Time: The Fourth Dimension in the Garden

Patsy Hubbard and I were looking around her “yard” the other day. She said, “It sure does look good this year.” I replied, “Yes, and just think, it only took thirty years.”

“I hope you are taking pictures.” She remarked and the more I thought about that remark, the more I thought that it would be nice to post some pictures.

Dragon wing begonia with mountainous background

Dragon wing begonia with mountainous background

As you can see from the picture above, the scope of the plantings mixed with the hilltop setting range from small details to large vistas. One of the best performing flowering accent plants has been the “Miss Huff” lantana. This reliable perennial has grown to the size of about five feet high and eight feet in diameter. It is totally deer-proof, also.

Miss Huff latana gets big but does its job well.

Miss Huff latana gets big but does its job well.

Here’s a detail of the lantana. If you plant it for yourself, be sure to leave plenty of room.

Flowers on Miss Huff lantana

Flowers on Miss Huff lantana

Maintaining this landscape garden calls for a lot of pruning—some of it on a ladder. I would say that we do an extended pruning/shaping three or four times a year. I liked this silhouette:

Carefully shaping trees and shrubs from a ladder.

Carefully shaping trees and shrubs from a ladder.

The walkways are on three major levels and are tied in so that they may be traveled without the need of stairs. It is an ideal ride for a motorized “scooter.” There is always something pretty, interesting, and constantly changing to look at.

A shady garden path

A shady garden path

I like to grow a mandevilla vine up to the top of the pool cabana every year. This one was purchased at Lowe’s this spring and was about three feet tall. I have tried keeping these plants inside during the winter but I have found that it is easier and cheaper to just buy a new one each spring.

A flowering mandevilla grows rapidly up a chain

A flowering mandevilla grows rapidly up a chain

I built this rock fountain about thirty years ago and it’s still doing fine. I love the way it offers a microcosm of the distant mountainous vistas.

The view of a small fountain extends to the distant mountains

The view of a small fountain extends to the distant mountains

The walkway to the main entrance of the home is bordered with begonias, angelonias, Knock Out roses, and crape myrtle among other plants and is fronted by a magnificent weeping cherry.

An entrance walkway with a view

An entrance walkway with a view

Even on the hottest days there is some relief to be found on the shady pathways.

A shady garden pathway

A shady garden pathway

This has been fun. I’ll try to find some more points of interest for next week.

Thank you for visiting John the Plant Man

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

After four years I finally figured out how to add a comment box to this blog. Let’s see if it works

Trucking Buddies find Giant Insects

An accidental visit to the lovely Cheekwood Botanical Garden in Nashville was most interesting. After viewing the bonsai show we walked through the  gardens. One of the most striking exhibits was of “Big Bugs”—sculpture by David Rogers. If you like bugs there is some fun information on the Cheekwood website (Click Here).

Praying Mantis sculpture by David Rogers

Praying Mantis sculpture by David Rogers

I enjoyed studying the praying mantis and then looked off in the distance to see what looked like space invaders from War of the Worlds.

In the distance-could it be invaders from outer space? Read on.

In the distance-could it be invaders from outer space? Read on.

The garden path meandered through lovely flower plantings. I was delighted to see this sign which backed up my practice of telling people that an electric fence is, indeed, appropriate in the landscape garden.

A 12 volt electric fence in the garden reduces damage from deer and/or dogs

A 12 volt electric fence in the garden reduces damage from deer and/or dogs

The gardener had even set out a special sign to give a reason for the fence. I didn’t need one. I knew.

Yes, the fancy garden has an electric fence

Yes, the fancy garden has an electric fence

We walked on, enjoying the lovely day.  And then I came across the “space men” which turned out to be a granddaddy long legs spider.

giant spider

I think the sign said that this is not really a spider

I realized that I had been enjoying the signage and that perhaps I should share:

Is a daddy longlegs really a spider?

all about daddy longlegs

The artist, David Rogers, took good advantage of the reflective qualities of water as he placed his dragonfly in just the right spot.

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giant dragonfly over a lake

giant dragonfly over a lake

And, of course, there was a sign for the dragonflies.

I love watching dragonflies on the lake

I love watching dragonflies on the lake

I had seen sphinx-like statues in other gardens. This one commanded a nice view of the shade garden

Garden Sphinx

Garden Sphinx

And a sign that told me some things I hadn’t known:

about the garden sphinx

about the garden sphinx

One of my favorite pictures was this one of Sweetie in a bird cage. What they say is true, “The caged Sweetie didn’t sing.”

Yep, a caged Sweetie don't tweetie.

Yep, a caged Sweetie don’t tweetie.

For David Rogers’ website, CLICK HERE

Thank you for visiting John the Plant Man

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

Trucking Buddies Stumble Upon a Bonsai Show

Dekie was studying the road atlas. She said, “Look, here’s a mention of what looks like a small botanical garden. Maybe it would be fun.” We had spent the night in Nashville on our way back to Georgia from the trip to Iowa—not because it was Nashville, but because it was a good place to stop. I’m always game for a garden and we went looking for it.

Heading South

Heading South

I’ll admit that we are a bit naïve and unaware at times. Neither of us knew that Cheekwood was a magnificent museum and garden on the U.S. National Register of Historical Places. I plan to write at least a couple of articles on this adventure. It was quite an experience for a Georgia boy and his sweetie. After paying a parking fee and another admission fee, we looked around and found that members of the Nashville Bonsai Society (or whatever they call themselves) were setting up a very nice show just for us.

A wonderful bonsai show was being set up just for us at Cheekwood

A wonderful bonsai show was being set up just for us at Cheekwood

My wife is intrigued with bonsai and I basically shape plants for a living so we were happy to walk through and study the beautiful trees. I love the way an old pine trunk looks after years of training:

This is probably a Japanese Black Pine

This bonsai is probably a Japanese Black Pine

One of the more tedious techniques for shaping the plants is wrapping and bending wire to get the desired shapes. Copper wire is heated to gain stiffness and is then wrapped carefully around trunks and limbs.

bonsai tree limbs wrapped with specially treated copper wire

bonsai tree limbs wrapped with specially treated copper wire

The bonsai process is totally detail oriented. At first glance we see and appreciate the overall shape of the tree. On closer inspection, though, we notice deeper and deeper layers of detail such as in this carefully formed and aged tree trunk.

A carefully sculptured and nurtured bonsai tree trunk

A carefully sculptured and nurtured bonsai tree trunk

We were enjoying the tree below when an “old guy” started telling us about it (to me “old guy” is my age or older and should usually be listened to and venerated). He told us that the tree had been found and transplanted from a nearby mountaintop by one of their members who had served as a bonsai apprentice in Japan. I asked him what it was like to be a bonsai apprentice and he replied, “There is little or no pay, they work you like a slave and they don’t feed you.” I remember the part about getting fed.

A wind swept tree from the top of a  mountain

A wind swept tree from the top of a mountain

Dekie is working on a juniper cascade at home and she was interested in the overall shape and size of this specimen.

A bonsai in the classic "cascade" shape

A bonsai in the classic “cascade” shape

I have decided that the next plant I purchase for myself will be a Hinoki cypress—which is really not a cypress but a “cameacyperus” or false cypress. Here is a picture of a bonsai Hinoki. I also like them when they are allowed to get big.

Hinoki cypress bonsai

Hinoki cypress bonsai

I was rather taken with this three-piece arrangement. The artist will spend quite a bit of time adjusting all three of the components to just the right placement and orientation.

bonsai arrangement on a formal stand

bonsai arrangement on a formal stand

A good thing to know is that these arrangements are NOT house plants and that they are NOT static. The plants are usually grown outside or in a greenhouse and moved inside the home only for short-term display.

bonsai arrangement on polished driftwood

bonsai arrangement on polished driftwood

You may wish to play around with bonsai. I wrote an article a few years ago that is rather popular. Click here for ‘how to start a bonsai’

Another popular article, click here for “Pruning as an art form, the basics of pruning”

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

From Wikipedia on where the Cheek’s money came from:

”Christopher Cheek founded a wholesale grocery business in Nashville in the 1880s. His son, Leslie Cheek, joined him as a partner, and by 1915 was president of the family-owned company. Leslie’s wife, Mabel Wood, was a member of a prominent Clarksville, Tennessee, family. Meanwhile, Joel Cheek, Leslie’s cousin, had developed an acclaimed blend of coffee that was marketed through Nashville’s finest hotel, the Maxwell House Hotel. Cheek’s extended family, including Leslie and Mabel Cheek, were investors. In 1928, the Postum Cereals Company (now General Foods) purchasedMaxwell House‘s parent company, Cheek-Neal Coffee, for more than $40 million.[2]

“Trucking Buddies” Enjoy Garden Features on a Trip up the Rivers

A Georgia boy needs a good “trucking buddy” and I happen to be married to mine which makes things even better. Dekie and I decided to take a road trip to see Cousin Jane in Des Moines, Iowa. The Midwest is beautiful and our gardening interests helped us to appreciate sights that varied from the smallest flower to the immense corn fields.

Iowa corn fields with day lilies

Iowa corn fields with day lilies

Even though visiting Cousin Jane and her husband Terry in their new dome house was the overall immutable objective of the trip, we viewed our trip as an entity in and of itself. Good trucking buddies don’t hold interstate highways in a very high regard and prefer instead to get on the back roads and see what happens. That’s how you see the good stuff.

Town green, Le Roy, Illinois.

Town green, Le Roy, Illinois.

Before we left I didn’t really think of it as a “river trip” but we departed from Rome, Georgia, where the Oostanaula and the Etowah rivers join to form the Coosa river and we visited the Cumberland, the Missouri, the Ohio, the Mississippi, and the Des Moines rivers among others. The trip was both complicated and enhanced by the fact that the northern parts of the rivers were flooded.

Flooded Mississippi from Lover's Leap near Hannibal, Missouri--childhood home of Mark Twain

Flooded Mississippi from Lover’s Leap near Hannibal, Missouri–childhood home of Mark Twain

The flooding had been moving south. On the way north we enjoyed the riverside gardens in Peoria, Illinois. We watched immense barges full of granite gravel moving down the river. Later that week, on the way home, we saw that the barges had been tied up down around Hannibal because the river was so high they couldn’t go under some of the bridges. We had to turn around at one point because the scenic highway was impassable.

River front park and gardens, Peoria, Illinois

River front park and gardens, Peoria, Illinois

We spent a lovely evening in Davenport, Iowa where my wife enjoyed trying to find out just how far my old legs could walk. I kept up, though. Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. My legs ought to be a lot stronger. I sure did sleep well that night. Here’s a view of the flooded Mississippi from the bluff. I loved the daylilies.

Stairs, lined with yellow daylilies, leading down to the river in Davenport, Iowa

Stairs, lined with yellow daylilies, leading down to the river in Davenport, Iowa

We thought Des Moines was beautiful. I was amazed at the lack of traffic problems—knowing that it was the state capitol. We had a very nice tour of the city including their museum, the World Food Prize center (which I’ll write about next week), and the botanical garden that is currently being re-vamped. I was interested in the rather large water feature with islands that was in a middle stage of construction. I was impressed with the islands being built with pallets of stacked rock. I never would have thought of that one. It’s amazing what can be accomplished with a large enough budget.

Large water feature under construction at the Des Moines Botanical Gardens

Large water feature under construction at the Des Moines Botanical Gardens

The botanical garden must have a greenhouse or conservatory—especially way up north where tender plants and Georgia boys just don’t belong in the winter. Des Moines has a beautiful geodesic dome greenhouse. I was disappointed to find that I had failed to get a picture from the outside but the following picture will give you an idea of what’s going on.

From inside the greenhouse, Des Moines Botanical Garden

From inside the greenhouse, Des Moines Botanical Garden

And speaking of domes, Jane and Terry Swanson have been working on this dome home for a number of years. It is most impressive—tornado, hail, and fire proof—and I think it could be heated with a Bic lighter. Actually, the heating is accomplished by warm water being circulated through pipes in the floor. I love the thought of a nice, warm floor to walk around barefoot on. The dome will receive a stucco-like coating this summer to cover up the skin which was used to form the concrete and steel structure. It’s quite a building. Jane is working with an entire yard full of native wildflowers and she knows the names of almost all of them.

The Swanson's new Dome House near Des Moines, Iowa

The Swanson’s new Dome House near Des Moines, Iowa

Not driving on the interstate took us to a surprise—the home of Superman—Metropolis, Illinois.

Entering Metropolis, the home of Superman

Entering Metropolis, the home of Superman

I took a wrong turn and we saw these beautiful ceramic lions guarding a door.

Ceramic lions guarding a door

Ceramic lions guarding a door

I will leave you with a quote from Mark Twain. I saw this in Hannibal and thought about how true the statement was

From Mark Twain's birth place, Hannibal Missouri

From Mark Twain’s birth place, Hannibal Missouri

Thank you for visiting Johntheplantman

 

 

 

 

 

Uncommon Garden and Gifts

On Monday, April 14, Living and Giving will open at its new location on the corner of Broad Streetand Fourth Avenue in beautiful downtown Rome, Georgia. Aside from the fact that the plant and gift items are appealing and well-chosen, and not considering the beautiful smiles that accompany the attentive help and service, I just love Living and Giving for the displays. The shop owner, Lisa Landry is a true display artist and the shop is her canvas.

I was delighted when Lisa asked me to help with a couple of projects related to moving the store down the street. I have documented progress that you may see by clicking HERE(March 16)HERE(March 23), and HERE (April 6). I stopped in a couple of days early to check out the progress. There was a sign on the door that nicely said, “Leave me alone, I’m doing my creative thing.” (Those are not the exact words, but that was the perceived meaning). I found Lisa working at the front counter.

Lisa Landry working on some unknown creation at Living and Giving

Lisa Landry working on some unknown creation at Living and Giving

I was greeted warmly and Lisa guided me back to her “plant area” which was developed around the fountain that we had built a couple of weeks before. I was pleased with the transformation.

The water feature looks different with plants around it

The water feature looks different with plants around it

When we first installed the fountain the water falling was too loud. If you look closely at the picture below you can see a piece of brown slate placed so that it will break up the water fall and reduce the sound volume.

Using a rock to fine tune the sound of water falling

Using a rock to fine tune the sound of water falling

Lisa had told me before that customers liked to come in and pick out a plant and then a pot to put it in. There is always someone available at the store to repot a plant in an artistic manner. I found a table of plants basking in the light from a high window with a tray of pots below it.

Pick a pot, pick a plant, walk out with something pretty and different

Pick a pot, pick a plant, walk out with something pretty and different

Lisa was tickled with the logo and artwork on the front window and she took me outside to check it out. I think Monica Sheppard did a wonderful job of conceptualizing and illustrating the store’s message.

A beautiful logo and window dressing by designer Monica Sheppard

A beautiful logo and window dressing by designer Monica Sheppard

A couple of weeks previously we had cut down a large boxwood bush. Lisa had picked out one of the pieces to place inside the store. She researched ways to preserve the leaves. Here is a picture of the ladies guiding the installation and pruning of the tree from the outside in

Lisa standing outside the shop telling me how to prune a tree

Lisa standing outside the shop telling me how to prune a tree

The boxwood display ended up looking like this. And she’s not finished yet.

building a shop display under a tree

building a shop display under a tree

I liked the blue fountain which made a subtle, muted sound.

Decorating with sound and color.

Decorating with sound and color.

I asked Lisa if she needed any help moving things and she said, “I just want to be left alone to do my thing.” I decided it was time for me to leave. I smiled as I passed a sign that was waiting to be hung.

"If we make each other smile then we just can't lose,"

“If we make each other smile then we just can’t lose,”

Living and Giving will be open at its new location starting April 14, 2014 from 10 until 6. Tell them John the Plant Man sent you,

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what? usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

What Does a Hummingbird Nest Look Like? Ask Mabel

I always enjoy a visit with Mabel Milner. She is a captivating conversationalist and she knows so many interesting things about nature, about plants and flowers, and about gardening. I always know I will learn about something when I visit, I just don’t know what. This time I learned about hummingbird nests.

I love it when Mabel gets her glasses in one hand and starts punctuating with the other.

I love it when Mabel gets her glasses in one hand and starts punctuating with the other.

One of the reasons for my latest visit was to deliver a questionnaire that would determine “hummingbird habitat certification” for her yard. We exchanged pleasantries for a few moments—Mabel always sits by her window that looks down and out over her beautiful yard—and she pointed to an oak tree.

“A few years ago, I looked out this window and noticed what looked like a giant dragonfly hovering around a branch of that oak tree. It was about twenty feet above the ground.” I leaned over and saw that she was pointing to a tree just to the right rear of where my truck was parked.

The parlor window looks out over a wonderful, well-tended back yard

The parlor window looks out over a wonderful, well-tended back yard

“After a few days, we realized that we were watching a male ruby-throated hummingbird. It was quite a treat. He was ‘casing the joint,’ looking for a site in which to build a new home. He finally decided that he liked this location and showed it to his partner. I watched the two of them looking around. She approved.

“It seems that the male hummingbird comes to look for a nesting site early in the season and to establish his territory. He needs good perches from which to survey his domain and he wants the availability of water as well as nectar-rich flowers. There’s the nest, over on that table, under the glass dome.” She pointed. I walked over and removed the glass dome from the work of art. I brought it to the coffee table to study it.

view 1 of a well-preserved hummingbird nest.

view 1 of a well-preserved hummingbird nest.

“The male watches as the female studies the site and then she builds the nest with little or no help from him. It only takes her a day or two before the nest is ready and well-disguised. A few days later she has laid two pea sized eggs and sits on them to keep them warm. About two to three weeks later I could see the baby hummingbirds with their beaks open, looking for food.”

view 2 of the hummingbird nest. "They use spider webs and moss in the construction" She said.

view 2 of the hummingbird nest. “They use spider webs and moss in the construction” She said.

“And guess what…” Mabel said with a grin, “The daddy is done, he says, ‘no child support from me—I’m out of here,’ and he flies off to other venues leaving the mother to raise the babies alone. They are voracious eaters and momma stays exhausted.

“The young stay in the territory after fledging and the momma begins to introduce them to surrounding flowers and to the feeder by the back porch. The family remains for the rest of the season.”

hummingbird nest view 3. It must be some strong construction to have lasted for 3 years.

hummingbird nest view 3. It must be some strong construction to have lasted for 3 years.

Mabel continued, “A year later we had the same scenario. It seems that the hummingbirds often feel that it is easier to spruce up the old place than to build a new one. We watched the birds as they used the home for three years before abandoning the nest.”

“We couldn’t resist,” she said, “after we figured out that the hummers were finished with the nest for good, we used ladders and pole pruners to carefully remove the nest from the tree and turned it into a bit of a shrine under glass. It has been taken to quite a number of ‘show-and-tells’ for the grandchildren.”

I loved seeing the preserved hummingbird nest and I truly enjoyed the story. Thank you very much, Mabel Milner of Rome, Georgia.

As usual, I would just love for you to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

A Visit to the CoonHoundCemetery

My wife, Dekie received a “thank you reward” from using her visa card and decided to use it for a September birthday trip for me. More specifically, she decided to use it for a room in a fancy hotel in Florence, Alabama. We enjoy adventuresome road trips together, and I am always happy when the lady takes me across a state line. Dekie researched the area and decided that we should visit the Helen Keller birth place and a home that had been designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. After a little more research she found out that it would only be a hell of a lot more trouble to go to Cherokee, Alabama and visit the Key Underwood Coon Dog Memorial Graveyard.  You see, we’ve had a registered coon hound to enhance our relationship since its beginning. Our coon hound, Speck is getting older but still kicking. Here’s a picture from a few years ago:

John and Dekie with Speck the coon hound

John, Dekie, and Speck on the Berry College campus, 2008

Now don’t take this travelogue lightly. One does not just drop in on the coon hound cemetery. It is located just a little past the other side of nowhere after turning off from the main road near Cherokee. The name of the location, though is cut in granite:

Chiseled in stone--The marker for the Key Underwood Coon Dog Memorial Garden

Chiseled in stone–The marker for the Key Underwood Coon Dog Memorial Garden

A sign on a tree lets you know that neither you nor your cocker spaniel are welcome to be buried here.

Sign for Coon Hound Cemetery

I guess your Shih tzu ain’t gonna be buried in this HERE cemetery

And I would be remiss if I didn’t show you the lovely plaque from the Friends of the CoonDogCemetery:

Dedication plaque from the Friends of the Coon Dog Cemetery

Dedication plaque from the Friends of the Coon Dog Cemetery

The feeling of love and caring that someone put into this headstone done tore at my heart. I bet Lulu Belle was a wonderful dog.

Here Lies Lulu Bell, Prize champion coon hound. Born 1945

Here Lies Lulu Belle, Prize champion coon hound. Born 1945

Dekie enjoyed walking around and reading the messages that paid tribute to all of the wonderful late coon hounds

Sweet Dekie paid her respects to hundreds of coon dog heroes that day.

Sweet Dekie paid her respects to hundreds of coon dog heroes that day.

Ruff was another special stone, name, and  memory.

Here lies Ruff Redbone, a most special and loving coon hound.

Here lies Ruff Redbone, a most special and loving coon hound.

I enjoyed the feeling of love and caring as I looked over the head stones, and the flowers in the cemetery.

Looking over the well tended graveyard tugs at the strings of one's heart.

Looking over the well tended graveyard tugs at the strings of one’s heart.

I’ve seen a lot of things cast in concrete but this was the first time I ever saw cement coon hounds barking up a tree.

First time I ever saw cement coon dogs barking up a tree.

First time I ever saw cement coon dogs barking up a tree.

To be specific, Speck is a “treeing Walker coon hound” named for Mr. Walker who started the breed. We tried telling Speck about the cemetery but she just said, “that’s interesting, can I have a treat now?”

Speck the coon hound speaks: "It's time for my treat now."

Speck the coon hound speaks: “It’s time for my treat now.”

Thank you for visiting John the Plant Man.

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

A Small, Private Back Yard With Tea Olive and Roses

I often refer to landscaping as a four-dimensional art form. When questioned about this observation, I reply that “the fourth dimension of the art form is time. The landscape planting is an ever-changing entity.” For this reason I never know what I will see when I walk into a yard several years after its installation. The site may meet my expectations, exceed them, or in a few cases it may be a dismal failure.

Helen and Jack Runninger had invited Dekie and me over for a Friday night pizza dinner. Our delightful friend Ginger Grant was also invited. I was looking forward to seeing our friends as well as being curious about the fate of the privacy back yard that I had put together four or five years earlier. I was pleasantly surprised. The garden truly exceeded my expectations.

A privacy wall with tea olive, Knockout roses, and lantana.

A privacy wall with tea olive, Knockout roses, and lantana.

Jack and Helen got married later in life—much later. They sensibly downsized their living accommodations by moving to a very nice retirement community with one level floor plans and small yards. If I recall correctly, Jack was head over heels in love and gave Helen a johntheplantman back yard as a housewarming gift. I started by laying a slate patio with stone that had been donated by one of Helen’s friends.

The yard started with this grey slate patio

The yard started with this grey slate patio

When the patio was finished we pulled up chairs, looked around, and discussed the rest of the back yard planting. There was no privacy. To the left was a very nice yard with flower beds but no real privacy. To the right we could see yard after yard after yard. The ugly part, though, was the rear border of Jack and Helen’s yard. There was a hill-or a large terrace- that went down into the yard behind them and the house at the bottom of the hill was situated so that from the Runninger’s new patio, all one could see was an ugly roof. I thought long and hard about the design. It had to be beautiful, effective, and low maintenance.

I had to put in some complicated drainage and then a raised bed with some good compost. I planted tea olives on the back property line for a high evergreen screen. (The tea olives were about three feet high when I planted them.) I put Knockout roses to the front of the tea olives and prepared a raised flower bed in front of the roses. The first year of the flower bed we had pansies but the deer and rabbits brought their own salad dressing to that feast. The following summer we planted lantana and Helen said that the lantana come back reliably year after year.

This is funny. I told the ladies that I was going to take pictures of the garden for a blog article. They asked me what I wanted them to do and I said, “act like you’re talking about something in the garden. Maybe one of you should point at a feature.” This is the wonderful picture:

Dekie, Helen, and Ginger discuss remarkable parts of the garden

Dekie, Helen, and Ginger discuss remarkable parts of the garden

I used Cleyera japonica for the side yards with a few nandinas thrown in for texture, color, and winter berries. I liked the way the cleyera had grown in.

Cleyera as a screen. It's hard to believe there's another house 10 feet behind this.

Cleyera as a screen. It’s hard to believe there’s another house 10 feet behind this.

Back to the present, we ate dinner on the patio and everyone remarked about the lack of mosquitoes. Helen said that she thought it was because of the birds—especially the hummingbirds. It seems that the colors and fragrances of the garden attract the birds. The tea olives bloom two or three times a year and provide a true olfactory treat.

 A bird bath for accent and utility in a private back yard

A bird bath for accent and utility in a private back yard

While we talked about birds a beautiful yellow goldfinch visited the feeder. It’s in the picture. I promise. Look really close

yellow bird in a private back yard

yellow bird in a private back yard

And that’s the story of the Runninger’s private back yard. Sweet Helen just raves over it.

Helen Runninger raves about her back yard.

Helen Runninger raves on and on about her beautiful back yard.

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Thanks for visiting John the Plant Man. Here are a few  related posts:

Summertime care for Knockout roses:  Click Here

A privacy screen with Arizona Cypress and Knock out Rose:  Click Here

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

A FrontYardGarden Creation

I call it an “IslandGarden.” It is a most intense planting at the end of a cul-de-sac. The planting is bordered by the road on the front side, circled by curved steps and a driveway, and terraced with the best application of manufactured rock I have ever seen. I have watched this garden grow since it was planted about twelve years ago, enjoying the subtle changes made by the owners, Jos and Mary de Wit of Kingsport, Tennessee.

The garden starts in a cul-de-sac on the uphill side

The garden starts in a cul-de-sac on the uphill side

The landscape design was difficult to start with as the lot has a steady downhill fall from the edge of the cul-de-sac to the lake behind the house. A set of curved steps suggests a waterfall leading from the road to the front door and the retaining wall bordering the island becomes a mountain side. The featured plant in the island is a beautiful Eastern Redbud which Jos has been carefully shaping for years.

A "river bed" of steps leads down through the garden to the drive way.

A “river bed” of steps leads down through the garden to the drive way.

The planting of the island is a combination of wild and formal. The planting is varied and undulating. From the drive one notices Japanese maples, dwarf Norway Spruce, iris, and several perennial plantings.

A careful planting of different textures and sizes suggests a river bank

A careful planting of different textures and sizes suggests a river bank

The de Wits obviously treat this island like a Japanese bonsai garden. Every planting has been meticulously trimmed and groomed.  The following picture is a detail of the front of the garden from the road side. I admired the alstromeria (the pretty blooms in the center) and Mary said, “We planted them last year and enjoyed them. We didn’t know they would come back again. What a pleasant surprise.” I like the way the garden uses dwarf dianthus for a ground cover.

The plants add interest and a peaceful feeling that makes one pause and reflect.

The plants add interest and a peaceful feeling that makes one pause and reflect.

Jos has a time consuming job and he insists on spending a portion of his free time fishing. Whatever time is left over is spent in the garden, grooming and cleaning. I enjoy talking with him about his efforts. He always tells me that he doesn’t have much time for the garden but it looks to me like he’s being a bit over modest.

Jos modestly explains how things happen to "just look good"--not mentioning his work and care

Jos modestly explains how things happen to “just look good”–not mentioning his work and care

Of course, if you keep up with my writings, you will know that one of the things I appreciate most is the view of the landscape from the house. I love it when there is an ever changing picture on the wall that comes from nature shining through a window. Here’s the view from the breakfast room of the de Wit house.

A rear window creates an ever-changing picture on the wall using nature for the subject.

A rear window creates an ever-changing picture on the wall using nature for the subject.

I walked out on the deck to get a shot of the back yard.

A view of Fort Patrick Henry Lake. I love the way this yard morphs from the miniscule to the Grande.

A view of Fort Patrick Henry Lake. I love the way this yard morphs from the miniscule to the Grande.

Before leaving, I watched Jos take pictures of Mary using the garden as a background. Mary is going to give me a hard time about the corner of the garbage can showing in the picture but I think it adds a touch of humor.

The garden makes a good back drop for picture making.

The garden makes a good back drop for picture making.

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

A Waterfall Instead of a Retaining Wall

A beautiful waterfall in late September

 One of the points of profit associated with being a landscape artist, designer, and installer only shows up after a few years. On Friday, September23, I was delivering some pine straw to the Maire house where I had done some extensive work. Urs likes to touch up his pine straw periodically but I deliver because he doesn’t want to get his Lexus dirty hauling it himself. It was late on Friday and I was tired from the week’s work but as I finished unloading and closed the truck door I heard a sound that took me back a few years. I walked toward the back yard and was stopped in my tracks by the beautiful sight that appeared before me.

The plantings had matured over the years, perfectly framing the water feature

Flowers show off in September around the waterfall

I walked down the flagstone path to examine the beautiful water garden

Flagstone steps lead past the waterfall to the back yard deck

Flagstone steps lead past the waterfall to the back yard deck

As I walked to the other side of the waterfall, stopping to examine the different plants and flowers, my mind went back to the beginning of the project and I realized that I had pictures of some of the early work that we did on the yard. The project actually started because everyone thought that a retaining wall was needed on the slope in the back yard. There was no real access for equipment though, and any work would have to be done by hand and wheelbarrow. After a lot of thought, research, and discussion Urs and Mary decided that a waterfall would do the same job as a wall, look better, sound good, and cost less. This is what I refer to as cost effective on steroids. I found the pictures.

 The first thing that was done was to shape the waterfall and line the bottom with a large sheet of firestone rubber. This liner is the only way to go with a water feature in my way of thinking.

Waterfall construction with rocks and Firestone rubber liner

Waterfall construction with rocks and Firestone rubber liner

Some of the rocks were rather large and heavy. We used manpower, ramps, wheelbarrows, and industrial strength hand trucks to move them into place. The rocks where the water falls (fall rocks) and the ones that force the water over them were cemented into place.

The rocks are carefully laid to make the water run in the right places

The rocks are carefully laid to make the water run in the right places

It took some time and some work to get the job done but we were proud when we stood back and threw the switch. We had been very careful and the water went just where it was supposed to.

Being careful pays off, all of the water went in all the right places

Being careful pays off, all of the water went in all the right places

I found a picture of the planting in the first spring of the project. I always try to tell my clients that it will take five years for the planting to mature. It looked pretty good from the start, but there was more in store as the years went by

First year planting for the waterfall

First year planting for the waterfall

Some time around the end of October we will remove the impatiens and plant pansies which will offer their lovely flowers during the winter and early spring.

View of the waterfall from the back yard deck

View of the waterfall from the back yard deck

I stood on the deck and carefully studied the way the plants had grown and turned the setting into something rather magnificent. I listened to the water as it ran its course down the hillside, splattering and rippling as it fell over the rocks and into the small pools at the end of each terrace. I had a good payday on that particular Friday.

Impatiens flourish around the waterfall in late September

Impatiens flourish around the waterfall in late September

There are many other wonderful features in this beautiful yard. I’ll show you some more as time goes by.

Thank you for visiting. I hope you enjoyed it.

******

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

If you would like to have a consultation with John Schulz in your yard in the North Georgia area, email me at wherdepony@bellsouth.net

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