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Spring Gardening

Filed in:Our Life
Rachel·Scott

Spring Gardening

March 16th, 2010  · stk

2010 is officially "The Year of the House", as Scott refocuses on things closer to home. One of the first projects of the year was to revamp their front planter, building a trellis and creating a visual divide for an outdoor "room". See what he's been up to.

A Long 2010 To-do List

We've been living on our 5-acre Yellow Point wooded lot for over three years now. Each year it seems we have a laundry list of things to do, but the summer season always rushes by and the list just gets longer. It looks like 2010 might be "The Year of the Home", as Scott has been making more of a commitment to the property and less to his computer (as you can tell by the dirth of recent posts here).

One of the projects he's tackled recently, has been revamping the front planter box. This involved removing an overgrown Hydrangea, pervasive St. John's Wort, building a five-foot-tall lattice fence, amending the soil and planting some new (deer-resistant) flowering and climbing plants.

Follow along as Scott and Rachel plan their new garden and see the results of all of Scott's labor. (We'll update with another photo at the end of the growing season and continue with updates, to see if our "future planning" actually comes to fruition).

Let the Digging Begin

One of the things we wanted to accomplish with this project was to help create an 'outdoor room'. We liked the idea of a partition of some sort, that divided the gravel patio, which we use for barbecuing and outdoor eating during the summer months, from the front patio and driveway / parking area beyond. This offers visual separation between a 'recreation area' and more 'industrial area'. We didn't, however, want to completely obliterate the view, just help "define" it better.

Our idea was to create a vegetated "wall", which spanned the garden, about four to five feet tall (low enough to see over, when standing, but high enough to visually shield us if we were sitting down). Before we could build the wall, however, we had to remove the woody, overgrown Hydrangea bush. Scott got after this bush in February (after noticing that buds were forming early).

"We better move this thing soon, or it'll be here another year," he said (Scott can't kill a plant, so wanted to transplant it to another area of the yard and give it a good chance of survival).

It was a tad of work to get the Hydrangea out of the ground, as it's root system extended under the concrete patio. Hacking was required, but we're hoping that it'll thrive in it's new location, which is a wilder, open garden space near the forest. There, it'll have plenty of space to grow out and up.

With the Hydragea removed, that left a variegated, non-flowering creeper, St. John's Wort (a prolific, weed-like plant) and a small bit of Heather.

We like the heather and vowed to incorporate it into the final garden, somehow. It has pretty wine-colored flowers and blooms at a very unusual time (January-April), providing color at a time most other plants are just waking up from their winter's sleep.

 

The Great Divide

Getting the truck out to Rona to buy a 4-foot by 8-foot sheet of lattice makes little sense, so the project languished until Scott had a reason to take the truck to town for a multitude of stops. (We tried fitting the cedar lattice sheet into our Subaru station wagon, but it wouldn't fit).

Finally, the lattice (and a couple of cedar 2x4's) were purchased. Scott then sunk two cedar 4x4 posts (which we had on hand), ripped the 2x4's into 2x2's, made dado cuts to hold the lattice and then assembled the new "fence" (basically a sturdy trellis). After it was assembled, Scott stained it using the same Behr products that we use on the main house.

To the left is a picture that shows the project at this stage. (We printed this photo and took it down to our local nursery, which helped us to explain the project to the proprietor and gave her some visuals that allowed her to make plant recommendations).

 

Down to the Nursery We Go

One of the main challenges of where we live, is finding plants that aren't eaten by the deer. Over the few years we've been here, we've lost tomato plants, many bulbs (that never flowered), potted plants and herbs, to those hungry browsers. (Mind you, with all of the construction at the end of our street this past year, we've seen much fewer deer on the property than normal). Still, finding deer-resistant plants is a prime consideration when making a plant purchase.

It was for this reason that we solicited a very local nursery for help. Kleijn Nursuries is a family-run affair not far from where we live. Catherine, one of the proprietors, spent ample time with us, discussing our project, deer-resistant species and ultimately, helped us select plants that were not only beautiful, but ones that would work together, as they grew.

While Catherine showed us several species that we could use, Rachel and I decided on combining three species of plants. We bought one climbing plant, a fast-growing Clematis, a variety called "The President". Catherine assured us that one plant would rapidly cover our 7-foot-wide and 5-foot-tall trellis. It has a showy violet-magenta flower that blooms all summer long. It's not a destructive climber and can be pruned. ("A light pruning as buds swell in early spring, with some variation in the length of each stem, will help produce a well-balanced plant", the instructions say.)

Immediately below the trellis, we planted three Ceanothus gloriosus plants (also known as the a "Point Reyes creeper"). This plant spreads horizontally, but keeps a low profile (1.5-2.0 meter spread with a 0.2-0.4 meter height). It likes full sun, is an evergreen, has showy blue-to-violet flower clusters, which peak in early summer. It's also deer resistant (they don't like to eat it, but will, if they're starving). We figure that these plants will provide the bulk of ground-cover for the planter and since they'll easily accept pruning, we can keep them sized the way we want.

Around the periphery of the garden, we've planted more Heather. It turned out to be a variety called "Kramer's Red" (an Erica x darleyensis cross). Heather (or more correctly - 'heath' - because it blooms in early spring) tolerates full sun or partial shade. We learned that you're supposed to trim it, to the base of each flower stalk, after it's done flowering (something we hadn't done for our existing heather). Doing this is supposed to help keep the center of the plant dense and healthy - one reason why our's looks a tad spindly, no doubt!

See all the great stuff you can learn from your helpful neighbor nursery?

We just love the wine-colored flowers, which compliment the trim of our house and come at a time that there isn't much color. Heather really is a pretty plant and - bonus - it's also an evergreen and deer resistant! Yay ... a hardy plant we'd have to work hard to kill!

Of course, Scott had to remove all the St. John's Wort. (We didn't know what it was until we described it for Catherine). The link accurately describes this plant as a "weed-like perennial". We have to constantly cut it back to make room for other plants and - if left alone - would completely take over any bed in which it was planted. It has three redeeming qualities: it grows just about anywhere, it has pretty yellow flowers and (for us) it's deer-safe (it's supposedly toxic to cows). Of course, it has many medicinal uses and - as mentioned before - Scott couldn't just "kill it", so he transplanted it to another part of the yard (next to the split cedar rail fence), placing it where nothing else was growing.

It was as if Scott were saying, "I dare you to grow here! If you can, you live. If not, well, I gave you a chance!" (About as close as he can come to killing a plant).

 

Final Results

Even though the fence is up, the garden soil tilled and amended with two bags of Sea Soil and the new plants are in, the project still isn't "final".

Besides deer, one of our other great pests is none other than our own pussy cat, Tuxedo. It seems that since he's gotten on in years, his days of roaming and carousing are gone. Now, a big trip for him is venturing out to a sunny spot on the grass and then making the long trek back to his supper bowl. The same applies to his potty spots, which have become odorously close to the front door.

It won't take Tuxedo long to discover how lusciously soft the new garden soil is and within a few days, he'll be soiling the soil (and digging up plants as he likes to "cover his business").

We're hoping that some thick bark mulch will help deter him from turning our new project into a kitty litter box (Scott actually built him a sand box to use, behind the house. Do you think he uses it? No! It must be "too far" for him (or something). Dumb cat!)

Anyway ... we still need to lay down this bark and - of course - the project won't be complete until it's had time to mature and grow. Only then will we learn if we picked our plants properly! So stay tuned, as we'll post year-on follow-ups to this story.

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Updated: 17-Mar-2010
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