Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Long Fall

This year the Dwarf Maples are doing great and have produced some wonderful colors that have survived through all of October.

Now its time to cut back some plants, rake leaves, and prepare for the long winter.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Stepping Stones

As the summer winds down and I get ready to go back to work, the never ending gate project continues. I never thought it would take this long, but essentially the Woodland Gate, Dragon's Spine bed, and the walkway between the Woodland Gate and garden shed has taken me almost all August, and inadvertently fed into several other smaller projects as a result of moving so many plants around.

Wanting to create an authentic looking gate, I decided to add a stone based threshold. I considered several options. In the end, my decision was based on costs, time, and the materials that I was able to obtain. I chose faux textured stepping stones. At $9 each they were affordable, not too heavy, and even though cement, they looked like real stones. The conveniently flat bottoms also made it easier to install. With 42 x 34" area to work with, I purchased six stones and after trying out several patterns (had to fit within the cement footings), went with the configuration below:

It took a full day to remove all the previous pea stone that had been present. For some reason, it was full of dirt and debris. So I shoveled it all up into buckets and literally washed it all clean - a long process using an old salad strainer. My neighbors now think I am an OCD person who washes rocks in his yard (it appears I am).

Then I was able to prep the surface, smooth it out, re-work the plastic edging, and lay down new heavy duty weed fabric.

Within the stepping stone area, I dug down about six inches and laid a thick layer of crushed gravel and sand. Once the stones were carefully placed onto the sand, I then filled the edges and gaps in with a polymeric sand. Once watered, it solidified and helped hold the stones in place. Once I removed the temporary frames I used on the front and back, it was nice and solid.

I then filled in the entire area with the newly washed pea stone, even between the gaps. I also added a piece of left-over edging to the back of the stepping stone threshold to help keep the pea stones in place. Essentially, that edge is the property line, so I do not intend to extend the pea stone past that point.

I did, however, add some small pieces of curved edging and larger stones just in front of each main post. I then planted a Hosta in front of each. Yes, its off property, but I am trying to at least show the neighbor (if he ever comes out this way - he never has) that I attempted to make it look nice. All of this material for these two small features were left over, so there was no costs in doing any of this extra work.

I think it looks nice, and neighborly.

Overall, I think it came out pretty good. It took much longer than I thought, but it was worth the effort.

I'm still waiting on the two last copper post caps, and I have to dig up and relocate all those Tiger Lilies and flatten out that mound just within the woodlot on the other side of the gate, but I'm getting closer to finishing the overall gate project. Oh yea, I have to put down some mulch in some of the areas that were dug up as well. Then I'm done for the season. Just in time to start picking up falling leaves!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

On Edge

As a result of alterations is the Dragon's Spine area, I ended up with a significant number of Hosta segments that needed planting. 

I have discovered overtime, that whenever I make one change, it sets into motion a series of additional changes. In this case, the large Hosta in the Dragon's Spine area had grown too large and needed to be split. I split it into quarters, leaving one quarter in place. 

before split

after split
The other three, combined with two other Hostas I had to remove from elsewhere due to overcrowding, needed a new home. 

Problem is, I don't really have any place to locate them. I'm afraid to locate them along the back of the wood lot property line because when I do, they get eaten. So, Given that I had five Hosta, each of which had the potential to become a significantly sized plant over the next two years, I decided to place them in the main walkway near the front of the house and the main garden entrance.

There were already two Hosta hear along the edge of the garage, and a Dwarf Korean Azalea (Azalea yedoense 'Poukhanense Compacta') that I had planted last year as an experiment. 

I didn't like the way the Azalea was turning out and it was getting crushed by snow from the driveway that piled nearby during the winter. So, I removed it and placed it into a bucket for now.

Placing more Hosta starting at that point and forward towards the large red/square cement pavers made sense for two reasons: 
  1. They would grow enough to cover the line between the driveway surface and the pea stone, reducing the harsh liner break.
  2. They can be cut back in the fall so that I can continue to dump snow there without damaging a shrub.

To add a termination point, I decided to add two Dwarf Fountain Grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides 'Hameln') plants on either side of the pavers creating an entry way. 

Again, the grasses can be cut back before snow falls, allowing me to continue to dump snow here during the winter.

At this point the Hosta seem odd since they are small. But next year they should fill in a bit more, but after two years they should be large enough to bring some balance to all the Hosta.

From a landscape design point of view, this plan is lame - too linear. However, from a budget point of view, it works. The only cost was the two new grass plants and my time/labor. Having a professionally built entryway connecting the garden and front door is a long way off, just too expensive. I have to save my pennies.

In the meantime, my "poor-man's walkway" is sufficient and will look less spartan with these Hosta planted.

Perhaps in the future I can add some hardscape stepping stones or pavers. Until then, looks good to me.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Moss Island Redo

I have been waiting most of the summer to repair the small moss islands in the stroll garden. Originally, the moss in this one island was harvested from my wife's vegetable garden. It was unlike the moss I had harvested from within the Zen garden that ended up in the other island.

Vegetable Garden Moss - 2016

Zen Garden Moss - 2017

Because of the large amount of rain we had for the first half of the summer, there was plenty of moss to fill the entire island.

Now the island looks similar to the larger nearby island.

Next year I will start to let moss take over some areas of the Zen garden. Doing so will cut down on the need for mulch having to be replenished each year and should add some interest to the overall look of the garden. In the meantime, the small island in the stroll garden islands look pretty good.

Furthermore, I will always have a plentiful supply of repair material from within the Zen garden if its ever needed.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Bed Time

Over the last week I have been altering the Dragon's Spine bed. I have moved some plants, planted new ones, and transplanted others from elsewhere on the property.

Snowmound Spiraea (Spiraea nipponica 'Snowmound')

I chose this plant because it is deer resistant. It requires 6 hrs. of sunlight, so I am not sure how it will do. 

I have had luck with Spiraea along this bed in the past. I liked the dark leaves and the white blooms that will come in spring. Its already large (grows up to 3 ft.) and helps to anchor the transition between the fence and the Dragon's Spine bed.

'Europa Gold' arborvitae (thuja occidentalis)

I am taking a risk with these. I planted two on either side of the Woodland Gate.  I know that they can grow very large: 3-4' wide and 6-10' high. 

I am hoping they grow a bit slower here since they won't have full light. My plan is to trim them back every year once they get to the size and hight I like. If I can't keep up, then I can always pull them out. My plan is to eventually fill in the spaces on either side of the gate. 

I have two of these out in the front of my home with similar light conditions and it took a decade for them to get the size they are now. Perhaps I won't live long enough for it to be an issue and I can leave it to the next owner.

Dwarf White Pine (Pinus strobus 'Nana')

I came across this dwarf pine by chance and fell in love with it. 

I like that it is a slow growing plant. Over time it could get up to 5' high x 8' wide, but I suspect that will be some time off in the future. I plan to trim the globe shape regularly to keep it under control. It may need a bit more sun, but I am hoping it makes it.

Delaware Valley White Azalea (Azalea Evergreen 'Delaware Valley White')

I bought two of these and ended up placing them near one another. 

Again, I like the idea of white flowers in this area. They like sun to shade, so should do well in this area. As they grow, I am hoping I can control the shape.

Mt. Fire Japanese Andromeda (Pieris japonica 'Mt. Fire')

Another deer resistant shrub. It should flower in the spring as well as produce new growth that is red in color. 

It should do well in the bed since it doesn't require full light. It should also add some color contrast to the other plants along this side of the bed.

Charlotte (Veronica Longifolia 'Charlotte')

This plant likes part shade and will grow to about 24" It blooms in summer, but I will have to wait until next year to see it bloom. 

I'm using it as filler between some of the shrubs until they grow in.

Japanese Painted Fern (Athyrium nipponicum 'Metallicum')

I have had very good success with these elsewhere in the garden. I love the look. 

Easy to control and they can be split over time. I am using them as filler near the back edge of the property line.

Bugbane (Cimicifuga ramosa 'Pink Spike')

Likes partial shade and will bloom mid-late summer. Will grow to about 36" tall. 

I am using this as filler between shrubs.

Berberis (thunbergii' Golden Jackpot')

Definitely deer resistant. I really like the golden foliage. 

It shouldn't get to more than 2' tall/wide. 

Green Velvet Boxwood (Buxus 'Green Velvet')

I bought two of these, one a medium and the other a small. Both are relatively small, but I plan to grow them close to the large boxwood I transplanted from the vegetable garden. 

I want them to grow at different rates for different sizes and to grow into each other. I have seen this effect in other gardens I have visited (see below):

I'm not sure how they pull it off, but this will be my attempt. Needless to say, I will need to give these shrubs some care and maintenance as they grow if I expect to achieve that effect.

Variegated Liriope (Liriope muscari ‘Variegata’)

There were already three of these near the large stones in the bed. However, the center plant was thinning out for some reason. I decided to replace it with a new plant.

There were also some assorted plants that I transplanted from elsewhere on the property to fill in some of the gaps until the shrubs fill in. 

A large Boxwood was moved from inside the vegetable garden to the area adjacent to the Dwarf Japanese Maple. It is a large Boxwood and well shaped - took years to grow. Now that a fence surrounds the garden, it made no sense to keep the Boxwood within the garden. 

I hope the transplant works. It was difficult to get it out of the ground and moved.

I moved a Rheingold Arborvitea (Thuja occidentalis ‘Rheingold’) that I had salvaged from the front yard last year and had moved to the back near where the gate now sits. I moved it to make way for the 'Europa Gold' arborvitae. 

Hopefully this will be the last time I move it.

A small Sedum Stonecrop (sorry, don't know the variety) that had sprung-up unexpectedly was easily moved.

I also moved a Hosta ('Orange Marmalade') and an Irish Diamond Hosta Hosta x 'Allen P. McConnell'. Both had been along the back of the garage. 

These two Hosta were being crowded out by other plants to the point that they were no longer visible. Now out in the open, they will have a chance to thrive.

Finally, I moved a Toad Lily (Tricyrtis hirta) to the bed as well. 

It too was getting crowded out in the main garden. It will act as filler for the time being.

The only thing remaining are the plants that I did not move: a Dwarf Japanese Maple, the Clumping Bamboo (Fargesia rufa), a Happy Returns Daylily (Hemerocallis), and a Hosta (a clone of one of the original Hosta from when I purchased the house almost 20 years ago). I split it into quarters and moved three of the quarters elsewhere, leaving the final quarter behind in the original location.