Friday, September 25, 2009

the taming of the swamp, part one

welcome to the jungle: our new front yard

so...this is it. the swamp. the swamp that is our front yard. i have never seen anything like this...but i haven't really been looking, either. the one and only time i saw the property it was march and all i could tell was that it was beautifully situated with lots of trees and a ravine running through the front yard. i hadn't counted on the vast number of undesirable herbaceous perennials that would crop up in the summer. it was a bit of a shock. if it weren't for invasive species, we wouldn't have a "yard" at all.

when we got here in august, i was overwhelmed to say the least. after a few days of opening boxes i realized that i had all winter to get the house in order but only a handful of weeks to work outside before it got too cold and the ground froze. so i dove in headfirst and started dismantling the yard/swamp...and this is the pictorial record of my foolish endeavour...actually, it isn't so much foolish as frickin' exhausting and thankless. i guess rich may be thankful that i'm not asking him to help. he's lucky i'm not planting turfgrass. anyway, pictures!

i have to admit it isn't all useless greenery--there are some hidden jewels that have sprouted on their own, like this extraordinary shagbark hickory, which i absolutely adore

but for the most part we have/had crap like this: Smilax tamnoides, most graciously known as bristly greenbrier and less graciously known as the blaspheme vine, hellfetter, and hagbrier...

...and you can see why--those suckers are inflexible and will totally stab you; on the upside, they aren't poisonous

dramatic tree in the "backyard"...

...but unfortunately, this isn't an optical illusion. this 40-foot ash is leaning about 20 or 25 degrees off of perpendicular and will fall (hopefully) right between our house and our garage. i'm guessing, with our luck in iowa, it'll miss the house but land on one of us.

another main component of the "yards": stinging nettle, just about to bloom (but still fully able to sting)

leaves of a baby red osier dogwood, fleabane, and poison ivy. got lots of all three. been trimming the dogwood in great hopes it will do something lovely. and, also in the on-the-upside category, i don't seem to be allergic to poison ivy...which is convenient because rich can't get near it without breaking out in a he says.

we have a bajillion daddy long legs

and several walnuts with a blight (they're on the chopping block this weekend)

klingons/cling-ons, hitchhikers, cockleburs...whatever these are called they are destroying our clothes. they come out easily when the ground is wet, though.

more stinging nettle, inflorescence.

this is a street view of the front yard. frightening.

however, occasionally the weeds would do something desirable like produce a red berry (in the case of this honeysuckle)...

...or produce a little cornflower blue flower like whatever this was (bird's foot violet?)...

...but then the rains came, and we realized we had only just begun to have troubles with the landscape. we didn't have a yard, we had a swamp. and a swamp it remained for several weeks.

look for part two soon!


  1. The blue flowers are Commelina coelestis (blue spiderwort or day flower). I actually kind of like them, personally, but they're said to be hard to get rid of. We had them in one of the greenhouses where I used to work, one we only used in the spring, and they reliably came back every spring as soon as we started using water in there again, no matter that it got 160F in there in the summer, no matter that there was no water from June to March.

    I'd still rather have them than the Smilax. That stuff is so unpleasant-looking.

    Sorry Iowa isn't going well for you so far. It does have some nice qualities, I swear.

  2. mr. subjunctive, you are too kind to visit--thank you for your comments and your ID of the sweet little blue flower! they all got wiped out, but who knows--they might make a reappearance. i rather liked those myself...but they were way outnumbered by everything else.

    iowa is going much better--i enrolled in the master gardener's program and, with any luck, they'll teach me how not to kill everything i am planting. thanks again for your help!