Home Page
Order Books
Featured Plants
Seasonal Advice
News Columns
Other Work

Book Signings and Lectures
by Monica Brandies


Would you like to be notified of new books or website updates?
Join our Mailing List.
It is completely confidential and voluntary. You may Subscribe or Unsubscribe at any time.



Kerby's Retirement Garden

Larry and Vicki Kerby are enjoying retirement but still working hard.

Last summer Larry and Vicki Kerby had four weeks of vacation coming from their nursery. They took it in June and enjoyed it thoroughly. When they came back they found that their son Mark and daughter Kimberly Bokor and their able staff were doing just fine without them. It seemed like the ideal time to retire.

You'll still see them sometimes on weekends, but their 12 hour days in the heat 7 days a week are now passed to the next generation. "When I was young, my dad kept me working," Kim says. "Now I appreciate his help. But you should see his yard."

Finally Larry and Vicki have time to work on their own landscape. The first thing they did was to get rid of all their grass.

"It looked bad," he says. It takes great amounts of water to get St. Augustine grass through the dry months, and we've had extra dry ones this spring. "I figured I could spend $3000 on re-sodding and then that much every year for water and maintenance. Or I could spend $300 for pine straw mulch and be done with that expense." They opted for the later.

Their formal entranceway is graced by 'Knock Out' roses in three shades of pink to red.

Their front yard is all in place and a great deal of it is mature. Before the summer ends the final ovals of jasmine minima will fill out along the street between the 'Home Run' roses and on the high side of the sidewalk along with more lorapetalum, and the pine straw will be mere paths.

"I still want the open look," he says, and almost all full sun emphasizes it.

"I have many friends in the sod and lawn maintenance business, but this is the answer to the water problem for us."

"We had a wonderful lawn man," says Vicki. "We hated to lose him, but we don't need him any more." They don't even own a lawn mower. But Larry had a long handled hedge clipper that allows him to keep everything extremely neat.

"The house is easy to find," he said. "Just look for the 'Knock Out' roses. I even took out my Belinda's Dream to put in more of these. We have three shades now, the original that is almost a full red, the lighter coral pink, and the pale pink. They are as easy to grow as a Ligustrum, no spraying needed, and they bloom like this almost all the time."

Now that the front yard is completed with plants from Kerby's Nursery, they are working on the side yard where four avocado trees--a Brogdon, a Winter Mexican, a Lulu, and a Day, provide shade and fruit from July until January. They planned to make the understory a purple and white garden with Confederate jasmine that does just as well in shade or sun, 'Mona Lavender' plectranthus in one corner, Thunbergia erecta or King's Mantle, sometime called Scottish Bluebell, and white flowered Anthericum anderii grass. But Larry can't resist putting a pink 'Knock Out' rose there, too.

They call their small but very productive backyard "The Farm" with its two dozen or so large containers of 12 blueberry plants, several figs and Brazos blackberries, a pomegranate, a guava, and two dwarf mangoes in containers and a grapefruit and a navel orange in the ground. Larry has to start every day with grapefruit. May that is why all the Kerbys are so thin and full of energy. His favorite grapefruits are Ruby Red, Thompson, and Duncan.

"The Farm" in the backyard includes 12 blueberry plants, figs, mangos, Brazos blackberries, pomegranates, and guavas in containers, grapefruit in the ground.

They picked 12 to 15 cups of blueberries a week for almost two months in April and May, while blueberries in the stores were selling for $5 a cup. " They do take a long time to pick, especially since we eat as we pick. We have varieties Sharpe and Gulf Coast and the one that tastes best is the one that is the ripest," Larry says. "We grow them in pure pine bark." This keep gives them the acid medium they need. Fertilizer is added and each container is watered by drip irrigation.

Since they quit watering the grass beneath the pots, it will soon die on its own and be replaced with pine straw as well. They have just planted Muscadine grapes on the reinforced back fence. There is no one propagating grapes in the area now. Larry might take that up in the future.

He spent much of the first six or eight months of his retirement playing golf, but now he is back to the plants he has always loved and says, "I like working here better than playing golf now." He and Vicki and a long, happy, and well-earned time ahead. The possibilities are wonderful, and their yard will continue to look wonderful with a minimum of maintenance.

A pale pink 'Knock Out' rose blooms by the garage entrance. These roses are Larry's second favorite plants. The green sward of Jasmine minima is his favorite. Lorapetalum, neatly trimmed with maroon leaves and flowers, reblooms every time it is trimmed back.