1-2002 GARDEN PICS  CLEMATISdda

1. GARDENS

I have a lot of fun planting flower gardens around the house, but we also do two large vegetable gardens. One plot is only for sweet corn, and the other plot is for everything else. Many years back my flower gardens were enormous. I had 40 rose bushes, not to mention the thousands of other plants. The hours spent in upkeep were incredible, so when the garden was at its peak I began to downsize. All the roses came out except ten of them. Many of the flower gardens were removed, and I began planting colorful shrubs and lots of hostas. So much easier to take care of! I still have flowers, but they are in areas that are easier to maintain.

Starting in late March I start seedlings inside. Thousands of them! All flowers! But they are annuals so I must do it each spring. The reason I love the annuals is that they bloom all summer long, unlike the perennials which might bloom for two or three weeks and quit. I plant the annuals for the hummingbirds and butterflies.

EAST GARDEN SEPT 2014
Sept. 2015. This is an area about 125′ east of the house that used to hold a large greenhouse. It wasn’t glass, but plastic and didn’t have heat so we ended up giving it to a Mennonite family. When I’m in my yard looking east, it’s so much prettier seeing these flowers instead of that greenhouse. The farthest hill in the distance is on our son’s property. There are lots of riding trails between our two families.

 

Another view of the area in the pic above. The short pink flowers in the foreground are sedum 'Autumn Joy.' The taller pink flowers behind it are all zinnias which I started from seed indoors before transplanting outside.
Another view of the same flower garden in the pic above. The short pink flowers in the foreground are Sedum ‘Autumn Joy,’ and the tallers pink one in the background are zinnias which I started in seed trays indoors in early April.

 

2005 MAY 2 EAST YARDa
A late spring pic of another area. The tall pink flowers are lychnis and the short ones are Saponaria ocymoides, also known as rock soapwort.

In trying to get anything growing around here there were some serious problems to overcome. Our home was built into the side of a steep hill. Since hills are usually very rocky with thin topsoil (as it erodes downhill, depositing richer soil in the valleys), it took years of backbreaking work to establish lawn and flower gardens. When the hill was gouged out to make room for the house, it resulted in a steep, rocky shale bank rising behind the house and one descending in the front of the house. Within two years weeds had taken hold and were coming up between the rock. It was impossible to weedwhack and it looked absolutely horrible. Additionally, without being held in place the banks would erode rapidly. I realized that the only way to make then visually and practically acceptable was to dig the rock out from the shale, and then replace it onto the banks with mortar. I began a long job of mortaring the rock in place, leaving “wells” or openings for plants, and adding stone stairs to access the higher, grass-covered parts of the bank. I worked many long summers to get this accomplished.

1-ANGEL GARDEN ROCKS a
Because we have only a small area of level land, if I wanted to put in a flower garden I had to build a rock wall first, then haul in dirt from elsewhere on the property. Many of the beds, like this one, therefore, are raised beds.

 

1-WATERFALL 1 a
I built this waterfall in the back yard. Since there was already a steep bank there, I used some of the slope and the ever-abundant rock, to make it.

 

2011 AUG 18 OLD STAIRS TO BACK YARDH ROCKSa
This area is also behind the house, where the bank used to be nothing but exposed shale and rock. I first pulled all the rock out and then began replacing it, mortaring it in place and leaving spaces to plant the hostas in. The flatter area in the foreground abuts our driveway. I had to build it up with mortared rock and then haul dirt in so I could plant hostas in it. This pic was taken in May, so the hostas aren’t fully opened.

 

BACK YARD 2015a
After several years, I removed the flat hosta garden in the pic above, and we had a ramp put in that goes to the back deck. Because the soil was so thin there the hostas didn’t thrive, and we figured we might as well prepare for the future with the ramp!

 

NORTH DRIVE JUNE 08a
This is where the mortared wall begins. It goes all the way to the back of the house and probably stretches about 150′ and in some parts it’s about 10′ high. Where it starts, here, the two foot height keeps growing as it gets closer to the back yard.

 

BACK YARD BANK JUNE 08a
The bank in the back yard that I mortared in place, leaving openings to plant the hostas. We had a lot of those patio stones left over from removing the patio and having it poured in cement, so I used the stones to make the stairway. My son calls it the “stairway to nowhere,” since it really doesn’t go anywhere except to the top of the bank. However, it comes in handy when we weed whack the grass above the mortared area.

 

BACKYARDHOSTAS 1a
Another view of the back yard bank with the “pond” that feeds the waterfall in the left foreground.
BAILEY IN GARDEN
Our lab, Bailey, is standing at the bottom of another steep bank. I had to haul in rock to keep the soil from filtering down into the yard.

 

GARDEN_EAST_MAY_31_07 ROCKSa
This is a “spring” pic so it’s not filled out and looking good yet. You can see the rockwork necessary to hold back the bank. In front of the rocks my roses will be taking off and in bloom in less than a month.

I wish I’d kept track of all the bags of mortar mix I went through. On the other hand, maybe it’s better I didn’t! At this point, though, I’m sick to death of mortar and rock and don’t think anything could convice me to buy another bag of it!

WEEPING PEA a
I have been told a few times that 1,000 years from now, when the house and everything in the yard is dust, my rocked banks and rocked retaining walls will still be standing. I’ve also been told that they probably show up on satellite images and provide a “landing” orientation for aliens!
HOSTAS_NORTHWOODS_7_06
This is the top of the mortared bank where it reaches land that was not disturbed during construction of our home, so it has somewhat of a ground cover. We keep this area weed-whacked. Mowing would be faster, but there are just too many rocks laying on top of the ground. It wouldn’t matter if we picked them up every week. More would come rolling down from the higher elevation or be pushed up by frost. We have a lot of those huge rock formations in the woods on the hillside behind our house. They are neat looking. I just don’t want one to get dislodged and end up in my dining room.
OLD POND GARDEN JUNE 2010a
This particular bank borders the yard to the east of the house. This little area was a bit steep to weed-whack, so I made it into a mini-garden. With mortared-in rock, of course.

As mentioned earlier, we are sitting on top of shale and rock. Consequently, we had to haul soil in from elsewhere on our property to provide a base for lawn. I wish we could have hauled in enough to make it two feet deep, but we were only able to get about 4″ in the back yard.

The photo below shows the hole which had to be dug to put in the post for my new bird feeder. There is a little bit of topsoil around the base of the 2″ x 4″ brace on the left, but look at the pile of shale and rock that were dug out of the hole. That’s what the entire back yard is. Trying to keep the grass on it looking good takes twice yearly fertilizing and constant watering, as the rain just soaks through the topsoil and drains into the shale. Thankfully, the back yard is very small!

BIRD FEEDER SHALE BACK Ya

The backyard has the thinnest soil. To the east of the house, it’s  bit better, but in order to plant I had to constantly add composted manure. Thankfully, we always had enough horses to oblige. I began replacing some of the flower gardens with hostas several years ago. So easy to maintain! They also do a great job of suppressing weeds.

1-1-BAILEY OUT EAST
This area used to be filled with blooming flowers, but over the years the pine trees got so large that too much sun was blocked, so I planted it in hostas. I love hostas! With their large, thick leaves, they do a great job of suppressing weeds. My goal is to get gardens that maintain themselves. Hostas are also fairly forgiving of their environment. They don’t need to be fertilized and since their large leaves shade the ground, preventing water evaporation, rainfall provides enough water without having to get out the hose. I hate dragging out the hose! It’s like trying to deal with an anaconda.

 

IMG_4414a
I have always like color contrast, so I’m a big fan of shrubs that are red or purple. The big ones in the background are much redder than this picture shows, as they are in shade. They are ninebark, ‘Diablo.’

 

The smaller hostas in the garden on the left were planted a year previous to this pic.
The smaller hostas in the garden on the left were planted a year previous to this pic. Way in the back is that ugly white, vinyl greenhouse. It came out about a month after this pic was taken.

 

IMG_4347
June…. a year later than the pic above. Hostas are starting to fill in. None of the roses are in bloom yet.

 

EAST HOSTAS 2014
A different view of the hostas in the pic above.

 

The bank in front of the house was as steep as the one in the back, but at least it was mainly soil. But erosion was a real problem until I planted it will about a thousand hostas or so.
The bank in front of the house was as steep as the one in the back, but at least it was mainly soil. But erosion was a real problem until I planted it will about 500 hostas or so.

 

The hostas here were planted about two years before this pic was taken. They are on a bank, so water drains quickly, but as least there is quite a bit of soil on this bank and not shale.
The hostas here were planted about two years before this pic was taken. They are on a bank, so water drains quickly, but as least there is quite a bit of soil on this bank and not shale.

 

Hostas planted down the driveway. The row stops just about where the driveway curves to the left in the distance.
Hostas planted down the driveway. The row stops just about where the driveway curves to the left in the distance. Sometimes the deer eat a few of these down to the ground. Oh well…. we’ll get back at them next hunting season!

 

A different view of some of the shrub border, containing barberry (red shrubs) and 'Diablo,' the dark one at the end.
Looking back towards the house;  the shrub border, containing barberry (red shrubs) and ‘Diablo,’ the dark one at the end. The tall pink flower in the foreground is Eupatorium maculatum, more commonly known as Joe Pye weed. It usually doesn’t bloom till August.

 

1-ROSES
Some of the roses I kept when I ripped out others that required too much maintenance. These are ‘Knock-Out’ roses. They are resistant to diseases which plague many other cultivars. They start blooming in May and continue blooming til killed by frost. They don’t need to be dead-headed, either. I simply put a bit of composted manure and some Epsom salt in their holes in the spring and they are good to go!

I once had someone ask me about planting roses, and I told her, “Don’t put a twenty-dollar rose into a ten-cent hole!”  What I mean by that is that if a person takes the time to really prepare the hole and the soil before planting the rose, the rest is easy sailing.  I make the hole three times larger than the root ball and three times as deep. Put the soil into a pile and then add a LOT of composted manure, rotted leaves, about a cup of Epsom salts, and a big portion of peat moss. I try to aim for about 60% original soil and 40% additives; less additives if the soil is rich, more additives if the soil is poor. Once you’ve got a great hole established, with plenty of room for the roses’ roots to spread into it, you’ll be rewarded with great roses requiring only a shot of manure each spring, although a bit of Epsom salt helps too.

1-IMG_0639
‘Knock-Out’ roses. Great performers.

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