Thursday, February 18, 2016

Before and After: Rock Wall

Project #3 of 14,234,488 completed!
You know, it's curious how I choose projects out here in Columbia County. As David says: Just point your nose in any direction and there's something major to do. I guess it was the fact that the area at the top of the driveway is so very visible that drove me to pick this particular project.
I figure if I have to look at it every day, it had better be pretty; it wasn't.

So I decided to do something about it.


This is what it looked like before we moved in. I'm talking about the area to the left of the retaining wall. It was simply a pile of rock-hard dirt covered in weeds. On the left at the top of the mound there is a massacred magnolia and to the right of that a stiff sea of sloppy oregano.


This is how it looked last week. A wall of mud and weeds with the addition of broken terracotta. How picturesque. The arrow, by the way, is to guide visitors to the front door as it's not obvious. So I had this idea: It's south-facing. and could be really good drainage if there were a rocky retaining wall. How about an Arctostaphylos up there and other sun-loving, drought-tolerant goodies to give some structure to the area? But where oh where to get the rocks?


Of course!


So off I went digging a trench at the bottom and taking away chunks of mud and weeds and adding about five large basalt rocks at a time as that's all I could push up hill in the wheelbarrow. About 25 loads later . . . bit by bit . . . I stacked rocks and fit them together. The wall is angled so I didn't have to worry about it being stacked with precision.


Oh, lordy, but it was a mudfest!

This was my Valentine's Day, by the way. In the rain. But I really wanted to get the job done.


Starting to come together. The magnolia up top got a haircut. It had been a good-sized tree, but cut down with suckers coming up all around. I cleaned it up to see if it would make a comeback rather than getting rid of it all together. I also planted an Arctostaphylos 'Harmony' on top as well as a Ceanothus 'Blue Sierra' (hard to see, it's behind the Arcto up on the hill), both purchased from Xera Plants last fall. They should each get about 7' tall and since they're evergreen will give some life to this area. I also removed the sea of aggressive oregano.


A more defined top edge, the soil was cut away with my shovel.


Using the shovel marks as a guide I finished the wall. It took two days of several hours each day.


I added compost up top and also in the nooks and crannies of the rocks.


This is after I cleaned up---if you can believe it. It, and I, were muddy messes.



Then, the wall needed some plants so I took a look at the plant prison to see what sun-loving treasures I could find. I found a Lewisia, a Gentian, some sedums and hens and chicks and ice plant. I also stole a bit of gravel left over from the foundation of David's new shed.


I also found a couple great deals at our local Ace Hardware store - two Lewisia cotyledons for $2.99 each. I also found a Clematis tangutica for $3, two Agastaches for .99 cents each and a Podophyllum 'Spotty Dotty' for $7.99. How about that? I think I will be stopping there more often. The Lewisias are perfect for the rock wall, with some extra gravel for drainage, of course.



A wider shot.


The finished product with lots of plants tucked in there (hard to see, sorry about that) and washed off. The soil and gravel and compost will take a while to settle. I will also surely add more sedum cuttings and hens and chicks here and there. At least the green specks seen here are plants, not weeds.


Project #3 down, just a few million more to go. Hey, every step is an improvement so I'll take it! By the way, another perk to this project is recycling. I will think of the former owner's super cool labyrinth every time I see this wall, which is daily.

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

29 comments :

  1. Great re-purposing...looked like hard work. I like the outcome and it will be even better once it has plants rooted in!

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    1. Thanks, Laurin. It was hard work but the good kind. When I have green things growing all over it, then I shall be satisfied.

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  2. Wow, your vision is as impressive as your progress. Visually much more interesting and functional too.

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    1. Thank you Shirley! I appreciate your encouragement and comments. It is more interesting than a pile of mud, isn't it?? :)

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  3. You chose well for #3 -- it looks fantastic! To me there's nothing more satisfying than hauling rocks around the garden for hours. So tired afterward, but you really feel like you've accomplished something. :)

    Can't wait to see this later this year, as it will be fabulous I'm sure!

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    1. Aaaw, thanks Alan! It is the good kind of tired. And I can't wait either...all we have to wait for is the rain to stop and the sun to come out!

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    1. Love my husband! Facilities Manager extraordinaire, that's what you are. Oh, and a great cat wrangler, too.

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  5. What an improvement, it must have been hard work, but it looks great. Can imagine how it will look with the plants growing.

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    1. I'm thrilled you see the improvement. Sometimes it doesn't translate well in photos. Thank you Janneke!

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  6. It'll be fun to see the area develop as the plants grow. It's great you had all those rocks on hand.

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    1. How lucky to have all those rocks! I have plans (sort of ) for the rest of them too.

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  7. Shopping at the St Helens Ace Hardware, when the time comes, you will be faces with a veritable HEDGE of Crocosmia 'Lucifer'. As you might guess, you can't miss it.
    At the rate you're going, you will have that two acres tamed in no time.

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    1. Really? I look forward to seeing the Crocosmia hedge. Fun! I couldn't believe the prices, she had just marked them down. I hope they always have such great prices.

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  8. It looks like a great improvement. I am amazed that there are no rocks anywhere on our property. I have a few ideas percolating that involve rock walls and I guess when the time comes, I will have to purchase them. It is nice though digging in rockless soil. That has never happened with me before.

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    1. No rocks...yes, Phillip - that is common. Here I not only have the labyrinth rocks but when I dig around I find many others. I wonder if they are indigenous or if someone had them delivered at some point. All basalt, which is a local rock. I always feel like it's a prize in a box of cereal when I find one, for I can usually find a good use for a nice rock. Plenty of places for you to buy them, too - when it comes time let us all know and we'll recommend places.

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  9. What a huge amount of work! It looks super great.

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    1. Thank you Kate for your kind comments! I appreciate it :)

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  10. I too, inherited some basalt and boy that stuff is heavy. I liked the rock mandala meditation area, but I think I would have done the same thing you did and repurposed it for other areas that involve plantings. Hey, it's ALL about the plants, isn't it?? ;)

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    1. HEAVY baby, wow. Yes, I was torn tearing apart the labyrinth but it's soooo huge (50' across) that it takes up too much prime space. And yes, it IS all about the plants! :)

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  11. Well done! Such a lot of hard work. You've really improved this area. I don't know if you like Acaena 'Blue Haze' but I bet it would love being tucked into those rocks. I have some in my recycled concrete wall, and I adore it.

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    1. Thank you Alison! And ooooh - I like the idea of Blue Haze! I'll have to get some...hmmm..you giveth good ideas, oh Gardening Goddess... :) Hope you are recovering quickly, by the way!!

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  12. I love it! Most excellent! :o)

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  13. As new as it is, it's already coming together fantastically! Imagine looking back at these photos in just a couple years. Back breaking work, for sure. Never underestimate a woman on a mission....no rest for the wicked!

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    1. Hahaha...so true. NEVER underestimate a woman on a mission. No Mindy nor Tamara will stop until the job is done. I love that, thanks Mindy!

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  14. Wow...nice work! It still plays with my brain that area is south-facing.

    When you wrote "but where to get the rocks" I was thinking "Uhm, Tamara...there's that Labaryth..." Duh. Your Ace hardware sounds like a gem.

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    1. Thanks, Danger. Haahah..that's funny. D'UH, of course -- doesn't everyone have a labyrinth from which to steal rocks?

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  15. A definite improvement! Hehe, you know you're a gardener when...you spend Valentines Day building a rock wall in the rain. That wall will be a great place to plant little gems that need fast drainage. I wonder if it would be too hot in summer for some of the xeric ferns? Might be worth a try. Seems like a great place to try some of the smaller natives from east of the Cascades that don't like our soggy winters, too.

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