Posts Tagged ‘landscaping’

the front hill, 9 wks later

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

It’s been a little more than two months since the front slope got planted. Here’s what it looked like at the end of June (click to biggify)…

front hill, immediately after planting












And here’s what it looks like at the beginning of September…

the front hill in september, 9 weeks after planting












Not bad, I suppose. I haven’t lost any plants yet, so that’s a plus. Off to a decent start — must constantly remind myself to be patient — but still needs a year or two to grow in completely and begin to resemble a meadow. Next year it will look fabulous. The third year, golden.

Want a closer inspection? Rollover the images for deets…

Nassella tenuissima blowing in the breeze

the grasses are finally filling in... Panicum virgantum ‘Ruby Ribbons’ with Euphorbia ‘Blue Haze’ and Salvia pachyphylla 'Blue Flame', Gaura lindheimeri ‘Whirling Butterflies’ blooms behind



















Agastache ‘Ava’ and Panicum virgatum ‘Ruby Ribbons’ with a bright Rhus typhina ‘Bailtiger’ behind



















Verbascum ‘Album’ blooming but still small after just a few months in the ground

Salvia pachyphylla 'Blue Flame' beginning to bloom behind Panicum virgatum ‘Ruby Ribbons’



















The alien-looking Eryngium yuccafoliums (Rattlesnake Master) really stand out; Comptonia peregrina (Sweetfern) behind



















Rhus typhina ‘Bailtiger’ in the foreground with pale green Origanum ‘Kent Beauty’ and dark Sedum telephium ‘Sunset Cloud’ behind; Rhus aromatica ‘Gro-Low’ adds some green with Cryptomeria japonica ‘Yoshino’ rising up behind it



















a closer look at origanum ‘Kent Beauty’ and Sedum telephium ‘Sunset Cloud’



















Helictotrichon sempervirens ‘Saphirsprudel’ and Origanum vulgare ‘Aureum’



















Buddleia alternifolia ‘Argentea’ is now 4' tall and a little wider than that






















Remember this shot from back in June?

Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’ and Caesalpinia gilliesii (Yellow Bird of Paradise) back in june


That Caesalpinia gilliesii (Yellow Bird of Paradise) has come a long way. She’s now taller than I am!

Caesalpinia gilliesii (Yellow Bird of Paradise ) in all its crazy glory, late August


The crazy looking blooms, whose scent on a warm evening remind me of Indian food, are generally swarming with bumbles. But I shot this right after a big rain and the bees were nowhere to be seen…

Caesalpinia gilliesii (Yellow Bird of Paradise) bloom, closeup... very Dr. Seuss


For those who care to obsess, you can find my entire front hill plant menu here.



the front hill, revealed

Friday, June 15th, 2012

So. The front hill. Yes, it’s finally planted! Shall I whisk you back in time before I show you how it looks now?

When we moved in, the yard looked like this (biggify to see the full ugly)…

the hill when we moved in, complete with massive pile of crappy stone












Since then, the stone was hauled away — you can see the freshly built retaining wall now along the driveway…

stone taken away












The messy oak tree out front was removed and replaced with three Japanese cedars last fall…

oak tree remains in may 2011




















And the tenacious 3′ tall weeds…

weeds weeds weeds




















Yeah, I dug those up. Then last December, the front walkway was put in…

destruction in december












walkway done in december 11




















Once that was done, I added a truckload of soil…

added soil












…  and sculpted the hill to my liking, creating a series of flat strips to slow the runoff. Just me and a shovel.

And once that was done, I added Curlex erosion control blanket (like we did on the other hill) to hold the slope. You can probably spot the flattish areas if you biggify…

erosion control added in december 11












During the winter, I made plant choices plants for this dry, south-facing hillside. I went with mostly Mediterranean and hardy, xeric, native plants that wouldn’t mind the rocky, sandy soil, wind and summer heat —  grasses and perennials that will grow up into a bee/butterfly/hummingbird meadow. The closer to the house, the tighter, more regimented the layout. The farther away, the looser, more organic the layout.

In March, I started shoving the shrubs I’ve been saving into the ground. Then the boxes of plants for the front hill started arriving from various online sources…


live plants begin arriving!




















Shiva stopped by in April to help lay out the Nassella tenuissima (Mexican Feather Grass)…

shiva helps lay out the 85 nassella tenuissima in april












After that, I became the Mad Planter, popping plants in the ground at every opportunity. Then Shiva and Natasha came and helped with the final push…

shiva and natasha help out in may




















Thank goodness because if they hadn’t I probably wouldn’t have finished until July. I’m guesstimating but there are probably around 400 plants in. I should do a final count.

Although this is about as anti-climatic as a Mad Men end-of-season episode, here’s the not-so-big reveal (again, you might want to biggify):

front hill, view 1












front hill, view 2












Except for a few holdovers from pots, the plants are all tiny and won’t look like much the first year. If they grow in like my meadow out back, next summer you’ll see a huge difference.

In the meantime, have a closer look at a few bright spots…

festuca glauca ‘elijah blue’ and caesalpinia gilliesii (yellow bird of paradise) next to the front steps



















origanum ‘aureum’, helictotrichon sempervirens ‘sapphire’ (blue oat grass) and thymus pseudolanuginosus (wooly thyme)



















rhus typhina ‘bailtiger’ (tiger eyes sumac)



















Origanum rotundifolium ‘kent beauty’ (ornamental oregano) just beginning to bloom



















thymus x citriodorus (lemon thyme)



















the first callirhoe involucrata (purple poppy mallow) bloom




















For those who care, below is a list of what you’ll find on my front hillside. For  visuals, pop up my Pinterest plant menu page…


Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’ (Blue Grama)

Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’ (Blue Fescue)

Helictotrichon sempervirens ‘Sapphire’ (Blue Oat Grass)

Nassella tenuissima (Mexican Feather Grass)

Panicum virgatum ‘Ruby Ribbons’ (Switch Grass)

Schizachyrium scoparium ‘The Blues’ (Little Bluestem)

Sporobolis heterolepis (Prairie Dropseed)


Origanum vulgare ‘Aureum’ (Golden Oregano)

Origanum rotundifolium ‘Kent Beauty’ (Ornamental Oregano)

Rosmarinus officianalis ‘Prostratus’ (Creeping Rosemary)

Rubus pentalobus (Creeping Raspberry)

Thymus × citriodorus (Lemon Thyme)

Thymus lanuginosus (Wooly Thyme)


Agastache ‘Ava’ (Hummingbird Mint)

Amorpha canescens (Leadplant)

Amsonia hubrechtii (Threadleaf Bluestar)

Callirhoe involcrata (Purple Poppy Mallow)

Eryngium yuccafolium (Rattlesnake Master)

Gaura lindheimeri ‘Whirling Butterflies’

Geum trillium (Prairie Smoke)

Lavendula x intermedia ‘Grosso’

Petalostemon Purpureum (Purple Prairie Clover)

Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Alcalde’ (Cold Hardy Rosemary)

Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Arp’ (Cold Hardy Rosemary)

Salvia pachyphylla ‘Blue Flame’ (Giant Purple Sage)

Verbascum nigrum ‘Album’ (Mullein)

Verbena bonariensis (Tall Verbena)



Baptisea lacteal (False White Indigo)

Buddleia alternifolia ‘Argentea’ (Silver Fountain Butterfly Bush)

Caesalpinia gilliesii (Yellow Bird of Paradise)

Comptonia peregrina (Sweetfern) — to echo the sweetfern we used on the other hillside

Rhus aromatica ‘Gro-Low’ (Fragrant Sumac)

Rhus typina ‘Bailtiger’ (Tiger Eye Sumac)



Cornus florida (American Dogwood) — the one and only thing original to the hillside!

Cryptomeria japonica ‘Yoshino’ (Japanese Cedar)

Pinus thunbergii ‘Thunderhead’ (Japanese Black Pine)


Succulents, Yucca and such

Euphorbia niciana x nicaeensis ‘Blue Haze’ (Cushion Spurge)

Euphorbia myrsinites (Donkeytail Spurge)

Euphorbia characias ssp. wulfenii ‘Shorty’ (Cushion Spurge)

Hesperaloe parviflora (False Red Yucca)

Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’

Orostachys iwarenge  (Chinese Dunce Cap)


path lighting decision

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

After much haggling back and forth over something as silly as angled or L-shaped path lights, David and I finally settled on one…

hinkley path light in titanium |















Does any of this really matter? Not much, no, but L-shaped it is. That’s the Atlantis 1518TT-LED by Hinkley Lighting. David turned his nose up at the Bronze finish. So I ordered the Titanium and Hematite finish samples from Hinkley. Not only were they FREE, they arrived just a few days later.

We looked at them against the granite (Titanium top, Hematite bottom)…

samples against granite




















Titanium is clearly more reflective. Hematite would blend into the background better, as I assumed.

Then we checked them against the galvanized steel we have on some of the steps, the veggie garden planter boxes and our steel cable railing…

samples against galvanized steel




















We’re not trying to match the galvanized, mind you. But the various finishes outside have to play friendly. Out back there’s also that rusty Corten steel drama queen of a fire pit/grill vying for your attention. So rather than have another dark finish nearby competing with the Phoenix, we settled on Titanium.

Done. Ordering!

followup: how’s that hillside?

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

This is for you, Shiva, my dear!

MARCH 30, 2010

hillside: march 30, 2010 a disaster after historically heavy rains












APRIL 3, 2010

hillside: april 3, 2010 reshaped with new soil













APRIL 5, 2010

hillside: april 3, 2010 biodegradable erosion control added











APRIL 6, 2010

hillside: april 6, 2010 brand new planties












OCTOBER 4, 2011

hillside: october 4, 2011 first view












hillside: october 4, 2011 second view












hillside: october 4, 2011 third view/closeup of sweetfern




















Not completely filled in but looking fabulous. No more erosion issues. Yippee!

If you’re interested in the plant choices, check this out. FYI, we ended up putting the Cornus canadensis (creeping dogwood/bunchberry) at the top of the slope in the shade instead of on the slope in the sun.


Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

gophers!! okay, not really




















Okay, not really. Those are piles of new loam that the crew is laying down today so we can finally have a little bit of grass. Yay! No more dirt washing into the pond! We hope.

The last of the steel edging was put in to separate the grass from the planting area…

more steel edging




















Before the screened topsoil and compost came roto-tilling — better aeration for fledgling grass roots…

rototilling the lawn area




















The border around the house is finally complete. It went from this…

border before




















To this…

border after




















Mexican beach pebbles from The Stoneyard now top off the crushed stone. Picture this up against siding with a dark grey stain instead of light sage…

border with pebbles




















Looks great, right? Better shots when all the soil is in.

how an arborist stakes a tree

Friday, August 5th, 2011

So, about those newly planted Cryptomeria japonica ‘Yoshino’ (Yoshino Japanese Cedar). Not to worry — they look happy. But at nearly 10′ tall, they needed staking before the coming nor’easter blasts topple them this winter. Shouldn’t be an issue next year when their roots have spread some to give them more support.

When you want things done right, it pays to know people who know people. Shiva hooked me up with Tim Lucksinger, an arborist out of Newport, RI. Nice guy. Curiously, he’s never tried karaoke even though he has the ideal name for it.

So how does a professional stake a tree? Like this…

the trio all staked



















So it doesn’t seem too hard, honestly. All it took was some sturdy rope (or really super heavy-duty twine)…

all strung up




















A sturdy wooden stake, pounded into the ground at an angle pointing away from the tree so that the rope will hold with some tension. Obviously this man knows his knots…

the stakes



















And then the rope runs through a section of rubber hose that fits around the trunk of the tree about 2/3 of the way up. Hose is a smart choice because it won’t abrade the bark and hurt the tree like rope alone would…

hose from the front



















The hose is cut in the back to give it more flexibility…

hose from the back



















And that’s that. The stakes come out in about a year. Thanks, Tim!

marvin o’gravel balloon face

Friday, July 8th, 2011

Get the reference? A few days ago, this arrived in our driveway…

gravel truck




















Which means I can get some closure on certain areas of the yard. To start with, the veggie garden. We put down the steel edging to separate paths from plantings…

steel edging installed




















another shot of edging











Then we layed down weedblocking cloth because I’m hella tired of pulling weeds…

weedblocker installed



















And then there was lugging the gravel up the steps bucket by bucket — the smallest gravel I could find, called “rice stone.”

rice stone closeup


















Will know soon whether that was a good choice or not. Am loving how it looks so far…

no more stairs of death!


















No more stairs of death!

T I M M M B R R !

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

Dear poor, scraggly oak tree…

oak tree, you must go

I am sorry that you have been trimmed by previous owners over the years in a manner that reveals not your broad and brawny potential but, instead, the malnourished skeleton of a mighty oak that can now never be.

There were other indignities. Being hemmed in by electrical lines. Foliage so scant that wildlife rarely paid you a visit. The precipitous slope — your roots clung desperately to the hard-packed incline with wooden, arthritic knuckles. You fought back by  dumping acorns annually on the only path up the hill, making for more than one comical pratfall. Touché, my friend. You dumped me on my ass, yes.

But now you can rest easy. Your Dr. Kavorkian is here at last.

here to help: the tree service

This leaves me conflicted. On the one hand, it seems a shame to end your life. On the other hand, your end was swift.

the end was swift

And your absence now makes way for the relative safety of steps up the hill where there used to be an icy slalom in winter. Not only that — three stately evergreens. Three!

tree, gone

You served well, oak tree. Be proud. Potential for great beauty now fills your negative space. And nine of your oaken tribe remain to carry on your acorn legacy in other parts of the yard.


if only…

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

Something occurs to me as I look out over the yard of almost shins-deep, rapidly hardening mud…

wasteland 1

wasteland 2

wasteland 3

Had we chosen the Circle Up landscape layout from among our many choices, the pond and patios would probably be done now. Probably. Maybe. Smaller pond means less digging. Less digging would probably have meant fewer sacrificed plants and less brand-new topsoil carted away — both of which will have to be replaced. Now we can look forward to fabulously mucky, slippery journeys up and down the slope after every snow and rain shower, all winter long. Oh joy.

Curse you, hindsight. Curse you.

baby garden’s first fall

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Whoa. My baby’s growing up! Leave home for a week or so and things really change around here. Here’s a look at the first signs of autumn brilliance in our own backyard.

Our spindly little dogwood, which would probably look better if previous owners had planted it in a less shady spot, glows a lovely, warm red now…

our dogwood... not sure which variety

My trio of Callicarpa bodinieri ‘Profusion Beautyberry’ are loaded with Barney-colored berries…

beautyberry trio

callicarpa bodinieri ‘profusion beautyberry’

Just across the path, my new golden spruce, picea orientalis ‘skylands,’ really shines behind the dark euphorbia ‘blackbird’

picea orientalis ‘skylands’ behind euphorbia ‘blackbird’

Just look at those crazy euphorbia. They stay a dark eggplant shade with hits of blue and chartreuse from spring through fall. I hope they make it through the winter…

euphorbia ‘blackbird’ closeup

Further up the hill I have another euphorbia, this one is ‘Bonfire’. It complements the other fall shades around the yard quite nicely, I think. Especially since I set it in front of sumacs and penesetums…

euphorbia ‘bonfire’

Speaking of which, the Rhus typhina ‘Tiger Eyes sumacs’ and ornamental grass border looks like it’s on fire…

back border

That’s ricinis communis (castor bean) in the front there next to miscanthus sinensis ‘silberfeder’ (Japanese Silver Grass). ‘Tiger Eyes’ sumac are the fiery bits in back. The sumac colors are amazing…

sumac detail

The castor bean’s leaves and alien-looking seedpods are a nice complement…

castor bean

Further back, my new Rhus aromatica ‘Gro Low sumacs’ are not only securing the slope but bursting with color. Someday they’ll mature into a real eye-catcher every fall…

gro low sumac

My Japanese Forest Grass is finally starting to fill in and has taken on some nice fall color. These should look much more impressive next year — they’re not even half the size they should reach. Hakonechloa macra ‘Beni Kaze’ is is turning burgundy at the tips…

hakonechloa ‘beni kaze’

Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’ is starting to go from chartreuse to brilliant gold, as the name promises…

hakonechloa ‘all gold’

And Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ is beginning to take on shades of purple and pink…

hakonechloa ‘aureole’

Last but hardly least, Panicum virgatum ‘Ruby Ribbons’ (Ruby Ribbons Switch Grass) has gone from seafoam blue and purple to a deep, deep red, which looks fab next to the sage-y green of the euphorbia myrsinites ‘donkey tail spurge’

anicum virgatum ‘ruby ribbons’ and euphorbia myrsinites ‘donkey tail spurge’

And to make fall all the more glorious, it’s 73 degrees out today! Wait… what the hell am I doing indoors?