Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Postman

Now that the Japanese Yew is out of the way, I could start to work on the support posts for the gate. I started by digging a couple of post holes in front of the main posts. Once dug I placed an 8 x 4 x 4 cedar post in each. I decided this time to cement them into the ground.

The first two gates I built did not get cemented support posts. The main garden entrance gate didn't budge. The supporting posts for the large back gate shifted a bit, but not enough that I have had to fix them.

Given that this new gate is going to have a roof, I didn't want to take a chance, so cement it was. I also decided to brace the posts in place with temporary supports that I screwed in. This ensured that the posts were exactly where I wanted them in relation to the main posts and that they wouldn't budge while I poured the cement. Doing this alone was tough, especially since the cement I used was quick setting. I had to watch my timing and make sure everything was in place before I started, hence the temporary support posts.

I also installed the crosspiece to add some stability to the main posts - they are only bolted to brackets and have been moving a bit. Once everything was all secure, I pored the cement.

Later, I attached the cross supports with bolts, further securing the structure. I then removed the temporary cross supports.

It took almost the full day to get all this done. Its secure, but sort of looks odd, like I am building a giant chair. Doesn't really look like a gate at this point. Honestly, I am worried. The proportions seem off. I am using formulas I obtained from the Journal of Japanese Gardening, but I might be messing it up. For instance, I know that I extended the support posts too far from the main posts, about twice the distance I should have. Its how I did my previous gates, and I am worried about the main posts only being bolted down. I am hoping the wider span will help support the main posts better by spreading out the support. I am no engineer, so I could be wrong. Only time will tell. It may not look authentic when done, but in the end it will either work or I will have a very goofy looking gate.

I'm o.k with goofy.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Moving Day

Today I dug up and removed two Japanese Yew that were planted along the Dragon's Spine area back in 2010.

Originally, there were four. Two are now located along the back of the house and have been doing well. 

The two left along the Dragon's Spine had years when they grew well, and years when they did not, depending on if I kept them covered with netting during the winter to keep deer away. Unfortunately, this last winter I didn't cover them and the deer munched them down considerably. 

As part of my plan to rework the Dragon's Spine, I decided to move the two Yew to the stroll area along the fence line. I placed them on either side of the newly planted Mikawa yatsubusa Japanese Maple

I also had to split and move a couple of Hosta that were already in that location. After splitting them, I used them to fill in some of the gaps in the mulch bed.

I also moved a small Blue Star Juniper that I had planted in this area last year. I moved it from the left side of the Maple to the right.

In time, I am hopeful that the yew will do well here. They will eventually fill in from the deer damage and in time I should be able to reshape the overall plants.

Now that the yews are gone, the Dragon's Spine looks sparse. 

However, with the main gate posts attached to the brackets, you can start to see where the gate will be located, and all of the landscaping in front that now needs to be redone.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A Gift From the Gods

As I travel around the country this summer visiting Japanese gardens, I have been in search of a gate style that I might be able to build as part of my plans to add a gate to the Dragon's Spine area in my backyard.

Many have been too large or too complex for my level of skill and budget. I also want a small, simple, single passageway gate.

Anderson Gardens

Garden of the Phoenix

Bloedel Reserve

Yao Garden


This week, while visiting the Anderson Gardens in Illinois, I stumbled on the perfect gate.

This gate meets all my criteria. Small, single passage, and not too complicated. In fact, its perfect. It uses 4 x 4 posts as its primary support. Two on either side and one as the top cross beam. 

The roof supports are still mortised together, but I might be able to pull that off with the right tools. At the very least, I can create two supports on either side of the post and use bolts (my original plan).

I'm not a fan of the natural timber cross piece and will probably use a milled 1 x 6 cedar board instead.

I was vey glad to see this structure. An authentic looking gate with 4 x 4 posts - a gift from the gods.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Nurture and Grow

I picked up this Verdon Hinoke Cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa 'verdoni') in a discarded on-sale pile. The nursery thought it was a doomed plant. I on the other hand, saw a plant that I could nurture and shape. It already had the characteristics of a bonsai-like plant. I'm thinking with some care and attention, I can turn it into an interesting visual addition to the garden.

As a compact evergreen conifer, it will grow upright, with a wide conical and somewhat contorted habit. This should help to add interest. It likes full sun to part shade and could grow to 3-8' tall 2-3' wide if left unchecked. However, I plan to cut it back and shape it over time, assuming it survives. I have had trouble with this spot in the past, mostly from animals eating the plants I place here. I am hoping that they will not be interested in this Cypress (deer are unlikely to get into this area of the garden.

In time, I think it will look good just behind the lantern.

Just Dandy

I added a small plant to the north-side bed of the Zen garden. It was a Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Just Dandy' that I purchased for a few dollars.

It will grow about 1-3" per year and get to be the size of a beach ball in a couple of years. I like that it maintains its globe shape and it should do well in sun to part shade.

In order to get it into this rock lined bed, I had to remove one large stone to give it more space to grow than was available in the little space that already existed. As it grows, it should fill in the space nicely.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Third Time's a Charm

Today I made the first major addition to the garden. For a couple years now I have struggled with what to place in the central spot of the Stroll Garden. Originally, I started out with a Boulevard Cypress Oriental Pompon (Chamaecyparis pisifera "Cyano-virdis')

I then replaced it with Red Select Japanese Maple (Acer palmate dissect 'Red Select'). I eventually moved that as well. 

This time I am trying a Mikawa yatsubusa Japanese Maple. It can handle sun to part shade, but I am still a bit worried that this location might not work due to the amount of light it gets. Nevertheless, I will give it a try. Worst case scenario, I have to move the plant.

As a dwarf, it shouldn't grow too quickly or too large, about 3-6" per year to a full size of about 6' H x 4' w. The branching habit makes this maple a favorite plant to use as bonsai. As a result, I should be able to control its shape as time goes on. The leaves should also provide some nice red color in the fall.

Here is to hoping that "third time's a charm." I would really like for this plant to do well in this location.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Blooming July

As I get under way to start working in the garden this summer, I though I would share some pictures showing how far the garden has come. Mid-July is always the time when most of what I have planted is in full bloom. 

This year has been one of the easiest for me in terms of maintenance. With a few exceptions, the garden is becoming self sustaining - a more mature garden. I do not have to manage plants as much as I have in the past. However, in time I may find I need to make some alterations by thinning out or moving some plantings. 

The Clumping Bamboo (Fargesia rufa) near the back door of the garage is thriving. Not only did the growth from last year make it through the winter, the new shoots added to the appearance of the overall plant. 

This has not occurred elsewhere. It could be the more shady location.

This area near the back gate is also doing great. although I thought the Boulevard Cypress Oriental Pompom would have died by now, especially after it was moved, it seems to be doing well. I keep cutting back the dead growth each winter, and it keeps growing.

With the exception of some of the planting near the back of the Yukimi lantern, everywhere else in the garden is doing very well.