Sunday, March 20, 2011

Spring mud garden

This past week has seen the beginnings of a long-planned revision to the Northwest Territory at Longview Ranch. It's one part of a larger project that includes rebuilding the patio roof, replacing the ugly metal roof support with three simple wood posts, and adding paving to make more seating space at the back of the house. The original trees and shrubs we added three years ago, mostly the natives of which Mulchman is so fond, have filled in nicely and looked good through winter. Now we want to get rid of the rest of the lawn in this area and increase both the privacy and seating areas.

To make these changes, we needed to move some deciduous trees and late winter is the best time for that.

Here's a photo (it seems ridiculous to shoot the screen, but I can't convert the PDF into a JPG I can upload) of the Mulchman's design.

Below are a couple of pictures of the space before we began.
I use the term "we" in all these descriptions rather grandly: we created the design, but the people actually doing the major moving are from the same landscape company we used three years ago. Four strong young guys from Winterbloom showed up Tuesday morning to begin removing grass. They made short work of it.

In addition, they lifted our Cornus x 'Eddies White Wonder' from the northeast corner, an Acer circinatum from a small bed near the back door, and all the affected small shrubs and ground covers for relocation later on.

Of course, it rained.

The next day, the crew began removing dirt for the concrete extension to the existing patio. We want a place for a table and chairs out here, and although there's quite a bit of room under cover, the arrangement of the space has always been awkward for sitting space.

And as they worked, it continued to rain. There was even a severe weather alert that day.

Above, you can see the new Tsuga mertensiana (A beautiful mountain hemlock we found at Garden World) and a new Acer circinatum waiting in the wings for their revamped beds.

On Thursday, the rounded river rock we had picked out from Valley Landscape Center arrived. It looks a little like a necklace of boulders here: they just needed to get it all set out.

The crew reused all the large rocks that were part of the original landscape. Despite this sunny picture from the end of the day, it mostly rained as the crew worked.

We had to go to four nurseries to find a vine maple we liked. We finally found one at Portland Nursery. Reasonably priced, too.

Rock arranging happened Friday, under the MulchMan's careful eye. Gravel, which we are assured looks darker than its eventual color, was added in the north sitting space where irregular quartzite pavers will add some texture.

Here are the pavers packed into the back of our Prius, along with the Hemlock and some more Gaultheria shallon we picked up at Garden World.

The crew should finish their work and some basic mulching this Monday - probably in the rain. Then Pat, the concrete guy will add the new concrete and a footer for the new patio roof support. We also have high hopes for a non-toxic stripper Pat is researching for us, to get rid of the red paint on the existing concrete (sand-blasting would be expensive and hard on our cedar siding.) The landscape crew will come back later to add drainage around the edge of the concrete and we'll be able to add back the small shrubs and groundcovers after that.

As exciting as all this quick work is, it's a sloppy mess and likely to remain so for a while. I'm definitely hoping for a few dry days to drain the soil before I get to settling all the little plants back in.

Happy Vernal Equinox!


  1. Despite how soggy it is right now, I can tell it's going to look wonderful when it's done! My fence guys were working in the same awful weather. They were encased head to toe in foul-weather gear, and still looked like they had been wallowing in the mud at the end of the day. My husband said, "I hope they finish the fence soon, so it can stop raining..."

  2. Wow! Fabulous photo collection detailing the work. It looks great...what a change it will make in your outdoor activities. I hope the non-toxic stripper is a go...why oh why do people paint concrete surfaces like that?

    I've never been to Garden World. Would you recommend the trip?

  3. Good for you. And good job documenting it. It's so often hard to take pictures of the mess in the middle. I'm regularly sorry I neglect to!

    Change is exciting!

  4. This incessant rain... I'm so glad to see that your workers are, or at least seem impervious to it all. I so look forward to the "after" photos. This is a great project Jane and your post is super documentation of it. And BTW I love your use of conifers.

  5. Alison - too funny, what your husband said! It's unfortunate that the time to get these things done is the worst of our rainy season.

    dg - I don't know that I'd recommend making a special trip to Garden World just to browse: they seemed to have fairly predictable selections, at least this time of year. We went specifically for the mountain hemlock after verifying they had some.

    Chris - it's a lot easier to document when you're not the person covered with mud at the end of the day!

    Deb - we look forward to occupying it!

    Grace - the Mulchman gets all the credit for the conifers.

  6. must be so excited...what a huge change...not only will it be beautiful, but so much more practical (that seating area looked a bit awkward before. I love that you have Mountain Hemlock...they are so stunning! And seriously, painted cement, what WERE they thinking?!?

  7. Looks like it will be really good--you planned very well. Will the stones grow moss and lichen in your climate? I can't imagine what all that rain must be like.

  8. Nice...and I can just see beautiful mid century patio furniture and planters

  9. The Mulchman made some serious drawings...really important when someone else is going to do the work. The most telling photo was that shot of all the muddy tools...splurch! You are all set up for some spectacular before and afters.

  10. Scott - we are excited but now we're impatient for the rest of the project to commence! Yes, painted cement - WWTT!

    Hoover Boo - the stones will eventually get a nice mossy look, after the shade from the trees increases a bit more.

    Linda - wish I had some outdoor mid-mod planters. I do have two great 60s metal chairs and a little matching table.

    Ricki - We're lucky the Mulchman is a talented draftsman and designer. And you captured it perfectly: "splurch!"

  11. Nice to see the details of the transition. It's so dreamy to fix a long-frustrating garden problem. Hooray!


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