Thursday, August 25, 2016

Playing with Rocks

What could be more mundane than a rock pile? So I say to myself as I look at this first photo. Stay with me's gone, the rock pile. Finally. After nine months of looking at it, mowing around it, trying to photograph the garden and magically keep it from blemishing photographs, it exists no longer!

We inherited it with the house and garden. The previous owner built a labyrinth-meditation circle with basalt rocks and sand. These rocks pictured, we imagine, were the leftovers. When we dismantled the labyrinth earlier this spring we added those rocks to what you see here. It was pretty large. 

Part of me rejoiced in having rocks to play with. After all, my brother is a geologist and, well, I collected rocks as a kid so what's not to love? Plus, they were simply here at my disposal to use throughout the garden. Woo hoo! They became the rock retaining walls for many of my projects throughout, saving us a lot of money. That is Mount Compost behind Mount Rock.

Here are just a few of the rock projects that inherited bits of the pile recently:
 Oh, remember this one? The one that was a false start on the fire pit enclosed by a mini rock wall.

It eventually became the stump table area.

 And how about this little project? There's the beginnings of the REAL fire pit, also enclosed by a petite rock wall.

 Little rock walls.

 Sort of rock walls.

 And retain THAT mound of crummy soil rock wall. See a pattern here? I'm glad I had enough to compete all of these projects, for having the same material to use throughout the property gives a sense of continuity. Now if I could only get my plant choices to get in line....that's a bit of a challenge for a collector-minded gardener. But I try. And I digress. Moving on.

But come on...after months of seeing many giant piles of stuff I began to try to picture it without these tell-tale signs of construction. Even with all of those rock wall projects I still had what you see pictured above as leftovers. It was a big pile, I tell ya.

To add to its ambiance of irritating, grasses began to grow around its perimeter.

I started using the rocks as much as I could, although it's mostly the large ones that I'm after. I thought I was doing a great job using 15 or so a day beyond my rock wall projects - placing them artfully here and there - but it barely made a dent. I just kept at it, adding rocks to special areas of the garden that needed a bit of a hose block or some kind of indestructible ornamentation. I had toyed with the idea of making low gabion walls around part of the former labyrinth and filling them with the smaller rocks, but honestly that's project #275634 on the to-do list and I didn't want to look at them for that long.

So, the Facilities Manager took over. 

The decline of Mount Rock is imminent. It shrinks like a bad Star Trek alien feeling the wrath of Facilities Manager.

As it shrank I began adding plants around it, anticipating one day being able to plant the whole thing. I had intended on moving many hardy self-sowing perennials and grasses from other areas of the garden to here to fill in and make the transition from formal gravel garden to blowsy pseudo-meadow to meadow.

Going...going...nasty fabric underneath going too.

**Bleep** gone. But where oh where did it end up? At least the small bits?

It took Facilities Manager 50 wheel-barrow loads up to the top of the property to move that big bad pile. I believe he worked on it for about a week, a few loads every day. They cover what was just bad compacted soil, so it ended up being a win-win. This is the top of our driveway and the stairs up to the shade garden.

Oh, it may not look like a huge change but it's a milestone for us. That thing had been here, looming over us, delaying the completion of connecting all these areas. Now it really can be a whole garden area. The soil underneath was dead, just as it was in the former labyrinth. I added bunches of compost and when the weather cools a bit more I will move many asters, rudbeckias and grasses to this area to let them go a little wild. I will probably transplant a few little goodies like Verbena bonariensis and some liatris, too.

Nothing to see here, folks! No big rock pile blemish in the background. Just the remainder of compost that will be gone in short order. I will then, for once and for all, have my view, unobstructed, of just plants. I get great satisfaction in using materials I have on hand and we were very lucky, despite my complaining, to have inherited such a gift as a bunch of rocks.

That's it for this week at Chickadee Gardens. As always thank you for reading and until next time, happy gardening!