Monday, June 4, 2012

Are we done yet?

This weekend I started to remove sod in the backyard where I'm going to increase the planting beds, but I remembered that I hate removing sod so I decided to work on the front yard instead. It's nice to have options.

Thus, we have a rock wall to separate the gravel mulch from the bark mulch. I'm not sure if I like it yet. I don't have much experience working with rock so it doesn't look terribly organic. Of course, the rocks in the bottom of the rain garden annoy me so much that they are all I see in this photo.

Rock is expensive so I just ran it across the front with the hope to enclose the whole area down the line.

We really need to incorporate some decorative boulders and rocks so it's not just gravel and flat rock.

I'm really not crazy about how it looks on the back side but that can be improved later. (Someone tell me this will look great once it fills in with weeds.)

And while we're telling me lies, someone tell me that the piece of cedar bender board will actually keep the cedar chips and gravel separate.

But I've decided I'm not going to sweat any of my landscaping choices until things start growing. I discovered that these plants that thrive on poor soils annoy me me because I can't do anything proactive with them. They want sun, not too much water, and no fertilizer or compost. So I can't fuss over them. I just have to wait. I hate that.

So I can feel like I'm doing something productive in the front yard, I police the grass that wants so badly to return. If I had to do this project over again I would have left the whole front yard under black plastic all winter to really kill the lawn. I keep finding individual blades of grass poking up in the bare spots, despite the fact that I used a sod cutter, then roto-tilled, then applied a thick layer of mulch.

Fun fact: when I tell non-gardeners that I've planted agave they tend to ask me if I'm going to make tequila. This weekend the kid at Oregon Decorative Rock informed me, "I just use sugar, myself." Alrighty then.


  1. Here are five things, no lies:

    One - The little rock wall and gravel patch is fantastic. Organic, natural, low, right sized and right curved.
    Two - The pebble swale is nicely shaped, and will soften with plant growth, but needs bigger rocks or boulders scattered about as you already know.
    Three - The pebble swale needs to be bigger (longer and a little wider I think). Small is the enemy of good hardscape design, especially once the plants bulk up.
    Four - The cedar chips and gravel will want to mingle, they just do. It will be ok.
    Five - Plants grow.

    My dry creek bed annoyed me no end and I must have moved every rock in it at least five times and then I took out a third of them, and one day two years later it looked gorgeous with just the right edging plants, mix of rock & pebble sizes and lushness around it.

    You have done all the right things to get there, including nice contour & slope in a small area. I wish I had built in more levels, contrasting areas and more depth like you did.

  2. Laurrie, you rock. And you are totally right about the pebble swale. Thank you!

    By the way, the hesperaloe you recommended has quickly become one of my favorite plants. Your advice is always spot-on.

  3. I totally agree with Laurrie, on all accounts. Honestly, it's usually right around this time of year when the plants in my garden are finally large enough to pretty much conceal all the mulch. The first year or two are tough, as it seems it will never fill in, and then, suddenly, you can't even see the ground...which is glorious! Once those plants knit together, it'll look fab. I like the wall, it look's to be just right...and I was also thinking maybe you could extend the swale into more a dry creek bed...with some larger rocks mixed in. That's one thing a lot of people forget, in nature, there is rarely a large area of rocks that are all the same our eyes are trained to recognize "consistency" of size as "artificial". As always, variety is the spice of life!

    That's the funny thing about gardening in Portland, the first thing Portlanders ask me when they find out I garden is "Do you grow veggies?" I always respond that if by "grow", you mean "buy at Fred Meyer"...then, Yes...indeed.

    Oh...and you'll never be done...NEVER!!!!!


  4. Thank you, Scott. And you are totally right about the rocks. Not only are they all the same size, they are all the same color. It really looks like the bottom of an aquarium, as my brother so nicely pointed out.

    You know they revoke your Portland card if you don't grow your own veggies or make your own pickles or brew your own beer, right? ;)

  5. You have done so much Heather! It's really coming along. Speaking of wasn't until a few years after developing our front gardens that I figured out putting in a bench, and it was the single best thing I did out there. Facing towards the house and garden, it's a place to sit, relax and TAKE IN the hard work you've done, have a glass of wine with the one you love, or interact with people walking by. It might feel exposed at first, but it won't after one season....and you can actually relax instead of working out there.

  6. Ooh, that's a really good idea. I think a bench under the dogwood would be nice. My eye has recently been wandering to that area, where I'd planned to incorporate meadow plants. A piece of shade, a cold lemonade (maybe with whiskey in it) . . . that sounds nice.

  7. I don't need to add a thing since Laurrie, Scott and LeAnn have already called it all out. Oh wait yes...I will much as I love Oregon Decorative Rock...WTF do they know about plants? Not much. And this is coming from someone who has spent a bloody fortune there...those guys are great with rocks but they probably like Petunias.

  8. I don't think I dealt with anyone over the age of 18 at Oregon Decorative Rock during my multiple visits. They were awesome but holy smokes, they were all so YOUNG. The guy was confused when I spoke about mulching with gravel. "What do you mean by mulch?" I think you're being generous thinking that they know what petunias are. :)