stump. Enmeshed in the roots are variegated euonymus, ditch daylilies, English ivy, and the remants of three poison ivy plants (dead but still toxic roots.)
Not anymore. Well, except for the P.I. roots of course. I have no idea what I’ll be putting here but it will have to be shallow rooted to fit amongst those oak roots. All suggestions welcome! 🙂



The crape myrtle (sole survivor) bed had been cleared out by another team earlier this year, or so I thought but they obviously left a lot of the orange daylilies behind – plus the remnants of the disused sprinkler system. There was poison ivy all through this bed, especially where the daylilies were, so there was no way I’m touching it myself for a while.
Much better. Hopefully. This bed will need a year of constant Poison Ivy Patrol before replanting.



This is called Denny’s Bed because under normal circumstances my bronze/brass figure named Denny (the) Crane presides here. Earlier this year I was sure the Hellish Houttonyia had NOT yet invaded this bed. The summer months proved me wrong, bigtime.

I realized that I had not been clear enough that “clear everything out of this bed” meant the leftover conifer stump as well. And didn’t realize it until after they left. Duh. Oh and this bed, as well as the Lantern Bed on the other side of the mini-bridge, will need at least two years of Houttonyia Patrol before planting anything. I am thinking along the lines of dwarf conifers.



This is the second of two beds right next to the back patio. The one that was totally infested with poison ivy was cleared out this spring. This didn’t have P.I. (that I know of) but the phlox got totally invaded by wild garlic, nutsedge, and that sneaky little variegated ornamental grass with designs on world domination.

I may be able to plant this one up next year, depending on what rears its head in the spring.

And now for some more serious work in the front yard:

Part of the surprise miniature Grand Canyon that appears in this post. The north end  (not visible) also needed a carpet of prostrate juniper ripped out and two rhodies relocated.

This is after filling and rough grading. On the advice of the boss, the planned topsoil is being deferred until after Eddie the Brickmason can rip up and redo the front walkway, a job originally scheduled for early November but MAY get done this month but maybe not. It’s all about the weather. More digging and grading and filling will be needed for that job, and it’s too late in the year to put down grass seed anyhow, so the topsoil may need to wait until spring. The area has already settled – again – and so clearly needs more of something additional.



This is the most noticeable difference: the driveway bed. This was, frankly, a mess. One section of prostrate junipers fully invaded by wild garlic and grass. The other, larger, section totally overrun with goutweed. An invasive variegated ornamental grass. Poison ivy in several areas of the streetside end. Depressing any way you look at it. (In this bed, yellow ribbon meant “keep” and everything else to be ripped out. It was easier that way…)

After the great rip-out. A new addition is a mountain laurel that was languishing along the front walkway. This particular bed has accidentally pointed itself toward eventually being populated heavily by red flowers – probably the only area of the garden that will have any. An existing crape myrtle is red-flowered, and this spring I moved a red camellia from the front porch area to the backyard where it hated being in full sun all day so back to a southeastern exposure it went. The mountain laurel has red buds opening to banded red/white flowers. (The forsythia is yellow but we’ll forgive that.) So I’ll have some thinking to do in the future about reds and jewel tones in general. No orange though. I have seen enough orange daylilies and tiger lilies on this property to last me twenty lifetimes!!



The final two shots are of the area that once was covered by the wood porch. Since the exterior renovation it has a new brick entry (what in this part of the country would be termed an “oversized stoop” since it’s 8’x8’) and still has its 8-foot-deep roof overhang, now supported by columns instead. The masonry work already messed up this area and it will be messed up yet again by Phase Two. However, in the meantime I could do this:

I’m a big fan of keeping at least three feet of ground around any house foundation clear of plants and as dry as possible. This is especially important here where basements are naturally damp. I also wanted a dry surface path to all four of the hose bibs. And then of course there’s the gutter runoff to consider. All solved nicely by a layer of Timberlite mulch corralled by heavyweight aluminum edging. This is the north end of what I now call the “portico”, with a bit of poetic license.

This is the south end. Yes I really did have all the oak trees on my property cut down a year ago. Everything you see is from my neighbor’s blankety-blank trees….
Those rocks will eventually be gone, but no sense addressing them before the ripout/rebuild of the adjacent walkway.

I really do hope that the Home Improvement Gods smile upon me enough to allow Eddie to do the masonry work (foundation repair, front walkway, side patio, and partial rear strip) later this month. If so, there will be some even more dramatic before/after photos in the next TGGR progress report. Fingers crossed!

  15 comments for “TGGR Progress Report: Wrapping Up the Projects

  1. December 2, 2018 at 3:05 am

    There is not sufficient information to provide recommendations for replacement of the tree that is now a stump, or for other things to plant there. If it were in my garden, and I did not intend to put another tree there, I would probably just plug in zonal geranium cuttings from one of the weedier old fashioned zonal geraniums. I would not use the wimpy modern cultivars that has been bred for showier bloom at the expense of vigor, but rather, one of those weedy types that gets quite tall, but with less flashy bloom. One mof mine is bright magenta pink. The other is orangish red. Anyway, when I cut them back in winter, but before the last rains, I would process the debris into several cuttings. I would plug the cuttings simply by poking holes into the ground with a tire iron, and sticking the cuttings in. My tire iron is from a 1977 Skylark, but that is not important. Anyway, the cuttings grow without any amendment to the soil. They can get cut back next winter to start the process over again. By the time you want to put something else in there, the geraniums should haave loosened the soil, and promoted decay of the roots that haad made digging so difficult. It is sort of like using the geraniums as a cover crop.

    • December 2, 2018 at 3:07 pm

      That’s an idea to consider. Of course in my part of the country (zone 7) zonals are treated as annuals whereas it sounds as if they overwinter for you? I have thought about simply sowing some easy annuals like Nigella which has foliage different enough from any of the “nasties” (P.I., houttonyia, etc) to make any resurgent pest seedlings immediately obvious. They wouldn’t do anything to hasten the demise of the oak roots though.

      • December 2, 2018 at 10:04 pm

        Watering them would hasten decay, if the roots are already necrotic. My zonal geraniums get cut down at the end of winter, but regenerate as perennials. Modern garden varieties are not so strong, so are likely to die over winter. They do not work as well as the weedy sorts do as cover crops anyway. In our region, we also use the common Hottentot fig (freeway iceplant) just because it costs nothing to get scraps from somewhere else to plug in; and they grow like weeds. There must be some sort of comparable easy perennial there. I just hate to spend money on something that is just a fancy cover crop.

  2. December 2, 2018 at 3:58 am

    It bring such a satisfied feeling when one can weed out the problem areas of a garden (or a life) and replace it with something better. Sometimes, it takes a while. Congrats on your achievement!

    • December 2, 2018 at 3:18 pm

      It does indeed, and thank you. 🙂 I try not to dwell on the fact that I made a terrible choice for something on the exterior of the house but it’s one of those things that at least I can try to do visual damage control to hopefully mitigate. Replacement isn’t an option and so the “distract the eye” approach will be key!

      • December 2, 2018 at 3:24 pm

        Thank you, and please edit that “It bring” in my comment to “It brings…” Haste makes typos!

  3. December 2, 2018 at 7:51 am

    What an enormous amount of work, I hope next year you can get to enjoy it all. I have given up battling invasive weeds and I am carpeting more and more of the garden with weed membrane. It is a good idea having a gravel ‘cordon sanitaire’ round the house, if I’d thought of this I wouldn’t have had Romneya coulterii coming up in my library. My house was built in 1500, so no damp course here. Glad to see you getting rid of Rose of Sharon, horrible stuff. And Day lilies are the Devil’s spawn too, in my opinion.

    • December 2, 2018 at 3:10 pm

      I have to ask how the Romneya managed to enter the library, LOL. Does it have a wandering root system by nature? I have always wanted to grow that plant but sadly it is too cold for it here. It’s a Zone 8-10 plant and we are Zone 7; even a milder winter would kill it.

      • December 2, 2018 at 3:21 pm

        RC either sulks and dies or romps away and comes up everywhere. I have had to evict it, it got too big for its boots and growing through the skirting board and coming up amongst the book shelves was the last straw.

  4. December 2, 2018 at 11:14 am

    That’s an impressive change and I admire your stoicism about waiting for the reappearance of various nasties before final planting. Hope you have some fun with annuals meanwhile.

    • December 2, 2018 at 3:16 pm

      Oh, it’s less stoicism than self-preservation! 🙂 Houttonyia in particular is like trying to defend against a zombie horde. It sneers at glyphosate, even in commercial-level concentrations, and struggles – often successfully – against triclopyr which is commonly used against such tough customers as kudzu, wild blackberry, and poison ivy. Digging is futile because it’s one of those plants that will regenerate from the merest sliver of root left behind. The only hope is to keep zapping it every time it appears and hope that eventually it gives up. I don’t know who first introduced this plant into cultivation but I would have no hesitation in bringing back the olden-days practice of hanging, drawing and quartering for that person, LOL. There’s a blog post elsewhere titled Why Won’t This Plant Die? and I can identify with every one of the 396 (to date) commiserating comments. Two years of constant vigilance is actually on the optimistic side; it might be three, four, or………

  5. December 12, 2018 at 11:50 am

    Wow its looking great, so much planting potential! What is timberlite exactly? Looking forward to following progress. 🙂

    • December 12, 2018 at 2:35 pm

      Timberlite is the trade name for a particular fired stone product, similar to lava rock but not quite as porous. It’s lighter than normal stone and because the colors are natural they won’t wear or wash off like dyed “redstone” or faux bluestone does. It was trademarked in 2009 by a company called Delaware Valley Landscape Stone and is described as a “burnt stone for landscape use.” It comes in the ‘mulch’ size and also in large rocks/boulders although I’ve never seen any of those. I’ve occasionally seen it advertised as Anthrabrite and as Sunrise but most places call it Timberlite. It’s usually sold by the cubic yard; I’ve never seen it in bags. If it has a downside it’s that the irregularly shaped and sized pieces make it less suitable for something like a heavily used pathway; it’s not “treacherous” but the rough surfaces and odd shapes make it more likely to move beneath your feet. I do love the different shades and colors though. In my last garden I had it as a pathway and the central rusty-burgundy halo of daylily ‘Sky City’ was a perfect match for the Timberlite colors, as was Viola ‘Chianti.’

      • December 12, 2018 at 4:11 pm

        Thanks, I wonder if it is available here in the UK? Sounds and look great.

  6. December 26, 2018 at 2:33 pm

    Oh, keep the poison ivy away from me, please! I break out if I get within 6 feet.

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