From the Sperry Gardens: January 2015


Landscapes are never “finished.” Like all living beings, humans included, they’re works-in-progress. For all of my life, I’ve gone to bed dreaming of changes I’d like to make in my plantings.

This area used to be St. Augustine sod. However, about eight years ago the shade from our native pecans grew too heavy for the grass to survive. The bare areas were growing larger and larger, and the end was in sight. It was time for a change.

I repurposed a bunch of concrete stepping stones we’d made for another part of our gardens. We moved them here, and then proceeded to build the landscape around them. Lamium (dead nettle) and mondograss replaced the St. Augustine as the groundcovers of choice.

If you know me at all, you could have predicted that I’d bring a truckload of hollies into the planting. Carissa hollies flank the bottom and left side of the walk. Dwarf yaupon holly is crowding out into the walk on the right. (I should have known better. It should have been 15 inches farther to the right.) Needlepoint hollies share space with the native redcedars on the upper right, and tree-form yaupon hollies are above the spot where the walk disappears into the mondograss. Through the bare stems of the rusty blackhaw viburnum, you see Mary Nell holly, and in the distant background, behind Mary Nell, there are 15 or 20 Nellie R. Stevens hollies over the edge of the slope.

That’s Harbour Dwarf nandina with the cluster of red berries. I think I’ll plant them to see what comes of them. It’s an old favorite tall groundcover of mine (to 18 inches tall), and it’ll be fun to see if the seedlings have any tendencies toward staying short.

This part of our landscape has an entirely different and completely tropical look in the summer. Pots of crotons, ferns, philodendrons, peace lilies, coleus and begonias fill all the voids. But now, while all of those plants are back in the greenhouse, I can see the “bones” of our landscape, and those bones set my mind rolling. So many options — I’ll have to choose carefully. But I’ll be thinking about them tonight when I turn out the lights.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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