There's nothing like company to inspire Mark to look around the garden and decide if there's anything extra he might do to spruce it up. Case in point: these bamboo hoops he made to replace our old apple hoops. He took old bamboo poles and split them vertically using a heavy-bladed garden knife and a hammer.
He put the first few hoops near the edge of the pond where we don't want visitors to walk. Then he lined the rest of them along this curving path where we're replacing small perennials with ferns that are barely visible as they send up new fronds. (If you look closely you can also see the bare spots in the ivy on either side of the path. It still has not all filled in again after last winter took its toll.)
This is the view from the opposite end of the path with new ferns also visible on the right side of the path. The next project is replacing these logs with a more attractive and more permanent wall. We had been thinking about building a wall using narrow blue stone slabs similar to something we saw on one of the recent garden tours — until we priced it out. We're now working on Plan B.
"If you could line it up, why wouldn't you?" is Mark's mantra. His final project was rounding up my scattered watering cans to make his point.
We love our neighbor's huge Forsythia that is visible from our garden and their Kiwi vine that prowls along the top of the fence between our yards. But sometimes things get a little out of control.
While I was fighting off the kiwi vine, Mark had his own powerful lines swirling through the garden from the back door all the way to the Tea House.
Nothing adds a touch of glamour to the garden like the yellow extension cord that Mark uses when he's working on construction projects.
He's starting work on the final projects in the interior of the Tea House; specifically the platform for the display niche known as a Tokonoma.
I love the mix of subtle colors and textures in evidence as the Tea House comes together. After I shot this picture, he took the display platform back into the house for the next step: finishing it with a linseed oil and wax treatment.
One of my favorite bloggers, Deborah Silver at Dirt Simple took a look back at her garden over the course of the last year, as did Margaret Roach at A Way to Garden. It made me curious to look back at my own garden for 2013.
One of our massive 58-year-old Austrian pines came down in a storm at the end of December. It took out a couple of smaller trees as it fell but amazingly did not damage the fence. Mark and an arborist friend carefully cut it down in January.
I barely blogged or looked out the window I was so depressed over the loss of my big pine tree since it meant my shade garden was now pretty much in full sun. I cocooned indoors with good food, books and lots of candles.
It seemed like it took forever, but it turned out the snowdrops appeared right on schedule when I compared their arrival date with prior years. However neither winter nor the snow were over.
Fred and Ethel flew in with barely enough open water on our pond for a smooth landing. Looked painful to me but didn't seem to bother them. Look how much snow is still on the ground on April 7th!
The garden finally burst into full bloom with a spectacular month of flowers. Everything from our ancient apple trees to these primroses and Trilliums was lush, given the drought of the prior year.
Record rains kept the garden green and going strong. It also sent water into our basement and Mark spent much of the summer re-landscaping one side of the house to try to send the snow-melt and rainwater away from the house.
After 13 years our Stewartia finally flowered on its lower branches. For years we mostly enjoyed the flowers as they fell to the ground from the top branches. A real thrill!
Despite the wet spring, by late summer it was dry enough that I had to drag out the hoses to water my new shrub and tree purchases as well as all the plants that got new homes after the pine tree came out.
Plenty of flowers were happy with the sun and dryness like this geranium. It's growing in a pot on the deck with a fern and a clump of Tiarella or Heucherella, both of which I just dug out of the garden. I brought the pot into the house at the end of October; the fern has mostly faded but the other two plants are looking great, as is the pot of rosemary just visible on the far right.
Mark spent late summer and fall working on the Tea House. He finished all the doors, windows and a couple of protective shutters. Next summer he plans to do the finish carpentry on the interior. We sat inside with the doors open having a cup of afternoon coffee quite a few days during the fall.
We had a fence built on the east side of the garden, mulched many bags of leaves and also gathered 4 or 5 bags of white pine needles from our neighbors' trees. They will be used to refresh all my pine needle paths in the spring. From my first, rather sad little garden up to the present day, I have no qualms about cutting flowers to enjoy indoors. Making my own bouquets is the main reason I grow flowers. The last thing I did in November was to cut a couple of bouquets of leaves and seed-heads for the Thanksgiving table and for arrangements to put in the bathrooms. One small vaseful of dried seedheads remains, refreshed with evergreen prunings.
Twenty-eight new or favorite trees and shrubs — mostly dwarf varieties — were caged for the winter. We seem to have Peter Rabbit and his family living under our deck. But tracks outside the windows show that someone who travels on four feet has been trying to find the bunnies. Not sure if it's a fox or coyote. So far we can't tell if he's had any success. I am one who likes her plants more than Peter R.
How did your gardening year go?
These pictues show the two doors that Mark added as the finishing exterior touches to the Tea House. The only thing that's changed in the month since these photos were originally taken is the fall foliage. Most of it is now on the ground rather than still on the trees.
The door above is a bi-fold so it folds back on itself when you open it. It is about the same size as the stucco wall panel on the left. This entrance requires you to bend down and essentially crawl inside.
This door is for those days when our backs and knees need a break!
Next Spring we'll do the landscaping around this door and decide exactly what size and kind of step is needed.
Note the interior side of this door compared to the exterior design.
His next projects include adding the wiring for an electric tea kettle and all the interior finish carpentry work. Those odd pipes are the unfinished water line and electric line (to the right of the door).
After a long hiatus, Mark has been making progress on his Tea House in recent weeks. The plastic sheeting that has covered the windows lo these many years has finally been replaced by glass!
This project has been years in the making because every step has pretty much required Mark to not only design the given element but to teach himself how to build it — and often requires buying new kinds of tools and materials to do the specific job at hand. Currently our garage is a wood shop and both cars are living in the driveway.
The two windows above now have permanent glass panes in them but the door between them is still temporary while Mark ponders its ultimate replacement.
This view from inside the tea house is looking toward the front of the structure where a high narrow window wraps around the corner. In the lower left you can see more plastic covering the low front door. To enter by that door one needs to bend down and crawl in.
This is the view from the same window as above but at standing height. The view looks across the stepping stones that span the stream to the fence Mark built across the back of our property.
NEXT: Decorative window details.
We had a group of out-of-town visitors to our garden Sunday afternoon after a mostly rainy morning. Though only .15" of rain actually fell, it still helped to perk up the garden. Once the rain stopped, we opened up the tea house and hung up our Japanese shop sign.
And I took a quick last-minute run though the garden to see how everything looked just minutes before they arrived — picking up fallen apples and black walnuts. I decided to wear my brightest shirt so folks could easily pick me out of the crowd to answer questions!
Even though the sky was still overcast there were waterlilies blooming which really emphasizes the pond as the focal point of the garden. Since it's been so hot and dry here in southern Wisconsin, a gray day was actually a nice change.
About two dozen members of the Northwest Horticultural Society came to visit our garden as part of their Chicago and southern Wisconsin tour. The event was arranged by Wisconsin native Daniel Mount. Like the Wisconsin Hardy Plant Society (of which Mark and I are members), the NHS hosts lectures, garden tours and plant sale fund-raising events; but they have over 1000 members in the Seattle area while we're about half their size.
They arrived at 3 p.m. — luckily having called to warn us they were an hour ahead of schedule! But it meant that they had extra time to spend with us as we were the last stop of the day after Taliesin and the Cedar Grove cheese factory. We've had lots of local garden groups tour our garden but this was the first time we ever had a bus pull up across the street from our house with visitors. It is definitely a bit disconcerting!
Just about this time last August, Mark and I were taking Daniel Mount around local Madison gardens, helping him to pull together this NHS group tour. Daniel grew up in Milwaukee and actually went to Luther Burbank Grade School, "which may very well have been the beginning of this whole plant thing," he says. Currently he is an estate gardener in the Pacific Northwest, garden writer, blogger and educator. His column for the NHS recently won a silver award from the Garden Writers Association and one of his gardens is on the cover of the current issue of Fine Gardening magazine.
We decided just to let folks wander around at their own pace and then to answer questions after they'd had a chance to see the garden. Though we have lots of paths winding through our garden they are narrow (perfect for the two of us) but cause a bit of a bottleneck when curious gardeners are walking them. Some of the Seattle folks actually were stopped by a plant unfamiliar to them — Carex plantaginea —before they'd taken more than a few steps.
Carex plantaginea (seersucker sedge) is one of many sedges we have in our garden, and one that is usually familiar to local gardeners. Folks wondered if we grew any native plants and that particular sedge is one of them — growing just a few feet from some of our other natives like Bur oak, witch hazels and Pagoda dogwoods.
Another attention-getter was our large specimen shrub: Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum 'Mariesii' (doublefile Viburnum) which is spread out behind the two gentlemen from Seattle. Their presence gives you an idea of its size.
Luckily Mark and I both were doing pretty well remembering the names of plants, trees and shrubs in the garden, so we were able to provide information when people liked something.
See where I'm standing in the photo below? I'm trying to remember the name of the prostrate shrub on the ground below me near the birch trees. I couldn't do it nor could I find it in my file of plant names. That's because it was mistakenly filed under trees instead of shrubs. It is Pinus sylvestris 'Albyn Prostrata,' a prostrate Scots pine. Ours is more open and leggy than it should be as it needs more sun. Alas I did not get the name of the person who was interested in this pine, so I hope you are reading this!
Eventually we all wound up on the deck and then went indoors for Wisconsin cheeses and brews. Mark and I really enjoyed ourselves and it seemed as though our visitors did as well. They commented on a number of features that most folks don't mention and they wanted the names of some trees and shrubs that don't always get singled out for attention.
Who knows if this is the result of some special Northwest sensibility or just a reflection of individual tastes? What I do know is that I wished we could have spent much longer visiting with each other; everyone I talked to was so interesting and engaging. Maybe the Wisconsin Hardy Plant Society will have to think about another Northwest tour.
. . .
Seattle folks: If you are curious about the design and construction process of our garden, you can follow it step-by-step by clicking on "My Garden Odyssey" in the category list. Just be aware that the most recent posts are first. So if you want to start at the beginning, go to the archives for Nov. 2008 when the first Odyssey post appeared: "All in Good Time."
In the first few years of creating our garden, we took out a huge old Norway maple tree. We saved the lower trunk and used it as a pedestal for sculpture inside the house as well as in the garden. Just recently Mark sawed it in two to create a pair of rustic seats that we can use outside the tea house. They give us a place to sit, under the shelter of the roof overhang, where we can listen to the water tumble over the rocks in the stream and enjoy a lush view of our garden.
You can just see the edge of the stump seats in the lower right corner of this picture. Less than a quarter of an inch of rain in June compared to the usual four inches. So this picture is deceptive; it's much drier than it appears but I've been watering weekly and praying for rain.
Last Thursday, we hosted the annual High Tea fundraiser for the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection in the School of Human Ecology at UW-Madison. We spent a lot of time in the last month re-arranging our art, objects and textiles to showcase everything to its best effect.
Mark decided that he would hang one of our favorite fiber pieces — a large tsutsugaki boro noren — from the edge of the roof across the front of the teahouse. I bought Mark this Japanese shop sign as a 60th birthday present and it hung on our library wall for a long time; though lately it's been rolled up in acid-free tissue paper and stored under the bed. You can see for yourself that it fits the tea house perfectly and makes a beautiful garden feature look even better.
The next big project is to do the fine carpentry work needed to finish off the interior of the tea house. This is something that Mark is considering hiring a professional woodworker to do; someone who will perhaps let Mark assist him.
Mark is still undecided about how to complete the doors and windows of the tea house, which you can see are currently framed in with plastic sheeting. That part of this long-term project will require some looking, some reading and planning, to say nothing of the actual construction work for those entities. And he needs to deal with the water and electric lines which are marked as "off limits" by two pairs of bamboo pyramids.
But in the meantime, Mark decided to take advantage of this special occasion to get a rough idea of how the interior will look once it is all done. He brought out a few of the objects that will eventually call the tea house home to display them in place — if only briefly.
Even with no floor matting in place and lots of fine detail work still to be accomplished, I was thrilled at the impact these few furnishings provided. And it certainly gave all our visitors a glimpse of the next stage in the garden's future.
PART 3: ADDING COLOR AND CLEAN-UP
HE SAID: At the end of the last post I was applying the brown coat and doing test colors for the final coat on the outside.
In the picture above you can see that I've added another color over the first on my test panel. There are additional colors on the other side. The Quickcrete product I was using suggested adding one 10-oz bottle of pigment to one 80-lb bag of mix. To do my tests I would add 1/2-oz of color to 4-lbs of concrete mix if I wanted to test a straight color. My choices were buff, red, grey, terra cotta and brown. If I wanted to mix two colors I'd divide the 1/2-oz of color proportionally. I borrowed the kitchen scale and a set of measuring spoons to keep the proportions accurate.
However, despite all my charts and careful calculations I still managed to screw up the first panel I did. In this picture you can clearly see the difference between the far right panel and the others. I had measured out tablespoons instead of ounces and ended up with a surface that showed more of the grey stucco mix. Fortunately Linda had reminded me to start at the back of the tea house where mistakes would show the least.
On the plus side, I decided that the "mistake" would make a good color choice for the interior of the tea house. It would be a softer, less intense color in the enclosed space.
The exterior finished at last! We were very please with the way it looked. The color was very much like a number of Japanese tea houses we had seen in our books. The texture of the surface had a pleasing, irregular, weathered look. That was partly due to a technique I used called a "heavy float." That involved using a rubber float or trowel over the surface while it was still a bit wet causing the sand in the mix to rise to the surface.
I was pretty tired by this time and toyed with the idea of closing the building up and waiting for Spring to finish the interior. But taking a day or two off renewed my enthusiasm. I also thought the interior would be easier. Silly me!
First of all, working with ladders, tools, and plastic sheeting in the restricted space made planning and clean-up all that much more difficult. And because there were structural elements inside that I had to work around, I found myself engaged in some fairly involved gymnastics to reach areas under the eaves. Although it was good working off of the level surface of the floor instead of the sloping landscape outside, I discovered a serious disadvantage. On the exterior, because I was standing below the bottom of the wall I was working on, I didn't have to bend very low to apply the stucco. On the interior I was applying it a couple inches from the floor. I hurt in new places after a day of working on the interior.
The tokonoma and storage area required stuccoing free standing panels framed by round timbers. They involved extra masking and care to follow the irregular edges. Also working in the confined spaces meant having to take special care not to mar newly-covered adjacent surfaces.
I mixed a warm grey for the color coat inside the tokonoma display area to set it apart from the rest of the interior space. This was also the only area of the building where I used a white stucco mix as apposed to the grey mix on the rest of the building. The white base gives color a little more intensity. (I hadn't ordered the white mix, but they sent me one bag by mistake. Another happy accident.)
This winter I plan to work on my designs for windows and doors. I also plan to look for someone with more skills and tools to help me with the cabinet work for the interior. The roof still needs copper for the ridge and I think I've found a good person to supply me with gutters. There is still a lot to do, but with the stucco finished the worst is behind us.
An account of this project wouldn't be complete without talking about clean-up and waste. Whenever I cleaned my tools I would store the wash water in 5-gallon buckets until the solids settled out and then re-use the clear water. As much as possible the clarified water I didn't need went on the garden.
Used plastic sheeting, leveling boards, piles of masking tape, all added up every day. A lot of it could be thrown out with the normal weekly trash; but some things, like the 200-lb test panel, could not. It took more than a little effort with a heavy maul and wire cutters to break it into pieces I could handle.
The panel, concrete solids, as well as a number of other heavy items that had been accumulating in our yard all went in the truck to the the Dane County landfill. It cost $22.00 to dispose of 720-lbs of stuff. I still have a few tools to clean and put away, but I can look forward to winter with a real feeling of accomplishment this year.