Thursday, March 10, 2016

Before and After: The Gravel Garden Emerges

Taking a break from my recent Seattle plant-themed trip, it's time to head back to the ranch, so to speak, to check on progress there. As the prior veggie bed is the epicenter of the whole shebang, it is a good place to focus my energy, so that many of my sun shrubs can get settled in their new forever homes and hopefully start growing. My progress lately has been here, the center of my universe.

I tell myself that if I do just a little something every day then I'll eventually reach a point where I can breathe and relax for a spell. We have been working every day on something or another; there is so very much to do, however, that I fear I may not get there until I'm 98 years old.

But I carry on, loving being outside. These past two weeks I have been running out between rain storms to compact the wet soil even more. I kid, but really -- what a terrible time to be moving soil around, when it's extremely wet (we're 13" above our annual average and it's only five months into the "rain year"). BUT I would get nothing done if I waited, so I go out and daintily slop around.

The last photo we saw of this area was fairly intact, minus the fence. Something like this.


 Although hard to see in the first photo, these cinder blocks now under the deck were once lining the garden directly below the edge of the deck. The former owner had several Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight' shrubs and a variety of other sun perennials in this location. I carefully dug those out (two hours later, no kidding) and moved them to more appropriate locations and moved the cinder blocks further back behind where you see them here. We may reuse them, but for now they await their fate under the deck.



The next step: The soil here was really muddy and clay-ey, so I added a bunch of compost and gravel.


As seen from the deck, looking better.

Can you see three pots at the base of the deck placed on the soil? I purchased three fabulous Ceanothus 'Italian Skies' from the wonderful growers at Xera Plants. I must say, every plant I get from them is so beautifully grown, no root-bound masses and strong, sturdy plants. I am so lucky they are in this part of the world; they have the best selection and quality. These Ceanothus will fill in considerably, eventually concealing the under-deck area. They will get to about 6' high and wide. Here is a link to an image of a mature plant. The deep blue of the blossoms will echo what the color of the side door to the deck will eventually be. On the far left is Arctostaphylos 'Saint Helena', it will get to be about 8' tall, and with a name like that, I can't go wrong planting it at Chickadee Gardens in Saint Helens!


Then, when my mother-in-law came to visit, David put her to work. They moved the raised-bed frames, and here they sit awaiting their final resting place, too.


 There she is! Hi, Sharon! What a great help you were. Here she's cutting back my grasses making them all purdy.


  Meanwhile, the Husband looks on after removing the vertical pink slats to the deck railing. We're going to paint the whole thing, and, from the advice of a reader, add horizontal cables to finish the look. That will occur when the weather finally does warm up. I had also added many more sun shrubs in the Ceanothus area up top by this point.



 The next step is to clear the area to prepare the rest of the soil. The problem is that I need to move all of these temporarily located plants someplace else. Off to a big blue tarp they go, hopefully not for long.




The white circle in the middle is lime I used to "draw" out where I want the fire pit to go. At this stage, I also deconstructed two of the former beds and added some compost to the whole scene.


Next step: When what to my wondering eyes should appear but 7 cubic yards of gravel. Moving Mount Gravel may take me all year.

David's Note: To the deep right you may see that Mount Compost has dwindled considerably.



 A bit difficult to discern with a sea of browns, but there's a fire-pit dug in there and soil cut away behind it to make room for seating. The soil from these areas was used to make berms on either side.




 Let the graveling begin! At this point I am getting really excited. I've been visualizing this for several months, and as I mentioned it is so visible as the epicenter of it all, so it's especially rewarding to put the wheels in motion. The wheel on the wheelbarrow pushed by Husband, I mean.



 Many of the plants are finding homes. I have given much thought about where to place them, but in the end it's an organic process for me and I end up placing them where it feels best and I know they have the cultural requirements they need to succeed.


 More gravel added, at this point just a base layer to keep from slipping all over the place.


The bones are coming together.


 More gravel... you can see the berms a little better on either side of the fire pit. Some of the yuccas have found homes, as have many sedums and a Callistemon pityoides 'Mt. Kosciuszko'.



Almost there -- only one more "veggie bed" mound with temporary plants in it to move, visible in the upper left area of this photo. This view is from the deck looking south. There is another mound on the upper right with a dry creek bed running through it. 



Here you can see what will be the dry creek bed along with the remaining raised bed on the right. That too will be dismantled and the soil spread, amended with some native soil and gravel and will be the last low berm. I have my Yucca rostrata waiting to go in here, as well as other goodies.


 Let's recap: Before, last November.


 After, this week.

It's amazing that it's all coming together. A lot more to do, it has a long way to go but I am so excited. Now if the rain would stop for a few days and let things dry out I can get a lot more completed. Can you picture it? The deck will be painted, the side door to the house from the deck, too. Lots of potted succulents and spiky things and of course a table with chairs and an umbrella will grace the deck. There will be many more drought-tolerant plants in this bed. There will be paths running through and the whole thing will connect to the other really dry bed which is now the labyrinth. The edges will be softened and eventually the vast green lands will be meadow, although that will be incredibly labor intensive to transform. Perhaps I'll do that in stages. It is very exciting, I can't wait to get back out there!

That's it for this week at Chickadee Gardens. As always, thank you so much for reading and commenting, I really appreciate you all. Until next time may you all have very happy gardening and an early spring!


28 comments :

  1. Such a subtle change! ;) 7 yards of gravel is a satisfying workout!

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    1. Oh, tell my shoulders how satisfying it is. I have new muscles, now. Ouch.

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  2. You've made tremendous progress already! I know what you mean when you say you wonder if you'll be 98 when you can finally relax and enjoy the garden. It does get better, though. Five years into our process, I'm figuring I can sit and enjoy the garden by the time I'm 80...

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    1. Well, that's good to hear, Kris. I guess I'm impatient by nature, but I can handle the 5 year plan :)

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  3. Enjoyed reading and watching the progress, your gravel garden will be nice. Here on the other side of the pond we also had a lot of rain. At last spring seems to start but the garden is too wet to work in. Well I keep myself busy with pruning roses.

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    1. Have you had lots of rain too? I guess El Nino has hit The Netherlands, too. Pruning roses at least keeps you outside :)

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  4. I can see it! It looks wonderful and I am amazed at your progress. Now if a few dry days - or hell even a whole dry week - could come along...

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    1. You have The Vision, Danger. Yay! Hell, I"ll take two dry days off in a row. Make it stop, Loree. The rain, that is.

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  5. Ceanothus was one of the plants that I HAD to have. I just bought the one called Julia Phelps. I think it so beautiful.

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    1. Yay! So glad you've come over to the Ceanothus side. DO shop at Xera sometime, they have an excellent selection if you are a fan of the plant.

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  6. I love the gravel garden! I'm a little jealous, too. I looked all over for a company that sold a type of gravel that would work for this application, and none of my local suppliers fit the bill. It's all either too large or unwashed and designed to pack together for driveways and the like. The last 2 or 3 weekends were much nicer than I expected them to be, at least at my house. I'm a little impatient for drier days, too, but remember this in summer when you're longing for a bit of rain.

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    1. Oh, that's too bad! I got this gravel from Scappoose Sand and Gravel which is where Joy Creek gets theirs. So far so good. As far as drier days, yes, I know...you're right. BUT I have to say that we used to have mild weather gently transitioning from season to season but now it's just WET AND COLD or HOT and BONE DRY. Where's the in-between? It exists no more, me thinks.

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  7. What a huge change! Coming along very nicely, well done guys!

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    1. Why thank you :) That means a lot coming from you guys!!

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  8. We need to remove our vertical deck rails and add horizontal cables too. You get such a cleaner look that way. Do yours soon so I can read all about how it's done, OK? :)

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    1. Um, ok! :) Seriously, we'll paint the deck as soon as it dries out enough. Will keep it documented just for you :)

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  9. you blow me away, T! Wow, what a great garden adventure you're on--and thank you so much for documenting it for all of us. That ceanothus is going to look stunning in front of the silver metal house!

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    1. Ooooh, I'm glad you think so! Ceanothus....metal house..it's all good! Kind of unusual but we love it!

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  10. Building great bones is hard on yours! Wonderful progress..the berms will be fantastic opportunitys..can't wait to see what you do next!

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    1. Oooh, you are so right, it is hard on the ol' bones. I'm trying to ignore the pain. Stay tuned, we're super busy and have a list a mile long, so surely there will be changes ahead.

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  11. I'm so glad you're painting the deck! You've done an amazing amount of work! It's going to be just beautiful. :o)

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    1. Me too, Casa. That was originally the first thing on my to-do list when we moved here, but I failed to realize you can't paint outdoor stuff in the rain. Well. So I live with a pink deck for a half a year. Thank you for your kind words of encouragement, I appreciate it!

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    2. Lots of progress since we were there...love the pictures with Sharon, I will share them with her soon, Don't work to hard...

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  13. wonderful progress -- salute!

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  14. You are a dynamo, Tamara! I envy you your vision for the transformation, but I know you've spent lots of time thinking it through. It looks wonderful, and those of us with sore shoulders, backs, and legs know only too well how hard you have worked for it! Be good to your body - and enjoy!

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  15. Slow and steady wins the race. It's really starting to take shape!

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  16. The garden is coming around marvelously and you are getting...ripped. No gym visits for you and David.

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