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Walls, vegetation, and motivation

One day last week, I couldn’t bear being inside my house or inside my own skin. Normally, solitude is joy, but there are certain days — and I’ve had a lot of them, this gloomy spring and summer.

I wish I could tell you I get through such times by meditating or some other spiritual practice worthy of a true hermit. Ha. Truth is, at the itchiest of those moments the only cure is to escape from the hermitage. And usually to shop.

Oh, not for designer shoes or fancy clothes, unless I can get them from a thrift store. Anything I have reason to buy will do — past-date groceries at the liquidation mart, a wastebasket at Walmart, any find from a garage sale. The mere act of leaving the house and going somewhere where there are abundant, colorful, inexpensive, fun, creative choices always picks me up.

So does outdoor work, but the soggy spring and summer we’ve had has left me unmotivated.

This summer’s one-and-only real project was to be a rock wall/rock garden covering the long, low bank in front of the house. This bank:

Clear back in the depths of last winter I told The Wandering Monk to save a spot in his schedule for wall/rock garden building, “Early. In May, as soon as weather permits.” However, May didn’t permit. June didn’t permit. Early July didn’t permit. Or rather, I lost my oomph somewhere in the spring and haven’t been able to get it back thanks to rain, but mostly to inertia.

Then that itchy-mood day came last week. I ended up serendipitously combining two curatives — I shopped and thus got myself project-motivated. That day, lo and behold, the place that passes for our local garden center was having a CLEARANCE CLEARANCE CLEARANCE sale on all plants.

You know I’m a black-thumb person when it comes to growing plants. Shamefully terrible at it. But since the house is down to finishing details, I’m slowly embarking on the project of getting rid of every last damn bit of lawn on the house side of the street. I’ll still keep grass on the lot across the road because that’s going to be my little private park (probably about the time I get too old to totter over to enjoy it), but eventually every bit of land around the house will be covered with:

  • Wildflowers
  • Moss
  • Perennial plants
  • River rock
  • Cedar bark
  • Bulb plants
  • Stepping stones
  • Garden sculptures
  • Gravel Paths
  • Raised-bed veggie gardens (yes, eventually)
  • Container herb gardens
  • Rock gardens
  • Ponds (I salvaged two forms from the backyard of the flatlands house)
  • Waterfalls
  • Brick mini-patios
  • Etc.

I’m conducting a War on Lawns and I swear it will be more successful than any “War on _____” that the fedgov ever concocted.

So a clearance sale on plants? Herbs for $0.50? Gallon containers of tomato plants for $1.50? Sedges and Irish moss $1.50 per pot? Weird purple perennials I’ve never laid eyes on before for practically nothing? Irresistible.

The best thing I found were these seedum tiles, half off.

I love succulents, because even I can’t kill them. Besides, give them a chance and they’ll spread like weeds. These tiles have fiber backings and are designed to be laid out as groundcover on slopes and such. Just rough up some dirt, lay the mats of seedum on top, water, and let nature do all the work. Better nature than me, I usually say.

That’s not how I’m going to use them, though.

Rock gardens need grow-y things in their crevasses. If you don’t quickly plant the grow-y items you want, ones you don’t want are ready to volunteer. My brain had been stuck on choices that were expensive and not readily available (kinnickkinnick) or need time and effort to start (ivy, which is abundant here but can’t just be dug up or cut up and slammed between rocks).

Those four flats of seedum solved the entire problem for the grand sum of $26 and no muss or fuss and got me motivated about that rock garden again. I’m going to cut the tiles in small pieces and tuck them (along with a little topsoil) into the spaces in the wall. If they aren’t quite enough to complete the job, patches of Irish moss are already planted in the “moss nursery” on the damp, mostly shaded side of the house. Next spring they can be divided and placed in the wall, too.

And the long-delayed wall will be built in a few weeks, because with my lifted mood, I finally (a mere three months behind schedule) went to the quarry to spec rock, then dropped in on The Monk to give him a heads up and request specific time in his schedule.

The summer’s one big project will (knock wood) be underway — and completed — in early August. And the gloom of spring and this year’s non-summer will be Officially Lifted. At the moment, even the weather seems poised to co-operate.


  1. Bear
    Bear July 14, 2019 11:51 am

    Might want to give a little thought to “invasive.” One man’s wildflower is another’s lawn-destroying weed.

  2. Comrade X
    Comrade X July 14, 2019 1:27 pm

    No ivy, my winter will be a search and destroy winter for our Ivy invasion! It has conquer more than it has not.

    However Just say No to Lawns!!!!

  3. Pat
    Pat July 14, 2019 3:02 pm

    Creeping thyme or Corsican mint interspersed with rocks would be lovely on that slope. And would smell delicious.

  4. deLaune
    deLaune July 14, 2019 3:03 pm

    You’ve motivated me to go go out and mow my lovely lawn!
    (The wild cottontails aren’t eating it fast enough. Too much rain.)

  5. kentmcmanigal
    kentmcmanigal July 14, 2019 3:16 pm

    I hate lawns. Always have. At least around my own house. What other people do is their business– until they decide to try to force me to surround myself with a monoculture of invasive species of grass that are labor intensive. Then it becomes my business.

    I do have a large area of buffalo grass, though. I like that species. I never have to mow it and it doesn’t get tall enough to offend the busybodies.

    I try to encourage native species instead of foreign ornamentals, but there are lots of invasive species growing in my “native space”. And most of it can’t really be effectively fought with the methods I’m willing to use.

  6. larryarnold
    larryarnold July 15, 2019 1:06 am

    I swear it will be more successful than any “War on _____” that the fedgov ever concocted.

    Talk about setting a low bar. 😉

    Around here we have the Native Plant Society of Texas ( which promotes NICE, “Natives Instead of Common Exotics.”

  7. Noah Body
    Noah Body July 16, 2019 12:23 pm

    War on Lawns . . . good thing you don’t have a Nazi local government like where I live, that has dictated that at least 50% of the yard must be lawn. They enacted that one after a property owner replaced his lawn with mulch, some snitch complained to the city, and since the laws on the books weren’t specific enough to convict the property owner, they added more specificity to the code. So that, in the words of the law director, they can have “reliable prosecutions.” Just like they had reliable prosecutions in the Soviet Union.

    I hope Hell exists, because these statists belong there.

  8. Claire
    Claire July 16, 2019 12:44 pm

    A diktat requiring lawns??? Egads. If I were you, I’d be considering creative ways to monkeywrench the definition of “lawn.”

  9. Claire
    Claire July 16, 2019 12:48 pm

    “Talk about setting a low bar.”

    LOL! True, that.

    I love the idea of the Native Plant Society. And of native plantings. My plans include transplanting ferns, salal, and ivy, all local growers, from the woods or from one spot to another on my own property.

  10. Claire
    Claire July 16, 2019 12:50 pm

    “Creeping thyme”

    Pat — lovely idea. Unfortunately, those $0.50 herbs were among the first things grabbed at the clearance sale. There were only two pots of thyme left for me, but they’re now growing in a container in my yard.

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