Blooming Treasures Lie Hidden In Neglected Yard

Sometimes your overgrown yard could hide some established beauties.

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With all the indoor work needing to be done and a major kitchen overhaul looming, any landscaping at our house has been limited to essential maintenance.

But like the pink carpet that curses our floors, the odd mush of shrubs in front of the house has been on my ditch-and-destroy list. Had we not been facing a long list of tasks and a shortage of cash, I might have tackled this project early in the summer when home improvement stores were stocked with a good selection of flowering bushes.

As the days wore on, though, I began to discover that underneath the fall leaves left behind by the previous owner, my yard is a wonderful 50-year-old collection of brilliant, mostly native plants that deserve better than my out-with-the-old attitude.

My first find happened in early June. I was running out the door, as usual, and I glanced over to the dogwood tree where I had temporary hung my new ferns for the sun porch.

A bright purple flare stopped me in my tracks. Behind a row of gangly bushes in desperate need of trimming hid a dense row of irises. Only one had bloomed, likely for lack of sunlight, but matching foliage popped up all along the foundation of the house.

I walked around the house and brainstormed where to put these beauties before next June. Perhaps a raised bed under the kitchen window. Exciting!

Not as exciting, though, as when the roses beside the garage began to bloom about a week later. We had noticed when we cleared out the border box beside the garage that it contained three rose bushes, but they had been cut back drastically. I never thought they would produce leaves, much less flowers.

They, too, aren't getting enough sun for every plant to bloom, but I'm working on a new location nearby where they might do better next year.

A few weeks later, what I thought was a bare spot between two bushes with variegated leaves under the dining room was no longer bare. Large leaves with red borders began to rise out of the ground and fold open. We're still not sure what they are, but they're cool.

And just when I thought I had figured out what would stay and what would go, I discovered some beautiful white blossoms on one of the overgrown shrubs along the back fence. We've got several of these in front of the house as well, but I had hacked the strange bush back in June while this one behind the house had grown wild.

Later that day on a trip to pick up screws to hang curtains made by my mom, I strolled through the garden center.

Front and center, 10 feet from the register, was my ugly shrub. These, though, had a few bottom branches trimmed and reached 6 feet with flowers along many of the branches. Turns out, it's not a shrub at all but a hibiscus tree.

A staffer showed me how to trim them properly and promised the hardy plants would survive my earlier trimming. Wait until fall, he said, and I could move those too.

So now, when I pull up in front of my house each evening, instead of seeing the yard as the equivalent of pink carpet, I see hardwood floors. A little mulch and some transplanting, and it will be a whole new yard next year.

So, peruse before you plow, and make sure you're not throwing out the wonders with the weeds.

(Robin Oliver of the Birmingham Post-Herald in Alabama.)

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