Thriving Plants When You Live In The Botanical ‘Hole Of Death’

by Tammy Taylor~

I’ve said it before and I can’t say it enough.  I love it here!  I love living in the country and the small-town feel.  We’ve made good friends and feel a true sense of community here.  And there’s that old 1800’s Barn that just speaks to my heart!  My life here is perfect in all ways except one. I struggle to get plants, trees or shrubs to live in our yard!!  Apparently we built our home right in the middle of the Botanical Hole of Death.

A short list of some beautiful yet very hardy plants I've been able to get to thrive in our Botanical Hole Of Death. #TaylorMadeHomestead

Oh don’t get me wrong the land here is productive, lush and green.  We have a tree-lined creek and many trees and shrubs in the pastures.  Our fencelines are all lined with trees and grass grows lush and thick in the hay meadows. But there’s a thin ribbon of land that just doesn’t want to grow anything but sparse grass.  And even that grass gives up the ghost when summer temps arrive. Yeah, we apparently planted our house in that thin Botanical Hole of Death ribbon.  Lucky us!

I’ve had the soil tested, nothing seems amiss.   Areas of our property can be highly erodible and some of the scarce topsoil was moved to build the pad for our home. Perhaps our fertile layer of topsoil is just too shallow now.  Over 17 various shade or fruit trees in the back yard ALONE have succumbed just 12-18 months after planting.  I long for the lush canopy of trees and greenery I’ve always assured we had at any place we’ve lived.

So I started looking for plants with a strong will to survive.  Those plants which would grow with or without ideal circumstances.  I’ve found a few winners and I continue to build on my successes.  Here are a few things that have worked so far for me.

Relocating Volunteer Trees

One day I noticed a little seedling growing up next to our home’s foundation.  Now I know it can’t stay there, I’ll need to pull it.  But wait a minute…  If it wants to live THAT badly perhaps I should relocate it to a place in the yard where I wish to have a tree.  BINGO – that little seedling is still growing.  It’s tripled in size since last fall so I hope to have a shade tree here some day.  It’s been so successful I’ve since relocated another elm tree as well.  We’ll see how well they do.  I may be able to populate my entire back yard with beautiful (and FREE) shade trees!

A short list of some beautiful yet very hardy plants I've been able to get to thrive in our Botanical Hole Of Death. Elm tree seedling #TaylorMadeHomestead

Decorative Native Grasses

When your home is in the botanical hole of death you need to plant things that really, REALLY want to live!  A sweet friend shared with me a start of something called Alamo Switchgrass.  Although our ‘flower bed’ around our home is mostly planted in an edible landscape, I planted this hardy switchgrass on the west side.

It gets hot over there, enduring the west sun’s heat bouncing off the brick wall of the house.  Yet the switchgrass has grown beautifully.  I recently pulled some starts & planted them at the front entrance where I’d previous planted pampass grass.  Although pampass grass is considered invasive in other places, it didn’t stand a chance here and died promptly.  This Alamo Switchgrass will be beautiful!

A short list of some beautiful yet very hardy plants I've been able to get to thrive in our Botanical Hole Of Death. Alamo Switchgrass #TaylorMadeHomestead

An extra bonus is the fact that although I use the native grass as an ornamental grass in my landscaping, Alamo Switchgrass is also a forage plant.  It’s typically not a good idea to feed your landscaping trimmings to your animals (many innocent plants are toxic to livestock) but this switchgrass is actually a forage.   Any time I trim it the calves thank me profusely! Beautiful plant, tasty treat – win/win!

A short list of some beautiful yet very hardy plants I've been able to get to thrive in our Botanical Hole Of Death. #TaylorMadeHomestead

Vigorously-Growing Mint, Properly Contained!

And of course in this same west-facing flowerbed I’ve planted mint.  Now mint is a powerhouse by itself but it can be invasive.  I didn’t want it to get away from me & invade the rest of the bed.  So I made a Mint Planting to confine it and make it play nice in the landscaping.  It’s grown beautifully & blooms constantly!  And like the switchgrass it’s completely on its own.  I don’t water or pamper it in any way.

Butterfly on mint plant A short list of some beautiful yet very hardy plants I've been able to get to thrive in our Botanical Hole Of Death. #TaylorMadeHomestead

Relocating Native Flowering Plants

I’ve also been known to plant native pretties in this ‘flower bed’ of mine.  We have a plant (ie: WEED) called Bitter Sneezeweed.  An ugly name for a beautiful flower!  It grows wild in our pastures.

A short list of some beautiful yet very hardy plants I've been able to get to thrive in our Botanical Hole Of Death. #TaylorMadeHomestead

It’s a inedible weed for the cows, but a beautifully-flowering workhorse in the garden.  Many years I’ll transplant some from the pasture to my flowerbed.  It blooms cheery yellow even during the oppressively hot summer temps of NE Texas.  Even during yet another drought and no additional care from me, it blooms beautifully all season long. When I want these flowers in the beds I simply walk to the pasture and dig up another flowering plant to beautify our landscape.

I also use some standard hearty plants such as cheery yellow Daylilies and beautiful aromatic evergreen Rosemary.  These tend to be fuss-free plants that love to grow no matter what.

Daylillies - A short list of some beautiful yet very hardy plants I've been able to get to thrive in our Botanical Hole Of Death. #TaylorMadeHomestead

The Rosemary is also a delicious addition as an ingredient in our favorite Beer Bread and also used in our homemade soap that we like to give as homemade gifts.  Add to that the fact that it’s evergreen and it totals up to a winner.  I love to be able to look out & see something green during the dreary winter months.

A short list of some beautiful yet very hardy plants I've been able to get to thrive in our Botanical Hole Of Death. #TaylorMadeHomestead Rosemary

Bulbs Shared From Other Gardeners

Bulbs are a nice way to add beauty to your landscape.  These are my grandmothers Iris bulbs and they’re absolutely beautiful.  Plus, when I see their beautiful delicate blooms I smile remembering my grandma.  So that’s TWO kinds of beauty in one plant – one for the eye, one for the heart!

Taylor-Made Ranch Iris

And my mom shared with me several of her daffodil bulbs.  I planted a line of them along each side of our driveway at our gate entrance.  What a beautiful welcome for our guests.  AND they’re the very first things to peek a little color after a long, dreary winter.  I love these, thanks mom!

02-16 Daffodils promise of spring #TaylorMadeHomestead

So there ya go, a short list of some beautiful yet very hardy plants I’ve been able to get to thrive even in our Botanical Hole Of Death.  And many of these plants were FREE – either dug up from our own property or shared from the abundance of other’s gardens.  Free is in our budget for sure! What are your favorite ‘Really Wants To Live’ plants to utilize in your garden?

~TMH~

porch rocker with a glass of cold iced tea.  There are lots of good folks sharing!  And you can also follow along on Pinterest, Twitter or GooglePlus.

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10 thoughts on “Thriving Plants When You Live In The Botanical ‘Hole Of Death’

  1. Ken

    I’ve got that sneezeweed in my pastures also. As hard as I try to eliminate it I just can’t see transplanting it. But if it works for y’all then it’s good.

    Reply
      1. Ken

        BTW, do y’all do cattle business with a vet in SS? Son in law used to be a tech there and believes he knows you. Regards.

        Reply
  2. Heidi Villegas

    Loved reading your post! We have a botanical Hole of Death in our high desert rocky soil, too. It’s our front yard! I’m growing herbs out there, now…the ones that ‘want’ to grow—like you said! I’ve also managed to get some wild plants from the area to grow there too. We’re still working on it, though!

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made Homestead Post author

      So you really can feel my pain, eh Heidi?? Tonight while harvesting pecans I saw a small oak seedling. Tomorrow I’ll go back and dig it up. I’ll bring it back and plant it in our yard. Fingers crossed! ~TMH~

      Reply
  3. Cecilia

    Good idea to use what is already thriving in your landscape. Have you tried lantana or four o’clock sorry cannas? I’ve had great success with those in our NE TX landscape and the deer leave them along. Irises too. Good luck with finding more!

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made Homestead Post author

      I do have some Four O’Clocks against this same west wall Cecilia, I forgot to mention them. They’re pretty scrappy as well, growing without any assistance from me. I also have my grandmother’s Iris bulbs and they’re beautiful, and my mother’s daddodil bulbs planted along the driveway. It seems bulbs can be really scrappy plants too, even in our botanical hole of death. I’ve planted Lantana a couple of times but I just can’t get it to survive. ~TMH~

      Reply
  4. ColleenB.~Texas

    Cheap is nice but Free is Better. :} Calves must think it’s a holiday with the fresh feast they are having. The “Stella de Oro” daylilies I think will grown in any type of soil. Love your Rosemary you have growing there. It’s so big and lush and it has such pretty blooms. Now, if you want to plant grass seed, I would suggest Buffalo Grass. http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/archives/parsons/turf/publications/buffalo.html

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made Homestead Post author

      I have 3 rosemary bushes Colleen, one is over 3-ft tall. I absolutely love it! I’ve planted Buffalo grass before, I was told that Buffalo grass grows thick but stays relatively short. Although the seed was shockingly expensive I wanted to plant it along my driveway since that’s a lot of mowing that we could forego if we could plant something that would grow easily yet stay short and be non-toxic and edible by the cows. Unfortunately that seeding was a bust and no Buffalo grass grew after seeding the area. It could have very well been operator error, maybe we didn’t prepare the soil properly or maybe the weather turned at the wrong time – who knows? I’ve thought about planting that long driveway strip in native flowering plants and letting it go natural but RancherMan doesn’t like the unkempt look of that. Still thinking of solutions… ~TMH~

      Reply

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