Front Yard Initiative - The Finished Project
My Front Yard Initiative project is officially complete! The FYI staff from Urban Conservancy came out for my final site visit about two weeks ago to see the results, and now my house proudly displays an FYI sign to let anyone who passes know that I went from gray to green and am doing my part to help manage water on my property. I'm thrilled with the results, and I can't wait to watch the gardens fill out over time. I described all the new hardscaping in my last post, so now I'll show you the landscaping.
As I learned in the FYI workshop, the program encourages the use of native plants because they are well-suited to our environment and beneficial to local wildlife. My planting beds are not huge, but I was determined to incorporate natives where I could and consider the suitability of any non-native selections for how they might fit with the overall goals of the program. Of course, I also wanted my gardens to compliment my little shotgun cottage, so I chose my plants and colors carefully.
I started with my new garden beds around the front of the house. These areas were previously covered in concrete or smothered by elephant ears - not exactly good curb appeal.
To the right of the stairs, I planted an Encore azalea, an evergreen that will provide year round structure and will bloom in both spring and fall. Azaleas are a classic Southern shrub, and while not native, they flourish in gardens throughout New Orleans. The Encore series was developed in Louisiana, and they are much more tolerant of sun than other azalea varieties. I chose Autumn Empress, which has dark pink semi-double blooms and an upright growth habit that will grow a little taller than wide, but won't overtake the porch or stairs. It doesn't look like much in this photo, but new shrubs spend their energy growing strong roots before putting on a show. I should get plenty of blooms this fall.
In front of the azalea, as well as along the left side, I've planted Louisiana irises. These native beauties thrive in wet conditions, as well as regular garden beds. I acquired mine at the Greater New Orleans Iris Society's sale. I have not grown irises before, but the Society members were happy to provide me with advice about how to plant the rhizomes and care for my new plants. The sale had so many lovely colors and forms from which to choose, I may have gone a little overboard. I planned to buy two; I came home with six. The two on the right of the stairs are Dixie County and Now and Forever, both of which are lighter purple in color - or so I've read. Neither bloomed this spring, which is common for a newly planted iris. They are both growing new leaves and looking healthy, though!
On the far left side next to the walkway, I've planted Hurricane Party and Frederick Douglass. Both of these irises bloomed well even in their first spring. Hurricane Party is a rich, dark purple with yellow, while Frederick Douglass is more of a reddish purple.
I planted the remaining two irises, Friend's Song and Chitamacha Run, in the backyard. These also did not bloom this spring, but I look forward to discovering their beauty next year. These irises will form large clumps over the next few years to fill in the empty space around them. Then I can divide them, replant, and share with friends!
The final plantings in the front beds are Drift roses that line the fence on both sides of the gate. I have a huge soft spot for roses, but they don't always do well in our humidity. These ground cover roses are a Louisiana Super Plant tested to thrive in our hot and humid climate. Similar to the popular Knock Out roses, Drift roses resist disease and bloom continuously throughout the season, but unlike the behemoth Knock Outs, these stay compact and low to the ground. I chose Sweet Drift, which has clusters of medium to light pink blooms with a cottage garden feel. My three plants are already thriving and seem to be covered with more and more blooms each day.
Here's the view of the entire right garden bed from the sidewalk. While the bed is small and the plants are young, it is such an improvement over the slab of concrete!
To pick up on the color scheme of the beds below, I filled the cement planters on my porch with pink petunias. These should add n additional pop of color throughout the summer.
In the backyard, the transformation is pretty dramatic. Here's a reminder of what it looked like before the concrete removal and an epic battle with the bushkiller vine:
My new planter boxes are now filled with soil and planted with a variety of vegetables, herbs, and flowers. The right box has sunflowers and zinnias started from seed. These will likely be a hit with bees and birds this summer, plus I'll be able to cut a few blooms to enjoy in in the house.
The left box has transplants of tomatoes, bell peppers, butter lettuce, basil, and a jalapeno. I've also seeded cucumbers and rainbow chard. Some marigolds stand guard to ward off pests. It doesn't look like much now, but I look forward to watching these plants grow and maybe even harvesting a few things before the bugs, birds, and other critters get to them.
Along the back fence, in the barrel, I have another native plant: a maypop vine. Once the weather warms a bit more, this passion fruit vine will scramble along the chain link fence and produce exotic-looking purple flowers. It may even develop some fruit. More importantly, the maypop vine is a larval food for a number of butterfly species, so I'll have some (non-stinging) caterpillar friends in the garden. Maybe with the maypop buffet, they will leave the veggies alone. Maypop vines can grow 15-30 feet in the right conditions, so I'm curious to see how much of the fence it covers (and how much the caterpillars munch). It can also spread rapidly underground, so I've contained it to the barrel to prevent it from taking over where it isn't welcomed. Since it is just a tiny sprout at the moment, I've kept it company with some red petunias that I had on the porch over the holiday season.
So that concludes this little tour of the finished project. While my FYI plans did not include the entire backyard, the completion of my project has inspired me to spruce up the rest of the garden beds, but that is for another post. From first purchasing my house, I knew I wanted to remove the concrete and have more space for gardening. The FYI program and available rebate were just the incentive I needed to tackle this project in my first year. I hope it will inspire some neighbors to consider removing their concrete. Part of my rebate will be going towards patio furniture so I can spend some time relaxing in the backyard after I water, feed, and weed. Speaking of, I have some gardening to do on this beautiful spring weekend!