January resolutions

It’s a new year and I’m flooded with new thoughts and ideas for this year’s gardening endeavors. My resolution this year is to journal about my garden, the challenges, the ‘fixes,’ and the achievements. Come along with me and share your garden too.

I live in a mid-century-modest, cottage-ranch style house on half an acre not far from downtown Vancouver. For years I longed for a Portland Four-Square home or Craftsman bungalow. At one time we did have a 1907 farmhouse bungalow on a 50 x 100 city lot downtown Vancouver. When we saw this much smaller home, on a nearly private dead-end street, with all the space around it we jumped at the opportunity. So, here we are…can’t always have everything but, I do have half an acre to work with close in to town. The older I get the less I care about the Craftsman house and the more I care about having a garden.

This view is looking out from our porch, across the lawn to the little mother-in-law cottage on the property. I’m at a loss of what to do about that lawn, which only serves as a way from point A to point B. I’d love to rip it all out and make a gravel garden, which I thought was a brilliant idea, but the kibosh was put on that. I had the pavers put in several years ago. I am a huge fan of architectural pavers. They are flat and clean, no uneven edges for toes to trip over.

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Looking out over the lawn

Many years ago I took horticulture classes at Merritt College in Oakland CA. One of the instructors stated that the ideal situation is to find a vacant lot with just the right exposure and then plot out your garden and build your home accordingly. As if…

Over the years I’ve learned that like buying an existing home, the land that comes with it may be full of potential but also full of challenges. What to do with lemons? Make lemonade of course. Bottom line, you have paid by the square foot for your land, however spacious or small. Make it work. That is what much of my gardening is about now, getting value for money and learning to make it work visually as well as in functional ways.

The garden in my mind has been tempered by the realities of an older unkempt and undeveloped property: a blackberry bramble filled slope, weeds, ivy, and a stand of Doug firs across the road that cast us into shade by mid-afternoon. The upside is that the soil is a nice sandy loam that is easy to work with. The slope, once cleared of bramble, revealed an area at the bottom, which levels out and is perfect for a shady woodland garden. We recently put some steps and a handrail in to access the area. I don’t care for the handrail and think we will change it this year. Can you envision a Manzanita or Madrone flanking the side? That’s what I see in my mind.

 

There is a back fenced area, which the previous owner used as a play area for her daycare children. As soon as our furry four-footed ‘children’ got in to play mud and potholes replaced the lawn. So, it became an experimental paver and gravel garden. It has gone through many ‘experiments’ most of which were destroyed by our furry friends, and we’ve come to the conclusion that large containers housing a variety of plants are the way to go while we have dogs. It is still a work in progress. Lately I’ve been thinking about scattering some wildflower seeds in the gravel, just to see what would come up.

 

The front area has spacious lawns on either side of the old asphalt driveway. I’m not a fan of lawn or asphalt but my husband really likes his lawn. My guy does not share my gardening passion; he uses the lawn for his passion, practicing martial arts. Last year we put in a small patio (more pavers!) as a gathering place, which reduced some of the lawn. It is 14 x 16 feet, perfect for summer dining, playing music, and an assortment of plants in containers. One reason we put the patio in was that our chairs would become unstable on the grass and tip over while people were sitting in them. So embarrassing not to mention unsafe.

This is old lawn, probably put in when the house was built, 1951. It’s got lumps, bumps, and a few chuck-holes, which are not pleasant to step into when carrying bags of compost. One summer evening at twilight I stepped into one chuck-hole hidden by grass and ‘twang’ went the muscle behind my knee like a rubber band. It put me out of commission for a couple of weeks. Another reason to make the garden safe.

This year the remaining lawn is going to get an overhaul and be slightly reduced in size and the borders will be extended out. That chicken ‘Garden Coop’ is on its way to become a solar greenhouse/shed. The hens, now ten years old, have not yet crossed the chicken rainbow bridge, but I can’t wait any longer, I want my potting shed so I’m moving in.

That is a snapshot of the ongoing, never-ending garden projects at my place.
Now how about you? What garden projects are you working on?

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