Sometimes working in someone else's garden makes you better appreciate your own. That happened to me this weekend.
I spent a good portion of my weekend gardening time helping my daughter with her yard. Now, my daughter is no gardener. She is a busy young professional and even if she wanted to garden she wouldn't have much time to do it. She works long hours and then comes home, usually after dark, and often works some more at home. She bought her home about a year-and-a-half ago in a typical Houston subdivision. She has a smallish yard, though not as small as some, and it was completely landscaped either by the contractor or the previous owners before she moved in. The yard is full of palms, yuccas, oleanders, pampas grass, a couple of fruit trees and a few other trees. It should be a very low maintenance yard - but it is not a no maintenance yard.
She has a lawn service that mows for her to keep the HOA off her back, but that's all they do. Any other yard work is up to her and she hasn't done much of it. So this weekend I went over to try to help her get things under control.
There was quite a lot of damage to her various palms from this winter's freezes. A couple of her oleanders died back almost to the ground. A beautiful hibiscus in front of the house died back to the ground. She thought it was dead, but I was able to tell her that it is coming back, although it will be quite a while before it is eight feet tall as it was before.
I spent my time with her pruning back dead parts of plants and cleaning up beds. We didn't finish and I'll need to schedule another day with her soon to try to finish up. But while I was working with all those plants with sharp, pointy leaves that poked and scratched me, I felt a great nostalgia for my own yard where the only things that bite are the rose bushes. Well, and the fire ants, of course.
In spite of the fire ants, I was happy to be back in my own garden again today and to find that it still has a few surprises for me.
Prior to this year, one of the mainstays of my garden has been bulbine. I had it planted all around my yard in many of the beds, and the butterflies and bees loved it. But during the repeated freezes this past winter, I lost every last sprig of it. At least I thought I did.
I was weeding in the long bed along the fence between us and the neighbors and I started to pull some weeds under the loropetalum. Something stayed my hand and I pulled the branches back and looked - at two small clumps of healthy bulbine! They had, I guess, been somewhat protected there under the loropetalum and had survived the freezes.
I dug the clumps out. One was bigger than the other and I divided it in two so that I wound up with three clumps. I potted them up and put them under the sycamore tree where I often sit. There, I can keep an eye on them and baby them along until they are ready to go into the garden once again.
A wonderful and sweet surprise has been the 'Seascape' strawberries that I planted this spring. I never have much luck with strawberries, but I do love them and so I decided to try again after several years without them in my garden. I'm very glad I did. These strawberries have been prolific producers for a few weeks now and give every indication of going on for a few more. Maybe even until the blueberries are ready. They've been a tasty topping for our morning Cheerios.
Elsewhere in the garden, plants that I had just about given up for dead are rearing fresh green leaves and saying, "Hey! Not so fast with that shovel!"
Yep, I really thought I had lost "Ol' Phil" my ancient split leaf philodendron. In all the years I've had him, he had never died back all the way to the ground before. But last week, finally, I noticed a bit of green sprouting from one of his dead trunks, and within a few days, these leaves were waving in the breeze. "Ol' Phil" had woken from his loooong winter's nap.
And in another part of the yard, another piece of "Ol' Phil" that we had dug up and transplanted a few years ago is waking up, too.
But today, I found the best surprise of all.
I've written here several times about my old lemon tree that was planted by my dad many years ago from his 'Ponderosa' lemon tree. I'd had the tree for about eighteen years (I think) and had planted it in the ground several years ago when it got too big for the house. It had since grown 15 - 20 feet high and almost as wide and dominated its corner of the yard. The mockingbirds nested in it every year.
The mockingbirds had to find a new nesting place this spring because my lemon tree that had barely survived Ike was felled by the winter freezes. It died all the way back to the roots and I finally reluctantly cut it back to the ground many weeks ago. But I still had hopes that the tree might come back from the roots as it had done once before. Every time I walked by the place where the tree had lived, I stopped and scratched in the mulch around the old trunk to see if there was any life there.
Today, I was watering a nearby bed and I reflexively glanced at the old trunk and almost dropped my hose!
It's alive! Alive! One slender but sturdy green shoot had emerged from the roots and pushed its way through the mulch. I cannot begin to tell you how happy I was to see that little bit of green.
This tree is important to me because it is a living connection with my father who died more than twelve years ago. He's gone but his tree has come back to me. Just in time for his birthday next Sunday. If he could see it, I know it would make him happy.
Maybe he can.