Building a Stone Patio for a SerenityGarden

Diane had only been in the house for a couple of months when I went over to look at the project. She took me to a side of the yard and we looked inside a small fenced in area. She said, “I want a serenity garden here where I can sit and sip my coffee and relax with my thoughts.”

I assured her that this would be possible.

She asked,“Where should we start?”

I thought about it and replied, “How about a stick of dynamite?”

The "before" picture for the serenity garden

It was going to take a bit of work to make this site “serene”

We moved all the furniture, ornaments, and small plants out to the carport to be dealt with later. A lot of roots needed to be dug up in the area where the patio would be built. A trip to Willow Creek Nursery was called for. We were able to pick out a ton or so of some really good looking flagstone.

Hand picked flagstone for a patio project

A ton or so of select flagstone for building a patio.

I played around with the flexible forming until I got a shape that I really liked. Diane and I had discussed building a separate landing under the swing but I liked it better making the landing a part of the patio. The plastic forming material is wonderful. Expensive but wonderful. We used to have to build the forms with one by fours or pieces of masonite that had to be ripped to size. I was lucky a few years ago when a cement guy needed beer and had the forms but no money. He gave me a great deal on them and I have used them for a number of projects.

plastic forming material for masonry projects

I love the bendable plastic forming material.

The forms should be laid out carefully. Water is the boss of the project and the patio should fall (slope) about 1/8 of a bubble to the lowest point. The cement is mixed just right so that it is just the right stiffness to react properly with the stone and the rubber mallet. We have to watch out for high places that we call “toe stubbers.”

We start laying the patio stone in an available corner.

We start laying the patio stone in an available corner.

We don’t worry about the joints until the rock is laid. Here is the first section

a section of flagstone laid for a patio without filled joints

a section of flagstone laid for a patio without filled joints

The main tools for the first part of the job are a trowel, a rubber mallet, and a two by four. The two by four is laid from one side of the forming to the other. This is the item that makes the difference. Careful attention should be paid to smoothness.

The necessary tools for the patio laying job: a trowel, a two by four, and a rubber mallet

The necessary tools for the patio laying job: a trowel, a two by four, and a rubber mallet

Here’s a stopping point for the day. The rocks are laid but all of the joints are open. It is time to “pour the joints” but that is a job that needs to be started of a morning. The mortar has to dry to exactly the right consistency before finishing and if we start on it in the afternoon it may prove to be a long night.

flagstone patio almost completed project

The patio should sit overnight and then it will be time to “pour the joints”

The next morning we use a thing from the cement company that looks like a cake decorator bag to pour a properly wet mortar into the joints. The cement will mound up over the rocks as in the picture below. We keep checking the consistency of the joint material and when it is just right, we cut it off to the level of the rocks with a trowel. It takes a bit of practice.

The first step in filling the joints on the flagstone patio

The first step in filling the joints on the flagstone patio

We want stepping stones from the carport to the patio. The level has to be just right and I found out long ago that a guy has to be very careful when he lays out stepping stones for a lady. Also, I’m going to set these stones with mortar so they won’t wiggle and it would be difficult to move them later. I worked with it until I was satisfied.

Stepping stones laid out just right for a lady to walk on

It takes a lot of care for a guy to lay out stepping stones just right for a lady to walk on

Since the patio is down hill from the gate just a little bit we use the level, the two by four and mortar mix to make everything come out right.

Using a level to make sure stepping stones are lined up with the patio

Using a level to make sure stepping stones are lined up with the patio

The stepping stones are satisfactory. The project will look different after the compost is added.

Flagstone tepping stones set carefully for walking comfort

Flagstone tepping stones set carefully for walking comfort

When the joint mortar is just right the edges are finished with a special tool. This step makes it look almost professional.

Using an edging tool to finish up the edges of the patio

Using an edging tool to finish up the edges of the patio

 

This is the part I really like. I refer to it as a “blank palette”.

new patio ready for landscapingTime to remove the forms, add compost, mulch, and plants

We took out all the small plants and then got out the motor pruners and did a good job of pruning and shaping the larger bushes. I wanted to get this cleaned up before putting in the compost.

A good time to trim the shrubbery

A good time to trim the shrubbery

I love the compost part. We hauled three pick up truck loads before we had enough. Then we raked and shaped until I was totally satisfied.

We add a mound of good black compost. It is ready to be raked out, covered with cypress chips, and planted.

We add a mound of good black compost. It is ready to be raked out, covered with cypress chips, and planted.

The planting part was easy. I didn’t have to purchase many plants—I just had to put the ones we took out back but in the right place. Diane had bought pansies, dusty miller, and some dianthus. She thought the finished planting was a bit sparse but I assured her that it would grow out just right. Over planting would not foster serenity.

The garden is ready for company. Maybe we'll straighten the swing a bit first.

The garden is ready for company. Maybe we’ll straighten the swing a bit first.

Thanks for visiting John the Plant Man. Remember, Requiem for a Redneck by John P. Schulz is now available in the Kindle Store

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?

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Maintaining a special yard on the mountain

One of the reasons I call my business “John Schulz, Landscape Artist”

I spent the day Friday helping to tweak the beautiful plantings at the Magee’s house on Mount Alto.  I was told that the house style was “French Country” I have worked on the installation for almost 20 years.  I thought the story and the yard were worth sharing.

a well sculptured garden

a well sculptured garden

I met the beautiful Yolanda Magee and her husband Nelson about 20 years ago.  They had been busy working in construction management in Saudi Arabia for 13 years and in Spain in resort development for two years.  The house was built in 1964, and bought by the Magees in 1972.  They left for Saudi Arabia in 1976.  Instead of selling the house, they rented it for fifteen years.  When they returned in 1991, the yard was a shambles.

I was hired to repair and rebuild the plantings.  Yolanda had been told that the existing boxwoods were beyond repair and had to be taken out.  I figured that we could save them and save them we did.  We started with a basic renovation and the installation of a private patio behind the house off of the lower sun room.  The patio is accessed either through the sunroom, or by a set of flagstone steps that go from the driveway next to the carport

Still snuggling on the patio after all these years.  Awwww.

Still snuggling on the patio after all these years. Awwww.

Before we started, I told Nelson that my mother Jane B. Schulz, who lives in Kingsport, Tennessee, had told me that if we prune the knockout roses on Labor Day, we will have flowers until the freeze kills them.  That got the project started and we went on to shape up the entire yard. Here’s what the knockout roses looked like before pruning:

My mother said to prune the Knockout Roses for Labor Day and they would bloom until a hard freeze.

My mother said to prune the Knockout Roses for Labor Day and they would bloom until a hard freeze.

The knockout roses are planted so that they will show over the brick wall from the road side and may also be enjoyed from the house as they rise over the manicured yaupon hollies.  Nelson pitched in and pruned one group of roses while the landscape crew worked on the other side. Nelson is an amazing perfectionist.

Nelson helps to prune the roses.

Nelson helps to prune the roses.

We gave the yaupon hollies their fall trimming and the result looked good.  Mom said that the knockout roses will re bloom in two to three weeks and will last out the season.

Pruned knockout roses on September 3

Pruned knockout roses on September 3

While we worked, I got this shot of Yolanda as she watered the geraniums on the upper landing.  She loves the pots on this front accent and keeps something there all year. We have usually planted geraniums in the summer and pansies in the winter.  I think that next year we will use impatiens instead of geraniums.

Watering the plants on the upper front landing.

Watering the plants on the upper front landing.

The boxwood garden that I mentioned earlier was a shambles when we started.  We were told they couldn’t be repaired and would have to come out.  I decided not to listen to the advice and over a number of years the garden has grown in well.  I am a great fan of boxwoods and I knew it could be done.  Looking at them now, I’m glad we took a shot at it.  “No guts, no glory”

The renovated boxwood garden

The renovated boxwood garden

I always liked the thought of landscaping from the inside out, so I went into the house and took a picture through the window.  The boxwood patio is like a painting on the wall from the living and dining rooms.

Boxwood garden and patio from a living room chair.

Boxwood garden and patio from a living room chair.

While I was inside, I decided to take a picture from the ground floor sun room in the back of the house.  It is a delightful room and over the years we have trimmed and cut the existing trees so that there is a “window” through the trees to the valley below:

The mountain view is like an ever changing picture on a glass wall

The mountain view is like an ever changing picture on a glass wall

At the start of the renovation, a couple of the boxwoods were large, scraggly, and almost beyond repair.  The choice was to either take them out or turn them into topiaries.  I thought the latter sounded like a lot more fun.  Here’s how one of them turned out after careful training for a few years.

Turn an ugly, misshaped boxwood into a beautiful topiary

Turn an ugly, misshaped boxwood into a beautiful topiary

Two of the trees in the following picture were originally in planters and got too big, so we planted them over to the side and then added a live Christmas tree from years back.  We have now turned them into modified topiaries.  They’re not finished yet-actually, they will never be finished-but they are really shaping up fine.

topiaries in the garden border

topiaries in the garden border

The zoysia grass flows like a river around the side and down to the rear side of the house. When we installed the sod, Nelson asked if it would be advisable to install a brick border.  I told him that my Uncle John had once said, “It only costs a hell of a lot more to go first class.”  The border was installed and I think it offers a wonderful finished touch.

zoysia sod flows like a river down and to the rear

zoysia sod flows like a river down and to the rear

One funny thing that Nelson told me is the house has a “mansard roof” and that the bedroom walls upstairs are slanted the same as the roof is.  He said that hanging pictures becomes an art form because you must hang them from the bottom as well as the top.

As I was finishing up, I glanced at the back to see Yolanda enjoying the September afternoon with her—you guessed it—Kindle.  Nelson told me that he loves the Kindle and has bought five of them this year, two for the house and three more for members of his family who have trouble finding books overseas.

Enjoying a Kindle on a wonderful September afternoon

Enjoying a Kindle on a wonderful September afternoon

I realized that I am blessed with the opportunity to work really hard on a project for an entire day and enjoy every minute of 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?

Or the print edition: http://www.amazon.com/Requiem-Redneck-John-P-Schulz/dp/0981825206/

Try “see inside the book”

 

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