by Frank Leupold
I imagine a few of you have been wondering about the “weedy yard” at the corner of Bowen Place and Antone Street. One of the reasons I established a residence in Atlanta was to take advantage of the water rich environment. After being raised on an Iowa farm and living in garden conscious Boston and lush Los Angeles, the arid conditions facing my landscaping plans at my Arizona residence, were frustratingly daunting.
That my yard is the first open view yard as one enters Berkeley Park from Howell Mill, I felt an obligation to provide a welcoming sight to both residents and visitors. I embarked on creating a formal garden atmosphere, sectioned off with pea gravel paths delineating color areas. Then the draught here hit. Combined with a careless tenant who preferred to allow her dog to relieve himself on the lawn rather than walk him, my front yard was toast. I decided to use the recent knowledge I had gained devising my visually and aromatic stimulating “Jardin de Estrellas” in Arizona while choosing species with roots which would survive in clay and low water conditions and not rot should water return to our neighborhood.
In the autumn of 2007 I had the front yard torn up and sewn with a wildflower mix. This produced a rather attractive, yet sparse, array of phlox, violets, bee balm, and this summer's sun flowers.
Last fall, my then contracted landscaper was to have planted the “fill in” xeric (water wise) plants I recently put in, as she abandoned the project. Of course the recent flooding rains may make all this unnecessary, but with the water from Lake Lanier still in litigation, and global warming continuing to play havoc with weather systems, the use of water wise plantings will, when established, provide a colorful entry yard to our neighborhood, and not coincidentally, lower my water bill.
The design of the yard plantings revolve around the central established iris and magnolia and are anchored by three triangular ornamental grass plantings. These are very different varieties. On the east side of the yard is a blue green fescue which should produce golden seed head flowers in the late spring. To the south east is a feathery reed grass which should reach 4-5 feet and produce wheat-colored seed heads by fall. And on the west side is a bunch grass that creates a pink-hued haze via its lacy seed heads.
Two triangular, colorful groupings of golden mountain alyssum and a deep purple meadow sage occupy areas to the west of the magnolia near its Antone edge and where the path from the post boxes meets the curved bed near the house's entry bricks. This area encloses a previously planted yucca and has been augmented by a licorice mint which hopefully will attract hummingbirds and butterflies.
There are two areas planted with rows of pinkish purple prairie cone flowers, which should spread. Sprinkled throughout the yard are plantings of blue flax. These darker colors should contrast nicely with the bright yellow oranges of the sunflowers.
Nothing has been more discouraging in my attempts at horticulture here than seeing a well turned out yuppette allowing her dog to lift his leg upon the herbs planted along Bowen Place. I have therefore put in some spiny customers to greet such rudeness. Prickly pears grow in all the lower 48, and two varieties are being tried here, cow's tongue, which you will recognize by its distinguishing namesake shape and purple, the color of which depends upon moisture. Along the Antone side of the stop sign is a stag horn cholla and along Bowen Place is a teddybear cholla - both nasty beings when touched. The teddybear is also called a jumping cholla for its tendency to detach and cling to visitors who come near.
The side yard toward Bowen Place has not been ignored. In the higher half circle near the street I have planted a butterfly bush which produces long deep purple clusters of flowers much like, but thinner than, lilacs. And butterflies do love the nectar it produces. Down the slope I have placed a perennial marigold with highly aromatic foliage. Maximilian's sunflowers have been placed against the gray stone wall and Blue Spires Russian sage in the flat area north of the Japanese maple.
Who knows if this plan will work. I am still seeking a landscaper who understands xeric gardening and would be able to rid the yard of unwanted botanic residents without removing shoots of the more xeric kind. Next year I'll see what survives and replace whatever hasn't. During the intervening time I will be searching for a groundcover which appreciates red Georgia clay and hopefully my neighbors will enjoy the evolving process. If all works well, in 2011 Berkeley Park should have a xeric prairie meadow to enjoy. If you would like a key to the Antone/Bowen place planting, please contact me via Leupold1@AOL.com. I thank you all for your patience.
For a map and key to the plantings at 792 Antone, click here.