Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Friday, April 6, 2018

My Winter Project

Readers may recall last year I ordered a ton of gravel with plans to build a new path as well as redo some of the paths already existing in my garden. I used some of the gravel to put a path through one of my front garden beds, and to put a second path in the area behind the stream, which I posted about here. I called that post On The Path Unwinding (Part One). This is On The Path Unwinding (Part Two).

I spent most of the winter working on another path, as well as redoing one of the beds that is adjacent to it. I call that bed The Bottle Tree Bed, because it has a bottle tree in it, but I'm changing the name to The Lost Bottle Bed. Do you know what it means to lose your bottle?

A path once existed there in the center, sunny part of the bed, in fact, the flagstones were still there, just completely overgrown with weeds and perennials. The path leads from the patio to the raised beds where I once grew vegetables.

The bed under the cluster of Douglas firs gets a small amount of sun, maybe an hour or two in the morning, and then shade for pretty much the rest of the day. When we first moved here it was a sunnier area, but the shrubs that I planted in the bed have grown up. So the sun-loving perennials that have been growing there have tended to grow tall and leggy and flop all over each other.

There's a path there, I promise!

Here you can see two of the flagstones, the others are buried under all those fir needles

After four or five days of work (each day separated by a week or more of recuperation) digging, dividing and tossing, I managed to more or less clear out the  bed of sun-loving perennials and have uncovered the flagstones.
That point where the curb meets the patio was always a problem (a weedy nightmare), and I was never satisfied with the stones -- the way they were placed, the fact that there weren't enough, and that they were set in soil instead of gravel, which just encourages weeds and perennials to sow themselves amongst them.
The same path as seen from the other end -- that hardy Geranium x Biokovo Karmina had completely covered the last few flagstones

Chrysanthemum 'Sheffield Pink' was one of the perennials that I took out and divided into many, many four-inch pots
This enormous Hellebore was the first I ever planted in this garden, 9 years ago.

The root ball on that Hellebore was 24 inches across and too heavy for me to lift. The center was bare, so my plan was to cut it in quarters with a bow saw and replant it in four pieces. Savvy readers may remember I featured this Hellebore in a Wednesday Vignette, when I failed to plant it last fall and it sent up lots of flower stalks, despite being out of the ground for the entire winter.

I removed this Hydrangea 'Invincibelle Spirit'

This yellow tree Peony (Paeonia ludlowii), which has never flowered but gets bigger every year, has been moved to a sunnier spot

The entire bed sits under the cluster of Douglas firs that have been the pooping grounds of the raccoons that plague my existence (I wrote a blog post about it here). Last September I spent one disgusting Saturday afternoon on hands and knees wearing a respirator mask and two pairs of nitrile gloves, carefully cleaning up and disposing of every single piece o' poop. It was not fun, and was actually the cause of the painful shoulder and neck problems that hindered me for the rest of the fall.

After the clean-up, I put down hardware cloth cages, set in place with earth staples, and covered with the dead, scratchy, lower branches from a Ceanothus, as an attempt at deterrence. Since then I've only found one more raccoon poop, which leads me to think they have given up using this area as a bathroom.

I've left the cages and branches in place, and I've moved the four big sword ferns that were growing in this bed into spots right in front of them, as well as planted the rest of the area with other scratchy plants such as a low-growing Mahonia that self-sows in my garden, and some Epimedium wushanense.

A closer look at the hardware cloth cages, which I've used in the past to protect seedlings from being dug up.

The cages extend all the way around the cluster of Douglas fir trees

The path area with the stones removed with Nigel's help

Pile of old flagstones added to new ones set aside last spring

After a few hours of work, I managed to dig and replant one of the sword ferns, and moved some of the soil out of the way to refill with gravel

After a winter of rain, cold and intermittent snow, I started working on the path again by filling in the trench with gravel.

Nigel helped with hauling gravel and tamping down

I made a start laying out the flagstones

Most of the flagstones laid out -- the pots along the right-hand side will be sunk halfway in the ground to become part of the path edging, along with rocks and wine bottles

A few weeks later -- New path and path edging that consists of bottles, sunken pots and large rocks

New path and path edging from the other direction

I plan to fill those sunken pots in the edging with shade-loving annuals like tuberous Begonias and perennials like Podophyllums and Rogdersia. Once I had the path laid out and the edging in place on the right-hand side, I started planting the bed with plants that I had started collecting last fall.

A trio of Mahonia 'Soft Caress'

Mahonia gracilipes has replaced the Hydrangea

A Schefflera taiwanniana now sits where the tree peony once was

The divided Hellebore is finally back in the ground and has started producing new foliage

A trio of Beesia, Cyclamen hederifolium and Hart's tongue fern

Here's a list of what I've planted in that bed.

Hosta 'Loyalist'
Hosta 'Whirlwind'
Hakonechloa macra 'All Gold'
Aspidistra elatior 'Variegata'
Cyclamen hederifolium
Polygonatum x hybridum 'Striatum'
Iris foetidissima
Primula pulverulenta
Asplenium scolopendrium 'Angustatum'
Epimedium 'Orange Queen'
Beesia calthifolia
Geranium x oxonianum 'Wargrave Pink'
Aralia cordata 'Sun King'
Primula japonica
Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost'
Mahonia gracilipes
Mahonia eurybracteata 'Soft caress'
Schefflera taiwaniana 'DJHT 7036'
Euonymus hamiltoniana ssp. sieboldianus
Saxifraga stolonifera 'Maroon Beauty'
Oxalis oregana
Aquilegia vulgaris 'Woodside strain'
Dicentra formosa
Epimedium wushanense
Helleborus argutifolius

I'm going to see how that all fills in over the summer and tweak it. I'd like to add some Ajuga 'Black Scallop' and some rosettes of Saxifraga x urbium 'London Pride.' Some of those plants -- the Aralia, Hostas, Epimedium, Polygonatum, and the Hakone grass -- were still dormant pots of dirt a few weeks ago when I bunged them in the ground, so there's no telling if they survived the winter in their little nursery pots.

As always, the process uncovered lots of rocks. My soil is glacial till, which is sandy soil sifted over rocks. In addition, when we first moved here, this bed had been mulched with river rock, which our contractor buried in the soil of the bed when he redid our back garden.

Big pile of rocks

Even bigger pile of rocks

More big rocks that I can use as edging for the other side of the path

Never-ending supply of rocks

What do I do with this pile of rocks?

Or this bucket full?

Or this one?

Or these 3 gallon-size pots full of rocks?


Oh, what I would give to be able to put a spade into soil and have it go in easily without making that clunking sound of metal on rock.

I have more makeovers planned. The bed to the left of the path is going to be the home of many of the red, purple and black-flowered seedlings that I've started this year, as well as other shrubs and perennials that I've collected in the pot ghetto. I'm moving plants around and adding to the beds in the front as well.

It's a never-ending story, this gardening lark.