Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Planting the Dry Creek bed

A couple of weekends ago we planted the dry creek bed project which finishes it.  I knew I wanted grassy looking plants.  Flowering at different times.  Deer resistant.  Easy to maintain.  And I also wanted it to coordinate with the tiger lilies along the front fence, and the plantings in the "Big Drain".  One thing I know about myself is that I prefer simple repetition in landscaping.  That is what makes things look tidy and well planned out.

Day lilies - these are super easy to maintain and come in a wide variety of color combinations.  I stuck with a "hot" palette of yellow, orange and red.

Siberian Irises - also easy to maintain.  It seems like the universal color for Siberian Irisies is blue.  If you buy a mix, over time, the other colors will dwindle and the blue will take over.  But I have at least 4 different shades of blue/lavender in the landscape right now.  We already had clumps of irises planted along the driveway on the one side of the spruce row.  I had leftovers "stored" in an out of the way edge which I dug up and re-potted.  I am now over run by blue Caesar's Brother irises and on the lookout for white or yellow plants.  There were some available last year, but so far this year my search has come up short.

Blue Oat Grass

Fountain Grass Fireworks
I saw gorgeous, mature plants potted up and selling for an awful amount this spring, and was happy to find  the baby version in 4 inch pots.
Fountain Grass Cherry Sparkler
To coordinate with the all red Fireworks

Now the trouble with planting this area is that it is several inches of stone over stabilization mat = no soil.  Also we do not want the soil filtering through the rocks and out of the planting area.  The solution I came up with was large, 2 gallon peat pots.  These will contain the soil until a root ball develops and then slowly break down into soil, allowing the plant to expand naturally.

I began buying plants as soon as the greenhouses opened in April.  I potted them up as I got them and set them in the garden where I could water them easily allowing them to become established so when I planted them in the creek bed they would not require daily watering and maintenance, and also so that when they were watered, the soil would not be loose and spill over the edge of the pot and wash away into our stones.

 Each pot had to be dug down into the landscape.  This meant moving a lot of rocks, cutting the mat and digging down into the base layer.  The base layer varies from gravel, to clay, to regular top soil full of tree roots.  I thought about taking photos of this process, but I thought maybe I wouldn't want to remember this part.  And I was right. After 5 hours, I was tired of chipping away at the sides with a hand tool.  When I closed my eyes, all I saw were empty holes.  I wore out two pairs of gloves.  We removed two and a half tractor loads full of fill dirt. Then I had to replace the rocks around the plant and top it all off with gravel. I placed fist sized rocks inside the top of the pot to disguise the edge. I was quite happy with the results of our efforts.

Towards the end of this five hour session, Tim had lost patience and was wondering aloud why we go to all this effort because no one ever seems to notice.  I appreciate the end product. But sometimes it does seem a little excessive.   Shortly, one of the neighbors who also has a very tidy, nicely landscaped place, slowed down while driving by and pronounced this project "award winning". Which was much appreciated.

And then just last night, we got a knock on our door at 8:45 pm on the edge of dusk.  Another neighbor had guests in from Cuba and she wanted to walk through the vegetable garden and then out the creek bed.  Now 8:45 is a bit late to go knocking on neighbor's doors, but of course I was flattered because you don't get guests from Cuba very often.

This is a lot of creek, and just a little grass, but when
you stroll down through you can better appreciate each planting.
Another aspect of the Dry Creek Bed I haven't covered is the replacement of two spruce trees.  One died about three years ago and was not replaced, and the one next to it was looking pretty bad so we removed it.  I hate planting large evergreen trees.  They are heavy and prickly and I hate them.  Although the new trees are several years behind the first planting, I pruned and shaped the older trees, and they look like they all belong together.

The tree on the very end is an old but slower growing tree,
 and the second and third trees are the replacements.

I was scrolling through the blog the other day and came across two entries from 2012 when we first began to work on this side yard in earnest :

The Side Yard
The Tree We Planted Twice

Before and After

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