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The difference in just 60 feet of yard

The difference in just 60 feet of yard

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The front yard at the lodge is the eighth wonder of the world. When you stand at the curb and look at the house, a pleasant brick structure, you see before you what must be the most inhospitable environment on the planet for desirable vegetation.

This is somewhat mystifying as Mable has managed to make our backyard into a parklike expanse. The back is spotted with trees, large oaks and pines with a smattering of small magnolias. There is no grass but it is covered with leaves and the pups and Seal Team 7 love to roam back there. It is spacious, maybe 30 yards deep and 50 yards or so across the back fence line.

All of which makes harder to explain the wasteland that is the front yard. We have a large pear tree right in the middle about 15 feet from the curb. This tree is fetching enough with dark green foliage in the summer and the second week of December the leaves turn and provide a few glorious days of genuine autumn color. That’s the good news. Unfortunately no grass will grow anywhere near it.

To the left is an area that, truth be told, we have just given up on. After years of trying various ground covers we abandoned hope and now the left side is simply a leaf covered area where even ivy struggles to make a living.

To the right is a patch of centipede that looks like midfield at Rip Hewes at the end of football season. Yes, there is some grass but it is skimpy and fraught with bare spots.

In the middle of the yard a few azaleas reside. Azaleas are hardy shrubs and will grow almost anywhere. In the spring, azaleas all around our fair city burst into a colorful display that can be breathtaking.

Not ours.

We get a few blooms but the plants are trying so hard to survive most of their energy goes to simply staying alive.

Once, in a fit of desperation, we asked the county agent to come take a look and see if he could suggest some ideas.

After a few minutes of wandering around...looking more discouraged by the moment...he gave us his two best ideas.

His first thought, “Astroturf might look good here. At least it’s green,” and, “You know, some people actually pave over their yards.”

Neither of these had great appeal to us so we decided to soldier on. Each Saturday I go out and cut the grass with an old rotary push mower. It only takes 10 minutes to cut our little stand of centipede. Several times a year I put out fertilizer and water often. All to no avail.

My friends have wonderous yards; green grass, healthy shrubs, flowers, manicured trees and bushes. My failure is not from lack of effort. Mable, who has many talents, has the opposite of a green thumb. I, speaking of brown thumbs, have seen plants wilt at my mere touch when I fondle some marvelous shrub at a nursery. So there’s that.

Nonetheless, we keep hoping. Some day perhaps some bright agronomy professor at Awbun will develop a ground cover that will thrive on the dark side of the moon.

Until then I will water and fertilize and mow and hope against hope for a nice lawn. I dream of the day we don’t get threatening letters from the neighborhood garden club. I am writing this as I sit on the back patio marveling at the difference 60 feet from front to back can make.


Norm Douglass is considering an array of old tires painted deep green to create the illusion of a verdant compound.


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