Small 'starts' turn into yard full of plants

April 22, 2004|EMILY TOADVINE

ALUM SPRINGS - Six years ago, Connie Overstreet's yard at her new home on Ky. 300 was plain and unadorned.

"It was absolutely nothing but weeds and rough yard," she said.

A kind neighbor tilled a small area in the front, and Overstreet's green thumb took over after that.

"It just kept spreading," says Overstreet as she surveys a yard that now is filled with a variety of perennials, flowering trees, nut trees, fruit trees, fruit bushes and herbs. Aside porch off a cedar-sided garage offers a spot for taking in the lush view.

At this point, Overstreet has more time for relaxing on the porch because she is running low on space for new additions.

"I put a little something here and something there. Before you know it, I've run out of room. I'll think, "I'd like another plant," but where would I put it?"


Changes she made in the front yard help conceal her house from passers-by. A low spot in the front yard is filled with purple blooming redbuds, a crabapple, a Kwanzaa cherry, a flowering quince and a tulip magnolia.

"I like to hide the house from the road and cut the noise down," says Overstreet, noting that hearing less noise helps her rest after working night shifts as a nurse.

In front of the house, day lilies line a walkway of rock. "They're orange and yellow and a real light yellow. They're lemon and smell neat," she says.

Of course, with day lilies, Overstreet's pattern has expanded beyond the walkway.

"A lot of plants like day lilies get big and you have to separate them. That's why they spread down the drive."

It's almost like she has the magic touch

Actually, it's almost as if Overstreet has the magic touch when it comes to making plants thrive. Most of her plants came from small "starts" she received from friends and relatives.

"A lot of the plants, I just got a little start," she says.

Usually, she puts the plant in a small pot, but not because she wants to give it extra care.

"A lot of that's deciding where I'm going to set it."

One prime example of her ability to help a plant flourish is silver lace vine. This plant covers an archway in the back yard.

"When I got it, it came in a little 2- by 2-inch pot," she says of the plant that has a tiny white bloom.

Her choices for items to set at the driveway side of the home include a primrose with tiny flowers of yellow and magenta, a climbing rose and poppies. They are joined by yellow celandine poppies, a hearty wildflower she found in the woods.

"We went looking for ferns the other day," she says.

The back yard of the acre lot is where Overstreet had the most room to play. With a little help from her oldest son, Brody Overstreet, she installed a fish pond about four years ago. She particularly likes the frogs it attracts.

"There's even a snake that I see in the mornings."

Keeping the pond clean is challenging. She uses a pondzyme that breaks down decaying matter and aqua shade that darkens the water to retard algae growth.

"This year, I've tried barley straw, which is supposed to clean it up."

Other parts of the yard are sectioned in a garden behind the archway with the silver lace vine. Various plantings are placed around the yard all the way to a creek that serves as the property border.

Willow tree is one of her biggest surprises

One of Overstreet's biggest surprises is a willow tree at the creek that has grown about 30 feet tall. She kept the willow sapling in a bucket for awhile and it froze. She thought it would die, but decided to plant it anyway.

Now it gives hours of amusement to her nine grandchildren.

"They're in the jungle when they get in there," says Overstreet, a mother of five.

She has planted several other trees by the creek, including a hemlock that she found while on vacation.

"It was just a little sapling."

It has grown to about 4-feet tall, just like a sweet gum tree that she pulled up from the side of the road.

"I guess where the creek has flooded, it's really good soil," says Overstreet, who tries to enhance the clay-like areas of her yard with compost of yard clippings, rotting leaves and kitchen scraps.

A cedar structure near the creek is where Overstreet is thinking of placing a swing for watching kids play and the creek gurgle. Iris and hibiscus also have been placed alongside the creek.

"They kind of like it damp," she says.

The middle of the yard is filled with various trees and fruit bushes. To blueberries and rhubarb, she has added raspberries. She also has planted almond and hazelnut trees.

"If I have nuts and fruits, I'll be all right."

Instead of a fence, Overstreet has used a hedge to divide her yard from her neighbors, Scott and Jenny Upton. A Chinese elm hedge has grown to 10 feet.

"Jenny had tomato plants she set along with them and the tomato plants dwarfed it. Everybody said, 'Yes, that amazing hedge.' Now, it's more than I want. I have to stop it," she says, noting that she tops 3 to 4 feet off it a year.

Sometimes it's nice to rest and enjoy the view

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