A Gardener’s Thanksgiving

I know that I do a lot of grousing about my garden; people are undoubtedly tired of hearing me constantly complain about the poison ivy (entirely justified, though!), the stony/rocky clay soil, the rabbits, and the rodents. [Oh, wait, the rodents are part of the House Whine…sorry…] Given my growing reputation as a GOG (Grumpy Old Gardener), I thought today would be a good time to reflect upon the specific things that I am grateful for in this garden particularly.

It is on a half-acre lot.

This probably sounds like a strange ‘advantage’ to many of you, because 1/2 acre – in my case, measuring 109’ wide by 200’ deep – is not very big. However, because I live within commuting distance of a major city, it’s actually larger than average. My parents’ house sat on 1/8 acre (a 55’ x 100’ lot); my first garden was on a scant 1/3 acre (75’ x 120’); my second garden was on 1/8 acre and was a corner as well, which limited what I could legally do with it. My previous/third garden was on a perfectly square 100’ x 100’ half acre, with the house centered upon it. I wouldn’t want to live or garden on a property smaller than a half-acre again; living virtually cheek by jowl with one’s neighbors is not anything I want to experience again, even if they are nice/normal people, and we all know or have heard stories about Neighbors From Hell. At least with a half-acre lot, one has some buffer space!

The property is level.

This relates to the overall residential neighborhood that I currently live in; the local topography is hilly which means that it’s a challenge to find any lot that’s level and thus 100% usable. Because the surrounding areas/neighborhoods are flat (go figure) almost all of the level lots are on the perimeter…which mine is. The tradeoff for a level property is that it is inevitably fairly close to one of three busy roadways, which means there is noticeable traffic noise during all daylight hours. I’m only five lots away from the four-lane roadway to my south, but I will take traffic noise rather than a 45-degree-slope driveway any day!

It has 23 mature conifers along the north, west, and south property lines.

‘Mature’ in this instance means anywhere from 12 to 50 feet, depending on which conifer we’re talking about. Privacy, thy name is Conifer (especially when local codes limit the height of even backyard fences to no more than six feet; it’s a four-foot maximum anywhere between the house front and the street) but there is no limit on how tall a tree can be. 😀

There’s a yew hedge.

Every garden design book I’ve ever read has waxed poetic about the perfect backdrop being a yew hedge. It’s the ‘little black dress’ of gardening: always looks good no matter where or when, and makes anything in front of it look even better. There is a 7-foot-tall yew hedge running the entire width of my rear property line, and it is the perfect kind of yew hedge too. I don’t mean the species; I mean that it belongs to my neighbor. And THAT means it’s not me who has to take care of trimming it every year. Yay!!

There is one fly in the ointment – other than that because it doesn’t belong to me, it’s possible that the new or any future owner of that house could decide to have it all ripped out – and that’s the wild blackberry and Virginia creeper that have established themselves beneath said yew hedge, and they both make incursions through the old chain-link fence that is also there. It’s one of those “eternal vigilance” things, but hey, I am doing the same thing in the same area for the poison ivy anyhow.

Directly in front of the yew hedge, which faces east, are two large rhododendrons and an even larger mountain laurel. Some might say it was illogical of the former owners of my house to have put a broadleaf evergreen in front of a yew hedge (and I agree; I’d have used perennials and deciduous shrubs instead) but they do add a second layer of privacy which is never a bad thing. And, if the yew hedge ever is no more, these three will take over the screening job admirably without missing a beat. I do confess to wincing at this color clash during the week or so when the cherry-red kalmia buds share visual space with the mauve and pink rhododendrons, but they eventually do open to pale-pink flowers at almost the same time that the rhody blooms are going over. So, it’s only a short-term wince!

The Kitchen-Window Oak Tree

I no longer have oaks on my property but there is one that I look at multiple times each day because, as chance would have it, it is framed perfectly in the center of my kitchen-sink window. This, too, is a ‘borrowed’ element: It is in the backyard of the house that is two lots away. Readers of my 2015 Oakleaf Olympics posts may recall that I referred to it as the ‘hulking veteran player’ on Team Oak, even though he’s too far away to contribute any autumn leaves to my yearly tally.

How tall, or how old, is this tree? I’ve no idea, but it has a beautifully symmetrical shape and inspires great respect (in me, anyhow.) A Google Maps image shows that it is close to their east property line. That is probably what has saved it from being cut down, as it probably would have been if it were in the middle of that yard instead.


My yew-hedge neighbors probably curse it because of the volume of leaves and acorns that it must dump on their side of the shared fence, but as for me…. well, I can simply gaze out my window at it and enjoy how it looks during the various seasons of the year, especially when silhouetted against a sunset sky or outlined in snow. No pricey garden designer could have done better!

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

  3 comments for “A Gardener’s Thanksgiving

  1. Betty McCullough
    November 24, 2022 at 8:30 pm

    I really enjoyed your Thanksgiving piece. The photos are lovely and surprising, since I have seen others that don’t do your yard work justice. Happy Thanksgiving.

  2. November 24, 2022 at 10:10 pm

    Hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful.
    Mature plantings and a level lot aren’t the worst things, plus the half acre is a great thing! Mine is only close if I “borrow” ground from the industrial park… which I do 😉
    Your view is wonderful. I think oaks can be some of the most beautiful trees if you have the room, and even if you don’t. But those leaves!!

  3. November 25, 2022 at 8:49 am

    What a beautiful way of honoring your garden!

    I think sometimes, as gardeners, we are always looking at the things yet to be done or fixed or planted. I know that’s my biggest fault. My gardening mantra is “there’s always next year, ” which can be a blessing or a curse! I do need to stop and admire what’s good about this year!

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