Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Blossoming Clematis

The clematis is in full bloom. This will be her second summer and I'm hoping that she'll do better than last year. Although she grew quickly up the lattice last summer, she had very few blossoms. 

I chose a variety known to bloom from June through August so we'll just have to see how she does this year. The variety escapes me but I will make sure to add it to the post if I find the tag in my garden files!

Just to show how big the blossoms can get, I've photographed one with my hand. As you can see, the blossoms are large. 

This photo from last summer shows the clematis growing strong but without blossoms. The limelight hydrangea (the white blossom hedge on the side of the building) did well last year and I'm looking forward to seeing how they do this year. 

As you can see from the first photo in this post (which I took this morning), the hydrangea bushes are bigger this year. I haven't pruned them at all so far because I want them to grow nice and big. I do remove the old blossoms in the fall however, as I don't want the winter snow to weigh them down and snap the branches. 

Note: I am slowly but surely adding some more before photos to some of my old posts. I was able to add some new photos to the The Exterior of the Old Sauna post here.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Pink Peonies

I clipped our pink peonies this morning. This variety is called Shirley Temple, whose description promised large flowers (up to 8 inches). I of course loved the promise of such large blossoms, but I also liked the name because it reminded me of my Mom who loved Shirley Temple movies. 

This is the first summer that the blossoms have been this large. They continued to open after they were cut and in water for the afternoon. I really love the yellow centers. 

My gracious assistant agreed to hold the large bouquet for me. He likes peonies. They require no maintenance whatsoever. The roses on the other hand, he doesn't care for (and that's putting it mildly) because they are constantly having to be treated for bugs or diseases, only to be served up as an evening snack for the deer. 

Have a wonderful summer weekend!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Our Front Steps and Walkway

I am finally getting around to posting on our front walkway and stairs. I had to dig deep in the archives to find some of the before pictures and I'm almost too tired to even write about it after seeing all the work we had to do. 

The walkway and stairs are made of concrete pavers. They come in irregular sizes (length wise) to simulate old stones. We used these same pavers on our outdoor dining patio and stairs

This is the view of the valley below with Mt. Adams in the background.  

The view from the porch. 

Putting in the hardscape was definitely an huge undertaking. I personally had no idea that there was so much involved in creating features as simple as walkways. 

We started with this, a few concrete stones and some old wood beams. This was our fancy front steps and walkway for about a year after we renovated the house (this photo was taken in 2009). 

After much deliberation, and some math on Mike's part, we decided to create the stairs with concrete and then adhere pavers over the concrete to create a stone look. 

Mike started building the stairs by creating a form for the concrete. This was a lot of work as he had to dig down fairly deep into clay soil so that the stairs had a firm concrete base. 

After the concrete was poured and cured, Mike adhered the pavers to create the look of stone steps. 

As we completed the stairs, it was time to build the walkway. 

This involved a lot more digging into our clay soil which is like concrete when it is dry, and softens a couple inches at a time with lots of water applied to it. So this was a fair amount of hard work. I know because I attempted to help out, but gave up when I couldn't even get the shovel two inches into the ground. 

I can assure you that Mike is always thrilled when I run to get my camera. He's especially thrilled when I ask him to stop working and smile! This is a request he kindly ignores. 

The walkway took some fancy figuring to get right. The ground slopes downward slightly at a few pitches and due to varying elevations, there were water drainage issues to consider. 

We rented this machine a couple of times in order to get the gravel that is placed over the soil compacted and level for the pavers. 

Here is the stabilization cloth that goes over the gravel. By the way, this was Mike's first time putting in a walkway so this is all information he learned from books and online resources. 

The picket fence was also an ongoing project during that same summer. As you can see, Mike left a section of the fence open until we finished the walkway so that he could access the area more easily. 

So much math! Here Mike is using a guide to set the edge pieces which help hold the pavers in place when you walk on them over the years. Next up was a layer of sand, over which the pavers were placed. More sand swept over the top filled the cracks between the pavers. The last step was to run the compactor back over the walk to lock everything in place. And voila!

This is what Mike looks like when he's thinking about some of the details.

Details, details...

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Very Special Peony

These are very special peonies, with a very strong will. Every year the flowers grow bigger and bigger, and the plant grows taller and taller. 

Here she is with her blossoms just opening a few days ago, right before the rain came. She's happily growing along with the hydrangeas that are just starting to bud.

She's special because I didn't plant her. She just popped up from the earth one spring and was a delightful surprise.

We were happy to see her because we knew she had been tossed and turned during the yard excavation but found her way despite it all. Amazingly, she happened to pop up in a new, nearly established flower bed.

This is the bed several years ago. I've circled her first spring showing in bright pink. At the time, we were still building our picket fence, hadn't installed sprinklers, or put in the front flower beds. And the drains had yet to be buried underground. Whew, I'm tired just thinking of all the work we had ahead of us!

The peony came from somewhere in the overgrown front yard. This is what the property looked like when we first purchased it years ago. The yard was excavated when we 'dug out the house' and put in appropriate drainage (due to issues with water in the basement).

You can see a card table and chair on the front lawn I set up one day as I contemplated our 'to do' list! I wish I kept that list as I can assure you that it was missing about one million or so tasks we hadn't even imagined.

Here is the yard after excavation (and a few seasons of growth). The house is now above ground but unfortunately, the old flower beds and some trees were lost (although several were ill due to rot).

This is the view looking out from the house.

Because we took all the earth excavated from this part of the yard and used it to extend and level out the back yard, the peony was serendipitously transplanted.

So as you can imagine, we are quite proud of her!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Culinary Herbs

While Hubby was out planting our pumpkin plants this weekend, he happened to trim a bunch of oregano. His quick trip into the house resulted in me exclaiming, "how pretty, let me get my camera!" 

The oregano that we planted last year has been especially vigorous recently with the mix of warmth and rain. 

We decided that the best way to be sure to use all this oregano was to dry it, which required separating the one large bouquet into several small ones. 

With twine tied tightly around the stems, the little bouquets are dried hanging upside down in paper bags. The bags keep the oregano free from dust and debris. 

It just a few days, the leaves will be nice and dry and can be removed from stems. Stored in a nice tight jar for extra freshness, there's nothing like using your own herbs in the kitchen. 

Wouldn't dried herbs make the loveliest holiday gifts? 

I'll have my assistant get on that...

There is no assistant, but I'm making a list of things for him/her to do anyway! ; ) 

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