Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Garden Project : Day 1

I have been dreaming and scheming about a garden reno project in my upper yard for over a year now. Today the shovel finally hit the soil, and the dream is starting to become a reality.

I have a "problem" area in my upper yard which has been causing me some grief for what seems to be years now. From the outside, it looks like a pretty nice and orderly garden. Here it is in June, with beautiful pink and white peony blooms, and a tidy row of hostas providing edging (click any photo for a slightly larger view):
Upper garden in Summer
Here it is in August, still looking pretty nice from the outside:
Upper garden in August
Upper garden in August
But one step inside the garden area, and the story changes... Here, the landscape is wildly overgrown with monster grasses (mainly my dreaded Carex Pendula, which found itself too perfect a spot in this moist area, and proceeded to reseed itself by the millions!!):
Upper garden in monster grasses
In this area, a drainage issue means that at times the whole area is muddy, pulling the garden clogs off anyone who dares to step there. There is a drainage pipe running along the base of the retaining wall, and then in this area, takes a sharp angle to pipe the water across the yard and then down to connect into the foundation drainage. The problem is that the pipe is barely below the surface, so if I dig anywhere in that area, the water prefers to run into that new low spot, rather than take the turn to run along the pipe. After that, it finds its way down the slope, making the whole hillside very wet.

My plan last summer was to lay down a small triangular flagstone path, to allow access into this area, careful to keep the soil level high to keep the drainage system working as intended. I had even picked out the stone for the path, but the landscaper I spoke with, didn't make time to come, and I eventually got too busy myself as well. So as I waited and continued to plan, I realized that while I was spending time and money on this project, I may as well really expand and make this area more useful.

This year, the plan has become quite clear in my mind. The area will be a sort of "secret garden", with higher plantings around the edges, an oval flagstone path with a garden area and granite bench (and likely a lamp pole too) in the center, and an entrance through an arbour covered (eventually) in clematis or other vines. There will be a less formal stepping stone pathway through the lawn, connecting this new pathway to the stone-faced stairway from the lower yard to the upper yard. A faint drawing (you really need to use your imagination - or click to expand and it is somewhat more readable) is below:
Garden plan
The garden area will be expanded, to allow for a reasonable sized island garden in the center of the path, and to take advantage of the flatter upper part of the area (the lower part is quite sloped). Here is the new garden edge I planned, outlined with a hose a few days ago:
Garden expansion planning
Garden expansion planning
Happily, my landscaper, who delayed me all summer for some reason or another, finally (after many phone calls) showed up today with a helper, and the two of them dug out all the plants in that area, and will continue on Thursday with levelling and preparing the area for the walkway's sand base, as well as tackling the drainage problem (they got a nice stream running today, after digging around that area). Here is the project at the end of this first day, with the lawn removed to the new garden edge, and the plants waiting in pots to the side:
Garden reno day 1
Garden reno day 1


Laura Gardens in Desert said...

How exciting, I can't wait to see the end result and the progress is always facinating too. Your soil is rich, you are very lucky!

Garden Lily said...

Laura - You're right that my soil is very rich, but that's because when we got here, it was clay so hard I couldn't put a shovel into it, only a pick-axe could turn it over. So we ended up trucking in probably $10,000 of good garden soil, and just piling it on top of the clay. For this project, we'll probably end up buying yet more soil again.

Phoenix C. said...

That looks like a big project and will make a great difference. I'll be interested to see the progress. I love seeing step-by-step photos of gardens being designed and the results!

Garden Lily said...

As a postscript, while my landscaper started digging up this garden, there was lots of water, and it turned out it was not just a drainage issue, but a leak in the water supply hose which runs from the house to the hose bib in the upper yard. I don't know when that leak occurred, but it could conceivably have been from installation, but the drainage system had been successfully taking the leaked water away, as long as the soil level stayed high enough not to let the water drain down to the garden.

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