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?
As can be expected from very small companies, our friends the earthwork contractors did not visit us as initially announced. And since we are, as always, really good at being haunted by Murphy's law, there was a rather huge storm on August the 22nd (70 mm of water in only a few hours), just before they actually came. Consequences:
- We spent a lovely morning mopping water from the basement and throwing buckets full of water out in the street. It was definitely an involuntary wet t-shirt contest! Without the neighbour's help we would have been truly flooded.
- I had a lot of plants in buckets outside; well, the buckets were full of water, and I was unable to remove it all. The plants didn't like that
The earthwork contractors came two days after that. But since their secretary had no clue how large an area needed to be prepared, some of the plants we hadn't removed had to be rather savagely dug out or ended up under the heaps of earth that were extracted.
After a full day's work, we have:
- One big heap in the middle of the path,
- A partial trench under the balcony,
- Another trench between the wall and the water tank, with the corresponding heap...
The nice earthwork contractors came back the next day to install a drain as well as a waterproof layer along the wall. Of course, it went catastrophically bad when they discovered their drilling machine was too short and couldn't be used at the right angle to go through the wall and have the drain's pipe join the appropriate sink hole... They really had a hard time!
The earthwork contractors seem to have been contaminated by our tendency to suffer from Murphy's law, and thus it started raining. The soil is sticky, it gets really hard to dig using only a pickaxe and a shovel - so they end up renting a mini-excavator (they had some of these, but theirs were bigger and didn't fit through the gates) in order to finish putting the earth back into the trenches. Which leads to the following:
- The excavator in the middle of my lovely flower bed. It was nice before, wasn't it? :s
- The trench along the water tank being filled again:
And to add insult to injury, one of the contractors fell on the pipe that is used to pump water from the tank and to the taps. They changed the pipe, but it is now impossible to pump water: the pump is no longer primed and water starts flowing under the server room's floor if we try to prime it using the town's water - which means that the pipe must be disconnected or broken somewhere behind the server room's wall... We called the plumber but the guy who came wasn't the one who installed that and didn't dare to try as he doesn't know exactly where the pipes are. So we're waiting for the original plumber to be available so he can fix that...
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.
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.
In my "Introduction to the garden" post, the plan is in French, and some of the names are rather obscure (and that is even for someone who reads French). Clarification is therefore required.
The "tas d'horreurs" (heap of horrors):
The picture is somewhat misleading - the heap looks really small. The thing is - do you see that tree stump? Well, it's nearly 1m in diameter. As for the heap itself, I've been trying to convert it into mulching using clippers; natural decay also helped. At some point it was as high as the hedges!
Left of the "abri-voiture" (carport), walking towards...
The "pissenlits" (dandelion) flower bed.
Some might suggest it's a nearly endless source of salad ingredients. Still, in order to do that, thinning the flower bed would be needed - see the little green thingies on the picture? Well, they're not small wallflowers, as one might think... It's just even more dandelion!
In order to provide a better idea of what needs to be done, nothing beats pictures... and the current state of the garden kind of justifies the title. These pictures were taken in April 2010, before we signed the preliminary sale agreement for the house, in order to show our families what it looked like.
View of the garden from the terrace
Closer to the far end
View from the far end
The area where the gas tank was (and where I'm trying to grow vegetables)
The carport, from the garden
The following pictures were shot in August, after we bought the house and started working a little.
Same location as above, looking to the right
From the carport, right side
From the top of the stairs shown above
The other side
That was terrible, was it not?