Thursday, February 11, 2016

Before and After: A Garden Emerges

I've been contemplating differences now that we've uprooted to a whole new town and way of life. Old house vs. new house, old garden vs. new garden, old commute vs. new commute. It's all a huge transition, but we're on the other end of it, thankfully. Therefore, some of the smoke has cleared and I'm able to see with a bit more perspective. 

About the differences between the old and new gardens (besides the obvious one about going from 50 x 100 square feet to 2 acres) -- the old garden it turns out had a lot of hardscaping and existing bones. Much of what I did there was to simply soften the edges with appropriate plants. I put them everywhere - even on the roof. This garden, on the other hand, is wide open spaces for the most part and will require garden bones. I could never cover it completely with plants like I did at the old garden, so I must make choices.

Some of the bones that I plan on adding are going to be in the form of evergreen shrubs and trees. They will take a long time to fill in but as the old adage goes "the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The next best is today" -- and, boy, have I been planting. 

Another thing we've been busy with is clean up. David took it upon himself to start the process of removing the former veggie bed/plant prison.

Here's a before photo from this fall with the fence intact.


Here it is with the fence removed. It's too bad because apparently the former owner installed it only a year ago. We are going to re-use the chicken wire and fence to build a chicken run, so not all is lost.


Another before from a different angle.


The posts David spent the weekend removing. As I find places for all of these plants we will dismantle these raised beds and I can start creating a dry riverbed kind of garden here.



Another thing that David the Facilities Manager has been busy with over the past several weeks is the removal of all of the blackberry along the edge of the road. The tractor from the fence building took care of a bulk of it but David had his share of torture, too. This is the only real before photo I could find of this area. Trust me, from the edge of the fence north it was solid blackberry.


After - cleared of blackberry.


Before, looking down the road. Our property is on the left.


Now cleared of blackberry. We found some salal and Oregon grape growing in there; I will nurture those to take over. I also planted a bunch of native shrubs like snowberry bushes, a couple Ribes sanguineum or flowering currant, a Pacific ninebark, a few ferns and Tolmiea menziesii or piggyback plant on the other side of the fence to hopefully naturalize through to this side as well. David plans a weekly visit to the sprouting blackberries to keep them minimal.


Just a few of the blackberries before they got piled up.



Before in the brambles.


After -- this illustrates David's efforts quite well.


Much better. Now all I need to do is try and get a shovel in there...it's all rock underneath. Eventually. For now we'll just keep the blackberries at bay.




Here are the blackberries and hazelnuts from the other side of the fence. This is before.


After -- there's a western view now. Some of the smaller shrubs I planted will fill in a little but it will be more open than it had been. We may also remove a few of the hazelnuts in time.



Here's a before in the northwest corner of the property.


After -- the blackberries cleared, the berm cleared and the whole area on the edge composted. I have begun the process of claiming a shade garden. I have decided since this shady area is closest to the house that ornamental shrubs, trees and perennials will go here and I can take care of them more easily. I will do a woodland garden also and let that naturalize in the other shady areas of the property -- another day. Pictured to the left are a bunch of tiny azaleas that were already on site, planted in soggy clay in full sun. I decided to rescue them and plant them in a drift in a more appropriately shady site. I also have Hakonechola macra 'Aureola' and 'Fubuki' planted, they won't be visible until the spring when new growth appears. It feels good to be putting plants in the dirt, I have to say.



I formed the basic shape of the garden by dumping compost.


It's very difficult to tell but there are many shade plants in here. Ribes sanguineum, Viburnum trilobum, Vaccinium ovatum and many others.


Some of my grasses, a Pittosporum, black mondo grass and others -- many still in pots waiting their turn. It's hard to tell the contour of the garden here but it will become more visible in time.



All those Douglas firs that were cut down have been keeping David occupied. He made a fort out of some and the tree-trunks to the right are going to be poles for a future tipi (also spelled tepee).

David here: The "fort" is actually a future burn pile. As I grew up on the Nez Perce Reservation, a tipi is more appropriate. We'll have a pow-wow one day later this year. 


Although not the prettiest picture it does show two more large plants I just added - a Fothergilla x intermedia  'Mt. Airy' and 'Blue Shadow'. Each new planting gets its own berm and swale to capture rainwater as it flows down the property. The swale catches it and the berm below the swale absorbs it and releases it slowly over time. This will be especially helpful for plants out of reach of hoses in the summertime. Most of the recent plantings have been shade, I'll work on the sun-loving ones as soon as the former veggie bed is dismantled and I can create a framework in which to plant.


Enough hard work...now some extras just for fun:
To my delight, my deer buddies came by to visit one day. I gave them the rest of the pumpkin through the fence.


Another before and after. Our spare bedroom pictured here, with the former owner's belongings. I show it for the wall color. We painted the chilly light blue (looks purple here, but it was cold, ice blue and felt cold).


Here it is after. A warmer feel over all. Inside and out, little by little, we are making this our home.


And the sunrise on my way to work. Mount Hood in the distance.


Since Valentine's Day is here, Lucy and Hobbes would like to send you all some catnip love. Speaking of the Bengals, many people have asked how they are faring being locked up inside. They are actually very happy -- they tear up and down the long stretches of house with a gallop worthy of small horses and are really more playful than they've been in a long time. They aren't stressed out smelling other cats roaming the neighborhood and are enjoying watching the birds from the windowsill. Maybe someday we will build a catio but for now, they are happy and snug indoors all the time.

Final thoughts on the garden for this week: I know that it will take a lot of time to get the garden in order and to see real results. These little before and afters are to appease my inner workhorse...to show for something in such a large garden. I'm out there for hours and it doesn't look like I've done a thing. But it does make me feel better to just be out there digging around. As I dig, I experience visions of what would look good where, that is to say the garden really does speak to me. It's an organic process that I enjoy tremendously. I plan on using a lot of plant material for a plant-driven design vs. a hardscape design, that's for sure with this much land, but I will add hardscaping elements when appropriate.

I am learning more about the soil and the birds, too. I swear since I put the compost down I have seen a dramatic increase in worm activity. That is very satisfying. We have also observed many birds, it's a little crazy how many are out here. I will have to do a post just on our feathered buddies one day soon.

That's the report this week from Chickadee Gardens. As always thank you for reading and until next time, happy gardening!




24 comments :

  1. So interesting to follow you on your new garden experiences. Lots of work to do but so satisfying to be outside and enjoy the progress of a new garden. Your cute cats look very comfortable together.
    Wish you happy gardening!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Janneke, I'm glad you are enjoying the gradual evolution of the garden. It is VERY satisfying to be outside all the time, I love it! Lucy and Hobbes are very cozy there, aren't they?? :)

      Delete
  2. Much progress already! I've only once focused on eradicating a single plant in one go, and that was just a weed. Can't imagine the effort involved in bramble removal from hundreds and hundreds of feet!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad you think so Alan! Yay! David is my blackberry champion for sure :)

      Delete
  3. David is a true Weed Warrior. Blackberries are a fearsome foe. I'm impressed by your efforts, knowing full well how it feels to approach a large property and feel progress happening. Such fun to follow along.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They are the worst, Ricki - aren't they? Even the leftover twigs cause me to scream out profanities regularly. Glad you are feeling the progress and yes, you can relate! Thank you for the encouragement!!

      Delete
  4. Great progress...what a wonderful adventure working the land and putting your personal mark on it! The kitties are too cute!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aaw, thanks Laurin. It is and adventure, one the kitties are enjoying too!

      Delete
  5. You've both accomplished a LOT! My garden is 1/4th the size of yours but, like yours, it's much bigger than my old garden (which was less than 1/2 the size of your old garden) so I can appreciate how all that work can be dwarfed by what remains to be tackled; however, getting in the trees and large shrubs sooner rather than later is a very good strategy. Thanks for sharing the photo of Lucy and Hobbes too!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, Kris, I'm glad you think so. Dwarfed is a good description and trees...oh the trees...I finally get to plant trees! Lucy and Hobbes say "Happy Valentine's Day!"

      Delete
  6. Not to ignore the blackberry accomplishments but WOW! How different it must feel without having that cage just outside your back door. To have that area opened up just makes everything seem so much more open while at the same time seeming more civilized.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, the cage being gone is HUGE mega mega HUGE HUGE. I feel like I can see the house now. What a relief. Now just to get that pink paint color changed.... :) one thing at a time, right?

      Delete
  7. It's coming along nicely. When our new kitty gets in a tear-around-the-house mood, Nigel calls him a "scamper beast."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Alison! Scamper beast, that's good! Excellent description...the beast part especially.

      Delete
  8. Wow - You've done so much! It's definitely a process that takes time, but sure feels good when you get things done. It will be a fun journey to watch. Be sure to let us know what plants you need at the next swap, so we can hook you up with plants to fill your new garden beds!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Matthew! Thanks for the offer - I need ALL PLANTS EVERYWHERE...wha ha hah....(evil laugh)...seriously, I have a lot of land to fill. Beggars will not be choosy in free plants. Oh, and I'd be happy to host a plant swap whenever - if people are willing to come out my way!

      Delete
  9. Wow, Tamara, what a HUGE transformation already! You've been busting your butt! So so floored at just the blackberry irradication! Ok, so for my own education, you cut back the blackberry and pulled the roots out too? As you know, I have..gulp..the same wall of blackberry nuisance too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Fifi!! My butt...oy it's been up steep driveways schlepping compost...oy. Blackberries - not quite gone completely - just the top parts. We will continue to do so until eventually they die. If I CAN pull up the roots I do but it's tough. My friend Gina says to wait to get rid of them until they are blooming - all the energy will be up top and the roots will be less likely to survive. Now all the energy is going in the roots so us cutting them down might make them stronger short-term. BUT we'll keep cutting them to the ground and that does eventually work. You just have to keep doing it. I'll keep you updated...blackberries are horrid, to be sure and I don't envy your wall of berry.

      Delete
  10. Just WOW!!!!!!! Okay, so I feel like I totally squandered my before preview opportunity. I'm gone a month, and you guys make HUGE progress. I'm totally impressed, and will absolutely make it out there soon. If I remember correctly, I have some plants I need to bring you...

    ReplyDelete
  11. I am just mesmerized by the transformations already! What an adventure and so good of you to take us all along. I miss the variety of birds in Columbia Co. Looking forward to your future posts.

    ReplyDelete
  12. You have been busy! It is interesting watching your progress. I love the road to your house. I love watching the birds here. There are many that I am unfamiliar with. Like you, it seems that the more I do in the garden, the more of them I see.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I am so impressed by your progress, both in the incredible clearing of black berries, and all the planting you have done. This is such a good time to get the shrubby things in, if you can, so good for you for making it happen! I loved seeing that vegetable cage gone - it was a terrible visual interruption! Keep up the good work!

    ReplyDelete
  14. We've been in our home for 20 years and nothing is nicer than having before pictures of house and garden. Once things change and begin to fill in it is amazing how hard it is to remember what it looked like before. Plus the before photos let you see how much you have accomplished which we also sometimes don't realize as gardening is such a long slow process.

    ReplyDelete
  15. You've done a ton of work! I love that you feed the deer through the fence. :o)

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for your comments! I love hearing them, I will approve comments as soon as I can. Yay!