September 14, 2011

Project Completed

A grandchild's hand prints found a home

Here's an update on the project at my sister's condo.  It's done.

In my prior post here you saw the design challenge that she gave me:

Plant two small shady strips of garden beds along the fences, do something with bare dirt in the dark corners under a deck, and dress the whole patio up.

Here's what I did.

Under the deck:
Lots of rocks and some steppers are the base for a fountain urn.  The water in the urn is hard to photograph, but it is bubbling up from the center and smoothly sliding back down the outside of the urn.  It has a very quiet burble.
It turns out bubbling water is fun for a 3 year old to play in, and it's just the right height.
In the photo the area looks a little spare.  But I have to say it seems fuller when you are there.  There is the sound of the water, the intensity of the blue ceramic container, the Zen-like vibe under the twisted old rhododendron, and clinking windchimes that her older granddaughters made years ago --- it works and fills the space. 

On the other side, this corner under the deck is where the meters, the A/C and the littlest grandkid's toys live.  We called it a day and just put some rocks down to cover bare dirt.
Not much to be done here.
The A/C unit will be replaced soon, so we decided not to fence it in or hide it behind a tall trellis screen.  It just is.

The long narrow bed along the fence:
I dug up yellowroot -- Xanthorhiza simplicissima -- from my garden and it will colonize to make a leafy groundcover that completely covers this narrow strip.  It digs up and divides easily; any clump of roots will take.
The yellowroot looks scraggly now but will fill in to make a mounding shrubby carpet

My sister found a hollow stump in a firewood pile nearby, and decided it would make an ideal planter.
The hollow core was perfectly sized for a pot

At the end of the row of yellowroot I put in a clematis.  It is the old purple standby, Jackmanii Superba, and next year there will be flowers.  Abundant and vivid.  That is, if it can take as much shade as this side of the fence gets.  It's supposed to do okay in some shade, and this spot only gets an hour or two of sun at the height of mid-day, and bright shade the rest of the day.
Clematis Jackmaii Superba will outgrow this trellis
So I strung wire on supports to help it crawl along the top of the fence
And this is what it will look like along the fence.  I can't wait.  (Image from Brushwood Nursery)

I found a big heavy rock nearby and schlepped it to the corner, where I draped a Japanese Forest Grass over it, Hakonechloa macra.  It's the gold leaved one and it pops as you approach the patio. 
Why are rocks so heavy?  This one doesn't look big, but it was.  And heavy.

Between the exuberant purple clematis climbing up, the quiet green groundcover spreading below, the rustic stump, and the cascade of bright fountain grass, I think we got a nice thing going in this skinny strip of garden.

The raised bed:
On the other side two shrubs will add structure and heft in this slightly wider bed --- a Hinoki falsecypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Draht') and a dense pyramid of a boxwood (Buxus 'Green Mountain').  When they get larger they will add height and fill the blank fence wall.  Both can take shade.  They don't do much to hide the A/C unit, but a hanging plant tower helps with that. 
The falsecypress and boxwood will grow to provide screening and substance here.

And didn't we find another hollow stump to use as a second planter for this bed.
I think my sister is most pleased with her idea to use these found stumps.  They're perfect.

The falsecypress and boxwood are underplanted with salvaged hostas and heucheras that were in this garden to begin with.  They'll fill in.  Already they look a little happier to have so much compost and such nice companions in their bed.  They'll plump up by next year.

50 crocuses are sleeping in the soil waiting for spring.  A fall anemone called 'September Charm' fills the corner near the hostas and will have delicate pink blooms.  It will eventually overtake the hollow log planter, so we will move the stump when it does.

I added astilbes and  glossy bergenias from my garden, and my sister added the cherished round plaster casts of her grandchildrens' handprints.
I love the fat glossy leaves of bergenia, called Pigsqueak.

Some more golden Hakone grass at the corner of the raised bed, and we have a garden.
The fountainy grass will soften the corner and flow over the slope

I know this doesn't look like much to you professional landscapers, but it was hard work for this aging 60 something gardener.  The rocks.  The rocks.  Who knew it would take so many bags of pond pebbles from Home Depot?  We made four trips after I woefully underestimated the quantity needed for those small spaces under the deck.
Grass seed in front will soon sprout, and so will furniture, and granddaughters playing on the patio

Jim was a tremendous help, he wrecked his back assisting with this installation, and did much of the heavy work.  My sister?  I think she is pleased with the whole design.

And me?  I had so much fun.  Call me if you want your garden revamped.  I know how many rocks it will take now.


  1. Hi Laurrie, Great reveal! You may have discovered a new calling as a landscape designer.The makeover sounds straightforward and even easy as you describe it, but I am experienced enough to know that you did a lot of work here. What a nice sister you are to do this for her! I bet she is thrilled with the results.

  2. It looks great! Very peaceful and pleasant. I'm sure your sister and her family will enjoy this for many years. Bob would be pleased...

  3. The completed project looks beautiful! Your sister owes you a lot of fish tacos.

  4. WOW, what a fantastic transformation. You did such a great job. I can see already how lush that garden will be by next year. Your sister must be thrilled.

  5. The sister is beyond thrilled and very appreciative. Now if she can just keep from killing anything...this sister does not have a green thumb!

  6. Bravo!! applause><><><>< I think you did a great job. I like Sister's touches too.

  7. Hey Laurrie,
    I saw your before and love your afters. Nice work.

  8. Bravo, Laurrie! I think you did a fantastic job--you may have found a new career. Everything looks perfect and will look even better as it fills in next year. I like the way you re-purposed plants already there and from your garden, and I love, love the hollow stump planters!

    Thanks so much for showing us the finished "product"; I always enjoy the before and after photos of gardens. And I had to chuckle at your last line--I still haven't learned how to figure out the volume of mulch or compost needed for a square foot of garden:)

  9. Thanks everyone for your compliments! My sister lost her husband last fall and moved into this condo very recently. Her late husband, who was a great scavenger and very thrifty, would have loved how we used found objects like the old stumps.

    He would have had apoplexy about us buying bags of pond pebbles at Home Depot ("rocks? you bought rocks?? I got rocks right here in the back yard"). This garden is for you too, Bob! Miss you.

  10. I love it!! LOVE the stump planters! If our garden center sold those, they would sell fast! I love using existing plants in a new way. So does my bank acct! :o)

  11. Tammy, a friend saw the stump planters we made, and promptly raided the nearby woodpile to make some of her own. You're right, I could have made a fortune selling these things : )

  12. It always takes more rocks or mulch than one thinks.
    My favorite part is the raised bed area. Such variety and all laid out nice. Those hollow logs are great. So good with the trellis too. You did great!!!

  13. Gardener on Sherlock, thanks so much! I go back over to her place this weekend (2 weeks after installation) and we'll see how it is all doing.


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