I hadn't had the time until now to finish telling the story of our earthwork adventures. Now we're getting close to the end of this episode, so it's probably a good time.
While we were waiting for our friend the plumber to come and save the water tank's pump, I added some sand to make the soil a little less compact; I also replanted the flower beds that had been removed or damaged during the earthworks.
In the flower bed under the balcony, the gaura and the Graham's sage had suffered quite a lot from their staying in buckets (there was a lot of rain then, the buckets were full and the water didn't flow away). The gaura's roots were rotten, and it's dead. I'm giving the sage a chance. I also took the opportunity to make a few changes: adding one of the rosebushes and the caenothus that used to be above the water tank, as well as a few new plants, and making sure the plants were far enough from the path (last time their branches were quite annoying as they were in the way). It looked mostly OK mid-September.
Now, on the side of the water tank's flower bed, I replanted most of the plants that were there before, and I added a few. Still mid-September, it was looking mostly decent again, although one part of it is still quite empty (on the right) and I have a few worries regarding the creeping rosebush which got removed rather brutally by the earthwork contractors. At the time it was quite impossible to break the clods as they were really sticky - and that did not help.
Right now I'm rather encouraged: both the creeping rosebush and the sage are growing new leaves again, so they're not dead. And everything else looks like it's doing OK:
- Under the balcony:
- Above the water tank:
OK, I have to admit it's covered in various weeds I need to remove, and attentive readers will have noticed that there's still a hydrangea in a bucket and a pile of earth in the back above the water tank. The "save the water pump" turned out to be quite epic, as the plumber had to come here 3 times.
- The first time he came, he noticed that the leak was on the outside after he cut through the wall of the server room. And after digging on the outside he discovered that the water junction (which had been changed last year) at the bottom of the drainpipe was leaking. Probably yet another consequence of the earthwork contractor falling In addition, he didn't have the right pipes to fix the water circuit and when he tried to "hack" it together it ended up with a few geysers. According to Manu he barely avoided being shot in the face by one of these.
- The second time he fixed most of the problem but there was still a leak further down the pipe which he didn't see as he couldn't test the circuit.
- The third time he was finally able to complete the repairs.
For now we've kept the hole in the server room's wall for now, until the earthwork contractors come back to fix the water junction. Just in case. In addition, the mini-excavator destroyed the concrete paths, so we'll have to replace them earlier than we'd anticipated...
Who said making the foundations waterproof was a simple job, eh?
We were subjected to a rather big storm early in June - with somewhat... dramatic... consequences. Short version: some water sept in through the basement's walls on the front side of the house. We spent a good part of the night "playing" around with floor clothes and buckets. That's what it looked like in the morning:
This is the other part of the basement:
We definitely needed to take action quickly. Feeling paranoid and checking the basement every 5 minutes whenever it rains doesn't sound like much of a long-term plan. So we had an earthwork contractor come over to give us a quotation on weatherproofing the house's foundations on the front of the house.
As it turns out, it's kind of a good news/bad news scenario.
The good news: the contractor is (well, should be, anyway) coming this week to do the actual work. So, if everything goes as planned, we'll be able to stop worrying whenever it rains.
The bad news: we need to clear 1.5 to 2m of terrain along the wall.
So I had to remove all of this :
I started by moving annual plants (well, you never know, some of them might survive it), and today I moved all remaining perennial plants (or put them into jars).
I also had to clear the area between the manhole on the right and the right border of the picture below:
It took a while, but now I have a wonderful mine field where the lovely flower bed used to be
So where did the plants go? Well, I re-planted annuals wherever I could. Perennial plants are waiting in jars or buckets... That's what it looks like:
There were quite a few petunias amongst the annual plants I moved, and they're not in a very good shape for now. However the rest don't look too bad for now... Even if they were dying, it would not be a serious problem. Most perennial plants are looking fine as well, I'm only a little worried about rose bushes. Worst case scenario, I'll have to prune them to reduce the amount of leaves and flower buds they need to feed.
I find the situation quite annoying at any rate - having to destroy one of the few areas of the garden that really started to look good... On the other hand it's better to do it now, I suppose, as the plants haven't been taking root for too long. If we'd found out about the flooding later, their roots would have been more developed and it would have damaged them even more.
Still in the "mine field" category, but somewhat more rejoicing: I dug up some of the potatoes (the earliest cultivar).
Granted, most of them are really small, and the yield is low. On the other hand, this Spring was really dry and the soil was poor, so it's mostly a good surprise; in addition, potatoes seem to really improve the soil, as they break clods.
And yes, there are two types of potatoes on the picture: the red ones grew in the compost heap, probably from potato peelings!
Tastes, colours... Individual choices, really. In the colours category, at our place, there is the flashy blue, and as far as tastes are concerned, there are the garden gnomes... There weren't just a few individuals which were haunting the garden but a whole army...
A typical setting, in all "flower beds", looked like that:
Out of curiosity, let's count: there were 5 scattered on 2m²...
Here is a more hidden one... Did you find it?
And yes, yet another garden gnome on the edge of the Stonehenge flower bed... And the barbecue is quite sexy, isn't it ? (yes, yes, these are in fact flying garden gnomes )
Please, just admit you want more...
Let's also consider the famous "twit with a jug" and its lighting posts which don't function properly and on which... terra cotta frogs are glued. The frogs can very well be regarded as honorary garden gnomes...
We will add the cherubs...
...and the lions...
... to the list of honorary garden gnomes.
I'm not a FLNJ (Garden Gnome Liberation Front) activist, but the extent of situation almost makes me feel like joining them !
In any case, our personal liberation took place last August for the most part. Some people chase after eggs at Easter, we chased after garden gnomes in August... A whole 100L bag: wow ! However our approach was different from the FLNJ's: the garden gnomes were freed at the waste collection centre... They even ended up in the rubble skip. Let's try and remember this fact: when you'll be driving on Maine-et-Loire roads, at some point, below your wheels, as part of the embankment, there will be a garden gnome. How moving !
Anyway in August 2010, the next large work after the hidden garden gnomes hunt was the fall of Stonehenge:
By the way, the twit with the jug was way heavier than expected ! And we were quite nice with it: it didn't join the rubble but went on holidays in the South of France in the garden of one of Manu's parents' friends.
The second phase took place in December: cherubs and lions left Angers to join the twit in the South...
- No more lions:
- And no more cherubs:
In the "lots of work" category for this year, there's something I hadn't posted yet but that was still worth a look: the flower bed above the water tank.
That's what the corner in front of the house at the left of the garden's gate used to look like:
... basically a privet hedge (some of which were either dead or dying), a hydrangea and a snowball tree - very lovely in Spring according to the former owners but that had two major downsides: it was covered in scale insects and was partially blocking sunlight to the window just behind it. In addition, the area was covered in various weeds.
In August 2010, we started removing the privets, which were replaced with yet another hydrangea (that used to be in what is now the vegetable garden), a mahonia and a snowberry. Two other hydrangeas (also from the vegetable garden) were planted behind the snowball tree.
Then, in Autumn, big problem: when the various contractors were getting ready to do the work we needed them to do, we discussed the location of the water tank with the master builder and the earthwork contractors. And that lead to a change of plan: it would be more appropriate for the tank (which was initially supposed to end up buried under the carport) to be located... under the snowball tree (because this is were the rainwater pipes are). So, we had to move everything we had planted there so far, and give up on the snowball tree: it was too big to be relocated. As for the hydrangea which was already there, we couldn't unearth it, as most of its roots were under the concrete path. The rest (mahonia, snowberry and hydrangeas) was put into pots.
That's what they installed:
I dug the soil in March. It was horrible: huge pieces of slate everywhere, along with some concrete blocks and some mostly unidentifiable junk. Anyway, I was able to plant the hydrangeas and the "hedge-to-be" again. I added a few rhododendrons that were vaguely surviving in other parts of the garden.
I started adding more plants in early April: a variegated foliage rhododendron, a fuchsia (f. magellanica), a creeping ceanothus, as well as some small(ish) perennials: moss phlox, wood-sorrels, spiderwort, astilbe, maiden pink, daylily, pasque flower, carex buchananii and globe flower.
The idea was to do that over some time:
It was definitely looking better in mid-April, and everything I had planted had survived.
It improved rather suddenly after that, as a colleague of mine gave me a bunch of rosebushes which had to be planted as soon as possible. Five of them ended up above the water tank!
I added some ground cover a few days later: tickseed, gypsophila, crossworts and Convolvulus sabatius.
It is definitely looking better now:
Now I need to wait until everything's grown a bit to know whether I need to plant a few more things or not.
A few pictures taken yesterday that show how some areas of the garden that have already been featured here are evolving (heh, I'm not going to reveal "secret" areas about which I haven't had the time to post yet, am I? )
Contrary to my rather pessimistic expectations, there's some stuff that looks like it's growing. Some salads are visible along the shed, but they're being eaten by sparrows Then there's an unused area onto which I'm going to plant both tomatoes and courgettes; after that, I have some potatoes which are starting to sprout but that I need to earth up some more, and two lines of various peas, then finally a line of beans I sowed last week-end but that haven't sprouted yet.
The ceanothus is full of various insects and their buzzing can be heard from rather far. As for the sea thrift, it's quite lovely as well.
Irises have flowered, and ornamental garlics are starting to bloom.
A few flowers are starting to appear there as well.
If sparrows devour all salads in the vegetable garden, we'll still have some here!
Today no narrative featuring one of the twelve labours of Julie, just a few pictures, as eye candy...
There's a balcony leading to the door on the front side of the house. When we bought it, there was a "clump" under that balcony- or, more realistically, an area covered in weeds and small, ugly shrubs that survived there for some reason. The only relatively notable items: a forsythia and some variegated ivy that covered the wall.
The main problem with the forsythia was that there was another on the other side of the path, and when both were growing merrily, it was impossible to pass without a machete! In addition, I like forsythias, but having two of them roughly at the same place was a bit of a waste. So, the first thing we did in the area last August was cutting off the forsythia that was close to the balcony.
I must admit that I didn't do anything more there until Spring, as we had a lot to do inside the house. But at the end of March, I motivated myself to do some digging - which led to a few trips to the waste reception centre as I dug out various bottles (plastic or otherwise), bags, and even a few shoes... Then I installed various plants that had been more or less surviving in jardinières for years: a rosemary, a miniature rose bush, a skimmia, a carex, an oxalis, a moss phlox, a dianthus, an Aegean wallflower, as well as some trailing iceplant. I then bought a few more plants: a gaura, some Graham's sage, a lyre-flower, yellow bellflowers, a mazus, a nierembergia, a Grecian windflower, some doronicum, a blue fescue and a white and magenta hydrangea.
I also planted a few bulbous plants: lilies, gladiola and crocuses that used to be in a jardinière as well.
That's what it looked like in early April:
And that's how it looks like now:
It should be nice in a few years!
When we finally bought the house last July, the flower bed in the garage slope looked somewhat like this:
Let's just ignore the old frame that used to hold some portal (but that just stayed there after the portal was removed), the ugly concrete fountain, the concrete slabs weighting about 80 kg each, the area covered in white gravel and the grape vine that had never been cut and that was so old it didn't produce any grape at all... Let's also ignore the garden gnomes, and the stairs that lead nowhere (well, they do - they lead to a glass panel that's part of the canopy... and that glass panel doesn't move at all). As for the paved area, that's another epic story.
The topic of this post is the flower bed on the left in the garage slope. It looks lush. Looking closer, however, it turns out that it's mostly thistle, dog's tooth grass, violets and mint! Also, you'll notice the really lovely frosted glass panels that close it on the side of the carport.
Here's what it looks like after a rather brutal cut into the grape vine:
We removed the glass panels during summer:
It looks cleaner now, but it's still rather ugly.
Manu tilled the soil and added compost, horse manure and loam in September and October. Only a few violets (which were close to the border and therefore rather hard to remove), a lily and a very rickety rhododendron survived. In November, I bedded a few more plants given by my in-laws:
There's a crape myrtle, and quite a few other plants I don't know the name of I'll need to have someone identify them for me.
I added a few other things this Spring:
Another rhododendron that was in another area of the garden:
A heath, a Cupid's dart, a larkspur, some aubretia, candytufts, wood-sorrels, another yucca, a cotoneaster, an herbaceous peony... and some Summer-blooming bulbs also ended up in the flower bed.
I happened to have a box of vegetable seeds given by my grandfather. A lot of the boxes and bags it contained had holes in them, so the bottom of the box contained an arbitrary mix of unidentifiable seeds. I sew them in the flower bed as well.
So yeah, I'm going to have a few salads and carrots in the flower bed. A little weird, but whatever.
I am planning on:
- repainting the carport because that particular shade of blue... ew! We already have the pain, but we haven't taken the time to do it yet.
- trying to grow a few climbing plants near the pillars (I'm thinking of some kind of jasmine and a rose bush), but that will have to wait until Autumn at the very least!
- adding even more plants to the flower bed itself, depending on how what is already there grows.
Last August, we came back from holidays with the car's trunk full of various plants that really needed to be bedded; that included white lilacs that were tillers of a neighbour's lilac. The far corner of the garden, behind both the barbecue and clothes line, seemed ideal.
The lilacs were therefore bedded there in the insufferable heat of August in a hole that had to be dug with a pickaxe (just like so many things):
Well, you'll have to agree that it definitely looked lonely over there... I started clearing a wider area around it in autumn, encroaching on the "lawn" around it.
... and after:
There - it's starting to feel like something one can work with!As a matter of fact, in November, it looked like this:
The plants I added there were all procured from the school (valerian, euphorbia, geraniums and Stork's-bills, bellflowers... and other things whose names I can't remember because I have the memory of a goldfish), from the father-in-law (alumroot, yucca) or from other parts of the garden (forget-me-nots, violets).
It started looking good in late March and most of the plants seemed to be surviving, even the lilacs (despite what they had to go through).
In April, I had what seemed to be a good idea... I tried bedding a rhubarb at one end of the flower bed, because rhubarb is good, and because we have various berry bushes in the area as well (OK, I have to admit my logic is somewhat peculiar on that point). And it didn't go well.
... I'm exaggerating a little here ...
What happened is that I cleared a small, round area on a side of the flower bed, encroaching on the lawn some more, and planted the rhubarb there. But the problem is that Manu, who's the one who mows the lawn, doesn't appreciate circling around little plants in a corner with a 20 kg lawn mower (go figure). The rhubarb was at risk! Actually, so was the rest of the flower bed, because it had grown well and the border wasn't very visible any more. So I got my tools and expanded the flower bed some more... I hate cinquefoils (and various other kinds of weeds)!
And so the flower bed got bigger... so I had to plant even more stuff. I obtained some eryngos from the school, shamed myself by stopping on the side of the road at rush hour and fetching cowslips that grew there... I also attempted to sow various flowers using a seedbed: cosmoses, sunflowers and lupins. They were really, really tiny when I transplanted them - not really the recommended approach, but I needed the jardinière they were in.
A fortnight ago, this is what the area looked like:
I'm afraid my father-in-law's yucca will not make it - it's really brown (but it has brothers in other areas which are still green, so I'm not going to complain... much). However some of the other plants - for example the geraniums and Stork's bills - are starting to bloom, at least one of the euphorbias looks like it's adapting well, and the bellflowers look promising. I've also discovered white forget-me-nots (I was quite sure forget-me-nots were blue): I picked one at random from the bunch of plants that grow on the "heap of horrors", and it wasn't blue, while all the others from that area are!
I should shoot a few more pictures now that it's starting to be more colourful. True, it's nothing grandiose, but it will get there, eventually!
Since you're all waiting impatiently for the next episode of our garden-related work (I am being swamped under massive amounts of fan mail... wait, why don't you believe me? :p), here it is: a compost story!
Waste recycling, sustainable development, good food for plants... Whatever. We want to make some compost. In our family, compost production is rather primitive: my father-in-law uses a heap, and since we're following his advice, well, we're going to use a heap as well. Still, we need to chose a location for the heap. The "logical" location for that (in our specific kind of logic, anyway) is behind the garden shed, because it's not visible from the canopy. However, that's the location we'd used to store the wood from the dreaded thujas.
Ok, so we moved these away. But then, while it's nice to say: "so, let's make a compost heap!", you need stuff to "feed" it. Hence began the first, rather epic stage of compost-making; between July and late February, we were still living in a flat, roughly 15 km away from the house... So we had to use a second bin to sort our organic waste in our very, very small kitchen. Guess what was on Manu's knees in the car every week-end?...
Anyway, between the organic waste from the flat's kitchen, various weeds and small branches, the heap started to look somewhat like, well, a heap:
While it worked in terms of "making compost", it wasn't really too handy: it dries really fast, tends to damage the shed, and a lot of it is wasted when the heap needs to be turned over. Because of that, we dug a small trench and used some of the numerous concrete slabs left over by the former owners to make something more appropriate:
Still, you got to admit that it's definitely not too aesthetically pleasing... As it happens, I'd planned on planting periwinckles on the right side of the shed's door:
I'd added some iris bulbs in Autumn. However, some climbing plant was definitely required to hide the compost heap. In addition, various animals enjoyed digging into the heap a little too much, so there was still a lot off waste as they threw some compost out of the pit, onto the grass in front of it. We "fixed" these two problems in March:
We added some more concrete slabs in front of it (in order to make it easier to put whatever the birds and cats extract from the pit back into it) and a winter jasmine on a wooden lattice to hide it from the path (it still needs to grow though).
I am currently trying to grow a few annual plants near the left part of the pergola: some morning glories and nasturtium (the morning glories have already germinated). I have to wait until next Autumn to replace them with perennial plants. On the right side of the pergola, there is yet another clematis (a white "Gladys Picard" this time) and a red climbing rose bush given by my father-in-law (I have no clue what its name is). In front of the clematis there's a curry plant that will hopefully help protect the lower part of the clematis' from direct sunlight... but it will not happen any time soon: for now the curry plant must be at most 5 cm high, as I obtained it from the school's lawn, where it grew on its own and ended up getting mowed a few times. It's a survivor, so I'm hoping it will be happy there.
As for the bricks and pieces of plastic and cardboard, I'm trying to use them to get rid of the grass as I want to make another flower bed there.