I have been contemplating a series of posts showing how the Stroll Garden developed. It has so many little aspects, it is hard to choose one to focus upon. But the change that the southwest corner of the back yard has gone through is so radical, I thought I would start with that.
First, a view of the back yard when we first bought the house.
Now, this photo doesn’t actually show the corner in question. At the time I was taking these photos (April 1996) we had just bought this house and I had no idea that I was going to need historical pictures of that corner. So you will just have to trust me when I say that that side of the house looked just like the rest of the place, undisturbed expanses of rather unhappy lawn.
Ten years later, we had put a privacy fence around the back part of the yard and I had established a small garden in the shady corner formed by it. This picture was taken in mid-June 2006.
Just behind the swing in this picture is a large elm tree that was providing a lot of shade for that corner. There had been one in the middle of the area where the new Hosta Dell is in that corner, but it died a couple of years before this picture and we had it removed. Just to the right you can see a pine tree trunk, if you look closely you will see it is very sick with a fungus. It died the summer this picture was taken, and we had it removed also.
Seven months later, in January of 2007, we had the mother of all ice storms. Following the storm, the corner looked like this.
As you can see, we narrowly escaped some real damage to the house, and in the aftermath of the storm during the clean up, we had the tree trimmers remove all the upper story of this tree and girdle it. The idea is it will slowly rot and be a den tree, and once it becomes too hollow, we will finish the removal. This storm and the change to the tree was the actual genesis of the idea that we should “do something” with this corner of the property.
Later that year, it became horribly evident that the loss of the shade from that elm tree, plus the fact that every other tree in the area had lost approximately 60% of its canopy, was causing the Hosta Dell terrible stress.
We rigged up shade cloth over it, and managed to keep it alive during the hot summer’s end. Around this time we started trying to visualize what we were going to do with this slightly sloping, no-longer-shady spot. I recalled a previous time when making an actual plan of what I wanted to do had saved my bacon with the landlord, and so we set decided to try that again. We set about measuring the property, mapping what was actually there, and made a plan of development.
I really need to update this plan now that we have the gardens in, but it is essentially correct. Soon after we made the plan, I started working on the actual building of the gardens. I actually believed that I would be able to accomplish the whole installation in one year (you are allowed to laugh merrily at this point).
The next picture was taken on the day I actually started working on the first phase of the development. I began by building the flagstone paths. We had a supply of sandstone that we had ripped out of the backyard of a rental house we owned across the street.
You may notice that posts for a new arbor have been put in place in that photo. We planned to allow the autumn clematis to climb it and sprawl over it to give the hostas the shade they need. Two weeks later, the new gardens looked like this.
The yellow flags are an indicator to me as to where the outlines of the beds and paths would be later. You can also see the accumulation of rock gathering under the elm trunk. That was used to build the scree slope rock garden.
The next four pictures will allow you to experience time passing in the new gardens. The first shot was taken in June 2008. I had still not completely excavated the rain garden basin, and the new rose garden is simply an outline of rocks with cardboard laid down inside it to kill the grass. You can see that the scree slope is finished and there are plants there. The Japanese rock garden next to the house has yet to be established.
Two months later in August, the rain garden has been carved out and the dirt that came out of it used to fill in the raised bed that will be the rose garden. By now, we have begun clearing and leveling the Japanese rock garden, and getting it ready for its weed barrier.
This next picture was taken exactly one month after the previous one, in September 2008. Notice that not only has the weed barrier for the Japanese rock garden been put down, so has the road base pad and the rocks have been put in place. Take a look at how the flowers in the rain garden have grown.
December 1, 2008. The garden rests under a blanket of snow, revealing its lovely bones.
The following spring, Phase 1 of the construction really looked good, and we began Phase 2. (There are quite a lot of posts about Phase 2 easily found by checking my January 2009 archives.) The following is April, 2009. In the foreground you can see parts of the new beds in Phase 2.
August 17, 2009:
Now, I think that this is a stunning change to the gardens of The Havens, and sometimes when I go out there and walk around I can hardly believe that Jim and I created every bit of this garden. There was no heavy equipment involved, and no crews of workers. Well, except for the beautiful rock bench that appears in April. That we would not have if our son Jesse and his very strong back and will had not been here to help acquire the bench top. But that’s another story.