Thursday, October 18, 2012

Late October at Hidden Lake

Where did October go?  What happened to all those mild days to finish the weeding?  So much happened since I took this picture on October 9.  I had been staining the floorboards of our deck, but I don't think I was photographing stain, at least I hope not!

Well, maybe I was glad to finish that job.  I think I noticed the "retirement" wind chimes and the look of the near structure compared with the distant structure, and the sharp angle in the lawn compared with the angles at the deck.  This whole image is about design, he said, in a self-congratulatory way.

On that day Steve and Tim finished the wall of the new first landing down from the front entrance.

We're using the same kind of block that was here in the wall around our car-park area when we moved in two years ago.  We also used that block to frame Kathy's vegetable gardens.

You can see the rich plum purple colors of the Ash leaves on the left.  I love the different colors on that tree when the leaves turn.  Some of the leaves are the color of plum fruit, a tangy orange yellow blend.

That's the view of advancing color change three days later on the 12th.  The upright bush in the foreground is a lime barberry showing its autumn colors.  Also in that bed are two of the twenty mums we bought from Daniel's Farm and Nursery for our berms.  We lost a couple of plants in this car park area and filled in with mums because we need fall color.  We're getting rebloom on the compact Shasta Daisies that Kathy planted in April.

Nearby, I noticed how the leaves of our new oakleaf Hydrangea have turned from light green to rich purple.  We have never grown this kind of Hydrangea before and have been delighted with it.

We've been thinking this year about how plants frame each other or frame features of the house.  The dock down there is slated for replacement in 2013.  We don't have a boat to launch, but like the look of a dock there.  It leads the eye out onto the water and the squadrons of ducks on patrol.

The outline of my new "keeper bed" for daylily seedlings is well-marked with a Roundup line of killed grass.  I'll kill the grass inside the outline in April and then will move my keepers to this less-sloped area.

My last picture of the day captured the completion of the wall of the second landing down from the front door.  The next phase is to fill in and lay pavers, the same kind we used for the patio in back.

On the 16th Steve and Tim finished that big area in the foreground and Lola came out to see how well she liked it.

They're back outside this morning fitting in small pieces and starting the next level.  The new door was delivered yesterday, too.  In another ten days the whole front of the house will have an appearance that we think will balance the unusual length of the house's "footprint."

Saturday, October 6, 2012


We're into another phase of remodeling the house.  There's nothing more to do this season in the gardens except continue to weed them and apply Preen before the winter weeds germinate.  The Henbit has already begun to appear, so the time for action is now!

Our "big" summer project was shaping up the raised beds for vegetables.  This is the view of the back yard Left a week ago, the cool weather crops having sprouted.

Three weeks ago on a Sunday morning I finished the "small" summer project of contouring the ground in the middle of the back yard so that water flowing downhill from the house would not pool in the area of the circular bed in the picture below.

I killed the grass around the circle and spent several work sessions shaving dirt away to make a shallow trough that tilts toward the dock.  The last step was four car trips to the local nursery to bring back half a pallet of fescue sod and lay it on the shaped earth.  I finished that before lunch and watered it well.  You can make out small white flags I put at the edges of the new sod so that the man who mows our lawn knows where not to bring the machine.  Machinery at this stage would dislodge the small pieces around the curves.  We need to let roots penetrate the ground and fasten the sod before we use a mower there.

Here's my favorite structure outside, a new seedling of mine with a winsome face.

This is the last flower on the first scape produced by my seedling number 12-25, meaning it is the 25th seedling I've given a number in 2012.  In 2011 I assigned 250 numbers and decided to keep the best 85.  The crazy weather of 2012 depressed the bloom in my new seedling beds and I had very little to look at.  I can't wait to see this next summer!

Here is a seedling I've had in the garden for four years, number 08-55.

This was blooming on its second scape earlier this week when I took the picture on a cool morning.  There is nothing distinctive about the face of this flower.  What's interesting to me is that the patterned eye of FANTASY EYES, the pollen parent, was passed to this child by way of a toothy pod parent, ROMANTIC STARES, which seems to lack a patterned eye.

I chose ROMANTIC STARES as a parent because it is Dormant, has good plant structure, is fertile both ways, and is a child of ANGEL'S SMILE, which is known to encourage jazzy results in the eyezone.  Here is ROMANTIC STARES.

There is only a hint of that jagged edge on my seedling, but the eye is more interesting.  Here is FANTASY EYES.

You can see that there are subtle rings of blue violet color in the eye, and there's an edge with two colors.  The thing about my seedling that is most interesting to me is the structure of its scape.  Here is a picture of its second scape, a rebloom that began in late September.  Notice the wide branching extending down the scape and the beautiful presentation of the flowers.

I want to breed this seedling to other patterned flowers in the hopes of retaining the healthy plant and well-formed scape.  On the right edge of the picture you might be able to see the top of a third scape coming along in the hopes of blooming before Halloween.  We'll probably have a frost before that scape can bloom.

Our "big" fall project is the remodeling of the front entrance of our house.  We knew when we bought the house that the front door didn't suit the design of the house.  The windows belong on some other kind of house and we don't care for double doors.  We've ordered a single door with two sidelights.  As long as we were correcting the door, Kathy designed a new front set of steps and a small patio, with planters extending out on either side.  We are using the same blocks as we've used on the wall around our car park area and the same pavers we used on the patio in back.

After removing eight inches of dirt and more than a hundred pounds of old tree roots, Steve Brandt and his helper Tim Yankow worked on building footers to support the rows of blocks that will surround two wide landings before a third step down to the level of the sidewalk.

They removed a large concrete step and found a large void under the existing landing.  Here's Tim pushing gravel up into that void.  Steve is on the left inspecting the first section of the first landing.  Before they finished filling the void, they pushed two blocks under the front of the landing to provide additional support.

Steve spent a lot of time getting the level of the first course of blocks perfect.  Everything else goes much faster if the foundation is correct.  Here's where they stopped Thursday as the rains moved in.

They will put pavers on top of the existing bricks on the top landing to finish that part of the project, but first they will have to address the fact that the existing landing is not quite level.

They've already laid out the foundation row for the front edge of the next landing down.  It will be a step down from the top of about five and a half inches.  We wanted three shallow steps rather than two of standard height.  The second landing will come out to where the grass is and will be about five and a half inches above the sidewalk.  That piece of sidewalk you see on the left will be cut away to make room for the final landing.

The new door is expected in about two weeks, so its arrival should coincide with the completion of the stonework.

This is not the final project we have in mind.  I you look again at the dock at the top of this post, you'll see how decrepit it is.  Kathy will design its replacement over the winter.  It will probably be a summer project, when the lake is at its lowest level.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Kathy's Cool Vegetables

Here's my KEB planting the last of her garlic over the weekend.  She is by nature a careful planner and planter, a designer of spaces indoors and out, a lover of proper containers for everything, including screenplays, stories, and sentences.  She likes to think about the structure of things as they are and as they might be.  I am in awe of how her intelligence works.

 The device you see lying on the dirt used to be the "dog door" that kept Lola out of the cat's room (our office) in our former home in University City.  The door is her planting guide and the little flags hold it in place until she needs to move it, and they mark what has already been planted.

Kathy had worked out an intensive planting "map" of each garden bed.  The map showed plant spacing and the overall allocation of space so that peas of one variety were in a different bed from peas of another.  All we are saying is give peas a chance!

Garlic must have its day, too.  In addition to choice varieties from our friend, Richard Mock, we have other garlic that came in the mail.  The box was so full of aromas!  Just like our kitchen yesterday with I made a new batch of Balsamic vinaigrette with three or four cloves of crushed garlic and almost a tablespoon of Dijon mustard.

Here's the bed closest to our birdbath and deck.  I think of it as the bean bed only because they provide the most green at the moment, but the peas on the other end will soon surpass them in color.

There is no wasted space.  Raising the beds slightly spared us the futile task of trying to spade or till the thick clay in the back.  We just lined up bricks and blocks and filled in with a topsoil and compost mixture from Daniel's Farm and Nursery down Jungermann Road.  I can't imagine a better or more helpful family-run nursery than Daniel's.  And he probably can't think of a better residential customer than us!  We are almost customers-in-residence there!

One more bed to show...this one next to the bean bed.  Here goes:

That white stuff on the side is a porous cover.  If a light frost comes along some night, this will provide a few degrees of protection.  Kathy covered the seed bed with it (loosely) and as the seeds germinated and plants appeared, they just pushed the cover up like a tent being raised.  It lets light and rainfall through to the plants and keeps insects out.

Here's the longer view of the area taken from the patio under our deck, which I'm about to go out and stain this morning.  You see my big "retirement present" wind chimes.  They make comforting deep tones much of the time.

When I looked at this image I recalled part of a poem by James Stephens set to music by the American composer, Samuel Barber.  The poem is titled "Mary Hynes," and the last part of it goes

Lovely and airy the view from the hill
That looks down Ballylea;
But no good sight is good until
By great good luck you see
The Blossom of Branches walking towards you