Friday, February 10, 2012


By March we knew that Sugar would once again be be living in Austin so there would be 8 Divas of the Dirt in 2011. Juggling and trading dates gave us a new schedule... we'd sneak in two project days during the month of April.

First up was Mattie, recently moved and ready to make the garden her own. The house was old enough to have some good-sized shrubs in place in front, but the enclosed back yard needed more green and growing things to soften the privacy fence.

"Dear Divas ... the cold front won’t have arrived by is supposed to be 92! ...Breakfast: 9:00 a.m. sharp (we’ll save some for late comers) Projects: Plan/create beds, trim large bushes and dig holes for plants if possible. I am looking forward to seeing you all Saturday!"

Walking around Mattie's house for the first time was so much fun that Glinda forgot to take photos at breakfast. Our first meal together in Mattie's new dining room was delicious: a Fritatta, chocolate chip waffles & syrup, a fabulous fruit bowl, juices, and rye toast - a favorite.

Mindy heard about a clearance sale on shrubs and Mattie took advantage of the great prices, meaning a large group of shrubs needed to get out of containers and into the ground. The shrubs included
1 pink-flowering Indian Hawthorn/Rhaphiolepis indica
3 white-flowering Indian Hawthorns
2 Loropetalum/Chinese witch hazel in the more common pink
2 Loropetalum of an unusual White-flowering variety
2 nandinas
3 Southern Wax myrtles
1 passalong Barbados Cherry.

Soft foliage and airy branches can deflect the eye from the utility boxes but how exactly to place them? Good-sport Sophia volunteers to act like a shrub so we can get a sense of the scale once the shrubs are established.Divasofthedirt,sophia impersonates a shrub
Then it was time to dig holes and plant shrubs. Rocks and roots often hide in the soil and progress is slow but we're getting it done! This Southern Wax myrtle will have a chance to expand and growDivasofthedirt,southern wax myrtleA second native Southern Wax myrtle is in placeDivasofthedirt,southern wax myrtle 2We like the front of Mattie's pretty house with its mixture of sun and shade on a quiet street. But Mattie was not happy with the big green blob on the front corner of the house - an overgrown red-tip photinia, no longer a recommended plant for our area.Divasofthedirt,redtip blob shrubWe'd given a similar redtip at Sophia's house a drastic kill-or-cure pruning and shaping which allowed filtered light to reach the base and gave the shrub a lighter, more graceful appearance, making it look like a small tree rather than a green blob.
Mattie was up for that. The pruning revealed the trunks and there would be space underneath for something more interesting.Divasofthedirt,redtip trunks revealed
Wait a minute - let's take a closer look at this branch. The trunk has divided into a 'Y' about a foot off the ground, then those two branches have grown a few more feet, touched, and grown together at the top, forming a sort of oval shape. This kind of natural grafting is called "Inosculation".Divasofthedirt,redtip INOSCULATION
Kind of cool, isn't it?
Breaking for lunch is delectable but sometimes dangerous - Mattie, do you really think you'll get more work out of us after this feast?Divasofthedirt,table at lunchChicken breast rolled & stuffed with mushrooms & sage,
Divasofthedirt,chicken stuffed with sage
Spaghetti squash with vegetables & feta cheese
Divasofthedirt,spaghetti squash with fetaand a beautiful salad
Divasofthedirt,beautiful saladEverything was delicious ... and this was followed by some fantastic chocolate chip cookies, white chocolate & macadamia gelato, and the pie Mattie hesitated to serve at first. After if did not turn out exactly as she wanted, we rechristened it "Deconstructed Lemon pie" and dug in. Divasofthedirt,boxwood to tameThe boxwood in front still had to be tamed a bit but uh-oh - you're supposed to prune the boxwood, Buffy - not the cord!Divasofthedirt,cut the cordAlthough we couldn't plant everything in one day, we enjoyed working together to kickstart Mattie's garden plans.

"What a great day! You all exceeded my expectations greatly--my plants are almost all planted!! I had nothing around the perimeter of my backyard (you know how I hate that) and I now it is beautifully planted with 11 great bushes (thank you Mindy). "

Next project only a few weeks ahead!

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