Last fall, I began a comprehensive renovation, rejuvenation and overall heavy edit of my front garden. I've been gardening on my 50 x 100 lot in NE Portland since 1998, so some of my initial plantings had run their course. I removed several large shrubs to make some of the larger framework plants more "comfortable" and to make room for some fresh understory plantings.
But I'm particularly pleased with and excited to show you the hardscape additions I've made. These new hardscape features include a steel and stone retaining wall along the front of my garden and the addition of curvaceous raised beds made of steel flat bar woven in a sinuous, basket weave pattern.
I'd been enjoying working with steel in my client projects for some time, but hadn't yet landed on a way to incorporate some of my ideas into my garden at home. I believe that the combination of the steel with the basalt boulders really make this addition "work" within my existing garden. I've got a fair amount of existing stone and steel in my garden, so the union of these two materials make sense and ensure that the wall and the raised beds in the parking strip feel like a part of the larger whole.
Deciding to pursue these changes was the result of a combination of forces. Believe it or not, it started with the decision to change the way that I water my garden ... but alas, that’s a topic for another post. All that I’ll say about that part of the decision at this juncture is that I decided that I needed a wall or edge of some sort that would prevent water from immediately running off the slope and onto the sidewalk. And one thing led to another.
Additionally, some of the primary structural plantings in my garden had developed some heft and were ready to do more of the heavy-lifting in terms of holding the overall garden structure together. In particular: two Japanese maples (Acer palmatum), a crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia x indica 'Zuni'), a Magnolia stellata and my dynamic duo of Taxus x media 'Sentinalis' that were planted in the early stages of the garden's development and which are now quite established.
Another important factor was that some very lovely shrubs that I've enjoyed for a number of years had simply outgrown their welcome. The most significant removal was a very large, very beautiful doublefile viburnum (Viburnum plicatum tomentosum 'Mariesii'). It was one of the initial framework shrubs in the first incarnation of my garden, and a dozen years later it commanded the bulk of the southwest corner of my front garden. It was somewhat difficult to decide to remove this shrub, but once it was gone, it was immediately obvious that it was the right thing to do. Its removal allowed the structural plants I mentioned first to really do their thing.
The three photos above were taken very recently and give a pretty good idea of how the newly-installed steel elements fit into the front garden and provide a structural frame to embrace the exuberant plantings. The flowing form of the woven steel presents a satisfying juxtaposition to the sturdy, linear lines of the retaining wall.
As always, I'm certain that I’ll continually tweak and tinker with my planting schemes, which is one of the things that I find most enjoyable about garden-making. With the addition of this steel frame and the editing of my structural plantings, I'll be able to do that and preserve a sense of orderliness in the overall scene.
I always like to see process shots, so I've included some of those as well. In the first photo in the sequence just above, the paint lines show how I "roughed-in" the cuts and general shape of the raised edging in my parking strip. While I moved and removed a number of plants, I wanted to work around an Albizia julibrissin 'Summer Chocolate' that was really starting to develop a nice shape. The second photo is taken from the same angle immediately after we completed construction. The third photo gives a closer view from a different angle. The fourth and final photo was taken at the same angle very recently.
There are two pathways that are cut into the parking strip to improve pedestrian access. The series of three photos above show the primary path leading to the front walkway to our house.
The two photos above show the front retaining wall just after construction was completed. The second close-up view shows the steel and boulder joint. The wall face is constructed with sheets of 3/16 Cor Ten steel plate, trimmed with a 3 x 2 angle iron cap situated such that there is a 2" reveal on the front and 3" on top. The wall seams are finished with an additional piece of flat bar and secured with bolts.
I want to close with a note of thanks to the landscape professionals who helped bring my concept to life. Once again, I had the pleasure of working with Pete Wilson of Pete Wilson Stoneworks on this project. Pete and his crew are skilled professionals that have been behind the construction of many of my most memorable projects. In particular, Niall Hannan of Pete Wilson Stoneworks was an instrumental partner in the implementation of the woven steel and boulders in the parking strip. Rob Trautmann is another frequent contributor on client projects and was a natural fit to work with Pete on the installation of the steel wall. This project was a first for all of us in terms of bringing the steel and stone together in this way and shows the true power of a collaborative construction process.
I couldn't be more pleased with how my window box planting is developing this year. Screaming orange begonias brighten my spirits and my dining patio. This simple combination includes vivid orange begonias, copper-toned coleus, drippy-drapey cream-variegated creeping charlie vine and frothy green foxtail asparagus fern.
This springtime scene was captured in my garden in NE Portland, Oregon several years ago. This purple-prevalent planting scheme is dominated by a red leafed Japanese maple (Acer palmatum dissectum), Rhododendron 'Anah Kruschke', Australian mint bush (Prostanthera rotundifolia) and a blue flowering clematis hybrid. This largely monochromatic planting scheme is enhanced by the variety of flower shapes, different foliage textures, and the variation in the hue and intensity of the color.
Even the kitchen garden seems to be getting into the act, offering up a late-season finale. There are some plants that seem to really get a second wind with the cooler days of fall; the rainbow Swiss chard is looking lush, full and colorful in a couple areas of my garden. Though I think some, like the lemons, kick into high gear because they sense that their time is running out, figuring they better get a move on if they're going to deliver anything for the season.
Now that the Meyer lemon is starting to color up their true identity is revealed. For months, garden visitors have been commenting on the limes that I was growing! The Cuban oregano shown in the foreground of this photo is one of my favorite ornamental edibles. Though I have to admit that I seem to be growing this strictly as an ornamental; I have yet to use it in my cooking. Guess I'm not sure how to use it. Any tips from readers on that?
I don't normally think of strawberries as a source of fall color, but this season they're sure adding a nice pop of red in these baskets hanging from my eaves.
I've been doing more doing than blogging lately so I'd like to attempt to share a bit of what I've been working on.
Spring is a busy time in so many ways and this year is shaping up to be one of the busiest yet ... veg-garden-wise, that is. In this post, I want to set the stage a little bit for what I hope will be many posts chronicling my progress with growing more of our food. I've got several different gardens that I'm tending and want to give you an overview of the different sites so that there will be some additional context as I post through the season. I've set up photo albums for each garden and will be posting lots of photos as the season progresses.
My Kitchen Garden at Home: 2009 will be my fourth growing season in this garden which occupies our re-commissioned driveway, a narrow space less than 9 feet wide on the south side of my house. My goal was to create a beautiful, productive, and space-efficient kitchen garden. The fence was designed to be beautiful and functional. I grow "up" as much as possible, using the fence to support vining and trailing plants; maximizing vertical growing space in small gardens is essential. New this year: growing "down." I've added containers hanging from the eaves. Anything a cook would appreciate having right out the back door is a contender for including in this space. We're growing salad greens, peas, beans, a few tomatoes, berries and herbs for cooking such as basil, cilantro, mint, parsley and more.
The (Urban) Farm: I am co-farming with a friend on her property. We're doing production-oriented growing with an eye toward really making a dent in providing a fair amount of the food for our two households; both during the growing season but also with enough left over that we can preserve some of the harvest as well. This is not huge garden by some peoples standards, but it is by no means a small garden either; we have ten 4' x 8' raised beds and we're adding about 60 feet of 2' wide in-ground rows this year. We started this venture last year, so 2009 will be our second growing season at this site. A photo album of this garden is here. Past post about this gardens development can be found here.
The Back 400: After being on the waiting list for a couple of years for a community garden plot, this year my name came up and I'm thrilled. Our garden is a 20 foot x 20 foot plot (20 x 20 = 400; the "back 400" ... get it?!) at the Cully Community Garden site in NE Portland. I'll be doing more production-oriented growing over there as well.
Edibles ... the new Ornamental?: In addition to the "traditional" sites mentioned above, I'm going to be looking for ways to integrate ornamental edibles in creative and beautiful ways within the garden proper at home; anywhere and everywhere is fair game.
So why all this effort to grow our own? Most importantly, you can't beat homegrown for quality, freshness and flavor. But I'm also a strong believer in the environmental value of local food production and you can't get more local than growing your own. Plus, there's great satisfaction in knowing exactly what went into the food that we bring to our table especially with all the recent issues surrounding food safety. In my mind, it's definitely worth it and I'm having a blast doing it.
So, I hope you'll check back often to follow our progress. If you're also trying to grow more of your own food in your garden, leave a comment and let us all know what you're up to.
They're reporting this is most snow we've seen in Portland in December since 1968. Yup, seems 'bout right.
Needless to say, we're not really using the front door right now. There's easily over a foot at the front door.
Spots of color, like this snow-covered ornament, really stand out.
The lovely bark on my crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia x 'Zuni' on the right in this picture) really stands out in the snow.
Don't see this everyday; a cross country skier cruising along NE 47th.
It's really piling up in the back garden. Cozy though. Sit for a spell?
Prominent in the photo to the left is a yew (Taxus x 'Sentinalis) that is normally very strongly upright that was splaying under the weight of this snow. I went out this morning and shook the snow off this and some of my other evergreens this morning (well, as best as I could at least). If we get ice after this snow I worry that it will break under the strain.