Monday, September 29, 2014

Setting the bar

This past weekend was another project in the "garden" that has been gnawing at me for years. I built the diamond-patterned slate tile counter tops around my grill years ago (seen below, left) and, not having an engineering degree, and with only weekend carpentry skills, the one L-shaped counter was very wiggly and jiggly. Drinks were in peril had anyone accidentally hip checked the bar.
For the longest time I've wanted to shore up the base of it with deck planks, also providing a bit of cover for that area of the deck and adding a little bit of storage there too.

Now the bar is so solid, you could dance on it. If you shake it, the entire arbor shakes (only slightly) too.

The top of the bar has a hole cut in it. Normally I keep a pot of basil there. It being next to the grill – it is easy to add basil to whatever is being grilled. But for parties I switch out the basil pot for a an empty pot used as an ice bucket.

Similarly, the back counter – the "buffet" – has a recessed long planter in it where we plant climbing vines each year to travel up the great garbage-picked grate. I think this year (year six or seven, my memories are fuzzier than my math) we actually found what will grow in this corner best –  Black-eyed Susan vine (Thunbergia alata). We've tried morning glories, mandevilla, Firecracker Vine/Exotic Love Vine (Ipomoea lobata), all coleus, and others. Glad to have that settled. Just wish the Black-eyed Susan vines were perennials.

Following is the evolution of the "outdoor kitchen":

Before the before, way before.
After the before, but before the before. The gas grill works from
a gas line from the basement – enabling year-round grilling.
There's a bit of wine-theme around the deck. There's a "sawed-off"
wine bottle lamp above the grill for night grilling, as well as four of these wine bottle torches
I made on the arbor to which the bar is attached. I have plans in my head
for a "chandelier" over the 10-foot long picnic table I built.
Of course, it's me, so lighting gets incorporated into everything. There are rope lights behind almost everything in my garden, including the vine grate. I'll be adding lights underneath the bar in the spring.
The sculpture of the ferns on the left in the photo I bought at the Elmwood Festival of the Arts years ago.
The orange ball (a gift) is filled with white rope lights and looks swellegent at night.
Believe it or not the stain color of the bar and deck are the same.
Eight years of use and abuse, and subsequent sandings and stainings of the deck led to the color disparity.
Hopefully, over time, the bar color will mellow and they'll  get closer in hue.
Built-in shelf for grill brushes, garbage can and other assorted stuff that was on view previously.
Here you can see the diamond-patterned slate top and built-in planter/ice bucket.
The diamond pattern is a reoccurring theme through the entire garden - and even the exterior of the house.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

A bit of the east out west in Portland

On our trip to Portland, the number one thing on my list to see was its famous Japanese Garden. I've seen photos of it for years, and was teased by the many posts by Garden Blogger Fling attendees from their trip there this past June.
We opted to walk up the hill to the garden.
There is a tram for those not so inclined.

My own garden is a mish-mash of garden design projects - more a laboratory for sometimes misguided and trendy garden ideas gathered from trips and travels. Japanese gardens are the opposite of that – havens of tranquility derived through human-scaled plantings, stone, and water mimicking nature, bringing a sense of peace and harmony. No one's ever used any of those words to describe my garden.

The Portland Japanese Garden was designed by Professor Takuma Tono in 1963. It is 5.5 acres with five distinct gardens, featuring a Japanese Tea House, meandering streams, walkways, rest areas, a gallery space, and ubiquitous gift shop. It has been called, "...the most beautiful and authentic Japanese garden in the world outside of Japan." I'm sure other Japanese gardens throughout the world probably make that claim as well.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Weekend Work Five: My Garden Space of Shame

Every gardener has an area of their garden that provides shame, humiliation, embarrassment, and guilt, right? (Tell me it's not just me!)

I remember bravely posted about her garden space area of shame years ago. I couldn't find it in the archives of her blog, perhaps it was too overwhelming a source of shame she "unposted" it.

My Space of Shame is behind my garage. It's a narrow space of about three feet between garage and fence. I've tried pulling, poisons, and plastic to keep the weeds down back there. I (and garden visitors) cannot see back there, so it tends to get not tended. And it gets out of control.

Nasty knotweed is pretty well established back there (you can see it mocking me in the back of the photo above), there's wall-crawling (and paint peeling) English ivy, some vining wild-grape-looking thing, as well as dozens of other weeds. Any fix we make is only temporary.

The area of mess and shame has extended to the area between my deck and the fence (right). This area can only be seen if we pull out the picnic table and you're sitting on that side of the table.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Weekend Work Four: It's the Little Things

Another minor project (below) was scraping off some of the moss growing under the playset and adding it to some of the hypertufa planters I made.
More so a purchase, as opposed to a project, my wife bought these great purple asters (below) for our fall porch color. I might have to put a couple of these in the cones by the front door. They'd look like big purple ice cream cones.
And I just added the photo below 'cause it looked nice. I love me some Persian Shield.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Weekend Work Three: Hellstrip Happenings

The most time-consuming project over the weekend was the paver stone landing pad in the hellstrip (below). The hellstrip has been slowly transformed from a weedy patch of compact abused soil to something that needs less maintenance.

I stopped using the lawn mower years ago. Now with this small area replaced with brick, there's only a couple other spots in the garden that require weed-whacking maintenance. And that little bit of remaining grass may all go away next year, as I start Phase 4 of the "taking of the hellstrip."

The brick pad is ostensibly a resting place for our garbage and recycling bins which will sit there one day a week. The paver stones came from the area of our patio that came out to create the marble and granite scrap area rug.

I'll be wetting and sweeping sand into it for the next week or so. Nearly every neighbor going by with dogs, groceries, yoga mats, and bicycles stops to chat. Working in the front yard, I have to estimate the time it takes and then multiply by three.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Weekend Work Two: The Anniversary Present.

As a 25th anniversary present, my wife bought me plants (she knows me too well). They are to replace the gangly and in-constant-need-of trimming white-flowering ninebark that hid our air conditioner (and intruded over into our neighbor's porch if we didn't maintain it).

We bought a Redvein Enkianthus "Red Bells" for its columnar habit, red stems, and height of 6-8'. It also has creamy yellow flowers veined in red in summer and brilliant red leaves in the fall, and berries in between. The other plant, for in front of the Redvein, is a Lacecap Hydrangea in a pale pink with reddish veining. I'm proud of myself for actually planting them according to their suggested mature plant size. I have a habit of planting things too close.

My wife's always hated that ninebark shrub, we never liked the white flowers, and she's wanted it replaced for a while, hence the anniversary gift. (I know her too well).

She gets her way and I get new plants. It's a system we've developed over 25 years. We both win.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Weekend Work One: Goodbye Harry Potter.

We said goodbye to the Harry Potter Garden – for now.

I dug up the Gillyweed, Devil's Snare, Bubotuber, Mimbulus mimble-tonia, Puffapod, Flitterbloom, Alihotsy, Dittany and more over the weekend. They replanted temporarily for safekeeping in another part of the garden. It'll all go back. We're getting rid of the kid's jungle gym and swing. It was here when we bought the house.

Our daughter is 16 and hasn't even looked at it in years. A few neighborhood little ones use it. But that doesn't justify keeping it – so it's goodbye Mr. Potter and hello potting shed! I'll post my potting shed plans at some point in the future. I've been researching potting sheds on Pinterest. I have too many ideas that have to get prioritized and narrowed down to what is realistically in my budget and weekend carpentry skills.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

For you a rose in Portland grows...

Portland Oregon's International Rose Test Garden in Washington Park is the oldest of 24 public rose test gardens in the U.S  for the All-America Rose Selections (AARS) - being established in 1940. The five-plus acres of roses sits on one of the highest points in the city and is worthy of a visit if you get to Portland. Thousands of roses represent more than 550 different varieties of roses. The visuals and smells are stunning.
Roses under test are not named but are given only a number. Varieties are submitted by hybridizers to the AARS, who then distributes them to the test gardens. Four plants of each entry are evaluated, for two years, on different characteristics, including plant habit, vigor, disease resistance, color, flower production, form, foliage, and fragrance. About 200 rose cultivars are trialed each year.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Buffalo's best fence? Or greatest fence? You decide.

It stands in the 18th Street Community Park, at the corner of 18th Street and Rhode Island Street, whose care is semi-neglected by the city. It separates the park from Urban Roots Community Garden Center, one of the first co-operative garden centers in the country. Years ago, when my daughter was young, Urban Roots had a kids activity making tiles for the fence. I've since forgotten which tile she made, but all the tiles made by the kids were incorporated into the unique fence. I bet she'll remember.

It was conceived and built by UB’s School of Architecture and Planning, under the direction of Brad Wales (architect, educator, set designer, landscape designer, writer, media artist, and photographer). The gate is made of spaced concrete vertical slats that are mirrored on the ground and also has designed sculptural seating of the same materials. The concrete is hand-hammered, each slat a unique object that works as a transparent divider between Urban Roots and the park. Even though the materials used are steel, concrete, metal and tiles, it has an airy look and feel to it. It took about four years and 150 students to accomplish.

It reminds me of an urban take-off of a Louise Nevelson sculpture. No surprise that designer Brad Wales is a fan of architect Antoni Gaudi, who imbued even his most simple and mundane projects with creativity (and also tiles!).

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Such selective successive succint succulent and sedum successes

The succulents have filled in nicely throughout the summer. I suspect, if they survive the winter well enough, that you won't be able to see any of the sphagnum moss/chicken wire next year. Some stuff'll have to be cut back a bit – just the sedums. They get gangly.

The spiders seem to like the thing. Every day the same web is remade in the same place. And that top part of the frame is sagging more now than it did when it was hung. Not quite sure how to remedy that. The thing weighs a ton. Okay, maybe not a ton exactly, but it weights a lot.

I'll leave it in place for the winter, covering it up with a shrub coat fabric and taking it off on decent days when I think about it. They are used to snow cover, so light won't be too much of an issue. If anything, I'm told that the drying winds may be more detrimental.

I was told that these succulents and sedums actually like the moisture level similar to that of a really well-ring-out sponge. That's not been a problem all summer. I've only had to water it a few times by sparing it with the hose. Rain seems to keep 'em happy for the most part.

Friday, August 29, 2014

A train garden to beat all train gardens...

There are probably many more great train gardens out there, but this is the best I've come across in my travels. Though I have to admit, not being a train person, I don't seek them out. But I am impressed when someone's passionate hobby mashes up with a nice garden.

I should have expected something was up
when I saw this mailbox.
This garden in Hamburg, NY was on the National Garden Festival's Open Gardens - 90+ Open Gardens throughout Buffalo Niagara on Thursdays and Fridays for the month of July.

Here at Dave and Barb's Whit's End, the trainscapes are so well incorporated in to the gardens that it doesn't seem too train-y until you get in close. I didn't see it when the trains were running, but I'm sure it ups the experience even more. This is the first garden among the 90 or so gardens on the Festival's Open Gardens that I could see a kid wanting to stay in.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

My favorite garden discovery of 2014's Garden Walk

Like the classic mullet haircut, this garden is formal business in front and all party in the back! Shown above is the front yard garden and it could not be more formal with its four symmetric parterres of Japanese maples, perennials and boxwoods, all surrounding a great water fountain. The garden is on Norwood Avenue, down near the Summer end, for those that know the neighborhood.

Even though its underlying structure is formal, the plantings are looser and more casual, making a strict formal garden feel a little more "Buffalo-like." That may not be true once those outlining boxwoods grow in more together and get trimmed. Trimmed boxwoods instantly give a garden a crisper look.

We like our grassless front yards here in Buffalo, and most fall into the "Cottage-y" category, if they can be classified at all – jam-packed with little regard to spacing and color coordination.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The front yard is the blackyard

I wanted to show off the handsome Garden Walk Buffalo garden of Mark, on Richmond Avenue. I met Mark out at Italian Marble & Granite when I was there choosing the marble and granite scraps I was collecting from their dumpster for my project. Mark was there (for a fourth time, I think) collecting more marble and granite for his Garden Walk projects in his garden. The largest of his projects is seen above - two large "floating" pieces of marble smack dab in the middle of his front yard garden.

He painted the rocks black
with water seal paint.
The front garden is very small, but jam-packed with plants, all perennials. An overall "theme," if you can call it that, is the color black. The marble has much black in it, the mulch is black, and he's even painted the stones in the walkway black. The marble pieces above are resting on blocks that are covered with black marble – giving it that look of floating – as the blocks just disappear.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A hidden house on hosta hill

During the National Garden Festival's Open Gardens, I got to visit the home of Jayette and Steve. I've known them as casual acquaintances for many years and we've talked gardens before, but I never had the chance to go and actually visit their garden. They certainly underplayed their gardening hand! Their house is practically buried in hostas, and they have a spectacular wooded swale separating them from a busy road nearby.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Fencing Garden Art

During Garden Walk Buffalo. I got out to visit just a few gardens I've never visited before. Local artist Sally Treanor had been in my garden – not once – but twice on Saturday alone for the Walk and I told her I'd try and get over to Richmond Avenue to see hers in the morning.

One thing Garden Walk Buffalo issue that has never been satisfactorily solved is the ability to have gardeners visit other gardener's gardens. During the Walk, we're all in our own gardens. Before the Walk, it's crunch time and we need the time to work on our own gardens. Following the Walk, and I'm only speaking from my own experience, I'm too tired of seeing and talking gardens that it's hard to muster the energy. 
We have tried though. We used to have either the Pre-Garden Walk Party, or the Thank You Party for the gardeners in people's back yards. That worked nicely – until the parties got too big!


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