Showing posts with label gravel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label gravel. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

More gravel. More grasses. More sleeping.

I've been an insomniac my whole life. Last fall everything got way worse and I basically stopped sleeping. Things are a lot better now, thanks to a light box, melatonin, and what they refer to as "sleep hygiene." At night I cut out blue light which means for the last two hours of my day I live in a world without the internet or TV. I have to read books or work on projects that don't require the Internet. This means I mostly read books because every project leads back to the Internet.

I was reading Beth Chatto's Gravel Garden the other night and I wanted to look up some plants she described . . . but I couldn't. I just had to jot down a note to research it later. It's probably for the best, since I'd just end up on Plant Lust, then I'd fall down the rabbit hole of Google Images and various garden blogs. How did people garden before the Internet? And how much more productive could I be without an iPad?

In our own gravel garden things are chugging along. We've figured out where we want the deck and now we just have to figure out how to build it. The original plan was to wait on the deck until next summer but as I had rock being delivered, Greg said, "Maybe we should just do it this summer," hence my mad scrambling and panic a few weeks back. All of the sudden that vague rectangle on the paper plan needed to be finalized.

We've marked out the spot for the new deck with yellow spikes that I WILL trip over at some point. We're still deciding whether we want to build the deck before or after the wedding in June.

The parabola-shaped rock wall was changed to an even curve. Greg thinks this is a downgrade but my brain likes it better.

I need to retool some of the planting because I totally planted on a grid and I didn't overlap my plants enough, so I have big blobs of the same plants that don't meld nicely into the other blobs. Anyway.

What did I plant?

The centerpiece of this bed is Arctostaphylos 'St. Helena.' I went to Xera and pumped Paul and Greg for their opinions on the very best manzanitas. I originally wanted A. viscida 'Sweet Adinah' but they warned me that it's prone to randomly losing branches and it's incredibly picky about soil, location, and drainage. St. Helena has those big beautiful leaves and will handle being in a northern aspect (though it's still getting 6-8 hours of sun a day) better than others. I also like how blue the leaves are.

Arctostaphylos manzanita 'St. Helena'

I wanted this bed to be low water and I wanted a lot of grasses. We've got a whole bunch of Schizachyrium 'The Blues', Pennisetum spatheolatum, Anemanthele lessoniana, and Festuca roemeri.

Schizachyrium scoparium 'The Blues' in the garden of Greg Shepherd
Pennisetum spatheolatum send up hundreds of little exclamation points
Anemanthele lessoniana in my side yard
Festuca roemeri Photo source: The Evergreen State College

I have a bunch of Achnatherum calamagrostis on order, which will also get squeezed in here.

I also shoehorned in smaller shrubs like Baptisia 'Purple Smoke' and Hypericum 'Albury Purple.' I also rescued a crapload of Salvia 'May Night' from the front garden so something in this bed wouldn't be tiny. Can you tell I love purple?

I also bought one of those stupid Digiplexis annuals on a whim, which I now regret. I do not like that pink.

Baptisia 'Purple Smoke'

In other parts of the garden, I tore out the flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum) that used to live in between the two clumps of bamboo. I hated the color of the blooms and it's a pretty boring shrub. I vacillated for years about ripping out this one. It's drought tolerant and low maintenance but it wasn't sparking joy, so out it went. I planted a new Ribes in the front garden and it blooms a nice hot pink that plays nicer with all of my orange flowers.

In its place I planted Tetrapanax papyifera 'Steroidal Giant' (which is hiding behind the clump of Acanthus spinosus), Miscanthus purpurescens, a cananna (Canna musafolia), and three Calamagrostis foliosa that I rescued from another part of the garden where they didn't get enough sun to color up like they should.

The back rain garden finally got edged too. It's always had a soil berm edging it, which just petered out into cedar chips.

We're not missing a stone, that's the overflow notch.

It looks pretty silly right now because I'm still futzing with the stone placement. Then all the cedar chips in the pathway will get scraped up and replaced with gravel. I still have so much work to do but I'm pleased with how everything is coming along.

We tested happy hour in the garden this weekend and it still worked! Whew.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Cliches and lawn care

I don't believe in the adage that "everything happens for a reason" but I do really believe that entropy tends toward the good and there will always be something good that comes out of bad. I really wanted to level the back lawn this fall after hearing Maurice talk about it at the Yard Garden &Patio show. I was totally ready to cover my lawn with quarter-ten crushed basalt. I decided in March that I wanted to do it and Maurice said the latest you could do it is April. I started to actually lose sleep, trying to figure out when I could conceivably have seven yards of gravel delivered. I'd need a lot of help and those friends I have that I KNOW will turn out for an unpleasant project had trips planned and projects of their own. I finally decided to hold off until next spring, as I was driving myself crazy.

I had a couple of wheelbarrows full of crushed basalt left over from the front bed, so I dumped it in the lowest, crater-iest part of the lawn and seeded over it.

And it promptly stopped raining. The birds ate all the grass seed. It didn't rain for two weeks.

I am now so thankful that I didn't cover my entire lawn with gravel. It probably wouldn't die, but it wouldn't be very happy and I would've wasted a lot of grass seed (but fed a lot of birds). The upshot is that I only have this silly little patch to deal with. Since it's started raining again, I can put down more seed and hope that it actually sprouts this time.

And next February I'm coming for you, lawn. I'm going to weed the hell out of you between now and then and it'll be ON. Hopefully by that time this will be the only lawn we have. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Yard Garden and Patio Show: New True Grit

This weekend I hit the Yard Garden and Patio show and got the shot in the arm I needed to get me really excited about spring. I only made it to two seminars, sadly, but they both were great. I headed over to the Right Plant, Right Place seminar (Dan Heims, Terra Nova Nurseries). I was feeling sort of "pfft" about it, but the main hall was getting crowded, I was getting tired, and I can sit happily for hours and listen to people talk about plants. It was a treat when they announced that Dan got stuck in Boston in the snowstorm and Maurice Horn of Joy Creek Nursery would be talking about using gravel in the garden.

He described the process of designing a no-water hell strip for five of his neighbors, which was a huge success. Eventually he was asked to design some large hell strips around Reed College. They would receive no supplemental water and they were comprised of the heavy clay soil that's so prevalent here. He talked about two different things: soil prep and great xeric plants.

Xeric plants thrive on very little water but their crowns tend to rot out in our very wet winters. In order to prevent this, they use gravel as mulch, which wicks moisture away from the crown of the plant. They also amend the soil with two inches of quarter ten crushed basalt and two inches of compost. The type of gravel is important. You want crushed basalt, not round gravel, because it travels down into the clay and breaks it up better. Quarter ten gravel has also been washed, which means you won't get fine particulate floating to the top of your beds and forming a concrete crust.

He's also been experimenting with applying gravel to areas of standing water and top-dressing them with compost. This breaks up the water tension and allows the water to percolate down. They have a great article on their blog about how to improve your lawn using 3/4" of gravel and a top dressing of grass seed.

Source: Joy Creek Nursery

The old lawn grows up through the gravel and the new seed germinates on top. You end up with an even lawn (you use the gravel to level uneven spots) that requires less water, less feeding, and stays green longer.

Back in the hellstrip, once you've got your soil prepped with gravel and compost, you can put in plants that require no water in the summer. Some of his suggestions:

Arctostaphylos 'Greensphere,' a "perfect small shrub" whose only drawback is that it grows very slowly to 3' x 3'.

Image source

Ceanothus 'Dark Star.' Maurice says he loves all the Ceanothus but he probably uses this one the most. Dark green leaves and dark blue flowers.

Melicytus alpinus (Hymenanthera), a textural bony plant to 2.5' x 2.5'. This one is covered in intensely white fruit all winter long.

Image source
Grevillea victoriae, a 6x6' shrub that blooms nine-plus months per year and requires almost no water.

Image source: Tall Clover Farm

Cistus 'Elma', which has large white flowers and dark green foliage covered in an aromatic resin that apparently smells amazing.

Image source

Halimium pauanum, which has saturated yellow flowers and an eventual size of 2.5' x 2.5'.

Image source: Joy Creek Nursery
Penstemon davidsonii.

Salvia greggii 'U.C. Pink', a hot hot pink bloomer six months of the year.

Yucca 'Bright Edge', a strap leafed plant that tinges red when the weather turns cold.

Oregon Sunshine (Eriophyllum lanatum), an underused Oregon native that forms a silver mat smothered in yellow flowers.

Image source

Sedum kamtschaticum 'Variegatum', which blooms twice and does well in the shade of shrubs.

Image source: Joy Creek

Veronica armena, whose foliage is like pine needles.

Photo source: Joy Creek

Zauschneria 'Bowman's Hybrid', which Maurice likes to use to camouflage the dying foliage of tulips.

Image source: Joy Creek

Muhlenbergia rigens, which Maurice warned to never cut back, as it will take years to recover.

Image source: Joy Creek

Crocus sativus, or saffron crocus.

Image source

This talk got me so excited to replant my hell strip and try the gravel method on our lawn where the bobcat compacted everything. My hope is to avoid watering in the front yard more than once a week in the summer, so I'll definitely be planting a lot of these. I'm sure Dan's planned talk would've been great but I'm happy that Maurice subbed in. It was just the information I needed.