Tuesday, February 6, 2018

A New Patio and The Rest of the Gardens


The first project we undertook in the
backyard was to build a paver patio.
We rented a sod cutter and my friend Tim and I removed 3" of sod and dirt from a 10' x 13' area next to the house.  In hindsight, we should have brought it further forward, perhaps even with the end of the sun room.
After removing the soil, I filled the area with gravel and used PVC pipe to make sure the gravel was sloped away from the house foundation.

                           

Next came sand and the laying of pavers.
 
Using a level as a straight edge to keep from straying from straight and parallel.
The finished patio
Gazebo installed and ready for relaxation.

The Gardens of the Back and South Side Yard

The west side of the house encompasses the back yard and is the largest green space we have.  The north end of the backyard is where I built Rusty Rooster Farm and the greenhouse, discussed in an earlier post.  I added a flower bed that is joined to the existing bed that goes from the front of the yard, down the enter length of the north side of the house  and now wraps around the corner.  I would have made this bed longer, but utilities and the air conditioner prevented that.  Even though I can't find a picture of it, I built a screen around the utilities and air conditioner to hide those eyesores and to attempt to reduce the noise form the air conditioner.  While it definitely hides those items, it is less successful at quieting the air conditioner, so this Spring I'm going to add styrofoam insulation between the frame boards and then cover the back with reeding. 


 

The next garden I added was on the side of the garage, which has a southern exposure as the neighbor has a row of 40-50 year old trees that are 30'-40' tall along the property line.  The trees limit the amount of sun the area gets and early morning is when the sun is strongest. These conditions call for shade loving plants, most of which came from a friend's yard. She was removing a bed in her 1 acre property (oh, what I could do with that much land) and told me I was welcome to come over and dig up whatever I wanted.



After finishing the garage garden, I went to the garage sale I haunt each Spring, bought several new plants and once again was in need of another bed.  The south side of the house gets about the same light as the garage does and I bought accordingly, creating what will probably be the last bed next to the house, as there is almost no more space available.



Since there is only a 3' tall chainlink fence between us and the neighbor behind us, we decided we needed some privacy fencing, but didn't want to go to the expense of fencing the entire back of the property.  I decided to replicate the screen I built to hide the air conditioner, but longer.  I sunk four 4"x4"x8' posts into concrete and used 2"x4"x8' pine as the stretchers.  I then used chicken wire staples to attach reed fencing to the frame.  As you can see in the second photo, it didn't provide much privacy and I didn't think a second layer on the back would be much better. so I wound up screwing pine fence boards to the back.  Having created a new canvas against which to plant, I roto-tilled a bed approximately 15" wide the length of the fence and planted nine rose bushes, including several climbers.  The last item on the agenda was cutting the post tops so that they were even and installing solar post cap lights.
 




The latest beds are on the south property line, which as previously noted is very shady, so it is the perfect spot to plant hostas and other shade loving flowering plants.  I curved the beds as I find it more pleasant that simple rectangular beds and matched them so that the fence interrupts the flow as little as possible.



 Next post I'll show off the many day lilies that grow in my gardens.



 


Thursday, February 1, 2018

Rehabbing Old Beds and Making New Ones


The picture above is of the house when we first moved in; as you can see, it was pretty much a blank canvas.  There were two areas that could barely be called flower beds, one between the garage and the front door (the south bed) and the other from the front door almost to the corner of the house (the north bed).  The corner of the house was dominated by an unsightly juniper tree that wrapped around the corner, as it has been planted too close to the house.  The first order of business was to remove all of the mint from the south bed, plus the two overgrown, but dead, rose bushes.  The only plants I kept were the orange day lilies, aka, ditch lilies, and a miniature yellow rose. I wound up planting blue salvia the first year (2015), added a border made from recycled tires purhased at Menard's and lots of mulch.

 
That fall we planted tulips and daffodils, lots of them.  In the Spring, as they came up, we found that there were some tulips the previous owners had planted that came up outside of our neat border.  This last year, the only bulbs that came up were the ones from the previous owner, as the squirrels dug up all the others.  This year I'm going back two salvias, but instead of all blue, I have a mix of reds and blues that I'll start in the greenhouse, plus I'm looking for some white one to give the bed a patriotic feel.  There are now clumps of ditch lilies on both ends of the bed and I've added two other roses, Queen Elizabeth (a pink) and Pope John Paul (a white).

 
The north bed was also cleared out and hostas and hydraengeas were planted, and again, we found tulips, plus as an added bonus, Resurrection Lilies, aka Naked Ladies, as they come up with lots of greenery in Spring , which then dies back and in mid-July to early August, they shoot up flower stems and bloom a gorgeous pink.



I also dug a bed on the north side of the house and planted Rose of Sharon, yuccas, day lilies, phlox and a rose bush to add interest to a long blank space.


In the Spring of 2016, we bought a Japanese Maple and a peony; there was also the curb rescue hosta and a daisy I bought at a yard sale, all needing a home.  I made finally made good on the threat I'd been making since we moved into the house, and cut down the juniper.  After also cutting down the short section of useless chain link fence, I dug a bed around the corner, unifying the two existing beds into one bed nearly forty feet long.




 



Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Hosta Madness

One of the plants I tried in vain to grow in Arizona were hostas; it's just too darn hot for them there, so when I moved to the Chicago area, one of my first acquisitions was a hosta.  At the time, I lived in a 7th floor apartment with a balcony that faced east and I was determined to take advantage of whatever space was available.  I purchased my first hosta at a garage sale not too far from my apartment (and have returned every year, as he always has good plants at good prices every May).  It was one of the first things I planted when we moved into the house, and that little two-stemmed plant has become quite impressive.  My collection now includes over twenty varieties, from the diminutive Little Blue Mountain Mouse, to what someday will be a massive 4'x4' Empress Wu.  I've bought them at yard sales, flea markets, big box stores, nurseries and even picked them up at the curb (one of my neighbors is a landscaper and he put some out the day before trash day; needless to say, I rescued them.)  About the only place I haven't been yet is to a hosta farm, but hopefully that will happen this year.










My first hosta in its fourth year

A curb find that I separated into 3 clumps


 
 

   
My first hosta in bloom





Little Blue Mountain Mouse



This was a 2-gallon plant in 2015

The new shade garden includes nearly a dozen hostas
 

Two clumps of the curbside rescue, one year later

This one thrives in full afternoon sun