Saturday, March 26, 2016

Hiccup Number 1: We found the old pool

Some time in the 1960s (we think) the owner's of our house removed the small swimming pool they had in the back yard. We were hoping to put in a pool of our own but logistics and cost made us decide to not do a swimming pool but put in a small reflecting pool instead.

This morning as they continued to prep the back yard for the delivery of our trees next week. They discovered the old pool. And they discovered that most of it had to be broken up and carted away. Not only is it in the way of where the hornbeams are set to go, but it is also in the way of where the reflecting pool is going.

So our landscaper made a quick call to a rental equipment center and they thankfully had the additional machinery needed to break up the old concrete and cart it out. I don't know why we didn't think that the old pool might still be under there somewhere. Oh well, all's well that ends well.

The earth mover on top of what turned out to be the old pool.

The pool emerges from the earth.

The walls of the pool are gone, the bottom of it being broken up so the new trees have proper drainage.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

No, a pleached hornbeam is not a medical condition

The leaves of the American Hornbeam

Not only is mother nature dictating the terms of our planting schedule but she is also dictating my blogging. The first post following the 'before' pictures really should be to show you the overall plan for the garden so you can get the lay of the land. But we have seven American Hornbeams (Carpinus caroliniana) with our name on them at the nursery and they need to get in our ground by the end of March. Any later and the transplant will be less than successful. I could just wait and blog about them after the fact, but my hope is to blog about the garden project in real time as much as possible.

So, what's the deal with all the hornbeams? The plan is to have them along the fence at the back of our property to provide a backdrop for the rest of the garden and to provide additional screening. The American hornbeam, also known as blue-beech and musclewood, is a shade loving hardwood tree that can grow to about 30 feet.

Ours will be pleached which will keep them from getting that tall. Pleaching is the process of training tree branches horizontally, usually in a line, so that the branches of different trees meet up and sometimes grow together by forming natural grafts. Interestingly, pleaching has been used over the centuries to strengthen and knit together hedgerows as a natural fence for containing livestock.

These aren't our hornbeams but it does give you a good idea of the effect.

The result will be a thin hedge on stilts. At least that is the plan.

I believe these lovely pleached hornbeams are in Ireland.

Although I have great faith in John's gardening abilities, this seems like something that should be left to experts. So we are. Back in early December our landscape architect chose seven 12-foot specimens that the nursery then began to train in preparation for our spring planting. Once installed, the nursery will provide additional training assistance. Of course it will take some time for the branches to fill in, but I think that will be part of the fun.

This is one of our hornbeams. The tape measure the nursery worker is holding shows the six-foot mark.

Another great thing about the hornbeam is that they keep their leaves on until new growth in the spring pushes them off. This will help maintain the visual screening through the winter months.

If fences make the best neighbors what does a lovely, green, growing screen make?

Some other type of pleached tree.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Lucy's finally getting a garden

No, it isn't fall, just leftover leaves from last year.
After being back in the house for a year and three months, we are finally ready to get going on the yard project. We've had a conceptual design since before we even hired an architect to do the house renovation. John is so garden crazy that he wanted to put the garden cart before the house renovation-horse. But when we realized how important the geometry of the addition would be to determining the geometry of the yard, we had to put those on the shelf for about five years.

In future posts I will talk more about the design process and how we got to where we are today, but for now, I just wanted to get the BEFORE pictures on record. In less than two weeks we will begin demolition and by the end of the month we will have seven hornbeams installed with the rest of the site grading, hardscape, irrigation, lighting, and planting to follow that.

Although the garden is more John's bag than mine, by a long shot, his interest and knowledge has sharpened and amplified my own interest in gardens and gardening. My mom and two of her siblings are natural born gardeners, so it does run in my blood, but with John around I get to be more of an observer than a doer.

Whatever I lack in creativity, skill, or knowledge, I make up for in destructive energy and organization. After so many years contemplating all of this work, it is suddenly upon us and we needed to get our act together. One of the things we had to do was clean out the old shed that is being demolished and decide which of the pots and other garden equipment would be kept.

Aside from the house and driveway, nothing will look the same in three months. The 60-year old privet hedge has seen better days and will replaced by a new yew hedge. 

The weird shaped bed that we inherited will be replaced with something that
makes much more sense and will have a partner bed on the other side of the front yard.

The curvy front walk will be replaced with a straight one and the paving material will be a thermal finish bluestone.
The shed goes away and the neighbor's fence gets covered up with a new fence just on the inside of our property line.

The old privet hedge is in even worse shape back here. It, and the chain link will be replaced by new wood fencing.

The downspouts will be channeled into underground drainage pipes so the long black snakes will be gone. The existing chain link gate at the front side of the porch (hard to see in this picture) will be replace with wood picket and an arched trellis.
This shed has looked like it was going to fall over since the day we moved in, but it has been surprisingly sturdy and roomy. The bluestone steps will be reused as paving in various parts of the yard.

I call this area 'the back 40'. It used to be home to a swing set and prior to that a swimming pool. As a result, there was planting in front of it that has always served as a visual block that made this part of the yard a bit of a no go zone. Our new plans, and the removal of the shed will give our yard the feeling of more depth.

Since we were taking up precious yard with a new garage, we made sure it was a cute as possible so that it would look like a little cottage or carriage house and serve as a nice background for the garden.

When we cleaned out the shed I found this bit of natural taxidermy. We think he tried to crawl up the drainage hole in the bottom of the pot and got stuck. He is so well preserved, but it makes me a little weepy.

We think this may have been part of the rest of him.

Lots to choose from come planting season.

This desiccated fellow didn't make me as sad as the previous one.

Lots of garden shed stuff that needs to be sorted and organized. The retaining wall on the right will have a wood fence above it with new ground cover and holly on the neighbor's side.