Sunday, March 22, 2015

Black Thumb Girl!

by Leann


Spring really is here, even if many of you are still dealing with ice and snow. (And I am very sorry about that!) That means, according to our Home Owners Association, we need to get our new yard landscaped. Trouble is, though my husband is great at growing vegetables, he knows very little about
landscaping. The sad thing is, I know even less. Just one look at the place designated for plants etc. outside our front door created immediate conflict. I don't want conflict. I want this to be easy.

I have an "idea" of what I'd like to see, but I don't know a thing about plants aside from the reality that they need to be cared for. My mother had a green thumb and so does my sister. I have managed to destroy every single plant that has ever come near
me. It really is that bad. I'm proud to say I do know what growing region we are in--7b. Good thing, too, because I might have wanted to add lilacs to the front yard--but they don't grow here.

To compound the matter, I cannot spend much time outdoors. I am allergic to everything, including all the insects that will find me immediately. It's like I have a sign on my back that says "bite me." All I know is I want color, something like what's pictured below. When we had to re-landscape our yard to sell our house in


Texas, I hired two brothers. I had a vision for what I wanted, but of course no names for plants that would work. But they spoke my language! They understood me! They also did a fantastic job.

If I can convince my tightwad of a husband to let me do this again, that's what I'd like to do. Meanwhile, I am sure there is a Landscaping for Dummies book out there, right?

What about you? Is anyone a black thumb person like me? (I need company!)

34 comments:

Lynda Turpin said...

My thumb is the blackest you can find. I used to try to keep things alive but I have finally admitted defeat. I love azaleas and roses. I actually managed to keep some miniature roses alive - until they got big enough to need to be repotted - RIP little roses.

I am planning to fill in my flower beds with rocks, (although I may leave the lone rose bush), and I would love to do my yard - at least the front yard - with drought resistant landscaping. I can't afford it right now, so because of watering restrictions, I'll have to settle for a dead/dry yard this year - with nothing green or blooming.

Good luck with your project - hope it works out (and hiring someone sounds like a good plan).

Anonymous said...

I don't have a black thumb but, last year when I wanted to landscape a 9' x 13' space, I hired a landscape designer. There was already a huge lavender plant but the rest had been covered by a deck. I also knew I wanted color and a winter daphne because I love the smell. Even tho the man never completed the project (I guess it was too small because I was doing the work myself), he did give me a preliminary sketch which my handyman and I then used. Many of the plants were ones I had never heard of but they work and were beautiful last summer except for the daphne which was stuck behind my huge zucchini and didn't get any sun. Although it's late in the season for home remodeling and garden shows, you might want to see if there any in your area. Also, I got a Sunset book from the library which featured the 10 best of various plants (fruits, veggies, trees, grasses, roses, ground cover, etc) in the NW but am sure someone puts one out for the South. One thing to remember, try to have all the plants need the same amount of water. I hand-watered last year because they had just gone in but will get a soaker hose this year. Good luck and tell your husband to pony up! Both of you'll be happier in the end. Cordella

StephanieHobrock said...

No black thumb, but keeping every thing green and growing is a full time job!

mary kennedy said...

Leann, I'll be your "black thumb pal." A neighbor gave me a Christmas cactus that had been in her family for 20 years. She was moving and wanted it to have a good home and ...yes, you guessed it, I KILLED the darn thing. Oh not!! She said it was "self sufficient" but I guess I over-watered it. I felt like a murderer. I am trying to coax it back to life, but I think it's a goner.

Margo Bittner said...

I'm a black thumb girl too. In college, my husband (then boyfriend) gave me the "easiest plant to grow", an inch plant. I killed it. The family joke is that I can't grow a silk flower. The real irony: my husband is a farmer. He grows tree fruit. One room in our house is his "sanitarium" filled with plants. I'm allowed to look, but not touch.

Karen in Ohio said...

Leean, contact the closest Extension office. There is usually one in every county, attached to each state's Land Grant university (every state in the US has one, courtesy of a Congressional Act in the 1800's, and they help farmers and urban gardeners figure out what and how to grow stuff). Land Grant universities are like Ohio State, Kentucky University, University of Indiana, etc. The Extension departments are part of the USDA, and they have a wealth of information, research, and even do soil testing for you (nominal charge). They can help you figure out what you're doing wrong, which is probably to do with your soil, or the way or place plants were planted. Your "guy" may not have known what he was doing, either, by the way.

Alison Marable said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Zena Weldon said...

I've barely kept two plants alive. That said, I think Karen's suggestion of the Extension Service and Alison's of a Master Gardener could be just what you're looking for - and the bonuses are you'll be involved and learning and your husband will be pleased at the cost and outcome. I wish you success in whatever you decide. From snow covered Vermont, Zena

Karen in Ohio said...

I happen to be almost finished with a Master Gardener course now. They are also available through referrals from Extension Service offices.

Leann Sweeney said...

Ah, Lynda. We have so much in common. My husband wants azaleas, too. I know I'd walk down the driveway and my presence alone would kill them.

Leann Sweeney said...

Thanks Cordella! That is really quite helpful. I would have never thought about plans needing the same amount of water! Yes, I am a dunce when it comes to plants. :-)

Leann Sweeney said...

Well, we DO have a sprinkler system and we had soaker hoses in Texas. Let's hope that's enough!

Leann Sweeney said...

That's sad Mary. But I can sure relate. I go to my sister's place and she has not one but DOZENS of African violets. All gorgeous. Had them for years. Do you know how hard it is to keep an African violet alive??? They smell my breath and they're dead. :-(

Leann Sweeney said...

Margo, killing a silk plant. That's good. I will use that one. Like I said, my hubby can grow amazing vegetables. He does a fantastic job. But flowers? And shrubs? And decorative anything? That would be no. But I'm worse than he is so I can't complain.

Leann Sweeney said...

Thanks Karen! That is so helpful. I know this has now become a research project and my job is to fit it into a book!! :-)

Diane LaBrie Leverson said...

Black thumb here. I don't have any house plants because I ether water them too much or not enough. They all die. I did have one African Violet that went for a few years. I would try one again, but now I don't think I have a good window for it. Philodendrons do grow for me but I get sick of them. I once had a inch plant that didn't look good so I put it in the garage. Husband asked why it was there and I said I couldn't throw it out until it was dead. Well that darn thing lived without water or any care for months before I would throw it out. In this apartment, I can plant in the front. Only one large bush was there so I planted a beautiful everlasting hydrangea, an azalea and an Euonymus sp? with some hostas. Then I planted marigolds around them. Keeps the mosquitoes away.I think. Have to plant the marigolds every year. Plants lasted through last winter but I don't think the azalea made it this Winter.. It looks broken on the top. I only worry about the hydrangea because I paid a lot for it and it had about 70 blooms over last Summer.

If I were you, I would talk my husband into getting a landscape person. Then if they die, you can call them back if they insure the plants.
Good Luck

Leann Sweeney said...

Shoot, Alison. I need all the help I can get. Sometimes you must admit your weaknesses and trust a professional. I hope I can get that done. I do not want to argue since my husband speaks engineer and I speak arts and crafts and writing and quilting. We do NOT understand each other when it comes to projects!

Leann Sweeney said...

Thanks Zena. Yes! We must call on the experts. My strategy to convince him is becoming more focused. I'll say since we don't know the area or the plants that well, we need help from those who do!

Leann Sweeney said...

You have my admiration. Like I said, love of gardening is in the family tree but I exist on a barren branch. :-)

Leann Sweeney said...

You sound like you don't have a black thumb at all! Marigolds keep mosquitoes away? THAT is one useful piece of information. I want marigolds!

Joy Scaggs said...

Don't feel so bad. My mother can't keep plastic plants alive. She kills everything.

Joy Scaggs said...

We used to live in Florida, and we had a neighbor who was really weird. Every spring he woukd go out and spray his yard green. It never needed mowing just a touch up once in a while.

Anonymous said...

Leann, not trying to bug you but had additional thoughts after I wrote last night plus read ideas from other responders. Extension services and Master Gardeners are great! So is the library. At least one reference librarian will be an avid gardener and can get you books on what to plant to keep away bugs, which plants work together (can't remember exact title but there's one about tomatoes loving carrots or garlic), which are poisonous for people and/or animals, and so on. Also, except for annuals, get your plants at a reputable nursery. The employees are much more knowledgeable and helpful. I even had to buy two of the plants from Amazon because no nursery in the area carried them. They were well packaged and came through beautifully. Cordella

Mama Cat said...

Yes, I am a black thumb girl, even though all of my grandparents were amazingly brilliant green thumb folks. Fortunately desert landscape requires little help, and indoor cats in a small living space prevent my black thumb from showing...hubby does try to grow a few things, but the ground here just isn't friendly. So glad you have a good landscape designer! My caregiving client continues to ask me about her two houseplants - how much water, etc - and I fail to have good info and am horrified at the though of trying to transplant into larger pots. :-) Jeanie PS I didn't know that about marigolds - those might grow here, maybe I'll mention it to hubby!

mary kennedy said...

African violets are so tricky!! I love them but they are impossible. She gave me three and I set them on window ledge so they would get just enough light. The next morning I saw that they had made a SUICIDE PACT during the night and all three were dead.. AWFUL!!

Leann Sweeney said...

Thanks for the added tips Cordella! Aren't libraries the best?

Leann Sweeney said...

I am further convinced by the responses that it's all in the genes! At least that's the excuse I'm sticking to! ;-)

Mary Jane Maffini said...

There is hope, Leann! When I first tried to plant thirtysome years ago, I dug a little hole for each and stuck 'em in. Of course, what I didn't know was that we had clay soil and full sun. I might as well have planted the poor things in cement. Over the years, I've gotten better, but I still have plenty of disasters. I say for the 'bones' of your landscaping, it's money well spent to get someone knowledgeable (and strong as an ox). A part of the job is soil preparation and that's hard work.

I have loved hearing about your journey to your beautiful new home and look forward to the garden unfolding.

XO

MJ

PS until it's mature, you can get a lot of mileage out of cheap and cheerful pots of annuals. Our sales start very early.

Kaye Killgore said...

I suck at gardening. One year I dug a bunch of holes and threw bulbs in, covered them up, and....most of them came up. Happy dance. Have you tried pansies, and violets. They don't need much care.

Kay Bennett said...

I do not do well with indoor plants. But I was a whiz at outdoor gardening. I tore my front yard up and redid the entire thing. Then had to move so I dug it all up and put it back to grass. So boring. I love gardening and thankfully know a lot of names of them too. I say thankfully because I lost a lot of info I knew about other things due to cognitive issues I had and have with m/s. Plants though, I know them!! If you do not do well with plants, plant knock out roses, ground covers and wildflowers. Cant kill any of them!!

Lynda Turpin said...

I hear you ladies....my grandmother was amazing with violets. She gave everyone in the family some that she grew from her cuttings. My mom did fairly well with them, although they were more existing rather than thriving. Grandma gave me violets 3 different times and I finally had to ask her not to give me any more because I felt so bad about ending their lives prematurely. There really is a lot of guilt involved. I would have a nice long talk with them every day, trying to give them the will to live, but it didn't help. Maybe I should have called a suicide prevention line and asked them to try talking to the plants.

Aurian said...

I am good with orchids, not so good with anything else. But I think your local garden center will be able to give you some advice, and perhaps you can hire some local kids to help with the hard work? Look at pictures of gardens on the internet and just say:this I want!

Janel said...

My mother, father, and brother all have that green thumb. Myself, I have the black thumb or least that blank spot lacking in growing any plant life. Could not tell a weed from a flower either...those yellow dandelions are awfully pretty.... ;-)

Vicki said...

My best advice...BEFORE you put a single plant in the ground is to figure out how much sun/shade you have. This changes depending on the time of year.'

Knock out roses, marigolds, etc all need full full sun.

If I remember correctly, you are in the woods and even though you had trees taken out, you might not have as much sun as you think.

The other thing to consider is what is going to be deer resistant. Because....if you don't have a 8 foot tall fence around the area you are planting, the deer will wander right up to the lovely salad buffet that you planted.

Yes watering and soil type is important but before you get to that you have to consider sun conditions. For 20 years I've known what the sun conditions were in my back yard. But this year...I'm going to have to wait to plant anything because we took out 20 trees which is going to totally change where the sun/shade is.

I still have another 40 trees back there but there are holes in the canopy. In the middle of summer, the sun will come down and fry anything in its path.

So...you might want to start with just a few pots of annuals while you figure out the sun situation. How long (how many hours), what time of day (morning, evening, middle of the day). Is the shade from the house (that makes it very dense shade) or is the shade from trees. What kind of trees....conifer/pines have denser shade than deciduous oaks, etc.