Aug 5, 2013

Laying Down Roots

People.  I have got PLANTS!

So I gotta tell you that my sister-in-law Tabi is the best.  She and I have organized a little work-swap this summer.  A few weeks ago I came over to her place and helped her with a project, and this week she came over and helped me with a project- getting the area behind the retaining wall prepped and planted!  This has been such a genius idea inspired by Erica at Northwest Edible Life.  We both get twice as much work done as if we had tackled these projects alone, and we get to hang out and chat while we work.  What a blessing!

The night before Tabi came over I made sure to weed the area between the tree and the wall as best I could.  Once that was done I put in about 15 cubic feet of low-quality (read:cheap!) potting soil.

Blank canvas.

We kicked off our day together with a trip to McAuliffe's, the local nursery that had been so incredibly helpful to me in creating some of our long-range landscaping plans via email early this year.  Sure there were closer nurseries to my house, but I wanted to spend some money at McAuliffe's as a thank you for their (free) help.  It was really easy to find, and everything was easy access and displayed beautifully.  One of their employees helped point me in the right direction for shade plants that would be able to survive under our giant maple without spreading like crazy.  We had a great time poking through the plants and arranging them in a red wagon as we made decisions.

You get iphone photos when I forget my camera at home.

About $100 later (aw yeah, stayed within budget!) we grabbed 6 cubic feet of high quality potting soil and headed home.

The haul.  McAuliffe's provided some burlap to protect the plants on the ride home.

When we got ready to plant that day, we raked up the last of the weeds, dead leaves, and anything else laying around the base of the tree.  We amended the soil with the good potting soil and got things mixed together pretty well and raked smooth.

Then came the fun part- deciding on an arrangement!  I was so glad to have Tabi with me, since she's such a creative person and has a really good eye for making everyday things look artful.  When we were happy with our arrangement from a variety of angles, we got out the trowels and went to work!

View from the front.

From the side.

The other side.

Caesar was better with supervisory duties than he was with a trowel.

We lucked out with it being the most overcast day we've had in a while, so the plants seemed to do just fine through the travel and planting process.  And then I got even luckier because we had two days of rain right in a row to keep everything nice and moist.

Let's meet the plants, shall we??

These viney fellas are called Persian Chocolate Moneywort.  They're spreaders, but not to the point where they'll choke out other plants.  I'm so happy to have something that will do a little spilling over the edge of the retaining wall.  They're semi-evergreen, so the deep green and red of the leaves will show most of the year and the bright flowers will make an appearance in late spring.  There's a whole lotta green going on in this bed, so I'm really excited about the contrast of these little guys.


Super excited about the Wild Ginger (or English Ginger), which also have a tendency to spread, though I've read they're difficult to establish.  I only got three of them because they were so dang expensive.  They're not edible, but they can smell gingery.

Shiny and cute as buttons.

Salal is a native Northwest plant.  It's deer resistant, will grow to between 3 and 5 feet tall if left unattended, and spreads (as anyone who has walked through the woods in Western Washington can attest).  I planted these toward the back of the retaining wall bed, closer to our fence line.  I figured I'd have an easier time controlling them if they had somewhere "acceptable" to spread and the three feet between where they're planted and our fence line seems like a good buffer zone.  Bonus: it's evergreen (hello privacy!) and it takes pruning well (which is great because I tend to get carried away with shears).

Native, evergreen, and pretty.  Win.

And I planted several varieties of fern.  I don't remember all of the varieties, but I think one was called leatherleaf, and one was called curly or frilly...?  In any case, they're quite pretty (and definitely not to scale in my sad photoshop rendering).

Fern party.

Here's my favorite one, the Japanese Painted Fern.

Pretty colors.

And here's how things are looking after a few nice days of rain.


Yeah, it's a little sparse in the bed, but they'll start to fill in as time passes (fingers crossed!).  Oh, and check out that cute arbor on our front gate!  We inherited it from Steve's parents when they moved.  There's already a clematis growing on it, and I can now say with assurance that although it suffered some damage on the ride from their old house to ours, it's alive and well.

Anyone else organize a work trade with a friend and have a story to share?  How about some gardening advice for me?  I've never grown any of the plants we put down in this bed before!

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