Archive for the ‘Garden Construction’ Category

Inside the Forest

This is the sort of photo I usually present of our garden.  It shows you the south side of the main ornamental garden, with a few marigolds and tomatoes from the veggie gardens in the foreground.  It was taken from along the fence in the back of the veggie garden.  It’s a nice colorful photo full of plants that lets you see what this whole side of the garden looks like, tho I guess this one’s a bit impressionistic, isn’t it.  Lots of colors, textures and forms all blended together.  Getting nice wide shots like this generally means shooting them from outside the garden itself.

This time I’m going to show you photos that were taken looking out from inside of the small forest we’re creating here in the rich peaty soils of our intensely planted little Nature Sanctuary.  It’s what we see when we venture off the lawn and onto the soft bark paths that wind thru the trees.  It almost feels like you’re walking in an actual forest, and it smells like it too.  Inside you’re enveloped within the lush scents of the trees and all the other amazing plants growing in here.  Many of them are taller than we are so it all feels much bigger inside it than it ever looks like from the outside.  It’s a bit different, as you’ll see.

This one was taken from a crossroads at the back of the path that leads into the south side I showed you in the last shot.  The big Elegans Sugi is on your right, and it really feels big when you stand right next to it.  The Red Pygmy maple is on the left, and standing in between them you feel enclosed in the trees’ energies.  It feels deep, calm and peaceful.

This is taken from the same spot as the last one, only now we’re looking directly under the Elegans sugi.  You can see how soft it looks.  It is.  It’s one of my main “pettable” trees because the needles won’t stick you like most other conifers will.  Being next to it you can really pet it!  It’s only been here 10 years and has grown from 18″ to over 25 feet tall in that time!

As you move back into the depths of the forest on  the same path you can see the green, white and pink variegated leaves of the Ukigumo Japanese maple on the right, with the soft droopy Elegans Sugi in the back and the deciduous Japanese Larch “Diana” on your left.  The Larch is all contorted and twists and turns around on itself.   Very cool!  The big “Blue Peter” Rhododendron in the middle has been here for well over 30 years!  The ground is covered with Kinnickinnick.

This is what you see when you turn around and look back behind you, past the Larch and towards the edge of the garden.  You can just see the Japanese Umbrella Pine on the left, with a big rhodie next to it that encloses the space nicely.  The little Licorice Fern on the lower left gives the lush feel of the PNW rain forests.  It dies back every year but returns even better.

If you stand in the same spot again and look towards the deck you’ll see our garden lamp and its wrought iron post.  The Larch is on your left and the Red Pygmy Japanese maple is on your right, with the Alpine Yew Pine in the foreground.

As you move up onto our little deck under the Larch branch you can see the bench and the light, with the fountain in the middle at the back side of the bench.  The Red Pygmy maple is right in front of you and the Bloodgood Japanese maple is the red tree on your left.  And no, we didn’t kill the deer whose horns grace our bench.  Consider it a “found” item….

This is taken from the same spot on the deck as the last shot, only looking to your left a bit.  The huge fern at the bottom left is an Alaska fern that has gotten huge in its 10 years here.  I cut it back to a foot high every spring and it grows back to this!  You can see the Bloodgood maple more clearly here.  On the left edge of the photo you can see the stairs to the house.

And finally, turning all the way to the left you can see the edge of the deck and the path leading back out of the forest to the outside again where the lawn is.  On the edge of the lawn the large conifer on the left is a 30′ tall Weeping Giant Sequoia.  It leans a bit to the neighbors – eek!  The big tree on the left is a Radicans Sugi which is now at least 25 feet tall.  You feel small next to it and can hardly see the top of it when you stand on the deck now.  All this from a 5 foot tree planted in 2013!

So did you feel the difference being inside the forest?  I hope so.  It’s so hard to convey just how cool it is to wander around under these trees and in between the shrubs.  Seeing them up close like this you get to admire all their unique foliages, forms, textures and growth habits.  You get to touch and smell them.  They become real creatures to you, not just colors and shapes you see from a distance.  It changes you to be in there.  It’s all pretty well kept and even semi formal, but it’s full of wildness too.  The plants make it so.  In just 10 years this has become a truly lovely little Nature Sanctuary and Forest.  It’s all part of our efforts to save and enhance a vibrant little part of the Natural World!  Combat Climate Change – Plant a Forest!!

Make your own little Nature Sanctuary!

Steve

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The Heart of the Garden

This fountain is in the approximate geographical center of our little Garden Sanctuary.  But it’s more than that.  As a water element it’s truly the heart of the garden – what else could that be but water?  It’s the life force that the plants need most to survive and thrive, as do we.  This is a bit of a shrine to those water energies.  It also serves as a focal point to draw all the disparate elements of the garden together.  Its gentle babbling sounds are just like a small stream in the forest, which this area is slowly becoming, tho a small forest I’ll admit.

We like to sit on the deck behind it and read or just sit and visit.  It’s lovely to have the fountain as a backdrop to our conversations.  It’s a very peaceful and calming place to be.  It’s one of my favorite spots in the garden, for all these reasons, and more.  Water has always been special to me and I love to hear its gentle sounds.  It’s so healing to just hang out here and allow yourself to fall under its spell for awhile.  There’s a small stone path that leads to the fountain.  I stand there and just appreciate all the beauty.

In effect we’ve created a little grotto here and it’s filled with all sorts of cool plants to enhance that feeling of being enclosed in a small private space.  The plants around it, in spiral fashion radiating out from the left hand corner are: a purple leaved Helmond’s Pillar Japanese Barberry next to the straight stems of a relatively fastigiate form of the Persian Ironwood tree named Vanessa.  There is a Japanese Tassel Fern at its base and small Alpine Water Ferns covering the floor all around it.  Behind these and above the ferns is a Red Tip Alpine Yew Pine, with a Ken Janeck Rhododendron at its foot.

Right behind the fountain is a Red Pygmy Japanese maple, with a lush stand of Japanese Forest Grass right below it.  In back and to the right of it are a few branches of a Diana Japanese Larch that is just starting to turn golden.  The whorled plant next to it in back is a Japanese Umbrella Pine cultivar called Wintergreen.  To its right is an Anna Rose Whitney Rhododendron with a bit of the Radicans Sugi showing to the right of it.  The red tree is a  Bloodgood Japanese Maple and the evergreen at its base is an Amersfoort English (some say Japanese) Yew.  The ground cover in the middle is our native Wild Ginger, while the whitish plant in the foreground is Euonymous Emerald Gaiety.

There are still a few more plants you can’t see, like a Bow Bells Rhododendron, and a small Lawrence Crocker Daphne.  Near it is another beautiful small fern – the Dwarf Crisped Golden Scale Male Fern – a huge name for a 12″ plant!  You can’t see the Western Bleeding Heart that comes up every spring because it’s dormant now, tho it fills the area in front quite well then.  There are also some areas of white flowered Sweet Woodruff here and there.  There’s a tiny patch of Victor Reite Thrift and on the left is an imposing Kelley’s Prostrate Coast Redwood that creates a large part of the feeling of enclosure.  And finally there’s a wispy Toffee Twist Sedge at the base of the Barberry.

I haven’t listed any botanical names this time in the interests of brevity, which I seem to have failed at anyway.  Oh well, I know I do ramble on about plants, but I get so excited about them all I can’t seem to help myself.  I’m a little manic about them I guess.  I love to know their names.  It makes me feel closer to them as friends.  I like to just hang out in this grotto and meditate on the gentler aspects of a garden.  It’s a good place to do that because the energies of the plants and the water are so strong here.  You definitely feel it all surround you and know they are the ones who own this little Sanctuary, not you.  It can be a humbling experience if you let it be…

peace,

Steve

NW Flower and Garden Festival

As I mentioned in my last post Louie and I spent several hours the other day at the NW Flower and Garden Festival.  It’s celebrating its 30th year as America’s largest family-owned garden themed show.  It’s truly amazing!   There are a number of of demonstration gardens, which are what I’ll be showing you here.  But there’s also a huge marketplace with hundreds of vendors selling all manner of garden products, as well as miscellaneous show type stuff.   There’s also a large plant market with a number of specialty nurseries who offer miniature conifers, bulbs and tubers, even Japanese maples.  I could only handle it for a few hours before sensory overload hit and we had to leave.  But I got a lot of good pictures and I want to share them with you here.

All of these gardens were created by dedicated teams of volunteers in just the 72 hours preceding the show!  Incredible!  Of course none of them would make it outdoors as planted – they’re not meant as literal gardens themselves and their job is to showcase various themes and styles rather than an actual garden design.  They move in literally tons of rock, soil, mulch and of course hundreds of plants, ranging from a few inches to 20 feet or more tall.  I always get a lot of ideas for my own garden, but of course it’s already so over-planted I don’t really have room for more.  But next year I’ll plan ahead better and get some bulbs at least.  But then the reason we go is just to enjoy the sights.  I hope you do too!

OK, thats about it.  It’d be nice if I’d been able to remember each display, but I didn’t have writing materials and it would have been too hard to remember each one anyway.  But I hope that just the designs themselves will be satisfying for you, as it was for me.  If you have a garden show in your area please do find time to go to it.  You’ll be supporting a good cause and be able to see some amazing garden displays and get your own ideas for your garden at home.  It’s worth the trip.

Happy Viewing,

Steve

Welcome to Our Home

I really did mean to publish this when I took it back in October.  But life was too busy then and I just never got around to it.   But it’s a nice image of the entrance to our house and I wanted to put it into the blog, so here it is, a bit late but still beautiful.

From the left the plants here are:  the Coral Bark Maple (Acer palmatum Sango-Kaku), turning its lovely golden fall colors here.  It’s only about 7 1/2 years old and has grown really fast.  I trained it to be narrow at the bottom so we could still walk past it to the steps and into the garden to its right.  It forms a nice arch to enter beneath.

Next to it is a cultivar of the Austrian Black Pine called an Oregon Green Pine.  It’s been here for 8 years and is expected to get twice its present size.  It has beautiful white candles on it in the spring.  It forms the other half of the arch to walk under to get into the garden.

The tree in the back is a Korean Butterfly Maple (Acer tschonoskii ssp. Koreanum).  It’s only been here for 3 1/2 years and has grown about 8 feet in that time.  It turns this beautiful reddish orange fall color and is the first tree to change color.  It’s also the first tree to leaf out in the spring and the first to lose it leaves in the fall as well.  Balance I guess.

Below it is a gray green Pfitzer Juniper (Juniperus chinensis “pfitzeriana”).  It’s one that Louie planted over 30 years ago.  It’d be huge now but I keep it cut back so we can walk the path and drive into the driveway.  Louie wants to dynamite it but I’ve got him to hold off so far with some selective pruning.  They do get large tho, and it’s going to be a constant chore as time goes on.

Above the juniper is a hedge of Pyramidal Arborvitae (Thuja occidentals “Pyrimadalis”).   Louie planted these over 30 years ago as well and they were only in gallon cans then.  They form a dense screen across the front of the garden so that it’s very private inside it all.  It’s a peaceful place to hang out in any time in the year.

The ones at the far right are a line of Heavenly Bamboo (Nandina domestica “Moyer’s Red”).   They’re interspersed with Oregon grape across the front of the garden and were some of the first plants I planted here in 2008.  The nandinas turn this amazing purple red in the fall and winter and you can see the colors from way down the block as you drive towards us. They have brilliant red berries on them in winter but they aren’t edible, even by the birds.  Go figure…

That’s the entrance to our home.  We hope to see you coming up the walk one of these days to visit.  You’ll be very welcome here.  Cheers!

Building a Walkway

We’ve been slogging thru the wet grass and mud for years now to get from the house and garage to the greenhouse.  So we decided it was time to build a new path to it so we don’t get so wet and yucky.  It was a big project but Louie and I work well together and it only took a few hours, over several days that is.  It was actually kind of fun, once we got everything straightened out so the lines were clear from the old walk to the new one.  Lining it up was crucial to making it look good and a part of the whole.  It worked out just as we’d hoped.  Here it is in various stages of construction:

These are the materials we used.  We had 34 exposed aggregate stones that each weigh about 40 pounds, so just with the stones we moved some 1400 pounds. But before we put down the stones we had to spread 20 sacks of gravel at 100 pounds a sack, or a ton of gravel.   Then we put down 10 100 pound sacks of sand for another 1/2 ton.  So all together we moved close to 2 1/2 tons of material to construct this thing.  And that doesn’t count all the soil we moved!  No wonder it was tiring!

Here it is in an early stage of work when we have the grass out and the gravel just begun.  You can see the old walkway we started from that is the same style of bricks.  We wanted a consistent look to it so we used the  same materials.  We put down about 3-4″ of gravel and 2″ of sand to make the bed for the stones.

We ran all the dirt thru a screen we’d devised earlier just for that purpose.  It sifts out the stones and the grass.  We  compost the grass and toss the stones under the deck.  But the soil we used in the garden to increase the level with a few inches of new soil.  In order to fit it all in there we raised the sides of the beds of the garden about 6″ to allow for the new soil.  We’ll have to mix in compost to make the garden rich again and will do so once the current crop of kale and mustard greens, and the last of the tomatoes, are gone.

Here you can see the gravel starting to be spread on the path.  You can see one of the stones set here to get a feel for the level.  Once the gravel is at the right depth we added the sand to bring the depth up and to even it all so that it can be exactly the same level as the current walkway.  We did OK at that so the line is straight and the path is on an even grade and has no bumps or low spaces in it.  Next we put down the stones to finish it off.

Here is the actual walk set in place.  We threw a bunch of sand down over it to fill in the cracks and make it all solid.   We had to cut some of the stones to fit with the step of the greenhouse.  We had a diamond masonry blade to use to cut the stone.  It did a great job as long as we wore masks to keep the stone dust out of our noses and dripped some water on the blade to keep the dust down and the blade cool.   We just used our circular saw we already had and have used for many previous projects.

Here I am sweeping the sand over the walk to get it into all the cracks.  It took awhile and then we let it settle for a day or so before watering it in and getting it all smooth and nice.  The sand makes it all look like a solid path.  You can see we did a pretty good job of cutting the lawn back to the edge of the stones so that the grass will grow back even and make it all feel like it’s been there for awhile, which it does today as I write this.

Here it is all finished and ready to use.  You can see it’s much lighter than the old one, but then the ‘old’ one was put in new just a few years ago to match what we had then.  It’s weathering well and looking as good as the original old stone we reused in that first project.  The new stone will weather just as well and look consistent in time.  This is being so useful to us already as we go back and forth to the garage and the greenhouse.  We can stay dry now and have a clean path to walk on so we don’t track mud into the house.

This was a relatively big project but we got it done despite the hard work.  It’s not that difficult to do if you want a walk like this.  It was work of course and you have to have a good eye for the lines so it comes out straight and level.  But that difficulty is OK when you consider that you’ve made it yourself and can be proud of your work.  It’s worth it to have done it ourselves.  We’re glad we put it in despite all the work, and you will be too if you decide to try this.

Happy building!

Steve

The Path

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Going into the Front Yard

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Going towards the Back Yard

This path runs along the north side of the house. It’s shady and grass won’t grow here, and it was all slanted away from the house and muddy in the rains. So we decided to redo it.  We leveled the area and brought in several bags of walk-on bark to create a nice walk along the house. Then we tackled the front area which was another muddy spot which sloped to the lawn. We got some nice stones and laid them in a rising pattern going into the back and planted Corsican Mint (Mentha requienii), a lovely ground cover that smells divinely of fresh mint when you bruise it as you walk past. It’s made an ugly eye-sore into a pleasing path from front to back. It ties the whole garden together so we can walk around the house to see everything. Not much work for a nice return…

Walking gently,

Steve

Evolution of a Garden

I love going thru my photo album and looking back at the garden as it’s grown. I have almost 4,500 pictures so far, dating from 2007 to the present. I’ve been wanting to do a retrospective for some time to show how things have grown over time. So I’ve arranged 3 particular shots over the years in chronological order so we can see each section of the garden and how it’s grown over the years.

Except for the first row where there is no garden, the shots are arranged to show first the front of the garden, then a side view, and finally a back sort of view. Not all these are the same shot of course, but I managed to find ones that seemed to show what I wanted pretty well. Over the time these shots encompass we go from a simple lawn with a few foundation shrubs at the back and some fruit trees to a dense garden full of plants. Unfortunately we lost both of the big Cherries and a large rhododendron. So this garden has a mixture of styles and formats due to the changing of the canopy and other factors.

I might have done things differently if I’d known the trees would die, but who can know those things? I’ve tried to replace them with other trees that will be nice, but there will never be a canopy over it again. That’s OK tho,  because there will be a different look to it as the conifers at the back and sides get bigger and provide an enclosure for the garden on 2 sides. Somehow I managed to have all deciduous trees in the middle of everything so in the winter the center of the garden is bare but the sides stay green, and the underplantings stay green too. It’s a nice effect.

If you scroll down each line you can get a sort of slide show effect and see how each area has grown each year. Or you can click on the first one and go thru them that way so you see more. In fact I recommend you do that to see the full pictures.

I took the last set just a couple of days ago so they’re recent.  This is how it looks today, tho it’ll be different in a few months after the conifers grow more. It’ll take many years for this garden to mature, and we’ll never get to see it all, but I’m amazed at how much it’s grown in such a short time, so who knows? We’re planting trees we’ll probably never live to sit in the shade of, but other folks will get to. Planning for a future of green…

I hope you enjoyed this look back in time,

Steve