Monday, September 22, 2008

The Big Garden Makeover

It is the first day of fall and so close now, so close to putting the last few pieces of the puzzle in place to complete all the planned changes to the backyard garden makeover.

The construction site look is gone, the potholes have been filled, the transfer of plants to new and existing beds and borders are completed and this week I will be putting in the last, thank goodness for that, of 3.5 tons of rocks as edging to some of the beds and borders.

There were Saturdays when my wife would come out into the garden and search for the mad dogs or the Englishmen, but she only ever found a mad South African American in the Kentucky midday sun. And we have had our fare share of blazing hot days in August when the thermometer climbed to 95 plus degrees Fahrenheit day after day.

Making new holes and transplanting flowers in the murderously hard clay soil was difficult at times, but leaving the rock work for last, and I had no choice in the matter really because it just the way the plan goes, when most of my energy after a long summer is sapped and my weary body is carrying several minor injuries from the constant toiling of the land, will finally push me over the edge at actually wishing winter would come. And I never wish for winter.

For the past three weeks, every Friday afternoon I took my trusted Dodge Ram truck (bakkie), drove to the local quarry outside of town, scampered over 12 feet high hills of “shot rock” as the industry call these rocks and individually selected a ton or so of these limestone rocks, which individually weight between 20 pounds for the small ones and up to 80 pounds or more for the bigger ones. Threw them down the rock heap, loaded them onto the truck, came back home and unloaded the rocks onto a small wagon and using my one manpowered human engine to pull the wagon to the backyard to dump the rocks where I need them for the edging. Early Saturday mornings I was out in the garden, again individually selected the rocks and man handled them so they would fit neatly into one another, well kind of; these aren’t neatly squared bricks, they are rough-edged rocks of all shapes and sized, to make a walled edge for the borders. So in essence I have handled each rock four times, meaning in total I have moved 14 tons of rock, by hand, the past 3 weeks. To say I sometimes felt like shot rock is an understatement. I am blasted. But I have about 45 rocks left before I can say “That’s it, I’m done”.

But that’s not really true either. After the completion of the edges I still have to layout a floor of flat rocks underneath a tree where I created a seating area and where I will be installing a Victorian wraparound-a-tree bench. The new lawn has been sowed and the new grass sprouts are abundant after just a week. Hopefully that will complete the work on the “new” garden for the year. Of course, there is still weeding and cleanup in fall, but that’s nothing compare to what was already accomplished this summer.

Well, this was no instant garden and the complete results will not be seen until next year spring/summer when the flowers bloom around the central green lawn. And that’s the only drawback to all the hard work. No instant gratification.
One of the many changes was to the entrance to the backyard. I removed a high maintenance, variegated Willow bush and change the bushy, overgrown look to a more formal style, less maintenance garden.

In the southeastern corner of the yard I completed the Contemplation garden by putting in wooden edging, removing overgrown honeysuckles and replacing it with evergreen arborvitaes and yews and filling in the garden space with flowers, installing a new arbor and putting down a floor for two chairs and a table. I will add a vine next spring to cover the arbor.

Comtemplation garden detail. I call it the comtemplation garden after the true meaning of the word, to seperate something from its environment (the rest of the garden) or to enclose, because this garden is now totally enclosed by vegetation and the only entrance is through the arbor. It is a great place to sit if you want peace and quiet.

Before: Wide view of the backyard in April 2008 at the start of the makeover.
After: And here is the backyard in September 2008 after moving all the plants to better organized beds and borders and creating a central lawn. I also replaced the old small shed I built several years ago with a bigger Amish style cottage. Portions of the stone edging walls I built is also visible.

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