A beautiful backyard garden path

A walk through a garden pathway

I showed up to “tweak” the garden in preparation for a party.  I hadn’t been there for a while and when I walked up to the trellised gateway, I just stopped and said “wow.”

For a number of years I have helped Susan in developing the garden picture that she keeps in her head.  The garden is reaching maturity and Susan’s overall concept is beginning to really show up.  The gate is open and inviting.  How could you not walk through it?

An invitation to enter the garden

An invitation to enter the garden

Susan is anxiously waiting for the day when the magnolias, hemlocks, and white pines completely hide the black fence in the back and the houses to the sides.  The screen is almost there.  If you look really hard, you can get a glimpse of a neighboring house, but not much of one.

Seclusion created over a number of years

Seclusion created over a number of years

There are three pathway entrances to the garden.  The one pictured below leads from a grassy area past a koi pond and waterfall up into the garden itself.  The pathway is made with the use of random pieces of flagstone and a few custom poured stepping stones. A mulch of natural wood chips adds the perfect complement of texture and color.

Come on in and enjoy the garden. It calls

Come on in and enjoy the garden. It calls

When we established the pathway a few years ago, we used mostly flagstones, but we added hand made stepping stones using whisky barrel rings for a mold.  Leaves from surrounding plants were incorporated into the design, and the stones were colored with an acid stain.  I still remember seeing Susan bending over to look at a stepping stone and then straightening up to look around at the nearby plants. Grinning.

Hand poured stepping stones for accent

Hand poured stepping stones for accent

The pathway meanders to a secluded flagstone sitting area.  I like the way the hostas guide the visitor around the curve.

A flagstone sitting area for meditation

A flagstone sitting area for meditation

Walking toward the rear of the garden from the sitting area is like heading out into “the woods.”  I found azaleas on the left of me and a very large bed of Lenten roses to the right.  A snowball viburnum was showing off its spring glory.

From the sitting area into the garden

From the sitting area into the garden

At a curve in the walk I found this cute little bunny that is probably not going to ever get around to eating that hosta.

Little accents are tucked in interesting places

Little accents are tucked in interesting places

An entrance from the other side of the yard gives a vista of freshly planted begonias, coleus, white azaleas fading into a row of red Encore azaleas, and a beautiful Japanese maple.  As the azaleas fade, a large collection of hydrangeas will bloom in their place.  That’s when the Encore azaleas will really show off, also.

Waiting for the hydrangeas to bloom

Waiting for the hydrangeas to bloom

A view from the patio shows a short retaining wall built with large rocks and plantings to the front with a background of white azaleas.

From detail to background.  Lots of thought has been put into the garden.

From detail to background. Lots of thought has been put into the garden.

A good eye and an attention to detail give us the plantings on and in the rock borders.  Here we have variegated Solomon seal, ferns, and fig vine.  I really liked the basket accent.

Solomon seal and ferns soften the rocks.

Solomon seal and ferns soften the rocks.

The garden entrance from the patio is framed by a Buddha and a dragon fly giving an instant feeling of inner peace. I thought about the juxtaposition of the freedom of the dragon fly in flight and the quiet meditation of the Buddha.

A pensive freedom

Standing over the koi pond and next to a Japanese maple is the statue “la Breeza.” With the wind at her back she welcomes the sun to the garden.

"La Breeza" welcomes the wind and the morning sun.

“La Breeza” welcomes the wind and the morning sun.

I hope you enjoyed the tour as much as I did.  I’ll be back when the hydrangeas are in bloom.

Johntheplantman.

If you live in or around the northwest Georgia area and would like to have a consultation with johntheplantman, you may contact John Schulz by email at wherdepony@bellsouth.net  Do not send pictures or attachments as they will be instantly deleted.

related articles:

flagstone walkway and garden entrance part one

 

Flagstone walkway and garden entrance part two

Lenten roses, planting grass 

These articles are brought to you by John P. Schulz, author of the novel, Requiem for a Redneck .  You can read more of the adventures of John the plant man by visiting the sites below:

ebook:http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00FOAJCGO

or the print version:

http://www.amazon.com/Requiem-Redneck-John-P-Schulz/dp/0981825206/

Try “see inside the book”

 

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Building a flagstone walkway and garden entrance—part two.

Building a home and garden entrance—part two.

 I was really enjoying the flagstone and garden project.  Who wouldn’t?  There was always a fresh pot of coffee, the sweet lady fixed lunch for us every day, and the job was turning into a true work of art.  I was given total creative license.  It doesn’t get much better than that.  Read on, I will show before and after at the end of this article.

 I didn’t like the way the side of the landing at the back door was looking, so after pondering a bit, I decided that we needed to build a shelf for large potted plants to the side of the landing.  We started with cement blocks and framed in a nice level platform to end up a little lower than the level of the landing.

Building the foundation for a "plant shelf"
Building the foundation for a “plant shelf”

 My choices for facing the side of the shelf were either stucco or rock veneer.  It wasn’t really a hard choice to go with the rock veneer and I was intrigued as Jose showed me how to get the rocks to stick.  It was the same principle as a suction cup.  I got some pictures of the manner in which he made a suction application with the mortar. As I was writing this, my son, Paul, walked in and asked me how to stick flagstone to a wall.  I laughed and told him to read the article when I was finished.

It's all in how you apply the cement.  It starts with a thin layer over the entire rock surface
It’s all in how you apply the cement. It starts with a thin layer over the entire rock surface
A raised edge of mortar is placed on the side of the rock.
A raised edge of mortar is placed on the side of the rock.
an edge of mortar is put all around the rock with a hole in the middle to form a "suction cup"
an edge of mortar is put all around the rock with a hole in the middle to form a “suction cup”
The rock is gently tapped in place, the suction holds it
The rock is gently tapped in place, the suction holds it

 And when the veneer is finished, it looks really good.  Mortar is tucked around the joints.

The rocks are carefully fit into place
The rocks are carefully fit into place

 The elevation of the deck, the walk, and the hillside requires some creative terracing.  To do this, we shape and pack the compost and then add rocks to hold the terraces in place. 

time for the terraces
time for the terraces

The compost is held in place with carefully selected=

 Drip irrigation pipe is installed.  This is Rainbird drip tubing with emitters placed at 18 inches.  It is available at Home Depot.  I will write some irrigation articles at a later date.

drip irrigation is relatively cheap and easy.  Well worth the trouble
drip irrigation is relatively cheap and easy. Well worth the trouble

 A small tube is connected to the drip line and runs up to the pots on the shelf by the porch. We keep the tubing under or behind the pots to hide them as much as possible.

a drip watering tube is installed for each flower pot
a drip watering tube is installed for each flower pot

 An adjustable water emitter is placed in each flower pot.

adjustable drip nozzles for the flower pots.
adjustable drip nozzles for the flower pots.

The valve assemblies are installed by hooking into a faucet that is never used.  The installation will be semi automatic.  The white pipe will be painted flat black which will make it non obtrusive.

The Orbit electric valves are cheap enough at Lowe's or Home Depot.
The Orbit electric valves are cheap enough at Lowe’s or Home Depot.

Wires are run from the automatic valves to a simple controller clock in the basement.  The system may then be operated on either a manual or an automatic mode.

The Orbit controller.  Simple, dependable and worth the price--around $20.00 at Lowe's or Home Depot
The Orbit controller. Simple, dependable and worth the price–around $20.00 at Lowe’s or Home Depot

 Some leftover flagstone is laid as stepping stones to the bird feeder and all that is left to do is put down some pine straw and clean up.

make it easy to get to the bird feeder
make it easy to get to the bird feeder

Here are some pictures of before and after.

before
before
after--I can't wait to see it planted.
after–I can’t wait to see it planted.
entrance before
entrance before
A new entrance to home and garden.  What a difference!!
A new entrance to home and garden. What a difference!!

Turn your friends on to this site.  Leave your comments and questions.  I am always looking for a new topic to write about.

You may see the adventures of Johntheplantman in the book Requiem for a Redneck by John P. Schulz (Illustrated by my son, J.R. Schulz) at

The ebook version: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00FOAJCGO

You may also wish to read the reviews on Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Requiem-Redneck-John-P-Schulz/dp/0981825206/

Building a flagstone walkway and garden entrance

Building a garden walkway with flagstone-part one

I cringed when I first looked at the walkway and entrance from the driveway.  Everything else about the mountain home was perfectly lovely.  Rebuilding this part of the garden would be a challenge.  I don’t usually take “before” pictures but I thought these would be interesting.

See how they had to walk up the steps, grab the door handle and back down the steps with nowhere to set the groceries?

See how they had to walk up the steps, grab the door handle and back down the steps with nowhere to set the groceries?

Steps down from the driveway and water running toward the house

Steps down from the driveway and water running toward the house

She asked, "Could you perhaps add a few curves"?

She asked, “Could you perhaps add a few curves”?

The design request was not only to build a useable and visually pleasing entrance to the back door and down to the pool deck, but to also work everything into one of the nicest gardens I have seen in my thirty odd years of landscaping design and installation. The project also had to deal with a myriad of water issues.  I took the pictures above and then went home to sleep on it.  I tried a nap but found it insufficient.  I then slept on it for two or three nights before showing up with my measuring and drawing materials.  I knew that a drawing would be essential, and after several false starts I came up with this:

Driveway entrance from the lower end of the drawing to door at the upper end. Lots of curves and planting areas.  Brilliant?

Driveway entrance from the lower end of the drawing to door at the upper end. Lots of curves and planting areas. Brilliant?

I wanted to get rid of as many steps as possible and to build a practical landing at the back door that would allow a person to open the door without having to back up and step down.  This called for a six foot by four foot  platform landing.  To do this, we measured and built up a level base with concrete blocks.  We formed in the steps and added a flagstone veneer. The level of the walkway was also raised so that water would run toward the driveway instead of toward the house.

This makes it easier to open the door and creates a place to set the groceries.

This makes it easier to open the door and creates a place to set the groceries.

Years ago, I had made a mold for a butterfly stepping stone and given it to a friend.  A few days before starting this project, I found that the friend didn’t appreciate the gift and was keeping his garbage can on top of it so I repossessed it.  I didn’t know what to do with the stepping stone, but when I showed it to the client she asked if it could be inserted into the flagstone.  I was delighted.  Not only would the butterfly occupy a place of honor but my ego had been returned to the right level.  I really thought it came out nice.

I was happier having the butterfly here than under a trash can

I was happier having the butterfly here than under a trash can

Building with flagstone is both a skill and an art form. Installing flagstone veneer for a walkway is not quite as straightforward a job as laying tile or brick.  The installer is working with lots of variables such as shape and thickness of the block and maintaining a level without what I call “toe stumpers” (or little protrusions that catch the front end of a shoe).  The base for the project must be prepared with the thickness of the thickest stone in mind and then the stones are chosen for size and fit before being laid perfectly flat but not totally level (providing for water run off).  The first stage looks like this:

At this point a lot of careful work has been done.  Filling in the joints will tie everything together.

At this point a lot of careful work has been done. Filling in the joints will tie everything together.

When all of the flagstone surfaces have been carefully put into place and everything has been meticulously checked, we wait for the base mortar to dry.  The next step is to “pour the joints”.  This done with the use of a canvas bag that is not unlike a cake decorator bag.  It takes practice and skill to get it just right.  You will notice that the cement at this point sticks up above the surface of the rock.  This is essential for a good joint.

Pouring the joints.This takes practice, time, and care.

Pouring the joints. This takes practice, time, and care.

Waiting for the joints to dry--not too dry, not too wet.

Waiting for the joints to dry–not too dry, not too wet.

After all of the joints and crevasses have been filled and when the cement mixture has reached the perfect point of curing-not too dry and not too wet- the excess is carefully scraped off with a trowel making the entire surface smooth and walkable.  After scraping the joints, the entire surface is covered with a thin layer of sand and rubbed down with rags, taking off the excess cement and cleaning the project so that it looks like this:

Nice and smooth.  I love the random patterns in the rock.

Nice and smooth. I love the random patterns in the rock.

Mike Hutchins shows up with a dump truck load of the finest compost which he makes for me.  We will use this to fill in and to build rock gardens as we finish.  This compost is so good you can stick in pencils and grow erasers.

Magnificent!  There must be a pony in here somewhere.

Magnificent! There must be a pony in here somewhere.

As we raised the level of the walkway, we were careful to put in a drainage pipe to keep the entrance bed from filling up with water.  On any landscaping job, water is the boss.

We had the forsight to add a drain pipe at the start.  This was learned through hard experience.

We had the forsight to add a drain pipe at the start. This was learned through hard experience.

Field stone is placed around the edge for a raised garden bed.  I felt like the field stone would give an added juxtaposition of color and texture.  I can’t wait to see it planted.

A fieldstone flower bed border will add a juxtaposition of color and texture.

A fieldstone flower bed border will add a juxtaposition of color and texture.

The client was excited as her planting areas started taking shape and she felt comfortable pointing out little details that she would like to see as the field stone was installed.  I always enjoy such input as the job progresses because it provides for more thought, more comments, and therefore for more creativity.  It makes for a happy working environment and this helps us to end up with a happy garden.  I like a happy garden.

She observes, "a curve is more difficult than a straight line, but well worth the effort".

She observes, “a curve is more difficult than a straight line, but well worth the effort”.

John the plant man’s blog will have the rest of the story next week.  Of course, it may only be a part of the rest of the story.  Next week we will install shelves by the back door for potted plants. Then we will build rock terraces and fill the area from the walk to the landing, installing irrigation as we go..

It will never be finished, though.  A good garden is never finished.  Stay in touch.

To view part two of this article click here

Turn your friends on to this site.  Leave your comments and questions.  I am always looking for a new topic to write about.

You may see the adventures of Johntheplantman in the book Requiem for a Redneck by John P. Schulz (Illustrated by my son, J.R. Schulz) at

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00FOAJCGO

You may also wish to read the reviews on Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Requiem-Redneck-John-P-Schulz/dp/0981825206/

Funny, philosophical, and poignant.

Funny, philosophical, and poignant.

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