April 5, 2013

A Major Change After 3 Decades

The desert is beautiful in its own way and I have come to appreciate it. The colors and smells after a rain are like no place else. For a few weeks the normally brown hillsides turn as green as a slope in Ireland after the winter rains. The ultra low humidity means few flying insects, huge, cloudless skies, and the ability to see the mountain tops up to 50 miles away.

Even so, for the last 30+ years I have maintained a flower and plant-filled backyard pretty much year-round. There are times when all of us desert-dwellers need a break from the look of a desert, and my backyard has been that respite. Dozens of pots, overflowing with geraniums, petunias, pansies...whatever is in season, define the back patio, porch, Ramada, and the edges of the yard. Flowering bushes, bougainvilleas, Texas Rangers, lantanas, bottle brushes...anything with color and texture soften the look of the block wall that surrounds the yard.

As you might imagine there is a fair amount of time, effort, and money in maintaining that oasis. Even though all of the bushes and plants are low water use, low maintenance, desert-approved plants, they grow and therefore must be trimmed. They also die after several years and must be replaced. I replant most of the pots two or three times a year. During the summer each one must be watered every single day.

For the last few years I have begun to grow tired of this cycle. I find myself spending less time in the backyard due to interests and activities that are better done inside or away from home. Instead of looking forward to all the replanting every few months, I find myself coming up with reasons to push the work back from week to week.

Well, I finally found the excuse to end this madness: RV travel. We leave soon on a 3 week trip. While the lawn, bushes, and trees are on a sprinkler and drip system, putting two dozen pots on the same system would be a lot of work. More importantly, the yard stuff gets watered much less often than the pots would require. In August we will be in Oregon for even longer making the watering chores that much more involved. Then, in October is another three week trip to California.

Betty has no objection since she spends even less time in the yard than I do. We both agree that our changing priorities, desire to simplify, and the need to put limited financial resources where they give give us the most joy means the end, for now, of all those flowers. We also agree that our next home will have a much smaller yard to maintain and decorate....just enough for the dog and some planting.

In the meantime I have given Betty a challenge that she seems excited to take on: figure out things other than live plants to go in the colorful pots, and other ways to enliven the backyard that avoids watering or maintenance. I am quite sure she will have a burst of creative thoughts that make the space just as pretty as the flowers did. Hopefully, it won't be nearly as expensive as the flowers!

When she does you can be sure I'll write about it and include pictures. In the meantime, I still have half a dozen pots to empty and store away for another day.

Back to the backyard.......


20 comments:

  1. I hear you on that one. We had a large back yard in Illinois with at least 5 flower beds etc that took up a LOT of time, effort and $$$$. When we moved here to Arizona I was determined to not repeat the cycle. Luckily we back up to a golf course so much of the year we have pretty lush green to look at. The area around our patio we removed some of the items from the previous owner that needed a lot of tending and water and put in hearty cactus and desert dwelling plants. We used some yard art my favorite is a little family of rusty type quail from a flea market that look like they are running past. Also have a very pretty and colorful windchime. We have an inexpensive small fountain that has a cooling water sound that we just unplug when we go away and works on a simple timer when we are home. It takes very little electricity it is just a tiny aquarium motor but oh so much fun. I also make sure our patio chair cushions are a funky pattern for an extra pop of color. I have gone down to just one pot of flowers that has been out since November...those petunias are hearty suckers. When we travel this summer they will be about ready to be emptied. A very cool colored mexican pot might look nice in your yard. Doesnt need anything in it, the painting on the outside is colorful enough.
    Enjoy your freedom from those gardening chores!

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    1. We have at least a dozen very colorful pots that we purchased at the artist community of Tubac. Maybe just some groupings will look good without flowers. Thanks for the idea. I'll give it a try. A few extra pieces of yard art may be all we need.

      We have a homebuilt fountain, too. It is an old handle water pump with a hose running through it and emptying into a container. The sound of running water is quite pleasant. Like yours, it is on a timer that has been unplugged for now.

      A friend of mine built a resort-style backyard and spends 3 hours a day maintaining it. Just within the last few months he has come to the same conclusion as I: no more maintaining twenty different pots that must be watered every day and re-planted twice a year. This is a major attitude shift for him. I wonder what he will do with all that extra time!

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  2. Our down sized house has a down sized yard also. Great idea to simplify yard chores.I know Betty will come up with creative ideas for the pots..try browsing the pintrist site..

    I can't wait to hear about all the RV adventures as you take them.Have you two been anywhere local lately in the RV? Any plans??

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    1. I have no doubt Betty will "solve" our decorating problem.

      We have been to Cave Creek Regional Park twice in the last few months. It is close, quiet, and very pleasant. Even closer to you, we took the RV to Freestone Park in Gilbert because the grandkids love to ride in it so much. So, we picked them up at their home, drove them to the park, had a picnic, rode the train at the park, and took them home......a simple excursion that they thoroughly enjoyed.

      We leave either Sunday or Monday for a long trip through New Mexico and Texas. Our plans are for Monday but both of us (and Bailey) are getting anxious so we may hit the road a day early.

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  3. I was allergic to Chinese yews so after my husband past I removed them all from my front landscaping, put in organic vegetable gardens and bulbs that the chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits and deer enjoyed more then me. So last year I covered it all in mulch, stopping the weeding, and planted one half with hydrangeas. This year I will plant the other half with no maintenance flowering bushes. I was thinking small blueberry bushes and raspberry but how much of the berries would I get-only if I covered them with ugly netting to keep the little creatures and birds out! The older I get the more I realize my time is finite and to pick and choose wisely how I spend it. Have fun RVying this year loads of flowers and landscape to enjoy without the hassle.

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    1. I am warming to the idea of cactus and succulents. They take very little supplemental water, no care or trimming, and have beautiful flowers during certain times of the year.

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    2. cactus? with bailey around? vet bills+pet pain are a likely result

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    3. Not a problem. Most would be in pots and the few we already have Bailey has no interest in getting near. Several types of cactus do not have sharp thorns. I'm leaning more toward succulents anyway which have no needles or thorns.

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  4. There are wonderful pictures of succulent arrangements online and in various magazines--some are very artsy and dramatic. Maybe a drip system would work with those.

    Enjoy your upcoming travels.

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    1. Most cacti need watering only once a month in the summer...even less if the summer monsoon rains are active.

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  5. I agree with denise...there are some wonderful succulent plants that aren't 'cactusy'. Throw in some mosaics and you have a pretty easy to maintain place of beauty. Can't wait to see what Betty comes up with!
    b

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    1. Betty loves your idea of mosaics. She likes breaking up tiles and glasses and making things.

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  6. So smart! If it's no longer fun and has become a chore, then it's time to let it go. That's what I've done with Christmas the last few years. I used to decorate from top to bottom, with enough lights to start a fire! And I had a holiday open house every year with up to 70 people. Several years ago, I realized that it wasn't fun anymore, so I stopped. I told the kids that we would have whatever decorations they wanted to put up. Result? No decorations other than the stockings. And now with an empty nest, I have even less motivation.

    Those were fun years and I embraced the holiday spirit with gusto. But when things changed and I wasn't getting enough enjoyment to justify the time and expense, I let it go. It's hard to let go of a tradition that has brought you and your family joy, but as the Tao Te Ching says, "ritual is the husk of faith and loyalty, the beginning of confusion." So when it is empty ritual, time to move on.

    Besides, I can't wait to see what Betty comes up with!!

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    1. Betty will get a superiority complex if she keeps reading all these references to her abilities! Actually I support them all. For too long she has questioned her artistic abilities. All of these public comments are lighting her artistic fire.

      I'd be very surprised if we don't return home with several ideas ready to go.

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  7. Sounds like a good decision for Betty and yourself. Some of the things I was going to suggest have already been mentioned:succulents, cacti and water fountains. I like the idea of grouping the artisan pots. One of the condos we rented on vacation actually had a large and beautiful pot in it with a glass top and made a gorgeous side table. If it fits in your home or on your patio (with probably plexi-glass) maybe that is a possibility. I also wondered about a rock garden...maybe that could evolve as something you acquire in your travels...or an embelishment to it. I also like the idea the one commentor had with the rustic yard art. Whatever you decide, it will be very freeing. Time now to smell the roses...not tend them.
    My husband loves gardening...me...I like to cook and preserve the veggies/fruits and look at the beautiful flowers. I have told him numerous times that if I was the one that had to take over all the outside chores we would have 3 tomato plants, 2 pepper plants, a cucumber vine, lettuce and a few potted flowers. So, as long as he enjoys, I am great with it. But if it ever becomes "my job" we will have to change our outside tasks also.
    Enjoy your RV trip!

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    1. Every one of these ideas is exciting and exactly what I was looking for. They will add texture, personality and color to the yard but without the work, cost, and worry.

      This August we will be in the Portland area for the whole month, escaping the heat and spending time with blogging friends Barbara and Earl Torris and Galen Pearl. Early Retirement Tamara and her husband, Mike, will be at an RV park in the area for part of the same time. We have plans to get together for drinks, dinner, and conversation. Linda Myers (A Bag lady in Waiting) and her husband, Art, may be driving down from Seattle for a visit, too. Plus, we have church friends who spend the summer in Bend, Oregon.

      I am pretty sure this August will convince us to be out of Phoenix for most of the summer in future years. Cactus, succulents, and yard art are perfect.

      I am sure there will be a post or two after our return that shows the progress of the transition of the yard into something new and appealing.

      Thanks, Linda.

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  8. I agree there's a great lesson here for all of us -- in "our changing priorities, desire to simplify, and the need to put limited financial resources where they give give us the most joy."

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  9. Bob,I love hearing how you are changing plans and routines to fit new interests.. THAT is what satisfying retirement is all about! And Galen,I'm with you on the holidays--at first it felt strange to let go of some old rituals and all the decorating.. but now we take the holidays to d OUTDOORS STUFF ..Christmas and other holidays are for hiking,picnics, driving to an old Arizona town and exploring.. I don't entertain as much as I used to, and mostly now it is "pot luck!!" When we moved last summer I tossed all the worn out decorations and kept just a few.

    Can't wait to hear about a MONTH in Oregon form Bob and Betty--I dream of doing this someday soon..

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  10. We're lucky that the months requiring the most attention in the garden are the months when we're home and our weather is the best. So far it's a pleasure. When it isn't, we'll make a change. Most likely that would be plants that are native to our area, which would require minimal care. If they thrive in the wild, they'll do fine on our property.

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  11. There's nothing like going with the flow and listening to your heart. It will be interesting to see what Betty comes up with!

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