Reviving a Neglected Garden | Jennifer Edwards |Central Texas Gardener

September 12, 2019

– My friends would say that I’m not a minimalist. I’m an artist at heart, so I’m always creating. – [Narrator] So when Jennifer Edwards bought
her South Austin house, she stepped up its garden persona. – My front garden originally was dead grass,
dead tree, broken cement straight sidewalk straight out the door, so the only time that
I ever really invested money in having someone else do something was bringing in a crew to
jackhammer out the cement and kind of lay me out the flagstones. So I had the flagstones installed, and then
I just kind of, and digging the hole for the stock tank. Then, slowly, over time, I’ve just built it
up myself. The crews built up the stone wall, so originally,
along with the dead grass and the dead tree, the whole front area by the house was bricked
in red brick pavers. It was a major flood problem because it’s
the lowest part in my yard and it’s lower than the street so water would run and pool
right there. We pulled all of that out, put the stone up
just to match it, but then put in a French drain and gravel so that it diverts the water
around to the plants where they need it. The round cement stones, my friend Steve made. He had molds, so two cement halves and glue
them together. It just looks pretty when it’s raining because
it kind of slows the water down. I don’t have gutters, so the water comes pouring
down, hits those stones, and softens it a little bit, keeps this gravel from washing
away. Rain chain on the other side, but there’s
my little pyramid of stones there to slow the water down off the roof. – [Narrator] To ornament, she upturned a turquoise
vase. At a flea market, she found glass transformers
from old phone poles. – And they come in all shades of green to
turquoise. I’m always looking for blue-colored glass
objects that are durable, that I can put in the yard that won’t break. So I kinda have a green and white and purple
to blue color palette. Mardi gras purple door and kind of cobalts
and turquoises. – [Narrator] At the front door, she raised
up the view by planting in a steel saucer tripod container. – Someone on Craigslist, Westlake, they were
redoing their garden and wanted to get rid of it, and $150, you have to haul it away. The base itself, the bowl is very, very heavy. It took two strong guys to lift it. The first thing I realized pretty quickly
is I had to have it on very firm soil because the first time I set it up, over the course
of an afternoon, it slowly tipped and tipped and tipped and then crashed over. It’s sitting on the flagstone pavers as opposed
to in the gravel ’cause the gravel’s too soft. It’s got a drainage hole in it so I filled
it first with a load of pea gravel, then decomposed granite, hilled it up a little bit in the
center. It’s all cacti and things that want to be
very dry, drains out fast, really fast. And again, it takes a lot of hot, blazing
sun. And then I put glass and stones and interesting
things in there so that year-round there’s something nice to look at. The way it sits also, from my living room,
it’s a beautiful view. My front garden did start out native grasses,
little rosemary here and there. It was supposed to be sparse. And I just realized that’s not my style. I think it’s beautiful. I enjoy it and admire it, but I can’t help
but gild the lily a little bit. I always tuck in a thing here and there, and
next thing I knew, I had a lot going on. – [Narrator] She inherited native spring-blooming
spiderworts that she divides to spread around. – I’ve always got larkspurs and poppies. As I moved around when I was younger, I’d
just gather the seeds and carry them with me. And then later in the season, a lot of cosmos,
particularly in the front, white and pink. I try to do a lot, along with the blue theme,
a lot of white flowers, white roses, white lantana, white cosmos because, looking out
my bedroom window at night, the white really shows up in the dark. I’ve never used pesticides or insecticides,
anything like that. So it needed to be something that would be
tough because, except in worst-case scenarios, I’m not gonna water. I think, at the heart of it all, I’m a lazy
gardener. I want things that are gonna last, not take
a lot of care, be beautiful year after year. I like my little pond, my stock tank pond
that I have which brings in a lot of wildlife. Then I’ve got some solar lights out there. At night, the white flowers glow in the dark. The backyard, I call it the farm, and the
intention, short of a rosebush or two is everything is edible. That’s my overarching theory. My grandpa had a large almond orchard in Northern
California so I kinda grew up spending summers surrounded by an orchard, which, for someone
that likes a lot of organization, an orchard is like the perfect forest ’cause it’s nice
and neat. At his funeral, I took a cutting of the fig
tree that was out by the barn. Took cuttings, carried them home on the plane
wrapped in wet newspaper, along with some grapevine cuttings and carried that little
fig tree around in a pot for years until I had my forever home and I felt I could put
it in the ground. It’s grown like gangbusters, brings blue jays. I sit in the window every morning, putting
on my makeup and getting ready for work and there’s half a dozen blue jays that’ll be
out there, enjoying my fruit. We have an agreement. They get the high stuff. I’m supposed to get the low stuff. It shades the house, it’s lovely, and it’s
a memory of him. It’s kind of been the inspiration for my backyard. Two peach trees, two apple trees, two fujis,
two plums, my fig tree, and a lemon tree. I took grape cuttings also. They turned out to be Thompson seedless. I didn’t know that they would do very well
here, but they have. I plant them with blackberries, which my intention
was, by planting them with blackberries, the thorns would kinda keep birds off a little
bit. In retrospect, I don’t know if that was a
good idea because it also makes it very hard for me to work in them. – [Narrator] Jennifer and son Julian framed
one section with a picket fence and rose-covered arbor. – That’s where I get my farm idea. I knew I wanted to do raised beds for vegetables,
something that I could keep a little more orderly instead of kind of the wild kingdom
look. Over the course of a week, we built it and
put it together and put down the decomposed granite and built the four beds that I’ve
got. The idea was it was gonna be kind of like
a federalist style. It was supposed to be kind of organized and
clean and neat but it’s kind of gone jungle-like, the rest of it. This time of year anyway. – [Narrator] Jennifer confirmed her philosophy
on hand-painted lumber scraps mounted on the bamboo that encloses her outdoor shower. An advocate of community literacy, she built
a Little Library on the front curb. – I had saved like a drawer pull I got at
a garage sale. Like a lot of us, I had a drawer full of ‘someday
I’ll do something with this cool stuff’. I had little odds and ends that I had saved
and put it together, painted it to match my front door and recycled a garden bench to
set it on. Some neighborhoods have issues with vandalism
and things like that, so at first it was just kind of an experiment of not putting in too
much money, just see how it goes. But it’s been lovely. People take care of it. People look out for it. It’s been a lot of fun and community, people
walking their dogs stop, take a look at it. Lots of people stop, take pictures, come back
with their kids.

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