In the waning winter days of 2009, Victoria Keys Young stood in the front yard of her new residence in Grosse Pointe Shores and, with her face set in steely determination, she peered fiercely at the menacing foe: a weedy, prickly, vine-filled, monstrously overgrown yard and — at the fore — a villainous euonymus bush with straggly branches, creeping across the front stoop.
Plotting her attack, Young decided to retreat until spring. “The first thing I did,” Young says, “was weed. And weed. And weed!” When that proved insurmountable, Young sketched a plan, enlisted help, and tackled the property section by section. With her drawings and plans, beds were cleared out, pachysandra was planted, hedges of boxwood bushes went in, and arborvitae soon stood as gentle sentinels.
“The pachysandra has such easy maintenance,” the gardener says, “and everything has a different texture, color, feel. For example, my boxwoods aren’t the ‘gem’ variety. They’re emerald green. And when the arborvitae were being put in, the landscaping workers were starting to plant them in a straight line. ‘No!’ I said, ‘We have to be creative!’ So it’s all been planted in a curve. (I like to call it) ‘curve appeal!’ ” Young continued her work and cleared areas for two rose gardens, choosing to fill the spaces with yellow roses. “I picked yellow roses because I’d never seen a yellow rose garden. I always like things that are out-of-the-ordinary.”
The transformation was so astonishing that Young was asked to participate in the Grosse Pointe 2015 Garden Tour. “The yellow roses made it breathtaking,” Young says. “Can you imagine walking into a sea of yellow?”
The gardens require constant care. “There’s no vacation for me in the summer,” Young says. “I have to be here. I have to take care of them.”
Although each plant is fitted with an irrigated “drip zone” watering tube, Young monitors and controls the system manually. She also changes the beds’ top layers four times per season, replacing soil, humus, peat moss, and fertilizer to prevent molding. “It’s like a mom who knows when her child is getting sick. If a plant isn’t thriving, I look and say, ‘What’s wrong here?’ And I usually can find and treat the cause.
“When I was a little girl, I’m the one who would go outside and, if I saw weeds between the tulips, I’d pick those weeds. I’d wash the walls inside the house. I wanted everything to be neater and more beautiful.
“Now, people stand at my curb and say, ‘This is so relaxing! This is so beautiful,’ ” Young says. “I invite them to cut some roses, and I show them a trick that will keep them fresh for over two weeks!” The secret? The rose sage says it’s to recut the roses just a bit, on a slant, under slightly warm water.
“Anyone can (beautify their yard),” she says. “Have a starting point, like your walkway. Then go from there.
“Try using pachysandra for your borders, have potted flowers (Young has an uncanny ability to create stunning container combinations), and add perennials, yearly, to a garden you’ve outlined. Visitors walk away saying, ‘Hey! I could do this, too!’”