Monday, April 30, 2012

I am super pooped, you guys.

So I dug the hole, I planted the plants. I met a LOT of my neighbors. Working in your front yard is totally different than working in the backyard. I've lived on this street for three years and just now met people who live four doors down for the first time. I talked to people from their cars, on their bikes, as they walked their dogs, on the way to the bus stop . . . Why doesn't that happen when I mow my lawn?

Greg and I went to Home Depot Saturday morning with about half as much caffeine as we needed and bought half the supplies we needed to run the roof water from the gutter to the rain garden. Then we struggled to get the caps off the PVC solvent and got in a fight about where the wrenches went. It's probably better not to go into it. Another trip back to the store and a couple of hours later and I was testing my connections.

I tested the connections by standing on a ladder, holding a garden hose to the gutter, right next to our power line. Home improvement isn't any fun unless there's the possibility of winning a Darwin award. But at least nothing leaked!

I mulched the mulch, I applied the rocks. We used all the scavenged rocks in the backyard rain garden so I bought river rock from the store and ended up with a bit of a dry river bed.

I totally overplanted the rain garden but think of how fun it will be to move all those rocks so I can divide and move grasses!

Anyone have tips for making that look more natural and less like the bottom of a fish tank? I know I need some larger rocks, for starters. In the rain garden I've got a mix of slough sedge (Carex obnupta), soft rush (Juncus effusus), dagger rush (Juncus ensifolius), and slender rush (Juncus tenuis). Here's the rest of the breakdown:

Click to embiggen

I'm going to run a 3' pathway through here and install some more plants on either side. Under the big window I have three New Zealand wind grasses (Stipa arundinacea).

I know I want a black daphne (Daphne houtteana) and possibly a larger grass or three (probably Karl Foerster) for the other side of the mahonia. Other plants on the shortlist include variegated red twig dogwood (Cornus Alba 'Elegantissima'), a Kleim's hardy gardenia (fragrance!), and an alpine mint bush (Prosthanthera cuneata). There's also a plan in the works for adding some agaves and I'd really love to add a dasylirion. Anything awesome I'm missing? I'm leaning toward evergreen, structural plants or things with multi-season interest so the front isn't so barren in winter.

It's supposed to rain all week so we'll see how the rain garden fares. I feel like the whole neighborhood is invested in it now; I don't want to let them down.


  1. That looks awesome! And I totally agree about front yard work: when we were working on the driveway on our paver project we met a TON of our neighbors that we also hadn't ever talked to despite our 3 year residency.

  2. Looks great! And I love your future plant selections. I'd ask if you need more Sedum Autumn Joy but since I dug it on Friday and it's been sitting waiting for me to do something with it ever since it probably isn't in the best shape.

    I was working in the back garden yesterday and enjoying the fact that I could bend over without having to be aware that someone was potentially walking down the sidewalk and getting a view. It's nice to have the social aspect of front yard gardening but also the privacy of the back yard...when you just don't feel like engaging in conversations.

  3. Thank you! I secretly want to drag you and Scott out to help me shop for plants. And I don't think you can ever have too much Autumn Joy, nor do I believe that you can kill it. ;)

  4. This looks SO AWESOME! Most of my garden projects are in the looking-like-crap phase, so it's lovely to see this all nice and neat! Well done.

  5. Thank you! You should see the rain garden Lee Mayjust made on his property--it's so much prettier! I want to revamp mine
    already. ;)

  6. This looks great! If you're interested in some neat self-seeding annuals, have you ever used Cerinthe major? Mine is blooming right now in shades of navy blue, gold, green and purple with blue-green succulent-type leaves. The bees and hummingbirds love it; it self-seeds abundantly but not obnoxiously and it's easy to spot if you want to yank extra seedlings out, and I absolutely love it. Email me if you want some seeds (I live in Albany, but come up to Portland every now and again.) Gayle

  7. I just received a cerinthe seedling from a friend about two weeks ago, or I'd take you up on your offer. Thank you so much! The colors on it are amazing and I hear the seeds are really cool-looking.

  8. ZOMG...what a change...I BET you are sore today! It looks so very cool already...I can just imagine it all grown together by the end of the year. I always plant things too matter how carefully I think I've planned, when it come to plunking them in the ground all spatial reasoning flies out the window. I love 'Autumn Joy', they are always the first plants I've put in at each new garden :-)

    I wish I could do a rain garden, they always look so cool...but I think I read once the regulations for how far they have to be from your house...and our property is so small that any rain garden I build would end up in our neighbor's yard :-(

    BTW...did I tell you they were selling Daphne houtteana at Joy Creek Nursery last time I visited...last weekend !?!?!?!

  9. I hear you about rain garden siting . . . I think this one is technically too close to the sidewalk but hopefully I won't get in trouble (rain garden police!). I saw that some guy had four on his property and I couldn't figure out how you'd do that on a standard Portland lot.

    You *did* tell me that it was at Joy Creek. It's so hard to get out there during the week, having an 8-5 job, that I always end up at Portland Nursery. I need to get out there soon!

  10. Go to Joy Creek on the weekend and you will also get the best chocolate chip cookies ever. I am so impressed with this project. I tend to nibble away at projects rather than go for the grand vision. It will be fun to follow as it matures.

  11. There's a nursery that also gives you cookies?!? I can't believe I haven't been there--it sounds like heaven!

  12. Wow, when you do a job, you do a job. That looks great.

    Have you considered any of the midwestern denizens of moisture, like Joe Pye Weed, Ironweed, Swamp Milkweed, New England Aster? All tend to be quite tall, which may not be what you're looking for. Also not sure how they do in Oregon. How about some pussy willow or other shrubby willows - very good host plant for butterflies.

    Is the Cornus alba as aggressive as the native red twig, Cornus stolonifera? If so you will need to work at keeping it under control.

  13. Joe Pye weed thrives here and I may use it in another spot in the yard. The rain garden will dry out in the summer so I can't do pussy willows (which I love).
    This cornus will get really big, though it can be pruned hard. I'm not sure how it compares to C. stolonifera, but you bring up a good point--they all sucker a lot!

  14. Wow, when you do a thing, you really DO it - the rain garden looks fab. I don't think it's overplanted, but that's my tendency anyway so I'm biased.

    You might check the Kleim's for your location - I wonder if that south exposure is a little hot and sunny for it? Yucca rostrata and Hesperaloe parviflora are two heat- loviing alternatives that could be fun, and the yucca is beautiful year-round.

    I can't wait to see this at summer's end!