How the Garden Grows

A garden that has survived nearly a century will understandably contain a little of this, and a little of that courtesy of each of its resident gardeners. Some things will flourish and multiply while others tucker out and hang on for dear life. The garden attached to our lovely, old home seems to mass produce holly, liriope, and ivy – but mostly ivy.

My husband held no fear of the old house which sits in this garden, but every time he looked outside the window he moaned and warned me that it was the yard that was the money pit.

A chain link fence created a dog run in this yard's previous life.
A chain link fence created a dog run in this yard’s previous life. The branches of the Magnolia rested on the ground.

Our little spot of earth came fully equipped with a wooden fence – on two and one half sides, a small playground, a chain link fence within the fence, storage shed, broken concrete bird baths and tables, a brick patio and pathways. . . with not one level brick amongst them all. Abundant plant life was also evident – we just couldn’t see it for the ivy.

Whales fished out of the ivy.
Whales fished out of the ivy.

Every spare moment of the past 3 months were spent discovering my new garden, and each trip into the jungle brought new finds from deep within the underbelly of ivy: toys, tomato cages, bricks, a cake plate, rake, hand spade, and a ladder. I have also discovered rock walls, long lost flower beds, and under what we thought were stumps covered in ivy there were little trees.

My Aunt tells me Grandmother always had a ‘plan’ for her garden, and this sounds like a smart approach. So I go out and walk around the yard with the intention of developing a plan, but then I’m curious what’s under this clump of ivy, or I become obsessed with the ivy smothering this poor little bush, or climbing up that tree. Before I know it I have spent hours pulling ivy.

While battling overgrown urban ivy is identical to battling the overgrown mountain ivy of our previous home, there are distinctive differences in the cleanup.

At the end of a long and productive day of pulling ivy in the mountains, I would load up the scraps and throw them over the side of the mountain, and just that easy they were gone.

At the end of a long and productive day of pulling ivy in the city, we must bag the remnants, or tie them in a bundle, and place them by the curb.

Bags are to be clear and bundles tied with string. It was when I ran out of string this week that I realized ivy can, in fact, be good for something.

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Turns out ordinary garden ivy makes a hard-working string for tying bundles of yard debris.

This garden is far from “reveal ready.” It may even be fair to call all of these pictures the ‘before,’ but the hot, mosquito-ridden days of summer have turned into brisk, leaf-laden days of autumn, and my gardening adventures are numbered.

Maybe during the cold, snowy days of winter I’ll develop that ‘plan.’

The space behind the house 'before'
The space behind the house ‘before’
The same space 'after'
Underneath the clumps of ivy were little trees.
'Before'
‘Before’ a window well to the basement was an eye-sore and ivy had covered the side of the garage.
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The area behind the house now In-Progress.
A rock wall was completely covered by the ivy.
Rock walls were completely covered by the ivy. Hercules has been part of the family for years, but the little frog came with the house. . . and the ivy.
The dog run 'after'
The dog run and Magnolia ‘after.’
A flower bed waits to be unencumbered from the ivy.
A flower bed waits to be unencumbered from the ivy.
'Before:' a well-worn path leads from the front of the house to the back.
‘Before’ a well-worn path led from the front of the house to the back.
A new brick path leads to the front yard.
‘After’ a new brick path leads from the front to the back, and a new fence to separate the two.

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