A Small, Private Back Yard With Tea Olive and Roses

I often refer to landscaping as a four-dimensional art form. When questioned about this observation, I reply that “the fourth dimension of the art form is time. The landscape planting is an ever-changing entity.” For this reason I never know what I will see when I walk into a yard several years after its installation. The site may meet my expectations, exceed them, or in a few cases it may be a dismal failure.

Helen and Jack Runninger had invited Dekie and me over for a Friday night pizza dinner. Our delightful friend Ginger Grant was also invited. I was looking forward to seeing our friends as well as being curious about the fate of the privacy back yard that I had put together four or five years earlier. I was pleasantly surprised. The garden truly exceeded my expectations.

A privacy wall with tea olive, Knockout roses, and lantana.

A privacy wall with tea olive, Knockout roses, and lantana.

Jack and Helen got married later in life—much later. They sensibly downsized their living accommodations by moving to a very nice retirement community with one level floor plans and small yards. If I recall correctly, Jack was head over heels in love and gave Helen a johntheplantman back yard as a housewarming gift. I started by laying a slate patio with stone that had been donated by one of Helen’s friends.

The yard started with this grey slate patio

The yard started with this grey slate patio

When the patio was finished we pulled up chairs, looked around, and discussed the rest of the back yard planting. There was no privacy. To the left was a very nice yard with flower beds but no real privacy. To the right we could see yard after yard after yard. The ugly part, though, was the rear border of Jack and Helen’s yard. There was a hill-or a large terrace- that went down into the yard behind them and the house at the bottom of the hill was situated so that from the Runninger’s new patio, all one could see was an ugly roof. I thought long and hard about the design. It had to be beautiful, effective, and low maintenance.

I had to put in some complicated drainage and then a raised bed with some good compost. I planted tea olives on the back property line for a high evergreen screen. (The tea olives were about three feet high when I planted them.) I put Knockout roses to the front of the tea olives and prepared a raised flower bed in front of the roses. The first year of the flower bed we had pansies but the deer and rabbits brought their own salad dressing to that feast. The following summer we planted lantana and Helen said that the lantana come back reliably year after year.

This is funny. I told the ladies that I was going to take pictures of the garden for a blog article. They asked me what I wanted them to do and I said, “act like you’re talking about something in the garden. Maybe one of you should point at a feature.” This is the wonderful picture:

Dekie, Helen, and Ginger discuss remarkable parts of the garden

Dekie, Helen, and Ginger discuss remarkable parts of the garden

I used Cleyera japonica for the side yards with a few nandinas thrown in for texture, color, and winter berries. I liked the way the cleyera had grown in.

Cleyera as a screen. It's hard to believe there's another house 10 feet behind this.

Cleyera as a screen. It’s hard to believe there’s another house 10 feet behind this.

Back to the present, we ate dinner on the patio and everyone remarked about the lack of mosquitoes. Helen said that she thought it was because of the birds—especially the hummingbirds. It seems that the colors and fragrances of the garden attract the birds. The tea olives bloom two or three times a year and provide a true olfactory treat.

 A bird bath for accent and utility in a private back yard

A bird bath for accent and utility in a private back yard

While we talked about birds a beautiful yellow goldfinch visited the feeder. It’s in the picture. I promise. Look really close

yellow bird in a private back yard

yellow bird in a private back yard

And that’s the story of the Runninger’s private back yard. Sweet Helen just raves over it.

Helen Runninger raves about her back yard.

Helen Runninger raves on and on about her beautiful back yard.

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Thanks for visiting John the Plant Man. Here are a few  related posts:

Summertime care for Knockout roses:  Click Here

A privacy screen with Arizona Cypress and Knock out Rose:  Click Here

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

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The illustrated guide to rooting begonia cuttings

 I’m going to need a lot of nice flowering plants. The Junior Service League garden tour is scheduled for April 28 and all of the urns and flower beds will have to look really good. I usually don’t even start the planting until the first of May because of the variable weather patterns in the North Georgia hills. Patsy’s going to love this.

I love dragon wing begonias for pots or flower beds

I love dragon wing begonias for pots or flower beds

I have access to a greenhouse, however. Due to health and other issues, I haven’t used the greenhouse for the last couple of years but when I found out about the garden tour last October, I decided to clean up the greenhouse and to save a lot of Dragon Wing begonias that would have ordinarily gone to the trash pile. As we changed out annual color last year, I saved a number of the begonias and potted them up to use this spring. Last week (march 7), they looked like this: (if you are following these instructions at home, you don’t need a greenhouse, just a warm, well-lit area)

begonias saved from last year

begonias saved from last year

The situation is multi-faceted. I need about thirty really nice plants to plant in the urns around the pools and at doorways. I also need quite a few smaller plants to use in extensive flower bed plantings. My strategy will be to get the plants ready in the greenhouse and to do the planting at the last minute. The job is to clean up and prune the existing plants so that they will grow out big and to make some new ones. The two jobs go well together. We start with some careful cutting.

Pruning and taking begonia cuttings.

Pruning and taking begonia cuttings.

I am cutting as a pruning process that will make the plant branch out and shape right, but I am also looking for just the right size of tips to root for new plants. A desirable tip will look like this:

begonia tip suitable for rooting

begonia tip suitable for rooting

To prepare the tip for rooting, pinch off any blooms and a lower leaf or two.

begonia tip prepared for cutting

begonia tip prepared for cutting

A rooting hormone is not a necessity, the cuttings will root without it, but using the hormone will provide quicker, healthier results. The main ingredient that I search the label for is “indole 3 butyric acid.” This is a growth hormone and it may be found in liquid or powdered formulations. I found it at a garden center.

rooting hormone gives good results

rooting hormone gives good results

We dip the cutting in the powder to coat the fresh cut end.

dip the cutting in the hormone powder and wiggle it around a bit.

dip the cutting in the hormone powder and wiggle it around a bit.

The cuttings are then stuck in moist potting soil. I used Hyponex moisture control potting soil this time, but any other high quality preparation will do. You can actually use clean sand and get really good results.

Stick the cuttings in a tray of high quality potting soil or clean sand

Stick the cuttings in a tray of high quality potting soil or clean sand

I like to use nursery flats to stick the cuttings in. I get 40 to 50 cuttings per tray. A flower pot will work well if you are only doing a few cuttings.

A nursery tray works best for cuttings, but a flower pot will do.

A nursery tray works best for cuttings, but a flower pot will do.

As we take cuttings for new plants, we also clean any old stems and bad leaves from the larger plants. I want to encourage the new spring growth to come from the bottom of the plant. This will give much better shape and durability.

cleaning and pruning last year's begonias

cleaning and pruning last year’s begonias

After sticking a number of cuttings in the rooting medium, I use a gentle spray of water to wash the soil in around the base of the plants and to wet the leaves.

water the cuttings to settle the soil and wet the leaves

water the cuttings to settle the soil and wet the leaves

.The cuttings are fully prepared at this time. They should be placed in a bright location-but not in full sun. I suggest misting the plants lightly once or twice a day. Be careful not to over water them, though. Misting works best in the morning. The leaves should be dry at night to reduce the incidence of fungal infections. The rooted cuttings should be ready for pots in two or three weeks.

The plants that we will grow out for specimens have now been totally cleaned and they look like this:

clean begonias ready to grow out for spring planting

clean begonias ready to grow out for spring planting

You can use this method for rooting cuttings with many different plants. Geraniums, begonias, impatiens, and many more plants will respond readily.

 I hope you enjoyed the article. I’ll bet you will also enjoy my novel

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

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