Kensington, MD, April 13, 2015 — We are entering our fourth summer in our retirement home. As with any new place, the repairs, upgrades, remodeling, and yard work gets prioritized by health and safety needs, aesthetics and by cost.
No house is perfect. As houses go, this one suited our needs but had some design issues. We’ve learned over the years that you can make almost any building work, besides there was nothing perfect on the market in our preferred neighborhood when we were buying.
The primary selling point for this house was the back yard. The landscaping renders it totally private in the summer. Plus, it features a huge low profile deck and it is garnished by a large glass sunroom which allows us to enjoy a 180 degree view of this sylvan setting year round.
Unfortunately, my lack of attention over the past three summers allowed the yard plants the freedom to metastasize into an overgrown jungle.
I will admit to gross procrastination. That’s why it’s taken three years to get to this point. The landscaping has become so overgrown that I couldn’t figure out which part of the elephant to bite first.
Landscaping is also hard, dirty, brute labor. I’d rather think of it as a workout, but that romantic logic doesn’t always hold up to the reality of the hot sun, stifling humidity, sticky mud and the biting bugs.
Now the bill has come due. It’s do it now or by the end of summer, our place will be overgrown like a lost Mayan temple in the Yucatan jungle.
The battlefield is a half acre with a sloped front yard buttressed by a brick retaining wall. The weight of moisture laden March snows seriously tore holes in the hedge that picket-lined its front slope.
The outer defenses of the back lot consist of a perimeter of mature holly trees reinforced by an understory of intertwined aucuba and azaleas. Ground level is carpeted by a United Nations of intermingled ground cover plants – vinca, English ivy, pachysandra, periwinkle, and various ferns including some fiddle heads. The yard itself is mostly ground cover with little grass.
I forgot to mention the sentinels – five mature tulip poplars which have a few random off spring sprouting out of the babel of plants that serve in lieu of grass. From time to time the big guys drop branches large enough to require a chain saw. Fortunately, they are posted at the back of the lot and are not near the house.
Sadly, Bambi thinks the aucubas and azaleas are a salad bar. We live only a couple of blocks from a miles-long green space infested with deer. Cleaning up the deer damage alone will require heavy artillery.
I decided to rehearse the main attack in a side garden. It was a contained space chock full of laurels in need of haircuts, overgrown azaleas, ivy run amok, and three half-dead holly bushes. Pulling the ivy was the the worst part. The damn stuff fights back!
The battle lasted two days, but armed with iron tools the invading plants were eventually overpowered after putting up a worthy defense. It was great training for the main event to come.
Two weekends worth of enemy battle casualties.
Yesterday was backyard D-day. The Powell Doctrine was in effect – as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Colin Powell postulated that overwhelming force must be used against enemies.
We attacked at down with a ground assault – led by a pick, serrated spade, pruning saw, the professional grade loppers I use on the Appalachian Trail, and all supported by a wheel borrow and our daughter’s old little red wagon. No plant in the wrong place stood a chance.
By late afternoon today, the first objective was secure. This is going to be a summer-long fight. No hundred-hour war here.
With the first objective taken and rain in the forecast, it was time to review the day’s work and plot my next move.