Fighting Lantana and Bermuda…..Round”up”1

So here we go – my fist ever journal entry!
My girlfriend (later to become my wife) and I moved into our first house about seven years ago in Austin, Texas.We were immediately drawn to its petrified long-leaf pine walls, high ceilings, and close proximity to downtown. The house had just been remodeled by two green architects so it was in really good shape – restored, using original materials, to its original victorian look below. 
We had a couple of ‘energetic’ Springer Spaniels at the time so the back yard needed to be of a sufficient size – lucky for us it was – it even came with a towering Post Oak perfectly situated central at the rear of the lot.
We bought the house – we moved in – we started painting – we finished painting – (we hated masking) –  the usual.
And time passed.
And the Lantanas and Lugustrums grew and grew.


Austin Texas – 1890

We believe this was the original owner.
And are those fields in the background?!

This is the original plan and a picture of the back yard before we moved in – 
lots of scrappy perimeter trees, a flat plain of Bermuda, and a sea 
of Lantana.
Did I care – absolutely not.
We quickly erected the obligatory chain-link fence and let out the dogs
to exlore their new domain, well at least part of it, 6th sense told them 
not to venture too deep into the darkened realm of Lantana.
It rained one day and with the weeds and grass past my knees, I realized
I needed a lawnmower,- quickily. And so my deep rooted (ahem) hatred 
for Bermuda grass was born.
And time passed.
And the Lantanas and Lugustrums grew and grew.

left: backyard circular bed needing help           right: view of the distant Lantana ‘sea’  and badly placed shed
Now don’t misunderstand me – I don’t hate Lantana (I do hate Bermuda) – in fact I have just recently planted some of the creeping variety, – there was just way too much of it, and all in the wrong place. Now for some reason my industrial “strimmer” style mower came off the factory line with a severe adversity to starting, and staying started! (not good when it is 100+ degrees outside). I began to realize that the meerest touch of the plastic blade against the woody stem of a 4ft Lantana was all that it took to obliterate it and send me spiralling into a heat indexed five minute, rope pulling, cursing frenzy. . . The Lantana would simply have to go – only it turned out it wasn’t going to be that simple, in fact, it was going to be very hard indeed!

A Snails Pace – This went a lot slower than anticipated – about 3 Months slower – one stubburn tap-root at a time.

Anyone who has tried to dig up a mature Lantana knows it is the job for a pick axe (or 2) and raw, primordial, aggression. I say primordial due to the seemingly endless grunts that are heard when trying to extract an intact 15ft tap-root (after your 5th extraction thats how deep down they feel). We probably had 40 root-canals to go plus another 8 in the front of the house. We did initially try to transplant some of the plants in a more suitable location but they seemed not to like the transplant process one little bit – my experience with a lot of ‘woody’ shrubs incidentally.
We eventually prevailed and celebrated the last Tap-root thrown onto the shrub pile – we were done! I thought naively – how difficult could the Bermuda Grass eradication be after this?
. . . . Quite difficult indeed as it turned out.

After clearing out all the Lantana a rather strange thing 
happened. The space under the Post Oak suddenly 
became inhabitable, and I started to think about how this
terrain may be utilised. A rough plan was hatched which 
was centered around a water feature. The Bermuda Grass
would just have to wait a little while longer – this was 
way more exciting! I found myself eager to work on 
something a little more creative than hacking out tubers.
Initial layouts led to more refined plans like the one
above that encompassed the back yard in its entirity. I 
became determined to carve the land roughly into the
shape of the these sketches – subsequently an obsession 
was formed that remains with me today. I would spend the
next five years making and learning from my mistakes,
buying books and generally loitering around garden centers.

This blog will expose some of the funnier/scarier/and 
ridiculas stories of my humble initiation to the world of 
gardening and landscaping. I will also throw in some
pictures and annotations as to what is currently cool,
strange or bizarre in my yard. In fact here are some now. . . . 

My Agave starting to bloom . .         going up (about a 1ft a day!)          detail of the flowers 

Giant elephant ear growing fast!                 amazing form                                 tossing the Caber!

Oh and what is this on the Post Oak?                             See it now? staggering camouflage.

More on the water feature saga and how it attacked me later!

All material © 2008 for east_side_patch. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.


~ by eastsidepatch on April 30, 2008.

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