May 31, 2010

Water Feature Installation- Part II

Well it finally stopped raining long enough for me to finish the water feature today. Last week I found the rock I needed at the Bailey Stone Co. in Oneonta, AL. The rock I chose was Tennessee river rock, of which I purchased two sizes. One was the size of a large grapefruit or softball and the other the size of a golf ball to a small baseball. The rock had been smoothed and rounded by the force of the running water from which it was taken. It had varied colors and textures which made it even more appealing. I purchased five hundred pounds of the river rock and four hundred pounds of Alabama flagstone. I returned home and proceeded to install the underlayment fabric and pond liner in the prepared hole . The underlayment fabric is used to provide cushioning and protection from any sharp rock fragments that might puncture the liner. Once that was installed and smoothed out, I placed a row of brick pavers around the periphery to anchor the liner and hold down the edges. Next, I stacked pavers around the inside perimeter of the basin to raise the height of the millstone for a more dramatic effect. The pavers were stacked approximately 7-8 inches high, and a brick was placed in the middle to elevate the pump.

The pump was placed on the paver and the electrical cord pulled through a gap in the brick and up the side of the basin. The particular pump I found at Lowe's had two unique features. It has an automatic sensor that will automatically shut off the pump if the water level gets to low, and secondly, it also has a submersible light with a two foot cord so that the light can be placed in a strategic location along the periphery to illuminate the fountain at night. The millstone was then placed on the pavers and the fountain head lined up the center of the millstone. This was no easy task in that the millstone is made of granite and weighs in excess of 100 pounds. Next, I filled the basin with water and started the pump to make sure it would work properly. I had bought a fountain attachment for the pump and chose the head that both my wife and I agreed gave the best effect. Satisfied that everything was a go, I filled the basin with the river rock only to discover that I had not purchased enough rock! It's amazing how much rock you can fit into a hole 12" deep and about 4 feet in diameter. Anyway, Friday afternoon Cynthia and I made our way back to Oneonta to pick up another seven hundred pounds of river rock and about fifty more pounds of flagstone.

While we were there, we stopped at the Horton Mill Bridge, one of the covered bridges for which the area is noted. On the way home we stopped at A&P's Farm and purchased some strawberries, onions and fresh squash. I had a nice conversation with Andy about his farming methods and irrigation. He has a machine that basically creates a raised bed while simultaneously laying an irrigation line and covering the raised bed with black plastic. Andy told me that using the black plastic warms the ground faster, uses 40% less water, and yields four times more than conventional gardening techniques. Irrigation is from three ponds on the property that is pumped through the irrigation lines. Andy also told me that water soluble nitrates are pumped through the irrigation lines so that fertilization is more uniform and delivered directed to the root area of the plant. I was blown away by the technology. Cynthia talked with Paula, the other half of A&P about the availability of other vegetables and if they planned to have a stand at the Trussville Farmer's Market this summer. Paula indicated that they were going to sell their produce and the market would be located at the new Trussville Springs development on Hwy. 11. This is only about a mile from the house so I know we will be giving them some business this summer.

Back home with the rock, I pressure washed the round rock and flagstone to remove as much dirt and mud as possible. I had to remove the smaller rocks from the fountain, and finished filling the basin with the larger round rock which I felt was more pleasing to the eye and had offered more color combinations. The smaller rock was then added to fill in any holes and obscure the black liner around the edges. Next, I trimmed off the excess underlayment and liner and placed the flagstone down slowly to fit the pieces until a suitable pattern emerged.

Saturday, it rained and it rained and it rained. In between the deluge, I removed some sod so that the flagstone would be level. It was while trying to wedge up a 4" piece of sod that I pulled a muscle in my back. "Call it a day". The rest of the day was spent lying in a prone position, applying Icy-Hot to the affect muscles, and taking large doses of anti-inflammatory meds and pain relievers.

Sunday the rains continued and I continued to recuperate from the muscle strain. I did manage to get to Home Depot and purchase some pulverized rock used to level and secure pavers along with some pea gravel.

Today and the rains subsided. I arranged the flagstone and tried to make it as aesthetically pleasing as possible, but not perfect. I put the paver material down and leveled the flagstone, then swept the excess into the cracks between the flagstone. Next I washed the pea gravel and swept it into the cracks in the flagstone and covered the outside edges with a thick layer to hold the paving material and flagstone in place.

Well it is finally finished and I have to say I am quite pleased with the end result. Friday night at the auction we got a great deal on a teak garden bench so now we can sit back and enjoy the new water feature.

May 23, 2010

Water Feature Installation Part I

I've been wanting to install a water feature in my side yard for several years. This weekend, I finally got an electrical outlet installed in the side yard. With the help of my brother Randy (who just happens to be an electrician) we successfully cut a channel in the driveway and installed the wiring and the outlet for my future water feature.

I purchased an old millstone at an auction about a year ago for the express purpose of making a water feature. The plan involves preparing the site and digging out an area larger than the millstone and about 10-15" deep. Installing a pond liner , lining the periphery with bricks to elevate the millstone and provide room for the pump. Next the pump is installed and the power cord buried just beneath the grass and and connected the the power outlet. Prior to turning on the power, cobblestones, river rock or rock of one's choosing is placed in the basin surrounding the millstone. Finally, fill the basin with water, turn on the pump and test the fountain.

According to the article I read on HGTV this project rated a 1 out of 10 in difficulty(lowest) and should take only a weekend to finish. Obviously, their ground must be softer than mine, I made a lot of progress, but I should be able to finish it this coming weekend. I still have to find the rock for the basin, so I will be calling this week to local nurseries, aquatic centers, etc. to see if I can locate what I want. I also want to buy some flagstone to place around the periphery of the fountain.

To be continued......

May 16, 2010

"Decoration Day Road Trip"

My family celebrates Decoration Day on the third Sunday of May at the United Methodist Church in Fairview, Alabama.

Decoration Day is an antebellum tradition — a party in a graveyard. A Southern version of Mexico's Day of the Dead, if you will.

Traditions vary from family to family, but typically relatives gather at the cemetery of their ancestors on a Sunday in late spring or summer. The grounds have been mowed and manicured to that flowers can be placed on the graves. Prayers are said, hymns are sung and a "pot luck" dinner is held on the grounds and a collection plate passed around to help pay for the upkeep of the cemetery.

Alan Jabbour, a folklorist and co-author of the newly released book"Decoration Day in the Mountains" (The University of North Carolina Press, $35), says the Southern tradition serves multiple purposes: making sure cemeteries are maintained, honoring ancestors and, most importantly, bringing family and friends together.

It's a common belief that Northerners came up with the idea for Memorial Day, but Jabbour says the national holiday was actually "borrowed" from Decoration Day.

In his book, he writes that Mary Logan, the wife of Union Gen. John A. Logan, went to Blandford Cemetery in Petersburg, Va., after the war and saw graves of Confederate soldiers decorated with flowers and flags. She told her husband about the display. He was so touched by the idea that he ordered Union veterans to decorate the graves of their fallen comrades.

"A Richmond paper bemoaned that Northerners were stealing a hallowed Southern tradition, and a Philadelphia paper complained that the North was imitating a Rebel practice," Jabbour said. (a gracious way of saying "Damn Yankees") It was the beginning of Memorial Day as we know it."

In its heyday, Decoration Day was a grand occasion. Before silk flowers became widely available, women made flowers out of colored tissue paper and dipped them in wax so they would last. Dresses, hats and gloves were standard attire.

Over the years the turnout for Decoration has dwindled, mainly because the younger generation doesn't come back. When I was a child it was not an option, you went.

For several years now my wife and I have meet my sister on Saturday the day before Decoration to place the flowers on the graves. We take some pictures then have lunch at the All-Steak Restaurant in Cullman. The Strawberry Festival happens to be the same weekend, so we usually stop and purchase some strawberries to support the local growers. This year the ritual continued but with a twist.

My niece had surgery recently so my sister was unable to meet us at the cemetery. Cynthia and I went to the All-Steak had a delicious lunch topped off by their famous orange rolls, then headed out to the cemetery. After arranging the flowers on the graves, we drove up the road a short distance to take some pictures of a yard I saw on the way to the cemetery. The whole front yard was filled with Japanese Maples, the most I had ever seen. There were so many you could not even see the house from the highway. We stopped at the house and noticed a sign stating that he had trees for sale. We called the number on the sign but no one answered. Not wanting to trespass, I took some photos from the driveway showing the unbelievable number and variety of Japanese Maples.

We then traveled to the Burk's farm produce stand and purchased some strawberries, then parted ways. Cynthia headed to Cullman for a meeting at the Presbyterian Church, while I traveled to Decatur to visit my sister and niece. I planned on spending the night at my sister's then travel to Florence the next day to tour the garden of Phillip Oliver of the Dirt Therapy blog.

Sunday morning came and the heavens opened. I checked the weather forecast for the Florence area which called for rain and thunder storms for most of the day. I emailed Phillip to express my regrets that I would not be able to tour his garden and ask if I might see the garden under more favorable circumstances. In the process of sending the email, I received one from Phillip saying in was flooding in Florence and today would not be a good day to see the garden. He graciously invited me to see his garden at a later date, which I hope to do in the near future.

Disappointed that I would not be able to see Phillip's garden I prepared to return home. My niece suggested that I go by the Delano Rose Garden at Delano Park in Decatur. I was only about two blocks from her home, so off I went. It is a spectacular garden, classic in design with some of the largest hostas I have ever seen.

The "Ritual" continues and the Road Trip a huge success. The owner of all the Japanese Maples called my wife back and told her we were welcome anytime to visit and see his trees. I feel another road trip coming on....

May 8, 2010

Then and now...

When I finally decided to start a gardening blog I thought long and hard as to what the name of my blog would be. My love of gardening came from my mother. My mother's garden was not very big at all. In fact, it was probably no more than a 20x20 plot. It was small because being a working farm, most of the workable ground was used for cash crops like cotton and corn or for raising vegetables. It was also because she did not have the money to buy plants or seeds. Even though it was small it was something she truly loved. I can remember that she had a particular fondness for zinnias, dahlias, and iris. Several years ago while visiting the Biltmore House I came across a small granite plaque in the gift shop of the arboretum with the inscription "In Search of My Mother's Garden I found my own" which brought back many fond memories of my mother and her garden. I had forgotten about this little plaque until very recently and when I saw it I instantly knew what I wanted to name my blog. It is in her memory that I dedicate this blog.

My own garden can be best described as a transitional eclectic garden. Transitional in that it is constantly changing or in flux. Eclectic in that it is a hodge-podge mixture of plants thrown together without a coherent design principle or master plan in mind. If it pleases me, fine: if not, I move it somewhere else and replace it with something else. John Floyd a noted horticulturalist and gardening friend once told me "plants have legs". My plants have more legs than a spider.

Most of my gardening efforts involve the front and side yards. The back yard is heavily wooded and occupied by our four dogs. Effort to garden in this area has proven an exercise in futility. I have a Rhodesian Ridgeback that thinks he is part beaver and promptly eats any plants that invades his domain. Thus, I have relinquished this area for future development once the dogs have gone to the happy hunting grounds. Unfortunately, I'm afraid some of them may outlive me.

I became really serious with the landscaping in 2004 when a storm did major damage to the Bradford Pears that I had planted between my house and my neighbors. Unable to save them I had them removed and the stumps ground down. What had been a shade garden suddenly became a full sun garden and I had to relocate about 75 shade loving plants immediately. I replaced the Bradfords with a single Eastern Redbud (Forest Pansy) located in the middle of the bed. Next came some ornamental grasses and a doublefile viburnum (shasta), some arborvitaes , and a hedge row of needlepoint hollies along the property line. Finally, I filled in the beds with perennials with seasonal annuals. Since then I have moved multiple plants, added some knockout roses, an arbor with New Dawn roses, put in some stone paths and replaced the bermuda glass with emerald green zoysia.

The front yard continues to be a work in progress. I would have liked to put a white picket fence across the front as I think it would go very well with the Federal Style architecture of my house, but the neighborhood covenants prohibit any fence past the rear of the dwelling. Let me say now that I think the only valid covenants that should exist are the ones between you and your God. Since the picket fence was not an option, I decided to make a living fence. I planted a needlepoint holly hedge between my neighbor's house that mirrored the hedge that separated my other neighbor. The front hedge is composed of knockout roses(single red) and chinese fringe plants (lorapetalums-razzle dazzle I believe). Although I am somewhat pleased with the end result, I am still not totally pleased and continue to look for ideas to enhance this part of the landscape.

The pictures below shows where I started from and how things look today.