Monday, March 26, 2012

Our garden and backyard

Making changes to the backyard is going to take a long time and will be a lot more work than I thought it would be. Somehow I thought that we'd get a design and just go with it, but now I'm thinking that it would be a good idea to get more design ideas.

I think I mentioned that Sheridan had come by and drawn up a sketch for stairs and plants on the one side of our backyard hill, right? One of their contractors had come by on Saturday morning to talk to us about what we wanted. He'll be coming back to do some measurements and to develop a proper quote for that job. While he was very nice, he had trouble understanding the diagram and seemed more overwhelmed than excited about the project so we don't think he'll be the right contractor for the job.

Of course we don't even know if Sheridan's design is one we want! We went to the home show on Saturday to check out other landscaping companies and in looking through their portfolios and talking to them, we realized that we really need to do some more design consultations. We also need to think about the short- and long-term scope of the project, as we could do some work (like a set of stairs) this year followed by other projects in the coming years. Also, do we want to do work only on the one side of the waterfall, or do we want to eventually do something to the hill on the other side of the waterfall? Do we want to keep the patio we have, or replace it? So many questions!

Personally, I think that having a general plan for the whole backyard and a specific plan for just the one side - especially the stairs - for this year would be a good idea. That way, we have an idea about what the backyard will look like without committing to too much at once and we'll have a chance to get used to whatever is done first. Whatever we end up doing won't be cheap and we want to be sure that we'll be happy with our choices because it'll be difficult to undo the work once it's begun.

Clearly, finding a design and contractor is going to take some time. In the meantime, the garden we have will be enough to keep our attention. We spent most of yesterday afternoon working in the garden. It was a lovely day, if not as warm as the preceding week, and it was our last chance to get stuff done before the cold (some might say "normal temperatures") arrived.

Most of our hostas were over four feet in diameter (!) and we wanted to divide them so as to make them about a quarter of their size, as well as add some hosta cuttings Ian's mom gave us to add colour variety. It turns out that when you have a hosta plant that is four feet in diameter, the roots are ginormous: 16" in diameter and about 8-10" deep - and that's all solid plant mass. There's no way that I can divide these hostas by myself so because we were both prepared to work, that was the project we chose.

We started at the bed at the base of the hill near the patio where one of the evergreens had been removed last year. We took out one hosta and put a quarter of it in a new spot and then after digging up the other hosta, we realized that it was almost impossible to dig out a good hole for it because there were so many roots. At about four inches below the surface there's a geotextile to prevent weeds from rooting and about four inches below that, there's another geotextile and below that lower one is clay. The textiles prevent drainage and of course the clay doesn't drain properly so no wonder we get swamp-like conditions there.

Instead of mostly soil above the first textile, we found basically a solid mass of tree roots that could be pulled back and rolled as if it were sod. We decided that cleaning up that area would be a better use of our time so we tore out both layers of textile and got rid of the stump and its roots. Taking out a stump by hand is a lot of work! The trees and plants will thank us for all that work, however, because there will be room to spread and nutrients to eat once we add the soil that's coming next week.

We also plan to get rid of the mulch (possibly by incorporating it into the soil) and top up the soil on all of the beds. We might end up removing more of that textile and getting rid of some of the roots from the other trees that were removed as well. We also need to divide our giant silver grass which will be at least as much work as it was to remove the roots and textiles. On the bright side, the area that we cleaned up will be receiving some of that grass and it won't take much work to to get that bed ready.

The backyard will be gorgeous once we're finished working on all the planting beds. Hopefully we'll have some time to enjoy all that work before any construction begins. A girl can dream, right?

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