A wannabe green thumb tackles shrubs for the first time…

I’ve planted vegetables, fruit bushes, and quite a few trees. But I’d never messed with shrubs in my yard because it just seemed like something too big and too small at the same time. I mean, either pick a tree or a little plant that can go into a bed with others just fine.

Well, after the whole debacle with solar financing and getting away from it (for now), I got to thinking about other ways to reduce energy costs. I spent a week or so trying to get information on more plants that will attract the pollinators and feed and shelter the birds. That led me to shrubs and the one area of the yard I had no intention of touching until now: directly behind my house.

I’ve never really dealt with shrubs close to a house before, and my biggest concern was to not make them go too close. After all, they’re going to have a bit of a spread to them that needs planning around and I want at least 3 feet between the edge of the mature plant and the house, in case of needing a ladder back there, or repair work, or repainting. The only time I’d really seen shrubs or hedges near a house was when I was a little kid in a regular suburb, and it was all brick houses. No foundation repair (or very minimal) or leveling involved, so no worries about messing with the plants much.

My front yard where I’d been concentrating my planting efforts most faces north. The back of my house faces south, and the fact that the closest trees are about 80 feet away means that in the summer, that south-facing wall gets constant sun exposure. And I’m sure that doesn’t do my electricity bill much good, trying to help curb the heat radiating off that outer wall. You just stand next to the window and you know if you went outside, it would be awful. You can feel that heat.

So, I figured it was a good idea to get some shrubs. As nice as those skinny, pointy arborvitae would be (would nicely evergreen-it-up), they don’t work well in this growing zone. So I concentrated on different heights and widths of plants that would provide nice shelter, grow to a certain extent, block enough direct sunlight to help, and of course, be useful to the pollinators.

Of course, I had to factor in not wanting to block my windows, so the heights would likely be all different. As much as I generally like things symmetrical, I got as many windows as I could for a reason, and it’s not to just stare straight at a shrub on a nice day.

I had to go get a new pressure switch for the well as soon as I could, so I put it in my plans to go looking for shrub ideas and species to focus on.

I did not expect to come back home with 4 bags of tree and shrub soil and a carload full of shrubs.

And people wonder why I won’t trade in my hatchback. Trunks suck. Hatchbacks are awesome.

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I picked up 10 in all: 2 of them butterfly bushes (which I probably would’ve gotten more of except someone else was taking an interest… and they get pretty big), 4 azaleas of slightly different colors, 2 small gardenias, and 2 hawthorn bushes. They were in varying sizes of pots, so it was a bit tricky to get them situated on the cart. Harder than the car, actually. They didn’t even get flattened or broken in there.

So, when I got home, I got the tape measure out and started placing the pots where I wanted them to go, 6 feet from the side of the house, and taking into account the spread of each with some leeway (some had a spread of 3-4, some 6-8 feet). I actually dug around and planted three of them before I finished the day. Had my shoulder not frozen up on me, I likely would have gotten two more in the mix. But I have them still in their spots, patiently waiting for tomorrow, so that doesn’t bother me.

I’m curious how it’s all going to look the next few years when it’s all in bloom and the animals are flitting and feeding all they want. I am glad I got chat-happy earlier because I heard the butterfly bushes can be a little scary for newbies. Namely that they’re called butterfly bushes because the caterpillars use them to become butterflies most often. They also, as caterpillars, eat the hell out of their host plant. That worried me until she said that state only lasts about two weeks, and if things have been going well before that, it’ll just be a weird freak-out time and then back to normal.

So, that was an odd day. I hadn’t really intended to do that much, but the bug seized me and I had to continue. But I’m glad I tried something else to help cool down the house. I have some fruit trees I’m trying to get going, but they’d never get tall enough to shade the house. Most of these plants will be rather short, but as I want to look out my windows any time i want, anyway, I didn’t want them like a green shield.

So, this is going to be fun to try. It’s the weed-eating by the house that’ll be a pain!

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