Planting the path

I’d been saving the job of planting the thyme until the kids could help. Saturday morning, we had swim lessons then a snack, then finally we headed for the garden. I used the first pot as a demo (how to get the plant out of the pot, how to loosen the roots, how to put it down and pack around it with dirt), then both kids did two pots themselves, and I planted the sixth. It looks green and pretty, and I’m happy, and they were so proud to help. Afterwards, they applied themselves to lining their gardens with rocks, and I finished weeding the stretch by the house (which will eventually be shoveled out then covered in a thick layer of gravel, and a top layer of river rock if I can find the right kind — big enough, uniform, and an attractive grey color).

Last night, I did the real work, which was converting my 39 kinds of plants and bulbs…

… to a bloom map by month (along with color, which ranges from blue to purple to magenta, and a few near-black purples, and a few lavenders), and a list of heights and widths.

Here’s a detail view, I am so proud of it.

You can tell it’s the beginning of September and I had back-to-school energy that had to go somewhere. So I sharpened my Excel spreadsheet, cracked open my browser, and for the next stage, got out the graph paper and markers.

This is 56 plants (the circles) and 195 bulbs (the marker-drawn symbols — the bulbs might not all fit) in 25′ of garden that ranges from 3.5′ to 5.5′ wide. I should have blooms from Feb to November and some evergreen. Heights ranging from 7″ up to 40+. The stages are bulbs (crocus, hyacinth, tulip, allium, late-daffodils), irises, then pure flowers (asters, sages, hyssop, veronica, companula, primula, baptista, delphinium, gentiana, centaurea, clematis, sweet pea, etc.), then heuchera which bloom white in the summer but have colorful leaves nearly year-round. Except for the sweet pea, they’re all perennials or bulbs that will naturalize. The majority should not need to be watered (I think Delphinium is probably the exception, but the rest should make do). The majority should be pretty pest-resistant. (Although I’m guessing the squirrels will eat the crocuses before they even bloom, and the rabbits will think the asters are delish. Yet hope springs eternal.)

I got the first set of plants into the ground this afternoon. The remainder should be arriving 2-3 weeks from now. When they’re all in, I’ll order mulch to suppress weeds in the small spots between plants. I think it’s going to be wonderful when it’s done.

Over the winter, I’ll need to work on three trellises (one for deep purple clematis, two for “color-shift” blue/purple/magenta sweet peas).

These are late in the day photos, so the light is a bit shadowy. Claire helped me water all of the transplants! At some point I’d like to install a hose bib on this side of the house, but in the meantime a five gallon bucket full of water and a chatty four-year-old helper with a watering can works!

I designated a kids’ digging spot just south of the path out of sheer self-preservation. Claire lugged the trucks and tools there in no time flat.

A photo that captured all of the thyme plants, plus Henry’s rock-lined garden (at right) and Claire’s (at left). Henry wants to plant his in a pattern (daffodil, tulip, carrot, daffodil, tulip, carrot). He didn’t like that I said we could plant the daffodils and tulips now, but the carrots have to wait til May. I wonder if you can over-winter carrots and then I can skip this entire argument?? I would love the gardens to be their spots, not my chance to micromanage their plans.

A view from the garden back to the fishtank and art table.

And of course, the afternoon of bed prep and digging wouldn’t have even happened if Kevin didn’t do the grocery store and then dinner. Standing where the Delphiniums will grow, and appreciating Kevin:

I never post photos of this side of the house. Here’s a taller shot over the roof.

It could be a metaphor?

When I moved the two tons of extra gravel from the front yard to its current temp spot by the garage, the only sad thing was that it covered up a hyacinth bulb. It wasn’t a GREAT hyacinth bulb – it always fell over the same day it bloomed. So I felt bad about it for a moment, then kept pouring 20 more wheelbarrowfulls of gravel on top.

Well, this spring, who pushed up through dirt, mulch, and 2 feet of gravel, bloomed, and promptly lay face down?

I’m so impressed at this flower’s spirit, and so amused that even after all that work, blooming was so exhausting for it.


Other garden things, now that we are deep enough in Spring to be past the first wave of daffodils:

I’m starting to gather steam on the kitchen path. There’s an azalea about to bloom any second, right where the path will eventually go. I’m certainly going to pause (aka, not start?) the digging long enough to enjoy that first. I’d like to transplant it, even though it’s enormous. Maybe the front yard? It seems to really like being in a sunny spot, and I’m having trouble finding somewhere large enough in the back where it is visible from the house, compatible with the things next to it, and won’t be in the shade.

Meanwhile, my plan to dig out the monster-size hydrangea and just keep a few of the off-shoots seems to have worked beautifully. They’re green and lovely, and already growing. The hydrangea root ball is also amusing me, since it’s undaunted by being hacked to bits and out of the ground – it’s still cheerfully alive and covered in leaves. I haven’t known what to do with it at all. I can’t saw through it because of the rocks, can’t put it in the compost bin whole. Light it on fire? Replant it next to the new patio?

My calendula and hostas from Bob (a gift when he was thinning out his beds last fall) are acting very happy so far.

I love the way hostas appear in the Spring – tightly scrolled, tall, and so green.

All of our edged, weeded, mulched beds on the top shelf look lovely. I ripped out about half the sod up here (and a level ton of creeping violets) and I’m so hopeful that the mulch will keep things more-or-less in line going forward. I’m ready to get off the endless-weeding train.

The bunny fence is still in great shape, and there’s a new grouping of tulips, snowdrops and crocuses that are making a delicious, delicious meal for someone. Bunny? Squirrel? Not a single bloom has lasted more than a day. (It might be the same creature who keeps nipping green tulip heads off the top of the stem, and leaving them, whole, on the ground at the base of the plant. Squirrel with a personality disorder?)

These are the last of the early daffodils (there should be a second round in a few weeks), and the early tulips, a riot of color. The lavender along the path is looking stunning, and I’m very proud of myself for figuring out how to prune the two blueberry bushes. I watched a lot of youtube videos of farmers from Maine, and I think I didn’t do badly. I didn’t prune last year, and we didn’t really get any berries (they were little then dry, then the birds ate them. You’re supposed to prune back 50-70% per year, and I think I make a good effort.

These tulips are just SO BRIGHT. This is the view from next to our bedroom window.

I love the chairs with all their green/yellow-green/blue-green backdrop.

All those new leaves are beautiful from our bedroom, and even better from the chairs.

I need to figure out what to do with the beds in this corner. Hostas, maybe? There’s one under the lilac, I feel like two or three more would be lovely on that side of the path. I’ve been transplanting ferns there madly, and they seem to be taking off, so that’s hopeful, too. The house-side options need to be shade-loving and tolerant of dry, fast-draining, acidic soil. A tricky mix. Most of the great shade-loving, acidity-tolerating PNW plants like to be wet. I need something that can live there, cheerfully, and not need to be watered. I tried to continue the lavender/sage/thyme to the gate, knowing it probably wouldn’t get enough sun, and sure enough it’s all sad little sticks with a leaf or two – such a mad contrast to the wild growth of the sunnier spots. I’m not sure I’ll solve it this year (the kitchen side path, rock wall, and veggie gardens are probably going to be my three big projects this summer) but I will still watch for something nice.

Farewell, Patio

Here’s Kevin and the result of a week’s worth of major effort – an entire 15′ dumpster full of clumps of aggregate and rubble, shattered and hauled by Kevin. I did two wheel barrow loads (miniscule in the face of all of this), and sifted some gravel, and the rest was all his.

Isn’t that crazy. I can’t remember what I said, but he’s cracking some suave joke, ha, as he closes the doors and drives the kids off to daycare, so that he can head to work. He’s awfully strong and effective for a dev. 🙂