Saturday, April 28, 2012

Spring Cleanup

I worked on cleaning up the garden today. The weather as been so unpredictable, that I kept putting it off.

Because of the lack of snow, and little to no rain in April, the soil is very dry. This process started back when we were having 80 degree days in March. At the time, it didn't occur to me to start watering the garden in March, and as a result, I lost some plants. Here is a list of the now departed:

Brunnera (m. 'Emerald mist' Bugloss)

Rock Cress (Arabis caucasica)

The lower plant didn't make it, but the upper one did. I moved it to the lower spot because it was being taken over by creeping Jenny.

Montana Sandwort (Arenaria montana)

Irish Moss (Sagina subulata)

I will replace this moss in clumps again, and let it spead. This seems to be an annual event.


False Cyprus Cumulus (Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Cumulus')

These were two on my favorite (and most expensive) plants. Unfortunately, they really require a lot of moister and with the winter being so dry, they just didn't make it - especially with 80 degree temperatures in March. I trimmed one back, just to see what happens, but the other is 100% dead.


I also transplanted two Hostas from where the Entry Gate is going in, to the two spots where critters ate Hosta last summer (near the Buddha).

Maybe this year they won't eat them. If they do, it will be war!

Sunday, April 22, 2012


"A flower unfolds to the best of its ability due to the conditions around it... and so do you - you unfold to the best of your ability." - Guanyin

I purchased a new statue for the garden - a Guanyin statute.  Guanyin is the Buddhist goddess of mercy/compassion. I found it at an antique shop while visiting Salam, Massachusetts. The shop had an unusually large collection of Buddhist statuary with several sizes of Guanyin statues and a wide variety (size and design) of Buddha statues.

I haven't decided where I will place her yet. I am thinking along the back side of the garage. That area will get a some transplanted grass or bamboo this summer and I still need to work on the rock pile for the rain chain and small bridge. So, it could be a while before Guanyin gets a permanent home.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Framing the Gate

I have been working on the gate for about a week. The main posts are holding up well and it was a slow process of building the rails, roofs, and supporting posts a bit at a a time - usually after work. We have not had much rain and the days warmed up, so it was easy to get working as soon as I got home. It is also staying lighter into the evening each day.

Below you can see the gate just after I finished installing the rails and roofing. The dimensions match the rest of the fence elsewhere in the garden.

I also had to climb up onto the ladder and saw off the top section of the main posts - down to about 84 inches, the hight I used on the back gate. It was tricky, but Catherine came out and held the ladder steady while I sawed away.

Below is the posts at the intended height. It will not look so high once the main arbor rails are installed. I can't install them until after they are pre-stained on both sides and I have had a chance to stain the entire gate structure.

Below is a shot looking in from the street. Most of this work was done between Monday (April 16)  and Friday (April 20) after work.

On Saturday, I spent most of the day working on installing the supporting posts and the support rails. First, I had to establish the proper high and get things level. I used the back gate as a model. As a result,  the dimensions are the same (except the width of the entry way).

The supporting posts were not cemented in - in case I need to remove them at some point - however, they rest on a bed of gravel for drainage and are at least 3 feet in the ground.

The supporting rails are attached with lag bolts and small screws. Adding these posts have ensured that the gate will not budge. The same design was used on the back gate, and it has held up remarkably well after its first winter.

I finished with all the posts and rails just before the rain came on Friday afternoon. The garden plants welcome the rain after a long dry spring/winter. My next step is to stain this structure and pre-stain the arbor rails in the garage. I will now need to wait for the weather to dry up again - it could be a while.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Setting Posts

The weather during April vacation did not cooperate with my plans to work on the main entry gate. It wasn't until today, the last day of vacation, that I was able to attach the two main posts and the house and garage post.

The hard part was attaching the post to both the house and garage. I had to drill into brick and block on the house side and attach the small post with anchors. Once the rails are install, it should be solid.

The garage side required a small 2 x 4 at the base for support (below the cement board siding) anchored to the block at the base of the garage. I also had to drill through the cement board and then attach the small post with two bolts that passed through the cement board and screw into the wooded frame of the garage. I had to be careful not to crack the siding.

I am hoping to get he posts stabilized with rails soon. I can then start work on the arbor top. In the meantime, I will need to move the large collection of Hosta plants that are sprouting up exactly where the garage side bottom rial will be placed. I will most likely split these plants into two clumps and place them back in the garden near the Buddha statue - where the critters ate two of my plants last year.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Main Entry Gate

“The fence that makes good neighbors needs a gate to make good friends”

I started working on the main entry gate today. The immediate goal is to create a more formal entry way into the garden area through the walkway between the house and the garage.

Initially, I was planning on centering the gate at the halfway point. However, the buried electrical supply for the house ended running right where I needed to place the main support for the gate (house side). I knew this cable would be close by, but I didn't think it would be exactly where I dug the first post hole. As a result, I had to move the post forward, closer to the driveway/street end of the walkway. You can see the initial hole (filled in again) behind the two holes in the picture below (at top).

At first I was unhappy, but then I realized it didn't look so bad. In fact, it will be centered between the first and second trellis on the garage and the window and kitchen vent on the house side (see picture below).

I also dug the post hole for the supporting posts I intend to attach to the main frame as support (similar to the design used on the back gate last year; at left in picture below).

It took me most of the day to prep the site, and dig the post holes (4 total). I then prepared cement and poured the two columns that will be used to support the main posts. I then attached the brackets.

Setting this up with level lines took a lot of time. There has always been an uneven dip in the walkway, the result of insufficient crushed gravel back during the initial construction of the garage. Getting the posts straight and level was difficult, and the brackets might be off a bit, I won't have a good idea until I install the posts.

For now it looks fine - not bad for an amatur. It will take a few days before the cement is strong enough to hold the posts. In the meantime I will start to pre-stain the cedar posts and boards. By the time I finish, the supports should be ready to allow me to start assembly. I also have to consider what type of gate door to build - I want the style I use to match the back gate as well (still no doors), so I have to investigate what style and techniques will work best - a topic for a future blog post.