It seems like I have deserted the Big Project, but I have not. I've just been too tired at night to journal what's happening. So here's where we stand as of tonight:
Tuesday - bought and spread 10 bags of gravel. The "buying" part wasn't too bad, but by the time I loaded the sacks on a cart at the store and pushed them thru check-out, I had sense enough to ask for help loading them into my car! At home, I had to unload onto a garden cart and then dump the gravel into the box - not too hard actually, just lots of pounds of rocks!
Thursday - the plants arrived from Santa Fe! High Country Gardens is a class act. Everything arrived in excellent shape - via three day delivery. Nothing was dried out and there was zero damage to the plants. I watered everything and put all the plants in a shady spot to wait. I also picked up 16 bags of sand at the garden center. I was smart enough to get two carts this time, and again, I got help from the nice folks at the garden center loading the car.
Friday - spread the sand. At the right hand end of the box it's about two inches deep and at the left it's four inches. The plants that need the best drainage will go at the left of the box. Once the sand was spread, I started moving dirt from the compost pile. Remember the three wheelbarrow loads of "good" dirt I removed from the site? Well, that was a drop in the bucket to refilling the box. Remember, I built it up 15 inches at one end and six at the other. I am estimating that I have 75 cubic feet inside the box! After dinner [when it cooled off] I loaded more dirt for a total of 17 wheelbarrow-fuls and had the box about half filled.
Saturday - early this morning I started again on the dirt. Six more loads and the right compost pile was empty - actually I dug down about 8 inches below grade before hitting clay again. Fortunately, I had a Plan B. Under the left compost pile was another pile of dirt. I flipped the pile from left to right, moving all the loose and dry material over into the hole on the right side and started digging on the left. Many more loads and I finally filled the box. Unfortunately, I lost count of the loads this morning, but am guessing that it was a total of 35 or so. Remember that this are "girl loads". The only excitement of the morning was the discovery of a black snake in the dirt under the left compost pile. I dug into him and scared him way more than he scared me, so I gave him a few minutes of privacy to disappear. When I returned to digging, tho, I kept plenty of distance from that part of the pile and kept my feet well away from the shovel. Lesson in composting: there may be snakes in your pile. Chances are they are not dangerous, but keep an eye out!
This afternoon we did a bit more shopping for plants to fill the space. Orange had a great sale on perennials and I got five more that I had not planned on having. Tomorrow we will have the big reveal. Don't get too excited yet, tho. I am planting perennials, so I am planning for the future. It will look sparce for at least a year, and won't be gorgeous until two years from now.
Hard to believe it's been just over a month since I started this blog. Somehow it seems like much longer. I went back today to look at the goals I shared in the beginning and thought you would want a progress report.
1) The purple river. Overall, I am pleased with how this is coming, but it will be the middle of the summer before we will be able to see it all and next year before it will be really pretty - such is the reality of the garden. The salvia 'May Night' that I planted last fall are looking really good (center back and far right back), as are the geraniums (left front). The hydrangea has buds, but will not bloom until mid-to-late June, so it will look better later. The new perennials I added this spring are growing - well, some of them - and will hopefully look better as they get larger. It appears that fewer than half of the bulbs I planted last month are coming up. Perhaps the rest are just slow, but I fear they are not going to make it. I hadn't used this nursery before, so doubt that I will use them again.
I need to continue to work on this area. I need to look at different shades of purple, as well as different heights and textures to make it more interesting. I have seen some small iris in the neighborhood that are very dark in color. I need to see if I can barter for some to add both height and contrast. When the aquilegia [columbine] spreads that will help, too, since they are quite dark.
2) Planting around the pond: I haven't done much, but it does look better anyway. The ground covers I planted last fall have spread, as has the yarrow and the large clump of daylilies at the far right edge of the pond [see below]. These are a locally propagated lily 'Richmond Spider' that is considered "red". You will see later in the summer that it's in the orange family, but definitely to the red end of the spectrum. I added several verbinas [Homestead Purple and an annual variety] and cut back the buddelia. The latter has really filled out and thickened up. It should be pretty when it blooms. In the pond itself, the iris have about doubled in size, so hopefully will provide more blooms this year. I also added a varigated water parsley. The varigation is both cream and pink. The water lilies are getting ready to bloom and are already as full as they got last year over the whole summer. The pond is a perfect example of how well benign neglect works in the garden.
3) The shrub rose is long gone and replaced by an Emerald Arborvitae. I love the height it brings to back of the border.
4) The raised area in the corner. I planted a new clematis on the wrought iron gate (center of photo, it's not up enough to see), but that's all I've added. I didn't really have a plan for this area, but as I look at it now perhaps it planned itself. The shrubs are going well and provide a background for that end of the garden; we pruned out all the dead branches of the weigelia and trimmed back the flowering almonds this spring. They are all full grown now and all blossomed well this year.
The pink iris were pretty, but looked skimpy. I think when the clematis matures a bit (two years) and I add a few more iris, it will look fine. When I get iris for the river, I will get extras to put here to pull the two areas together color-wise. There is an amsonia to the right that I have pulled out twice, but keeps coming back. I think I will maintain that strategy to keep it small. [This is a plant that was way bigger than advertised and I have to really keep working to keep it small. It's gorgeous in the fall when it turns gold - really ! - and pretty now with pale blue blooms, but it's branchy and grows too fast for me.] In the far left you can just see a tall planter. It has a mini-rose bush that was a birthday gift a couple of years ago and blooms almost non-stop all summer.
5) The seating area by the pond is just great. We use it nearly every evening when we feed the fish. It's a great place to relax at the end of the day. Mitchell found two small tables - just in case someone needs a place to put a glass... or a cereal bowl. It's one of my favorite places to sit early in the morning to think or read. Right now the fragrance of the peonies makes it especially nice, but I think that even when all the flowers are gone the foliage will continue to provide a nice shady nook for us to enjoy.
So, in only a month two goals are completely met and three well under way. And the big project - which is not even on the list - is also well underway. I don't think of myself as a goal-setting person, but maybe I am. I saw these more as projects I wanted to complete this summer, and not as high-faluting as "goals".
Maybe that is a lesson for life; that goals don't have to be lofty. They can be little projects that we want to accomplish.
No work today. A slow drizzly overnight rain was still hanging around this morning, along with a cool front that dropped the temperature but left a yucky-stay-inside kind of day. To be truthful, I was glad. With every muscle and joint in my body aching from yesterday, I was glad for the day off!
It is giving me a chance to see if I am right about the natural drainage of the raised bed. So far, water does not stand, but we have only gotten a half inch of rain, so I need to see how it does with a true downpour. Hopefully, we will have some nicer weather this week and I can finish shoveling out the rest of the dirt and start putting in the gravel. Time will tell.
Lessons learned: One - I'm not as young as I wish I were and need to take heavy work a bit slower - if I wish to walk the next day. And, two: wear more sunscreen. The new Neutrogena 70+ works great, but you need to put it everywhere!
What could be nicer than watching the seasons come and go in the garden. I hope to retire in about three years and spend more time just digging in the dirt. I'm not a professional gardener, but enjoy putting my hands in the dirt and seeing what happens.
For now, let's enjoy it together!