Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Brilliant idea #11 – rock gardens

I got an issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine, which right away indicates a Brilliant Idea shall be forthcoming. Her ideas are wonderful and charming and tasteful, and heaven knows I don’t have the time or energy or patience to do them. However, as I was flipping through the pages I came across an article about this woman’s rock garden. Now, I did not actually read the article but I was intrigued by the pictures – little cement containers with flowers and moss and rocks inside.

I love to buy flowers for my yard. I do not know how to garden, I always forget to water, and I know nothing about dirt. On the plus side, I usually remember to prune at the end of the season. J But every pre-spring I get very excited at the prospect of vibrant, beautiful blooms growing in my yard.

The space to plant said blooms, however… I have a small garden area at the front of the house, but nothing to speak of in the back yard, and the dog runs through and tears up the grass with his paws and kiss the grass with his pee. There is a path along the chain link fence between my yard and the neighbors’ where he habitually runs back and forth and talks to the neighbor dogs Tank, Dorie, and Starr. In the spring and summer it becomes a swath of mud.

I have explored the idea of paving the entire back yard, making rock paths with moss, and other ideas but have always been put off by the cost and amount of work involved.

Then I saw this issue and the cute pictures of container rock gardens, and I thought I could do the same thing in my back yard! Along the fence I could put concrete containers of varying heights and then I could include different shapes and sizes and colors of flowers, some mosses, and rocks that my Dad brings me. Not only would it help mask the chain link but it would prevent the dog from running along the side of the fence, and I could buy a new little plant when one didn’t work out so well.

I have not talked with Dad about it yet, but I think he’ll be willing to help me make the concrete containers. I’ve been gathering some ideas from the Internet so you can kind of see what I have in mind.

My favorite of these, I believe, is the more sparsely-filled one with the moss on the outside. I also like this last one with the little pink flowers and all the different kinds of greenery. Very cute!

5-24-08 update
So Kevin and I tried to make a couple troughs, but they don't look like these pictures! I found a bunch of recipes online for hypertufa, which is made from 2 parts cement, 3 parts perlite, and 3 parts peat moss. The instructions said you could use cardboard boxes as forms, or even put the mixture over an overturned bowl or a mound of dirt.

For our first one, we used a cardboard box. We decided 1 bag of perlite equaled 3 parts and used that bag to measure the peat moss and cement, then mixed it in a wheelbarrow with water. That much made one full trough in a standard-sized photocopy paper box and the bottom of a second one, slightly smaller. We poked holes in the bottom with our fingers for drainage.

The instructions said to cover with plastic out of direct sunlight, so we had made them in the garage and covered with landscape plastic. It said to let them dry for 14-36 hours and then uncover and allow to dry completely. I checked after 2 weeks and the plastic was wet with condensation, so I moved the trough outside into the sun so it could dry completely. I could see it drying almost immediately once taken out into moving air.

The second one waited for walls for a few weeks, until I could go out and buy more perlite. We were concerned that the newer mixture would not adhere to the old, but we tried it anyway. We also used a styrofoam form from a lamp box and paked the mixture around it on top of the plastic on the floor. It took two mixtures to do both these things.

This time I did not cover the troughs. I brought the cardboard box out into the sun after a few days to finish drying, but left the styrofoam form in the garage to dry more before bringing it out last night.

Today I removed the last of the cardboard from the two dry troughs and turned them on end. The bottoms were still damp-looking and the cardboard had absorbed a good portion of the water and was still wet. I turned the styrofoam mold over. I should have let it sit for a few more days but I tried to remove the styrofoam from the trough and one of the sides broke off. :( So that one is useless.

In the meantime, I had already purchased plants to go in the troughs and the plants are starting to look not so good, so I'm going to have to purchase store-bought planters to save my plants. As Mom put it, planters not made by me. Ha!

I think the trough idea would have worked if I had tried to make them last fall and given them plenty of time to dry before trying to mess with them. The instructions also said when dry to use a wire brush to remove sharp edges and such, but I am afraid if I do this now the troughs will just crumble away. They are very lightweight (once dried) and seem fragile to me, but maybe if I had more experience with them I would feel more comfortable about them.

I still have some peat moss, cement, and two bags of perlite left so I might try again with a slightly different composition, but at the moment I am working on painting the back porch so it will have to wait! But if I am successful, I can bring it out next spring. We'll have to see how things go.

5-29-08 Update

Here are the two successful troughs Kevin and I made:

This is the one that got away:

I really think I just tried to pull the styrofoam form out too early. :(

So I have been thinking that with the two that came out successful, maybe I will place them on the sidewalk in front of the garage, which is a place that gets sunlight, and plant some variety of veggie there. But I want to check first and make sure the presence of lime in the trough materials will not either kill the plant or be harmful to eat the vegetable from the trough once it's grown (providing it survives me).

This is what I ended up with for my garden.

I put down landscaping plastic (which still needs to be trimmed around the edges) and edging (to keep the little rocks, not shown here, inside so they don't get sucked into the lawn mower. Then Mom and I put dirt inside and I placed the planters (which Mom bought for me!) and decided which creeping plants would go in each container. I bought creeping plants because I like the looks of them, and I have a theory that if they are meant to creep and spread, maybe they don't need that much care from me. :)

The middle container is square and has 3 plants in it, one of which is a rescued succulent from the front yard. It got too big for its little pot. I'd tell you the names of the other two, but I really have no idea.

This is in one of the small pots, and this little guy has already grown bigger than this since I planted him less than a week ago. And, yes, this is the color he is supposed to be.

This is one of the big round pots and has two plants and a large chunk of glass my dad gave to me.

This is the other large round pot and has another desperate succulent (which has been getting green under the dead part since I moved it) and a creeper and two more Dad rocks.

The other small pot with a creeper that looks kind of succulent-y.

More large rocks Dad gave me. He cleaned out his garden this summer and I took all his rocks!

This one has a very nice round shape. :)

So those are my garden trough updates. I do have two other pictures that are not quite related but kinda related.

This is creeping thyme, which I have wanted for many, many years. It gets little purple blossoms on it and when you brush against it, it gives off a nice fragrance. I asked Dad to put a border around the patio he built for me last summer so I could plant creeping thyme in the border and not worry about chopping it all up when I mow the grass. So this is the patio with the border around it, and maybe you can see all the little creeping thyme plants in the border.

My hope is that when the creeping thyme spreads, it will eventually fill the border and drape over the edges of the outside of the border. I hope that's what happens because it will look quite lovely! :)

June 20, 2008

I have the rock down and the flowers in the pots have really taken off. My patio border, though, is not doing as well. I think perhaps I am not watering it enough, but I feel like I water it all the time. It takes forever to water all this stuff! But I will try to water them more and to give them some growing stuff.

Here are new pictures of the plants in the pots.

The little green one has some tiny purple flowers on it and looks a lot like the thyme in the border, though they're supposedly different plants. It did not do well before I planted it, but has rebounded since being in the soil and is starting to get new leaves and flowers. The other plant I moved over from the square planter because it was growing so fast, and the original cactus I had in this pot died.

The little succulent-liiking thingie.

The square pot. This busy, ferny-ish plant gets little tiny daisies on it.

This was the first one to really take off. Kind of yellowish with really tiny leaves.

This is the other succulenty plant. It has all these tiny pinkish star flowers on it now. The little green guy next to it has been the slowest to spread anywhere, but he's still chugging along.

UPDATE: June 2009

The creeping thyme has taken off!

Also, two of the plants in the pots, which I left out all winter, survived and seem to be doing well. The yellowish one is blooming again and the succulent has filled the pot!

I also found that it was a pain to mow around the garden along the middle of the fence line, so I decided instead to surround the air unit with stone so the weeds won't be able to grow up around it. I used border stone that was sitting behind the garage and filled in with the stone from the rock garden idea of last summer.

1 comment:

Matthew said...

WOW...I just looked at this post and am VERY impressed! I can't wait to see this in the spring/summer. I love it!