rental backyard: discount plantings (part 7)

repotted gift mums

Last weekend, after we had cleared out all that extra wood from the backyard, we finally had room to plant several items of flora collected for free or on the cheap over the last few months. Jeff's dad, who as a pensioned retiree drives truck part-time for a nursery owned by a family cousin, had donated several large bags of compost a while back. We would dig a hole large enough for whatever plant we were installing. Then in a large plastic planter we'd mix compost with the loosened soil in a 1:1 ratio, adding full-strength compost to the bottom of the hole, placing the plant in, filling in the remainder of the hole with composted soil, and then tamping everything down firmly and finally watering.

First we planted the potted lilac bush our former duplex neighbor had left behind. The lilac is a bit scraggly from being stuck in a pot for who knows how long on the shaded east side of the house but should do better now planted in our backyard corner between the neighbor's garage and the back fence. I doubt it will bloom next spring, but maybe it will surprise us. I love the scent of lilacs, and it was free, so it was worth the gamble, even though the bush without leaves will look like a bag of sticks.

hand-me-down lilac bush, planted

Next we planted the three ferns we'd bought from Fred Meyer in the discount garden section sometime in mid-summer. I suspect they'd gotten sunburned during the June heat wave. Kept in a cardboard box for months, they seem to be doing fine, if a bit pale, and will likely thrive in the deep shade of the mystery tree growing in the east corner of the backyard.

discount fern, planted

discount ferns and hostas planted behind skeleton vintage dining set

discount hosta, planted

Sadly, the four hostas we'd bought along with the ferns hadn't fared as well over the summer in the cardboard box. Their leaves had kept yellowing and going sickly. We're thinking only two of the plants will survive, though it might be just as well, since hostas like to spread out. They should have plenty of dappled shade under the mystery tree in the northeast corner. And if they don't live, we'll simply buy more ferns.

tattered English ivy survivors

To our surprise, the English ivy that had climbed the old fence has survived both deconstruction and construction. This is one hardy plant! Leaves now tattered, it may yet climb the new fence. In any case, I'm keeping it; ivy gets a bad invasive-plant rap here in the Pacific Northwest, but we're not living in the forest, and we could use some vertical plant growth here in the backyard.

The hardest placement to decide on was the hydrangea gifted to me by Jeff's mom during my September surgery. We weren't certain of the best planting location because hydrangeas need lots of room and light, neither of which the backyard has much of. But the front yard has even less space right now for plants, so into the backyard it went, right next to the new deck. I'd read that foil-wrapped hydrangeas, rather than nursery hydrangeas, are a planting risk regardless, having been greenhouse-grown and forced to bloom. So we'll see how it does.

gift hydrangea, planted

For a little more color back there, I also repotted a couple of gifted fall mums, though I'm not sure how they'll fare through winter. At least one of them was a deep burgundy originally, now faded to pink. Having almost no budget for landscaping requires creativity and flexibility. This is still early landscaping stages, but it's a start—and a cheap one at that.

repotted mums

As we head into the rainy season, the need to mulch around these new plantings for insulation and to limit weed growth and then place some kind of pavers for pathways becomes more urgent—before the backyard turns into a muddy mess.

Missed the earlier posts in the Rental Backyard series documenting our backyard fix-up? Check out . . .

Part 1: The Tangled Mess
Part 2: Down to Dirt
Part 3: New Old Deck
Part 4: The Old Fence
Part 5: The New Fence
Part 6: Clean Slate

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