Thursday, June 30, 2016

Our First Summer at Blue Jay Lane


It is officially summer, an easy, enjoyable time in our old garden when we once hosted gatherings and open-garden events. We would enjoy walks in the neighborhood and visit Portland's food carts on warm evenings to partake in fish tacos and cocktails. This year, summertime living is not so easy here in the new garden. But that's fine, we agree, for there's work to be done. The merging of two brand-new gardens has begun and I wish to share our progress.


The flower that is the banner for this blog, Mimulus aurantiacus or shrubby/sticky monkey flower made the move and is showing its appreciation by blooming.


The remainder of one giant brush pile was made into wood chips with this beast rented from our favorite store, Don's Rentals in Saint Helens.


Not the best photo, but the area where there are now wood chips spread around is basically where the pile once stood, some 10 feet tall. Now, although difficult to see, there are several shrubs planted. I have a Physocarpus opulifolius 'Diabolo', Sambucus nigra 'Thundercloud', Sambucus racemosa 'Sutherland Gold', Hydrangea 'Fuji Waterfall', Rhamnus californica 'Seaview', a Myrica californica and two Vaccinium ovatum all planted in this semi-sunny area bordering a deeper shady woodland area. There's one more project down - it was wonderful to get those into the ground and get rid of that giant pile.


The next task was to till areas where we had removed sod earlier this month. Our wonderful neighbors loaned us their tiller for which we are very grateful.


We both got in on the act. It was not as difficult as I thought it might be.


The area to the west of the gravel garden was also tilled. It was all weeds and field grass up until a couple of weeks ago. The plan is to plant some meadow plants and also extend the graveled area seen here to the left.


A nice blank slate. This is to the east of the gravel garden.


This is the same general area. With the sod removed and the soil tilled, I laid out areas for paths and composted the other areas for planting. The paths will be cut out more deeply and gravel added, I may add stones for pathways eventually.


In this photo you can see both gardens with the new transition zones connecting them. The labyrinth garden is being extended out so it's not a circle any longer and the gravel garden is being lengthened. It will be a large contiguous area rather than two very separate and different gardens. The plantings for the transition zones are still being considered, I have some seed ready to be sown which I will use in some of the areas. The seed is a native wildflower mix of short stature. Eventually, we'd love to have a taller meadow beyond where you see field grass (lawn?) at the peripherals of this mega-garden. I am also planning on planting a low clumping grass to cover some of the area to the left. I had considered Carex pansa, but apparently it may not be the best choice. I'm still researching possibilities.



One thing we ran out of during this process was compost. Two more units delivered last week, which is why I missed a week of blogging. So sorry! It was a very labor-intensive task to do this:



We composted the ENTIRE berm garden on the north side of the house. This garden is at least 100 feet long and at some points 10 feet wide. We completely composted this AND then the nearby shade garden in one afternoon.


Here is a corner of the shade garden. This is about 60 or so feet long on its longest side, which forms a triangle. Mind you these gardens are at the top of the property. The compost was at the bottom. How did we do it in a day? With the pickup, of course. We loaded it up repeatedly and drove it to the top and worked from there. Either way, my body is still paying the price for this compost extravaganza. At least it's done and we can move on.


Here is what's left of Mt. Compost. I think the labyrinth garden needs another layer, don't you? Especially as it's just visible on the left of this photo. In other words, in close proximity to the mountain. Easy by comparison.


How about more hard labor? Gravel? How about 10 cubic yards. Here David is laying out an initial layer for our paths. We were tired of walking on mud.


A man and Mt Gravel.


David has also been busy working away at the chicken coop. He calls it the "Chicken Cube," and it really is a big, white cube. I told him he should paint it to look like a Rubik's cube. Remember those? He wants to paint it green. I want to use leftover metal siding from the house on the coop so it matches. I think it would be really cool. He doesn't.


I show this photo to point out the faint circle on the middle right side. That is to mark where the fire pit will go.


David dug out the pit and leveled the ground around it so we have a place to put a stone bench eventually.


I will also stabilize the little raised area behind the chairs with rocks from the big rock pile as I did in the gravel garden. In the gravel garden area there is a stump table which was originally going to be the location for the fire pit. It turns out I made it too small, so it was turned into a table area instead. The idea then is that the now stump table area will literally and metaphorically connect with the fire pit area. They will match with the same treatment of rocks and ledge.



Probably a little more digging to do on the depth aspect of the pit, then building it with bricks, gravel and flagstones around the edge. Lots more work to do but it's well on its way and now I can visualize very effectively what this area could look like someday and how my dream is shaping up.


This last photo is simply the sun shining through the seed head of a grass I pulled out, likely blown in from one of the nearby fields. I thought it not only pretty but symbolic of how I see this place. We have many meadow-like areas surrounding us, many grasses both wild and cultivated. The goal is to connect this garden with our surroundings rather than live in a detached high-maintenance garden completely alien to the spirit of this place. I show this photo to remind myself of this goal and to do it sustainably as we have thus far, for the most part. I hope to continue to add native plants and find some native grasses to add to the big picture, too. I think I can find ones just as beautiful as this that really are connected to this land.

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

19 comments :

  1. Blue Jay Lane is really coming along !

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    1. We're starting to see some results...every day is a little bit more!

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  2. I love watching your progress.

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    1. Thank you Joanna, we're thrilled that other people get a kick out of our vast, never ending project - it's a lot of fun for us!

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  3. We work hard at the nursery, but it must almost feel like a rest after the work you are doing at home. This post gives a good accounting of your progress.

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  4. In a few years you'll look back at these photos and be amazed at the blankness and how your vision was just being "born". I'm quite impressed with the fire pit area. From experience I know that cutting into a slope to level it requires moving a surprising amount of soil. Nice work!

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    1. That's the hope with any project, right? To simply document something takes effort and I'm really glad I'm doing it. The fire pit area is being worked on even MORE as I write this!

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  5. Your garden looks remarkably different every time I see your posts! I imagine the 2 of you are sleeping well - I get exhausted just looking at what you've accomplished.

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    1. Oh, we are sleeping like logs, to be sure. You know, this hard work phase is temporary, right? :)

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  6. Wow. This looks nothing like the place we bloggers were all relaxing just a few weeks ago...

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    1. It actually does look much different. I'm glad about that, I wish I could show everyone the vision in my head. You'll all just have to wait for the finished product! Well, you don't - you live here and can come over any time, you're always welcome :)

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  7. I went on the HPSO event in Salem last weekend and saw several large, mature gardens. To think that they all started out like yours, as a dream and a ton of hard work is kind of magical to me. And given that plants grow so quickly here, it won't be long before your dream is a reality. Heck, it already is. Kudos for your dedication and all the good you're doing.

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    1. They do start out small, don't they, Grace? I heard about that weekend and it sounds like a lot of fun! Sorry to have missed it. And yes, the tag that says that tree will gt 4 - 5 feet high is LYING in Oregon. That tree will get 12 - 20 feet high, more likely. Thanks for your sweet words, Grace! Dedication is the name of the game, mostly because we LOVE it.

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  8. man, you guys are so amazing. And I love the idea of melding the surrounding meadow areas into your property.

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    1. Yay! Someday, meadows....someday.

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  9. Wow! I can't believe the progress... Impressive, indeed! I also can't believe I haven't made it out to see you yet... Your garden is truly taking shape - and fast! It will be beautiful, T! :)

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    1. COME OVER AND PLAY! you still get your corner of whatever area you want to have your own garden, Anna Bean. Please come over! I miss you!!!!

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  10. Thanks for showing these steps in such detail. I love to see the process and progress in people's gardens. I'm with you on siding the shed.

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