Saturday, June 18, 2016

Happy as hellstrip

I finally, after many years, finished my hellstrip - the area between sidewalk and road. The spring hasn't been all about the shed!

Hellstrip with dead tree gone,
but stump remaining.
It was like this for three years.
It started off a grass strip with a dying horse chestnut tree. After watching the horse chestnut tree die for a few years, the city (who has the rights to the hellstrip property) came by and cut down the tree.

Then, after three years of asking the city when they were going to grind down the stump, they finally did. They planted a young tree to replace the dead tree. That was my cue to start planting there, since it seems the city was done doing what they were going to do.

The "grass" that was there was mostly crab grass, clover, and various weeds. They were all green, so it gave the appearance of grass. For a few years, this strip is the only reason I had a lawnmower, since the rest of the front yard is a grassless jungle of a garden.

So after the tree was planted, I started with a curvy shaped garden with mostly divisions of plants from other parts of the garden, some contributions from friends, and a couple grasses I purchased. It was still surrounded by the lame "grass" that was more weeds than grass. My plan included spending as close to $0 on the whole project.
After the stump was ground out,
and a tree was planted, I then knew
what I had to work with.
The next year, I added a brick paver pad at the base of the driveway, someplace for the garbage cans to sit on garbage day. And it got rid of more of the grass. The bricks came from the patio that I added the marble and granite "carpet" to the previous year - so the pavers cost nothing!

The soil here was typical hellstrip soil – compacted, clay-y, dry, and beat up from more than 100 years of salt, dogs, and trampling. Basically, all the compost I've created in my backyard composter has gone here for the past four years.

A few weeks ago, I finished up taking out all the grass, and lining the strip with bricks on the sidewalk side, and pavers on the road side. The pavers on the road side are so people can get out of their parked cars and not have to step into the garden.

Where my hellstrip meets the neighbor's, I laid down some granite blocks I took form a granite block "wall" I had someone put in a few years ago. It was a solid line of large granite blocks - I took out every other one and used them in the hellstrip to make a definitive line between our hellstrip "properties." Where I took out every other granite block in my mini-wall, it formed a planter shaped hole that I planted Hens & Chicks and sedum.

Th estrip looks pretty good now. I have new areas to plant - where the grass was. I want to add low ground covers, as it's the area that surrounds all the taller plants. I've also added tulips this past year that came up – and were spectacular. I do all my spring bulbs in the front yard where we see them more, and the neighbors can appreciate them. We don't use the backyard in the early spring, so they'd be wasted back there.

I'm happy with the way it came out, but because there's a slight grade to the road side, the mulch I put down is falling onto the pavers. I may end up having to add a row of the upright bricks, like on the sidewalk side of the strip.

Not looking forward to that – digging in this area is like breaking apart concrete!
New tree, amorphous shaped bed, brick border between hellstrips, and the neighbor's cute mini.
Some areas were so hard-packed, no grass would grow.
I left this area open, and the following year I added a paver pad.
Paver pad for garbage cans to sit on once a week.
Plants were maturing and coming in pretty lush. But it was time to get rid of the rest of the nasty "grass."
Seriously, it was like breaking up concrete.
My daughter actually helped – lugging bricks and digging trenches.
I think it was be the hardest she's ever worked (at least that's what she told me.)
Laid down granite blocks where my neighbor's hellstrip begins, matching the low wall on the other side of teh sidewalk.
I've been sweeping, and then watering, sand into the cracks for a couple weeks.
I added this year's entire batch of compost and black mulch. It'll take years, but I'll make good soil here yet.
The pavers give people getting out of their cars just enough room to maneuver.
Needs some ground covers wherever the mulch is.
My office view.
Street view.

Monday, June 13, 2016

10 of Buffalo's "Can't Miss" Gardens...

 
In no particular order, here are 10 extraordinary gardens you can't miss during Garden Walk Buffalo. There are 406 gardens on the tour this year, not a bad one among them. In my mind, these are some standouts - out of dozens and dozens of standouts. If you go on the tour, make sure you hit up gardens NOT in the densely populated areas of the map. Good gardens are all over.

1. (Above) Baynes Street Eight Paths Garden You'll have to pick up the Garden Walk Buffalo map to find out the exact address of this garden. Mike, the gardener, is a Garden Walk Buffalo volunteer and a great advocate of the Walk. You can also see this garden on Gardens Buffalo Niagara's Tours of Open Gardens - select hours on Thursdays and Fridays throughout July. 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Spring around the spread


Last weekend I got done the bulk of the spring clean up. This weekend will be more concentrated projects, eating and drinking with friends, and perhaps the first kayak ride of the season.

Here's a round up of the activity around the spread...

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Well kiss my tulips hello!

This was a great year for my tulips. During the Garden Bloggers Fling in Toronto last year, each participant was given a certificate for 100 free bulbs from Colorblends Wholesale FlowerBulbs (seen above). I have to say - they are the tallest, most sturdy, longlasting bulbs I've ever had.

I'm no bulb collector or tulip hound, but from my little expereince with them, these have been the best performers I've ever had. The tulips I've had for years come back each year, maybe a few less each time. Many of them came from Holland - my wife was in Amsterdam and picked up a few bags with exotic colors – reds, oranges, yellows, purples, blues – and they all came up yellow. Buyer beware.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Before and After garden bench

I made this garden bench from a bed frame we had sitting in the basement for 15 years. It was my wife's grandmother's bed. At least this way we'll be able to appreciate it in the garden - rather than the basement.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Disney Concert Hall Garden and a bit of The Broad

The Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles holds a secret garden, The Blue Ribbon Garden,  that you would never know was even there walking by the alien exterior of the building.

A steep staircase off a busy sidewalk takes you to a rooftop public park/garden oasis, about an acre in size, with plenty of shady areas to sit and relax and take in the impressive architecture. Frank Gehry designed the building - and garden.

There are areas for kids performances, as well as serves as a pre- and post-performance reception area. It's also available for private events and children's programming.

One of its most unique features – other than the space-age design and materials is a fountain Gehry designed for its patron, Lillian Disney.

Disney was a rose collector – and collector of Royal Delft porcelain. According to the John Lithgow-narrated audio tour, Mr. Gehry himself said that the Delft wasn't that royal – in that she collected even cheap souvenir Delft as well.

Since she loved rose and her Delft porcelain, he created a large rose fountain made from Delft porcelain pieces and tiles.
Another feature of the building that was nature-inspired are the columns that support the building and mechanicals. Massive tree trunk-like wood-clad pillars give the lobby a sculptural forest-like vibe.
Free tours leave from the lobby daily. We had gotten there too late for the last tour but were able to take the audio tour (at no charge) and wander the building and garden at our leisure.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

New fence. Old fence.

Had a new cedar fence built last week. Finishing touches happen this week. 

Old picket fence? It's now the walls inside my new potting shed.


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

A potting table for the potting shed


Wow. I didn't post once in February. That's new.

It's been a crazy month. Thank god it was the shortest month of the year. We did a Caribbean cruise and a few days at Disney World at the end of January, then two weeks later did a six-day trip to Birmingham, England (Stonehenge, Warwick Castle, The Roman baths at Bath, and a monkey forest!).

Thursday, January 28, 2016

My garden is in the Bible. The Garden Bible, that is...

 I made it into the Bible, you know, the good book, The Garden Bible, Designing your perfect outdoor space. Friend (and friend to Buffalo and its Garden Walk) Barbara Ballinger has written the garden bible and Buffalo is well represented. Even a little corner of my garden was snuck in there. 

She (and I) have been waiting patiently for its publication and release. I asked her id it was like giving birth – and she said it was worse! 

Where ever a Buffalo garden is featured, Garden Walk Buffalo got a nice mention. Photos from Buffalo were shot by either photographer Don Zinteck, or myself.

It's a 224-page hardcover book with glorious and generously sized photos throughout. There's plenty here for the beginner – and the pro – with design tips and lots of inspiration (20 case studies!). They're chapters on understanding your site and climate, developing a budget, hiring professionals, finding a style, design principles, recognizing problems – and a whole section on garden tours that features Garden Walk Buffalo prominently.

Currently it's available on Amazon, but it will be seeping out to bookstores in the coming weeks and months.

Friday, January 22, 2016

DIY garden bench, window boxes, and shutters for the garden shed

It's been a busy few weeks in the basement workshop. Not only did I make three window boxes from old louvered closet doors left over from a bathroom remodel, but I've made a garden bench from an old headboard we were going to throw out. And then I made some shutters for the garden shed's round-topped windows.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

In the garden, in December

Not much going on in December, in the garden, in Buffalo, chez Charlier. The only news here is that we've had the least snow so far this winter in recorded history. We've also broken the top recorded temperatures for almost every day this month.

In the photo above you get to see the bones of the diamond-shaped dwarf pear tree espalier. I have to do something about trimming the tops this spring. They get pretty massive and thick up there.

Since there's not much to say about gardening, I can show what's been happening around the yard and garden.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Potting shed details, details, details...

Le Châtelet de Charlier is progressing nicely, even though it's winter. Buffalo hasn't had any snow yet – and it looks like it'll be at least a week before there's even a chance of it.

This past weekend I built three flower boxes from old closet bi-fold doors taken out of the house in a bathroom remodel a few years ago.

I made a door handle from a hand rake that we never used. I made three more hanging solar lights from terracotta pots, moved a shelving unit in from the garage that was there when we moved in 14 years ago, and started making mullions for the windows that didn't have any. It was a very productive weekend!

My neighbor Steve was walking by (as neighbors do) and suggested that the upper diamond window get some mullions in it because the solid glass almost made it look like there was no glass there – this coming from the guy that told me not to waste time adding the slate tile foundation because it was making the shed too "precious"! He's had some valuable suggestions along the way and he's fun to talk to, so every time I add a clever detail, or something that requires extra effort, or have some design scheme in mind, we now refer to it as "precious."

If the weather holds out this weekend, I'll get a potting table structure started out there. I'm thinking to use the $500 gift certificate I won for the scrap marble and granite "carpet" creative competition a couple years ago and see how far that goes toward getting a "scratch and dent" piece of soapstone (thanks Roxanne for that idea!), or unfinished marble table top for it.

I'm getting a lot more done this fall than I thought I ever would.

Monday, November 23, 2015

A conifer collector's confection

I've been to a few "Collector's Gardens" – gardens of true plant-a-holics that collect non-run-of-the-mill plants. Mostly they've been garden writer friends or folks that work for nurseries that can more readily get their hands on unique plants, or hard-to-find cultivars of more common plants. In my experience, they're usually less "designed" and more of a hodge podge of plants (well-suited to their spots) that the owner gets excited about.

This plant collector's garden, just outside Toronto, blew me away.

The Marion Jarvie garden was more of a curio cabinet of a garden. Or it looked as if you were touring a botanical garden, condensed into a small suburban lot. The more, and closer, you looked–the more there was to see.

Mostly featuring dwarf conifers of every size, shape, and color, it also hosts wonderful trees, shrubs and even some perennials I'm sure came from other planets.

This was just one of the dozens of gardens toured as part of the 2015 Garden Bloggers Fling in Toronto this past June. More than 70 gardeners attended. It was difficult to get photos without other gardeners in them–crouching, stretching, and contorting to get their photos taken. I wouldn't want it any other way. You can learn a lot touring gardens with 70+ people smarter than you that can answer questions, make you look at things you wouldn't normally see, or even just ask great questions themselves.

Not much else I can say. You'll just have to appreciate the photos...

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Pot lights for the potting shed

I wanted some solar terracotta pot lights for the potting shed (the shed has no electricity). What potting shed should NOT have a plant pot light? Seemed simple enough. I went looking for something like this by Googling and searching on Pinterest, but came up empty.

So I went to my friendly local hardware store, bought the solar lights and pots. The hardware store folks were a great help in suggesting how best to drill terracotta, the exact "L" brackets that are bendy enough to adjust its angle, and suggested the neoprene (rubber) washers for the screws.

I think they came out pretty well. The lights are rather dim, but this was just the first night's photos. I don't think the lights got enough sun power before I put them up. Even if they are on the dim side, they still work well. Glad I painted the interior of the pot white.

At first I tried drilling the holes with wood drill bits. It worked, but it took about 45 minutes to drill two holes. I have a masonry drill bit now, and it was suggested that I add water as I drill and that may help things along. Then I just added the solar light on top with just a couple dabs of glue. Almost any glue would work. I had some glass/metal glue on hand and it works fine. UPDATE: The masonry drill bit worked wonders. Keeping the area wet, it drilled through with little effort. I drilled six holes in three pots in ten minutes.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Gardening on Instagram

I'm new to Instagram as of about four weeks ago. I like to jump on trends years after they begin. 

It's a very visual medium. I've been blogging here for nigh on nine years. The blog is writing and photos. Facebook is short blurbs and images and links. Pinterest is my visual "file folder" of things I find I like and can easily refer back to. Instagram's strength, in my opinion, is it makes a viewer focus on one image at a time. It's got plenty of garden porn for my visual pleasure. 

Through Instagram I am able to share the thousands upon thousands of garden photos I've taken over the years – from garden blogger meet-ups, trips abroad, garden tours locally and around the country, visits to botanical gardens, hikes, and my own garden and neighborhood. Some photos have been published on this blog, most have not. It's nice to have a venue for them – as opposed to sitting on a hard drive on my desk.

I'm still getting the hang of how it all works. Hashtags are new to me. Do people really use them? The interface on my desktop computer is lackluster and basic (and frustrating). The iPhone images seem so small at times, especially for complex photos. The iPad is just right.

If you're on Instagram, look me up, you can find me at jimcharlier.

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