How does your garden grow?

Gardening is my therapy and a passion. Nothing recharges my creativity like getting outdoors to play in the dirt. I can get lost in my gardening for hours; all the while coming up with design project solutions in my head. In previous bLog-oMotive entries (Part One and Part Deux) I presented an article written for a neighborhood newspaper about the garden of the North Portland home I share with my partner, Ed. In the second piece I mentioned that Joy Creek Nursery would be renovating our backyard at some point this year. I had no idea how soon it would be happening or how great the end result would look.

Three weeks ago our friend Mike Smith, one of the owners of Joy Creek Nursery, stopped by to ask if we could be ready for the project to begin the following day. Another landscape project had been delayed and he had a crew available. Ed's only concern was that the project be completed by the scheduled June 17th barbecue celebrating his sister's graduation from college. Mike and I began discussing the removal of all the concrete surfaces in the yard, creation of a large patio of tumbled pavers, the construction of some raised gardening beds, the installation of a stone bench for added seating, a possible future water feature and more.

Bright and early the next morning the Joy Creek crew showed up to begin the process of breaking up the old, thick concrete pad next to the garage. It had never been an inviting space for entertaining or spending time outdoors. Large woody rosemary bushes were ripped out of the ground, all remnants of Ed's former vegetable garden disappeared, the existing irrigation system was removed and some plants were potted up to be included in the new garden design. By the end of the day several truck loads of concrete, rocks, dirt and plant material had been hauled away from our yard. All that remained were a variety of existing plantings under our large pink dogwood tree, some vegetation across the back by the fence, and a few mature plants (including my beautiful Sun Power hosta) up against the house that would give the new garden some sense of history.

The next morning I walked out into what was now a blank canvas for our future outdoor entertaining space. Based on my discussions with Mike, I started taking measurements to determine how all the various elements would come together. Armed with a can of spray paint, I drew out a "floor plan," of where things would eventually be located, on the bare dirt. As no real plans existed for the project, the designer in me kicked in and I decided to rough out some additional details on paper. I was thrilled to be getting a new 6' x 20" flowerbed next to the garage. Ed was already looking forward to his 4' x 13' raised herb bed and 5' x 16' raised vegetable garden. My concern was that a large patio of tumbled pavers (approximately 16' x 20'), with a straight walkway from the backdoor of the house, might end up looking like a bumpy basketball court plopped in the middle of our yard. I sketched out curves on the walk from the house and at each end of the patio. Then, after emailing my rough plans to the nursery and taping a copy to the back door for the crew, we packed our bags and headed out of town for five days.

It was a bit odd leaving town and not really knowing what to expect when we returned home. The next day a phone call from Mike resulted in negotiations about the curves on my plans. I got my curves on the walkway, as a great way to introduce people to the patio, and the curves on each end of the patio were eliminated. Mike convinced me that my "basketball court" concern would be eased with plantings to soften the edges of the patio.

While in Seattle, celebrating my 50th birthday, I saw news reports of monsoons in Portland - with coverage of downed trees, power outages and flooded streets. I could just imagine the Joy Creek crew working in a mess of mud. I was really looking forward to getting home and seeing what had been accomplished in the inclement weather. Returning to Portland we immediately realized we were now living in a construction zone when seeing the porta-potty parked in front of our house (well, actually in front of our next-door neighbor's home), and piles of gravel, pallets of concrete pavers and a pile of Trex in our driveway. Most of our backyard was under a huge blue plastic tarp; allowing the workers to continue their efforts in the heavy rainstorms. With each day visible progress was made as things really began to take the shape of my rough plan. Ed had to leave town for business once again, so I was left to approve any minor changes to the project as the crew continued their great work. At the end of each day, I would take photos and email them to Ed for his review.

Last Friday the crew spent the morning finishing up their work on the hardscape. Final touches included fine-tuning the irrigation system - Ed's gardening toy that is all set on timers. I'd been busy working when I realized it was completely quiet outside for the first time in a couple weeks. I stepped outside into a beautiful and serene backyard space that seemed much larger than before the renovation.

On Saturday, Mike came by with several flats of plants for the new beds. We also took a little field trip to a couple rock yards to check out stones for a bench to go in front of Ed's raised herb bed and a basalt pillar water feature that will be at the edge of the patio near the path to the backdoor. When I got back home most of the afternoon was spent planting the selection of new fuschias, Abyssinian Stars, anemones, arroyo lupine, black mondo grass, small hostas, dahlias, diascias and penstemons. Ed returned from his business trip that evening and seemed a bit stunned as he walked into the newly completed garden space. The next evening we entertained our first guests, friends Mary and Kate, in our new garden.

The Joy Creek Nursery crew did an incredible job on our garden project. There's still a bit of work to be done prior to the upcoming graduation party. Ed needs to get his raised beds planted. I'm going to a couple nurseries this afternoon for some annuals to fill the many large pots that will be placed on the patio. Phase I of our backyard renovation is done. Still to come are the French doors out of our bedroom and a deck for the hot tub. That will be followed by an outdoor kitchen area, with a sink and prep station, making space for Ed's large stainless steel grill (commonly referred to around our house as "the penis extender").

We're looking forward to getting a lot of use out of our new backyard garden. In fact, I sat out at the table working on my PowerBook much of the morning yesterday.

© 2006 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives

1 comment:

SAW said...

Nice, Jeff. I would like to do a nice patio like that in my backyard.