Before and After—Revisiting the Sites of Articles Past

I think my adopted art form has five dimensions. There are the usual three—depth, width, and height. I like to add the dimension where you stand inside the creation and look at it from that viewpoint (I’m not sure, though, if that is a dimension or a perspective). The next dimension is that of time. If the plants don’t croak they grow and change the total feel of the project as time goes by. My main professional compensation other than making a modest living is to visit the projects after a period of time and enjoy the changes. This past week I said, “Wow” several times.

Several times this past week I found myself in the presence of sites that I have written articles about. Everything has changed—as gardening projects have a habit of doing. At any rate, here are some pictures of my visitations during the first week of December, 2013 and the links to the articles that tell about the inception of the projects.

I think one of the most significant projects was the Boys and Girls Club vegetable garden that we built in spring of 2009. Diane Harbin and Rome, Georgia’s Three Rivers Garden Club were the moving factors behind the project. After four years the garden needed a bit of physical reworking and maintenance. We tackled the job. Some of the timbers had rotted out, and there was a significant amount of weeds that needed removing as well as some irrigation concerns.  Jobs that are right down my alley. Here’s a picture of one of the main problems:

Weeds and a few rotted timbers in the garden

Weeds and a few rotted timbers in the garden

Here is a picture of this delightful garden after the clean up and rebuild.

Rome, Ga. Boys and Girls Club vegetable garden after clean up and repair

Rome, Ga. Boys and Girls Club vegetable garden after clean up and repair. December 2013

You may click to visit The Boys and Girls Club Vegetable Garden Project. The article was written Nov. 29, 2009

A year after the building of the vegetable garden it was added on to. Go to: The Garden Gets a Gazebo from May 9, 2010.

I started this blog series in 2009 and one of the first articles was about building a portable rock garden. I presented the finished rock garden to my future father-in-law for his birthday. He has kept it alive and asked me a couple of weeks ago to take it and shape it up. All I’m going to do is give it some light, fertilize and prune it, and it should be all right on its fifth birthday. Here’s the “how to” article: How to Build a Portable Rock Garden from Jan. 17, 2010. And here is a picture of the garden on December 8, 2013.

Portable rock garden from one of my first articles

Portable rock garden from one of my first articles

I have probably been gardening for Betty for thirty years or so. I took this picture of one of her bonsais on Dec. 7, 2013.  Then I remembered that I had written an article including this plant on August 13 of this year that contains a picture of me pruning this very same tree about 20 years ago. See if you can find me. Here is the article—Pruning For Betty from Aug. 13, 2013.

Betty's bonsai

Betty’s bonsai

Just yesterday I had to go see Mabel and I noticed a little cedar tree that I had pruned a year ago and that was doing well.  The article is Mabel’s Topiary from Feb 26, 2012

This tree started as a weed but then a weed is only a plant that's in the wrong place

This tree started as a weed but then a weed is only a plant that’s in the wrong place

And, Oh, over the years, Patricia’s landscape garden in Buckhead is looking better and better. We did some clean up work and pruning Dec. 6 and 7 2013 and I took the picture below. There are two articles that relate to this garden: Making Stepping Stones With Whiskey Barrel Rings from October 2, 2011 and part two of the project, Patricia’s Side Garden from October 9, 2011.

Patricia's shade garden with hand made stepping stones and pea gravel

Patricia’s shade garden with hand made stepping stones and pea gravel

 Thanks for visiting John the Plant Man. Remember the next time you want a good read you need to try “REQUIEM FOR A REDNECK”, a kindle ebook from Amazon that features John the Plant Man with his Georgia mountain friends. It’s quite the adventure. Check it out, buy a copy, and tell ALL your friends about it.

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How to make stepping stones with whiskey barrel rings–part one

How to make stepping stones with whiskey barrel rings–part one

For part two of this article, click here

There’s a story behind this picture, read on

Amanda likes to make a good impression wherever she goes

Amanda likes to make a good impression wherever she goes

Halves of whiskey barrels make great planters but the barrels don’t last forever. Years ago, I realized that one of my recurring duties as a landscaper was to remove rotten barrel planters and replace them with new ones. I realized that the oaken staves, though partly rotten, would make good kindling and I shared them with my friends. I kept looking at the left over rings which held the barrels together and thought that I might, someday, find a use for them, so I began saving the rings. People who saw my growing stack of whiskey barrel rings often questioned my sanity. I didn’t care, though, because I knew I would find a use for them some day.

Then, one day, it dawned on me that the rings would make great forms for pouring stepping stones. I tried it out and made a few mistakes before I figured out a good way to make unique stepping stones that wouldn’t wiggle and which had lots of character. The process developed over the years. I finally got the concept of stepping stones that looked as if they were slabs cut from a petrified log full of fossils.

 We were working on a long (100 foot) narrow side yard on the north side of a house. The drainage is critical and a normal walkway just won’t do. We had built a long rock garden at the bottom of a retaining wall and were looking for a sustainable walkway, so we decided to use poured stepping stones surrounded with a pea gravel mulch. Here is the first part, step by step:

We dig out a circle to set the form so that will be level and rise to the proper elevation. The stepping stone will be poured in place and therefore won’t wiggle when finished. The barrel ring is slanted and we make sure that the side of the ring with the smaller diameter faces up so that we will be able to remove it from the finished stepping stone without lifting it.

Be sure to get the ring level, with the narrow diameter facing up

Be sure to get the ring level, with the narrow diameter facing up

We line the ring with plastic which will make it easy to remove the ring when the cement is dry. Then we start filling it with cement. I used Sakrete concrete mix for strength and durability. Be sure to use a concrete mix, because mortar or sand mixes will not set up strong enough for a stepping stone.

Lay plastic over the ring, shape it to the corners, and add cement

Lay plastic over the ring, shape it to the corners, and add cement

With the plastic folded back, we smooth out the cement to the top of the stepping stone.

Smooth out the cement to the top of the barrel ring

Smooth out the cement to the top of the barrel ring

There is almost no limit to the choices for an image in the stepping stone. I chose a fern for this one which will come out looking like a fossil. The fern frond was placed in just the right place and smoothed in with a trowel. You will need to experiment to find just the right stage of curing to wait for before troweling the inset into the cement.

The fern will look like a fossil in the finished stepping stone

The fern will look like a fossil in the finished stepping stone

Gently pull the plastic toward the center to make sure that there is no overhang of cement. This will also give a nicely finished wrinkled effect to the edge of the stepping stone.

Pull the plastic toward the center to form a finished edge

Pull the plastic toward the center to form a finished edge

Fold the plastic over the stepping stone. I like to gently mash the wrinkles of the plastic into the cement to create random lines of interest.

Mash the plastic wrinkles gently into the stepping stones to create a neat texture

Mash the plastic wrinkles gently into the stepping stones to create a neat texture

Gently place a rock or two on the plastic so that the wind won’t blow it around and walk away from the project until the next day.

allow the stepping stone to cure for a day or so

allow the stepping stone to cure for a day or so

After the project had dried for a day or two, the barrel rings may be removed. At this point, we trim the plastic at the bottom of the stepping stone, leaving the circle of plastic under the cement alone. If you are careful, the stepping stone will not be disturbed and will not wiggle when walked on.

pull the barrel ring from the dry stepping stone

pull the barrel ring from the dry stepping stone

Feel free to be creative with the images left in the cement, too. In the picture below, we used hydrangea leaves and parts of artificial flowers that we got from the dollar tree. The materials used to make the images will be removed, leaving their impressions in the finished product.

Flowers in a stepping stone

Flowers in a stepping stone

That’s it for the first stage. Be careful to allow the cement to set up well before allowing any traffic on them. In a week or so, these stones will have cured enough for me to stain them. Part two of this series will deal with staining and finishing the stepping stones as well as with mulching and finishing the total project. Stay tuned!

To see part two of this series, click here

***********

If you like this article on stepping stones, you may wish to see “Building Rock Steps,” parts one and two.

Would you like a consultation with johntheplantman in your yard? Contact John Schulz BY EMAIL

 These articles are brought to you by John P. Schulz, author of the novel, Requiem for a Redneck

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?

How to treat a butterfly

 

How to treat a butterfly (for Tina):

by john p. schulz

 

  • On Building Stepping Stones
  • Concrete and Abstract

 

stepping stones

Hand made stepping stones with imbedded ferns

Suddenly and unexpectedly captivated

The two young girls stopped their play

Noticing the wrinkled ancient gardener

As he added interest to the garden path.

 

They stood in their shorts and sandals

Their long hair hanging down

And watched as the old man pressed a flower

Into a freshly poured cement stepping stone.

 

“Will the flower stay in the cement?”

One asked

“No” replied the gardener.

“I will take the flower out

when the cement dries.”

 

“And what will be there, then?”

The other girl asked

The gardener thought about it

“The essence of the flower will remain.”

 

The girls thought about it

Jessica asked:

“Can you put a butterfly in it?”

“Yes” the gardener replied

“Can you find a butterfly?”

 

The two girls looked at each other and disappeared

Returning as the gardener was mixing fresh cement.

His hands old and wrinkled but strong

One girl’s hands soft and smooth

Cupped under her chin

Holding a treasure.

 

The gardener, putting his hand to his back

Straightened up, his eyes smiling

“And what might you have in your hands?”

“Why it’s a butterfly” she laughed

“I caught it. It’s beautiful”

 

He gently held out his hand

“And you want its essence in the garden?”

She looked down at her hands.  “I think so” she said.

 

And after a pause, she asked:

“Will it die?”

“Of course” the old man said

“But I don’t want it to die”

She clasped her hands a bit tighter.

 

The old man cocked his head to the side

“It will only live for a day, anyway”

She looked down at her hands

“And how long will its essence be in the cement?”

 

He turned and looked all around the garden

“It should be there for years” he replied

She followed his gaze around the beautiful garden

“He will be here for years?”

A nod

“He will die tomorrow anyhow?”

A nod

 

The girls looked at each other

They looked at the cupped hands

They looked up at the cloudy sky

And the smooth young hands opened up

And the girls watched

As the beautiful butterfly found a wind current

And sailed away.

 

“He only gets one day.” She said

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