Gardening is My New Favorite Activity

I have a new favorite activity, which I never thought I’d enjoy so thoroughly: gardening.

I’m not letting it replace the other things I like to do, but I will definitely make an allotted time for it each day.

I may be new to it, and it will probably take a bit of time before I’m any good at it. However, from the small amount that I’ve done, I thoroughly enjoy getting dirty and nurturing plants. I don’t even mind most of the bugs, and believe it or not, I like weeding.

Good thing too, because we have a monumental amount of weeding to be done.

I’ve started spending some of my free time trying to learn more about gardening. Much of my evening reading time has been spent in the New Garden Encyclopedia, learning about new plants and gardening techniques.

I’ve also researched a few different plants online as I discover them. It’s exciting to learn what different plants’ leaves look like, as well as other characteristics, and to gain the ability to identify them.

Wild Strawberry

Laura pointed out some wild strawberry plants to me on the side of the house, and I’ve found several more patches of them. One has a cute little berry on it. I found some strawberry along the edge of the planter, and in a few spots along the pathway in the backyard.

The majority of the wild strawberry plants we’ve found are on the side of the house, beside the chimney.

I started carefully pulling them out and putting some of them in pots, because (if managed well) they could make a nice ground cover in that area.

First, we have to level everything out though. So, anything I want to keep I need to temporarily pot.


Clematis Cuttings

I have had some cuttings in water that Laura brought in from the clematis vine when she was working on my mailbox area about a week ago. I’ve been changing the water and removing the dead leaves. Surprise of all surprises, they are actually rooting! I know clematis cuttings are some of the easiest cuttings to root, but I am excited nonetheless.

When they’re ready to pot, Laura is going to take a few of them home with her, and I’ll keep some in pots until we’re ready to plant them.

I also found what I think is clematis growing among some of the lilies of the valley, in the planter on the right side of the house. I took it out and put it in a pot for now. I mixed some dirt with the potting soil, made sure there are plenty of holes for drainage on the bottom of the pot, and placed it in the shade against the fence. All of these things should keep it happy for a while, because I read that their roots don’t like to be crammed in too tight, and that they like to be in cold soil.

Below is a picture of one section of leaves. Some of them are damaged, but this one was the best example.

It looks and feels exactly the same as the clematis on the mailbox, but I’m no expert. It’s gripping tendrils look identical as well. It has leaves numbering from three to five that grow opposite each other, with slightly serrated edges. If any of you can tell me for sure according to the picture above, please do.


To plant or not to plant? That is a tricky question.

There were several little Mimosa trees growing in the front planter beside the pathway, which I decided to temporarily pot. I hope to plant one in the place of that not-so-nice-looking-tree on the right side of the backyard, about twelve feet from the pool. I’m not sure they’re going to cooperate with the temporary potting though. At least one of them seems to be doing OK. We’ll see.

After reading more about the behavior of Mimosas in this area and other nearby states, I’m still not so sure it’s a good idea to encourage its growth. Many people consider it to be a weed because of how it spreads far and wide. I have noticed little seedlings all over the yard and the front planters.

I’m torn because I think they’re pretty, and they attract a lot of hummingbirds. I’m not too concerned about the spot where we would plant it, since it’s surrounded by grass and any seedlings that sprout up would have difficulty and get mowed down anyway.

Plus, I read that if you dead head all the flowers before they go to seed and remove all the seed pods, you can control its spread. Maybe I should keep it in a large pot and prune it so it stays small and manageable.  It’s something I have to think about.

Mint plants

We discovered a spotty patch of wild mint in the backyard, in the area right outside the back door.

Since it grows rampantly, I’ve moved some into a pot and we’ll remove the rest of it (along with the surrounding weeds, of course).

After I potted the mint the other day, there were still plenty of mint leaves left over to make some mint iced tea.

It’s such a refreshing drink to help you cool off during a hot day.


Lily of the Valley is a bit of a monster

The other thing I’ve been working on is removing some lilies of the valley and their ubiquitous pips, and putting them in pots for use later. Most of them weren’t doing so well in the planter because they don’t have much shade, now that we removed the massive shrubs. I put some of the lilies of the valley that still look nice in a pot, along with a few of the hostas. I’ve moved them to a shady area where they seem to be doing well.

As I’ve been removing the lilies of the valley, I’m beginning to understand why people advise against planting them anywhere other than pots or heavily barricaded planters. Don’t let their sweet and delicate look fool you, they’re a lot stronger and more domineering than they seem.

I’ll remove the top layer of the root system along with many pips. Then, I’ll dig a bit deeper and be dismayed to discover a whole new layer of pips.

Below is a picture of what the pips look like. These were at least 8 inches down, and their roots went down several more inches.

I’ve found these pips while digging down throughout the planter, even in spots five feet away from where they seem to be growing.

They started jumping the planter and moving into the grass too. There were bricks pushed lengthwise into the ground to create a perimeter around the planter, but it was ineffective. The lilies of the valley just grew deeper roots, and went under the bricks and up the other side.

If we can find a way to ensure that they stay put and mind their manners, I may eventually put some lilies of the valley in under the tree on the right side of the front yard. I’m definitely going to plant some hostas there in the fall.

  1. Laura

    July 20, 2011 at 11:13 am

    I’m so excited that you have developed a love for gardening! And so glad that you are willing to share all that you have learned. You are doing a wonderful job!

    1. Becca

      July 22, 2011 at 5:34 pm

      Me too! It’s fun to talk about gardening with you and learn from you. I’m glad to know that I’ll have someone who can tell me whenever I’m doing things wrong. I need as much help as I can get. 🙂 Thanks for the encouragement!

  2. Sarah Lewis

    July 20, 2011 at 11:42 am

    Working in the soil is just about the most rewarding and fun thing you can do. I have always loved going out and working in our yard but this year it won’t be until about October…maybe January!! Finding all those treasures is wonderful and potting them for later planting in your yard is a great idea. If you have hummingbirds coming to visit you might consider planting Bleeding Heart. They love those little red flowers and it’s a nice plant…sprawling but nice. <3

    1. Becca

      July 22, 2011 at 5:44 pm

      It is so enjoyable, and I’m sure I’ll enjoy it even more once we have a garden going. So exciting! I’m sure it’s pretty hot in. So I certainly don’t blame you for not going outside. I haven’t been out in a few days now because the humidity has been ridiculous. I can’t even imagine what it’s like in TX!

      It has been really neat finding different plants to pot for later use. I’ll have to think about a spot where I might utilize Bleeding Heart. They have very pretty and unique flowers. Thanks for tip! 🙂

  3. Angie

    July 20, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    You’re so far north of me, the plants i know may not have anything to do w/ the plants up there, but that 5 leaf one may be Virginia creeper- it’s a vine, comes in 5 leaf and 7 leaf varieties, turns red in fall. I imagine it could be a lot of different things, and w/out more info, you may not be able to identify it yet.

    (uh, it’s not poison ivy, is it? From what i understand, there’s different varieties/patterns of that depending on where you are in the country.)

    As far as your dilemma on the mimosa goes, i can’t help myself from giving you other things to think about. I really feel like your idea of deadheading the flowers is way too ambitious, esp. if you have other gardening things you’d rather be doing. (btw, anytime you get tired of weeding up there, feel free to c’mon on down to texas, where i have enough weeds to make you start to hate weeding!). Also, you may be willing to take care of making sure it doesn’t spread, but it is a tree, and others after you may not be willing to take the same care, and then it begins to become invasive, (i know you probably are not planning on moving or selling anytime soon, but none of us can be sure what the futures holds at any given moment) or your neighbors may not appreciate the mimosa as you do. Some plants send sprouts out many meters away (i do not know about mimosas specifically). Also, you have limited space (everyone has limited space/time/care factor) for plants, and there could be several other options for a tree that are just as pretty, possibly native (tho it can be difficult to define “native”), just as lovely to wildlife, etc. Spend some time researching other trees before you plant it. There is a society, the native plant society, and they’re fairly big down here, but i assume it’s a national organization- you might check it out. They are good about giving other options for some of the invasive species. I do not agree w/ them about everything, including their definitions of invasive and native, but they do put out lots of good information.
    It sounds like you’re hooked on gardening tho, yay! And the house is looking good!
    I’m glad you’re sharing these experiences. It’s all very interesting.
    (ps, if you really want to waste some serious time, get on gardenwebs forums, and start reading all the posts. There’s hundreds of forums on every type and location of gardening you can think of, and it is all on someone’s personal experience, so please make sure you take that with a large tablespoon of salt)

    1. Becca

      July 22, 2011 at 5:53 pm

      I had the same thought that the vine may just be Virginia creeper, because we have quite a bit of that around our yard. So, that seems very likely. The more that I look at it; the more I think that’s what it is.

      It’s definitely not poison ivy. I read up about the different varieties of poison ivy and sumac, and while we do have some around our backyard fence, this is not poison ivy. The New Garden Encyclopedia also has very detailed descriptions and pictures of what the leaves look like, and I studied up on them.

      The leaves on the vine I found consist of separate leaflets that are spread out like fingers, whereas poison ivy has three leaves, two on either side with one leaflet that extends out on a longer stem. Also, the vine isn’t hairy and the leaves aren’t shiny.

      I think it’s Virginia creeper, but I just can’t be entirely sure. I read that Virginia creeper can cause some skin irritation because it carries oxalate crystals. My skin came into contact with it and I didn’t have a reaction. Anyway, I guess I’ll just have to wait and see…

      Yeah, that is something that I noticed people commenting about in forums about mimosas. I don’t want to be the bane of the neighborhood. 😉

      Oh, and I’ve got plenty of weeding to do, thank you. 😛

      I would definitely say that I’m hooked on gardening. Thanks so much for reading and for all that you’ve given me to think about. I’ll take all the advice I can get.

      Oh yeah, and I did find my way to that gardenwebs forum the other day, and spend a bit of time on there. It’s quite interesting to see all of the varying opinions presented, on just about any subject you can think of. I can see how easy it would be to get roped into those threads for hours.

  4. Sara

    July 20, 2011 at 9:35 pm

    Such a cool journey you guys are on! Can’t wait to see it in person!!!!

    1. Becca

      July 22, 2011 at 6:05 pm

      It’s pretty exciting, and we definitely haven’t lost our enthusiasm! I can’t wait until you can see it either, especially once we have some of the remodel projects finished! It would also be great just to have you over here. 🙂

  5. Janice Hunter

    July 22, 2011 at 11:40 am

    I am so happy you have found a love for gardening! It has given me such pleasure over the years too. I too love to weed – just ask Laura! I would have to agree with Angie about the 5 leafed vine, it could be a Virginia Creeper. Just let it grow and you will find out soon enough. Also want to “chime in” on the Mimosa tree. We have one in our yard and while it is now in bloom and so very pretty, it is also VERY messy. Fills up a trash bag weekly with the spent blooms. Also, I would not recommend it anywhere around a pool. Could be disasterous on the filter. Might do nicely in your front/side yard area, if the wind blows away from the pool. You might spend some time researching on pool side plantings. Trees that aren’t messy. :o)
    Look around your neighborhood while on your runs, see and observe what others have growing that attract your eye. Also notice which side of the house it is growing on. You can learn so much by observing!
    My last piece of advice, be careful with the pruning shears when in an angry mood! I trimmed a bush while angry once and boy did it suffer!!! Everyone was asking me what I had done to the poor thing! But I felt better!! HeHe! Better a bush than a person I figure! (Didn’t like it anyway.) ;o)
    I’m looking forward to the day I can get my hands dirty with you!!

    1. Becca

      July 22, 2011 at 6:22 pm

      I’m definitely beginning to see the draw to gardening, and I don’t know how I never saw it before. Weeding really can be fun, especially when you think about how much better the yard will look once you’ve done it.

      As I said below in my reply to Angie’s comment, I think it is Virginia Creeper. I studied the leaves and apparent growing pattern more closely, and I am almost certain that’s what the vine is. Plus it makes the most sense, given that there is so much of it elsewhere throughout our property.

      Good point about the pool and the mimosa. I’ve been informed by my husband that we can’t actually plant any trees on that side of the backyard anyway, because the leech lines are there. Not to mention, I’m starting to think that no spot in the backyard would be far enough away to stop it from causing problems. Yeah, I’ll definitely start some tree research, because it would be nice to have a tree somewhere in the backyard.

      Thanks for your tip about observation. I really do need to get into the practice of observing (especially the placement of plants), that way I’ll learn what does well here. As I’ve started thinking about plants we might want to put in various spots, I realized that I need to be really careful about what growing conditions the plants need (i.e. amount of sun per day, well drained soil, etc). I’m trying to document how much sun each area around the house gets, and what areas aren’t as protected from the wind and rain, etc. There are so many things to consider before choosing what plants to put in, and where to put them! :0

      Exercise restraint with the pruning sheers…got it! 🙂 Haha!

      What a great time that would be to work in the garden with you!

  6. Cindy

    July 22, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    This is great, Becca! Gardening is supposed to be so relaxing and it’s great to nurture something to life! 🙂

    Personally, I don’t because I don’t know how, but how useful will it be if you grow lots of your own food one day? Super! It’s great right now that you’re identifying the plants already around your new house. Things are going good, I see! 😀

    P.S. – thanks for always being so kind to me on my posts! No more wasp trouble?

    1. Becca

      July 22, 2011 at 6:25 pm

      Thanks! I’m really enjoying it, and I’m looking forward to having a little vegetable and fruit garden in the future. We have a little spot planned out in the backyard.

      No more wasp trouble, so far. I sure hope it stays that way. 🙂

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