Thursday, August 7, 2014

We're rockin'!

First of all, congrats to fellow chicks Ellery Adams and Leann Sweeney on their book releases this week. Happy sales to these terrific authors and happy reading to all you fans. 

I have to confess that (aside from authors) my new best friends are rocks.  And, no, I don’t mean diamonds, but I’m taking about pea stone and flagstones.
When we bought our renovated forty-two year old ranch house  in the middle of March 2012 with mounds of snow covering the ground, no one realized how badly neglected the grass and garden were.  It was worse than starting from scratch in some ways. When the snow melted we discovered that the patio was so overgrown with brush that you couldn’t even see it.  The remains of two perennial beds and a rock garden would have broken the hearts of the people who created them.  The back of the property was a dark and bug-infested jungle. We found garbage, broken glass and building debris at every clean-up attempt.  

Since then (this is our third summer) we’ve been working to rebuild and recreate.  I estimate another four or five years, we’ll get where we’re going. But never mind that, we like a challenge.   
The right side yard access to the back yard gate was nothing but dirt.  Even bad grass and most weeds refused to grow there, in part because it was so shady but also because black walnut trees apparently leech something into the soil that most plants don’t like.  There was a large tree stump squatting forlornly in the middle of the space and a spindly maple tree next to it. The earth was packed hard and it was dry enough to crack. A few crews of renovators had left a lot of dangerous junk buried in that dry soil.  In short, a disaster.

We had plenty to do without fretting over a lost cause. So, for the last two years, I just pretended there was no side access to the back yard.  Of course, this approach couldn’t work forever. One day, I came across an inspiring photo of a garden path in pea gravel, with potted plants, in an old magazine at the hairdresser.  It got me thinking.  I wasn’t even sure how to get pea gravel or what was involved with it.  Now I k now.  People bring it to you in trucks and dump it on your lawn (that may be another blog post). At any rate, it arrives with a certain drama.

Now we're really rockin'!
Soon after the small mountain of pea gravel and a big hill of pine mulch arrived, my hubby (who had never been involved with any kind of gardening project) and I started to build this little path.  It still needs work, for sure, but we are very happy with it. 

It is what you call cheap and cheerful. The pea gravel cost $70 for a truckload. I managed to do a good deal for the flagstones stepping stones that make it possible to stroll along it without snapping your ankles. By the way, lifting those suckers into and out of the car was better than lifting weights.

We scooped up hostas from other parts of the yard where they were making trouble and build up a bed on the left side. The hostas immediately took to it.

Next we'll add these pine nuggets to dress up the hosta beds and keep them cool and weed-free.

 We received a gift of enough periwinkle to line the other side of the path from our  friend who claimed she had way too much.  Look out, it takes over, she said.  We'll cross that bridge when we come to it. It’s just getting started but I hope that next year, I can show you some vigorous growth on the periwinkle side.  If it takes over, it can wander onto the municipal path next to the bed.  No worries here.

Impatiens is pretty much the only annual that will survive in our formerly gloomy spot, and I was lucky to find some sad specimens in the end of season sales and pot it up.  Who knew there was a North American shortage?
At any rate, what was once a lost cause has the potential to be a charming spot next year and we think it even looks pretty good now. 

So, what about you my friends? Have you had a cheap and cheerful garden success to share?  Or any other kind?
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