June 2011 - Yard of the Month

Southside Neighborhood Organization presents June Yard of the Month award

July 07, 2011 @ 12:00 AM
The Herald-Dispatch

The Southside Neighborhood Organization has awarded Alan and Catherine Morrison of 1404 Washington Blvd. the distinction of Yard of the Month for June 2011.

The Amsbary family built the Washington Boulevard home in 1937. The Morrisons bought the property from John and Lois McVey in 1984. The large lot including the side yard was the selling point for the Morrisons. At that time they had two children under five years old. For the first several years that they lived in the home, their children played in the side yard. Eventually the Morrisons turned the play yard into a ball filed for their children and other children living in the neighborhood.

As the children grew up, and developed interests outside their neighborhood , Catherine's creativity began to take shape. She cultivated a garden on the hillside plateau beside the house, starting with daffodils, other bulbs and annuals. Over time, she selected mostly perennials for that area. Catherine's favorite perennials day lilies bloom at different times and provide beautiful color all summer. Gradually a transformation took place that gave the Morrisons something beautiful to look forward to every season.

Window boxes filled with miniature coleus, lantana, blue daze, and diamond frost euphorbia decorate the side of the house and attract hummingbirds and butterflies in the summer. Miss Kim lilac bushes planted near the front porch provide a lovely fragrance in spring. During the Christmas season, Catherine decorates her home using the foliage of a Foster holly tree. Its tiny leaves and pretty red berries make it an excellent choice.

Behind the house white pines stand above a terraced rock garden filled with bee balm, butterfly bushes, bright pink and deep purple lythrum, brightly colored phlox and raspberries. In the fall, autumn clematis drape their creamy white blossoms over a trellis. The serenely beautiful garden is in a quiet place, and it provides a picturesque view through their family room window.

The property is about 140 feet wide with mature white dogwoods, a large elm tree, and gracefully drooping hemlocks extending across the back of the yard. Under the trees, small and large hosta plants thrive in a perfectly shaded environment. Catherine prevents slug and snail infestation by spreading cocoa mulch under the hostas. Slugs are hesitant to climb over the sharp edges of the cocoa shells to get to the leaves of the hosta plants.

The patio area, which was once a basketball court, is now an attractive area for rest and relaxation. A sturdy stone walkway marks the path from the house down to the patio. A wrought-iron table with umbrella and chairs sits in the middle of the patio flanked on four sides by tall footed vases filled with cascading sweet potato vines and lime and purple -- colored coleus. A children's swing set which once sat near the patio, has been replaced with a lovely wooden swing.

Alan and Catherine did all the work of designing and planting the cultivated beds and garden areas. Once a year they hire someone to deliver and spread mulch around the hill side of their house. They use a very light covering of Posy Power in all of the other cultivated areas. They find that this soil amendment enhances and enriches the beds. Their loamy soil is very easy to dig. Catherine said that since they do not have dense clay in their yard she can double dig a garden bed in 20 minutes.

As the consummate caretaker of their lawn, Alan takes great pride in striping the grass. Using a special roller attached to his lawn mower, he gives the yard a striped effect by mowing back and forth in different directions. With great precision he uses a weed eater to trim the edges of the lawn along the driveway and patio. On most Saturdays both Alan and Catherine work together in their yard. Catherine does the pruning, watering and fertilizing. Her last task of the day is to sweep the street in front of their home leaving everything neat and tidy. Working in their yard gives them opportunity to talk with neighbors. After the work is done, they often relax outdoors on the patio where lanterns and candles add to the lovely ambiance. The patio is the place they enjoy most in their yard.

An amazing transformation has taken place as the Morrisons have used their talents and tools to change a children's play space into beautiful and functional garden areas. This story may remind one of another such garden which underwent transformation. Butchart Gardens in Victoria, British Columbia was originally a limestone quarry. Much of the limestone was used to build massive structures in San Francisco and up and down the west coast in the late 1800s. After the limestone was exhausted, Jennie Butchart, the wife of the quarry owner envisioned a beautiful garden in the barren quarry. Over time, the Butchart family changed the old limestone quarry into one of the most highly acclaimed gardens in the world.

The Southside Neighborhood Organization commends the Morrisons for their vision and hard work, for transforming their yard into a place of beauty, and for sharing their gardening expertise with their neighbors. A gift card from Lavalette Nursery was presented to the Morrisons to encourage their continuation as homeowners/ gardeners of distinction. The Southside Neighborhood Organization appreciates Dennis and Jan Bills, winners of the June 2010 Yard of the Month, for their assistance in selecting the Morrison's yard, a jewel in the neighborhood.

Sandy White is the chair of the Beautification Committee for the Southside Neighborhood Organization.

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