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Re-Landscaping the Church Gardens

February 3, 2012 Garden Gazebo, Home Charms, Places of Interest, River Life No Comments

We belong to a tiny historic Church here in NE Florida.  A lot of the members are descendants from the original founders back from 1892.  It’s a little Norman Rockwell looking church with a great “family” congregation and a super Pastor.  During my winter hiatus I worked on re-landscaping the gardens around the Church.  The majority of the plantings around the Church are azaleas, so I wanted to be sure that these were saved, fertilized, and properly watered.  The techniques used in this application could be applied anywhere, especially at your home and garden.

Attached are some “before” and “after” photos which really tell the story better than any words I could say.  What they say is true, a picture is worth a thousand words.  But I will try to break down the steps I took in getting the gardens back up to looking as they should look to give glory to the Lord.

First I had to remove all the old plants that had either died or were in the process of dying.  Then came the weeding.  Oh my, the weeding took some time and hard work.  You want to first spray as many of the weeds with Roundup and let it sit about a week to give the weeds time to die off .  This will make it slightly (and only slightly) easier to pull the weeds.  A lot of the weeds in the open area could be pulled up with the use of a garden hoe.  That way you can get down to the roots.  Weeds that were closer to the existing plants had to be pulled by hand individually.

 While the weeding was going on, another member of the Church (my new best friend Ron) was reworking the sprinkler system.  Since this Church has been there for 120 years, I’m not sure when the sprinkler system was installed, but I can tell you it must have been a really long time ago.  There is no electrical outlet on the outside of the building so therefore, there is no automatic sprinkler controls.  I asked the Building & Grounds Chairman where were the valves to turn on the sprinklers.  He showed me a cluster of 6 foot tall Canna Lilies on the side of the Church.  The valves and the valve box were buried under the Canna Lilies.  Does that tell you how long it had been since the sprinklers had been turned on?  Unfortunately, I did not take a photo of the location and condition of the valve box, but basically, the valves were below ground level.  The valves were also leaking, so the valve box would be partially full of water and mud, and whatever else.  In order to turn the valves on, which were 2 zones the east and west side of the church, I had to wear long rubber gloves and stick my hand down in the muck to accomplish my task.  Also, you had to kneel down on the ground with a rubber pad just to get down to the valves.  Needless to say, this was not an ideal situation.

Enter Ron, the Super Sprinkler Man of the church.  You’ve heard of Super Man, well we have a Super Sprinkler Man!  First Ron had to dig up that 6 foot tall stand of Canna Lilies.  What a job that was!  Then several of the heads and pipes were broken.  Those he replaced (he was real good with the pvc pipe and all the materials that went along with sprinkler repair).  Needless to say, a lot of the sprinkler heads were not the correct type for that area of the garden.  So a lot of new sprinkler heads were bought to replace along the garden area; then they all had to be adjusted so that they would water the plants without getting too much water on the building or the sidewalks.

Another issue Ron had to address is that the flower bed that ran along the front handicap ramp had the sprinkler lines running right down the center.  The plants, which were Indian Hawthorns, were placed between the sprinklers and the sidewalk, causing the bush to hang out over the sidewalk.  Plus, they were planted in an unusual way, kind of bunched upped together.  Ron dug a trench along the ramp, and with the use of some 90 degree “L” connectors, he moved the sprinkler line along the ramp so that we could add side strip sprinkler heads and the plants could then be planted down the center and have room to grow in either direction.  The sprinkler heads would then water just the plants and not the sidewalk.  We first tried transplanting the Indian Hawthorns, but since they were not in the best condition when we transplanted them, they were looking a little sickly, so I replaced them with dwarf azaleas to tie in with the rest of the landscaping.  These were the only Indian Hawthorns on the property, so they really didn’t go with the rest of the scheme.  Unfortunately, we were both so busy working on this project and the weeding, I did not get photos of every step.  But I think you can get an idea from the before and after photos.

Super Sprinkler Man Ron also had to dig up the valves and move them both up above ground.  He also added a water spicket so that we could attach a hose or fill a bucket with water.  Ron also added mulch and a stepping stone to make the area look real nice and function the best.  How great that is now that when I come to water the plants, all I have to do is drive up, jump out of the van, turn on one zone, and I can go back home for about 45 minutes, then come back and turn on the second zone and repeat the procedure.  THANKS RON!  One day we hope to have an automatic control, but this works fine for now.  I go over twice a week to water the plants and it is so quick and easy now.  Good thing we only live about 4 minutes from the Church!

 

Buying new plants to replace those that had died, or to lay out a whole new garden was the next step.  There was a grouping of plumbagos in the back between the 2 air conditioning units.  Now there seemed to be some tension about me pulling up those plumbagos.  I’m not really sure what the sentimentality of it all was, perhaps someone planted them many years ago, but they were not being tended to nor were they being watered (see sprinkler info above).  When I did try to get some kind of shaped to them, the limbs literally crumbled in my hands like freeze dried space food.

The Pastor was hoping to have a butterfly garden for the children.  Naturally I thought that the space between the 2 air conditioning units in the back of the church would be the perfect place for such a garden, since the children’s Sunday School building was right behind the church building, and this garden area was between the two.  Well I have to tell you there were many tense moments prior to me digging up those dead plumbagos, so I had to be sure I had enough plants to put in their place once they were gone and it all had to be done on the same day so that there was no blank spot in the garden.

Since it was the end of the season I was able to get some real bargains at the local home improvement store.  The church does not really have a budget item set aside for landscaping other than the grass mowing and edging.  So this was going to have to be donated plants.  I was able to find chrysanthemums, blue daze, and Boston ferns at 99 cents each!  Then I brought some lantana from my garden, bought some heather, azaleas, gardenias, and cape honeysuckle at regular price, and it all worked out quite well, if I do say so myself.  The Pastor’s wife Betty Jane also brought in a lot of plants from her garden, a type of lily with long fronds as well as mondo grass.

 

It’s amazing what a few new plants and about 100 bags of mulch will do for the garden!

 

We live in a rural community, and the little towns around here sometimes have a “city wide” yard sale.  I wanted some type of trellis to put the honeysuckle vine on to block the view of the A/C units, but the trellises I saw at garden shops were so expensive.  I went to one of these small town yard sales looking for a trellis.  Low and behold, the last booth that I came to at the very end of the yard sale area there was this metal head board and foot board, painted black with vining leaves on it for $15.  SOLD!  I brought them back, and even though they don’t cover up all the A/C units, once the honeysuckle vines begins to grow, hopefully you will notice the flowers and not the A/C units.

Since there is a large area of white clapboard behind the church, I thought if we had a red crepe myrtle tree in the center of the garden, when the red blooms were drooping down, I felt it would somewhat symbolizes Jesus’ hanging on the cross with his red blood.  I know that may or may not appeal to a lot of folks, but since this was a historic church, I thought symbolism might be the right thing to do.  Since it was the winter we have to wait for spring for a crepe myrtle, so in the meantime, I placed a bird feeder on a shepher’s hook and boy, the little birds and a family of Cardinals really like it!

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