Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Something From Nothing: The Big Daddy Redo

I once saw a garden that had been decorated with a beautiful mirror to make the narrow space seem larger. Clever and effective, I admired the creativity of the gardener but wondered what parts I would choose to reflect if I added one to mine. Would I angle it carefully to hide everything I didn't like or would I be brave enough to show it all? Even without the glass and frame, every garden is a mirror that reflects the priorities of the gardener. I didn't need a reflective reminder to show me that parts of mine were a mess.


Spring 2013

The side of my house visible from the street used to be called the Yuck Side. It's claims to fame were several utilities, a huge rain barrel, and a massive bleeding heart named Fred.


Summer 2012

Every summer when Fred went dormant, a huge gaping hole was left in an already ugly bed. Busy with 5 dogs, two teenagers, and a teaching career, I didn't have time to deal with the mess. As long as I avoided the side of my house, I never had to look at it.


Summer 2012

But if my goal was to show my neighborhood that a beautiful garden could be created without using chemicals, this bed was a heckler to my well polished rants. Why would anyone listen to anything I had to say if I couldn't even fix this disaster?


 Summer 2012
I assembled this wooden screen from plywood that I painted and embellished with decorative cabinet knobs and my favorite Dr. Seuss quote. The thyme was supposed to cascade over the top but it died, instead.

Frustrated and needing an outlet, I poured my anger and disappointment into an art project. If I couldn't fix the problem, I'd find an artistic way to cover it up while I worked out a real solution. The screen was a personal challenge. Would I really make it and then stick pictures of it on the Internet? If I could pour my energy into something purely decorative and slightly weird, surely I could figure out a way to create a beautiful bed from a hideous mess.

So I did.


Summer 2012

This bed was full of weeds, ragged anemones that only looked good in the spring, persicaria (Painter's Palette), and an assortment of oddballs I couldn't find a home for in the main garden.


July 2014

While my screen served to horrify and confuse, I began to research and plan. Starting in fall 2012, I widened the bed and added a couple hundred pounds of compost. I interplanted the bleeding heart with summer blooming Asiatic lilies to add interest when Fred had gone dormant. Secured to decorative metal stakes, they grow up through the bleeding heart foliage and help hide the utility boxes.


I thought these were going to be a deep pinkish red.


Added this spring, the handmade stakes from Battle Hill Forge are as beautiful as the lilies.


I put the stakes in place once the lilies broke dormancy. 


'Buttered Popcorn' day lilies and phlox were added to help hide the rain barrel we call the Big Daddy.


Delta Dawn and Laura phlox


White mist flower, maltese cross (lychnis chalcedonica), Painter's Palette (persicaria virgniana), and more day lilies grow easily here. The maltese cross and the phlox clash but I don't mind. They're on opposite sides of the rain barrel so it's no big deal. At least not to me.


A newly added birdhouse


I decided to fight fire with fire and added native obedient plant to the weedy area next to the air conditioning units.  It overtook the weeds and has filled the space completely.


August 2013

It blooms in late summer and is a pollinator magnet.


Fall blooming 'Starman' geraniums and white mist flower grow in front of the rain barrel.


Toad lilies from a friend fill this area in the fall.


To protect my newest variegated toad lily from the rabbits, I covered it with a mesh colander. The colander provides light while keeping it safe.


This owl reminds me to keep the newly planted scutellaria (Downy skullcap) moist.

As for all those knobs, I found a blacksmith on Etsy who made me twisted iron rods with holes in them. I used a little Dremel saw to cut off the extra metal rod sticking out the back of the knob and secured them into the metal poles with  waterproof adhesive. I now have 18 one-of-a-kind plant stakes.


I used them to mark any spot that needs special attention.


These were very easy to make.


I even used them along with a few wrapped iron rods to create a little barrier so my honeysuckle vine isn't chopped by the lawn mower.


I used the fox knob to scare off the rabbits. I think it's working.

In the end, I created a bed just like me: quirky and resolute. Renamed the Big Daddy Garden it's my own mirror to remind me what a little weirdness and a lot of determination can accomplish. Instead of hiding my mess and pretending it isn't there, I'd rather just fix it. It's not as easy but it feels a lot better.

55 comments:

  1. What about a climbing hydrangea or boston ivy to cover all that mess up.

    S
    xo

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    1. It's not a mess any more. I redesigned the entire area.

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  2. You get the "Resourceful Woman" award on mulitple counts here. I am especially impressed with the plant stakes (love Etsy too) but that colander rabbit-deflector certainly gets honorable mention. Seems to me that your plantings are definitely performing. I have an 8 foot pole by my house with an electrical meter stuck on it that I've been trying for years to bury it in plants-- so far it still pokes up above the shrubs and clematis but you give me hope!

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    1. Maybe if you cover/surround the pole with metal livestock panels or something else that will function as a strong support sytem, you can train a climber on it. There is a new purple super fragrant clematis called Sweet Summer love that would cover it in a year or two. So would a honeysuckle or trumpet vine. I love my plant stakes, too. I like how funky they are. :o)

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  3. It certainly is an improvement Tammy. How long is that fox knob supposed to be effective to scare off the rabbits? I suppose it works as a kind of talisman? I am interested to know as I could try it in the unlikely possibility that my own rabbit comes back.

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    1. The fox knob is supposed to be effective forever. :o) It's so fierce,it would scare off anything! Or at least make them die laughing. :o)

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  4. Looks like you have all the seasons covered! Those knobs are something special--I love the look of the stakes growing up through the Bleeding Heart and ready for the Lilies. Great idea for interplanting for the seasons! Do you ever have problems with rabbits eating your Lilies? I had to put mine behind fencing and plant onions around them to keep the rabbits away.

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    1. The rabbits devour my toadlilies every year but leave the big lilies alone. Maybe yours are tastier than mine!

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  5. How insanely awesome! Man! Those plant stakes are so cool! I am just loving those! And what you did with that space is outstanding! Your side garden looks a lot like mine (as in the utilities stuff!) and seriously I tried that whole mirror thing over there as I had one laying around and it was a nightmare. No go for me...plant and conceal has been my mission but my air conditioner butts right up to the path so I have to get crafty here soon. Loved the screen by the way and I need some of that obedient plant...it really has such an outstanding form! High fives friend! Your garden looks beautiful! You have inspired me to keep going!! Nicole xo

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    1. Thanks, Nicole! Don't give up! Ever!! Just keep plugging away. :o) Obedient plant spreads really quickly so you'll have it forever but it's great for when I need to fill a spot. A/C units are just so lovely, arent' they?

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  6. I like your plant choices, especially the Obedient Plant and the Asiatic Lilies. And I think your Bleeding Heart is beautiful in bloom. Wish they would grow here! I like the stakes for some garden whimsy, too...very clever!

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    1. I love adding funky touches to the garden. It makes it feel more unique. :o)

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  7. It is looking really good, really quirky. I love your innovative stakes. And you can' t go wrong with lilies. How long will your toad lily have to stay in its cage?

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    1. Thanks! I had to cover it about a month ago because the rabbits had eaten it down to the soil. I just planted it this spring and was worried it would die. In a few more weeks, I'll set it free. :o)

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  8. You give me hope for the garden space that we are now trying to conquer. It is a large garden right in the middle of the front of the property. I like the decorative stakes and other bits of whimsy that you have added. The plants seem to flourish and I imagine that you have a big smile.

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    1. I've gone from hating this area to loving it. No area is so horrible it can't be improved.

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  9. Tammy girl ! ... I think every gardener has "that" spot we hate, try to ignore and literally run away from it while in the garden.
    I love that quote by the way : ) ... You have done a fantastic job creating a gorgeous scenario in a spot you really had a hard time with. I too love mirrors in the garden but just recently bought one for the dry stream bed where my one fish is reflected in with the pea stone. I have to get a picture of that soon so I can post about it .
    I love the stakes ... and I so wish we could get better garden art here .. you did a great job customizing them girl, well done you!
    Joy

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    1. Check out Etsy and see if the artists will ship to Canada. Etsy is where I buy most of my garden art. I'd love to see a pix of your mirror!

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  10. The transformation is amazing. Love the custom stakes, and that gorgeous Asiatic lily. It's perfect just the way it is - never mind a deeper pink. Which one is it? I may have to get one.

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    1. Thanks! I think it's called Red Hot or something like that but it wasn't listed in the current Brent and Beckjy's bulb catalog. That's where I bought them.

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  11. Hi Tammy, the lilies are inspired and I loved looking at the pictures of progress as I read through. The personal touches of the hand-made stakes and birdhouse make me very jealous of your creativity and talent and is something I can only dream about.

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    1. I bought the birdhouse and tall iron basket stakes but I did make the little stakes. I just stuck a knob on a piece of iron. Don't be impressed! You have a doctorate, which is something I can only dream about. :o)

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  12. Wow, amazing, I love it all, especially the stakes and brass animals!
    The lilies are gorgeous as is all the planting, but my favourite are those toad lilies, I haven't seen them before.
    What a transformation, I do hope you still have that screen on show somewhere, it's fab as is Fred!!! Smashing post.xxx

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    1. I love my funky screen, too. It's in a storage closet, actually, but I may pull it out and put it up in my garden storage room. Brass animals are the best because theyr'e poopless!

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  13. Tammy, you ARE one heck of a problem solver--the mesh colander is a hoot. Thanks for visiting my garden today--I loved it¡ Hope Portland is loving you back...

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    1. It was so amazing to meet you! I really fell in love with Portland, for sure! There are always problems to solve in the garden. I've come back full of ideas and a fresh perspective.

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  14. It looks great, Tammy! Everything seems happy (with the possible exception of the thwarted rabbits). I love the lilies (even if they weren't the color you expected). I hope you enjoy the Fling - I'm sorry I won't have a chance to meet you there but maybe next time.

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    1. The Fling was incredible!! The next one will be in Toronto June 5-7, 2015. I hope you can make it! I like my lilies, too. I just wish the color was stronger.

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  15. Nice job! I like the strategy of overwhelming the weeds with obedient plant. And the stakes are great!

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    1. Some times a plant that's a thug can be the best remedy. But I prefer to think of the obedient plant as just enthusiastic. :o)

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  16. Love the know stakes! The area looks good. I too use screens and colanders to protect plants when they're small. I liked your screen too by the way.

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    1. Thanks! I've gone from avoiding this part of the garden to stopping by every day, especially when I'm filling my watering can. :o)

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  17. I can tell you've spent a lot on this part of the garden. I like the new name and all the ideas. The plants are gorgeous in their troublesome venue. I have the same problem with covering my A/C box. You've given me some ideas. David/;0)

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    1. Hooray! Being the springboard for inspiration is the best!

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  18. It's beautiful! It looks so lush and pretty and with all your expert planning and planting it will always look good. There will be colour all through the seasons. Love your markers! It truly is all about right plant right place,

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    1. It's amazing how easy it is to grow something when you stick it in the right spot. :o) I do love that this formerly wasted space now has something to offer spring through fall. I never see this area in the winter so I don't mind if it's boring then. There's no one to impress. ;o)

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  19. I think we have all had areas that are neglected dumping grounds for plants unwanted elsewhere, that we never quite get round to sorting out. I declare you the poster girl forturning eyesore into eye candy, quirkiness and all!

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    1. Woo-hoo! Thanks! I like quirky gardens with a fun personality. :o)

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  20. I love your big Daddy garden! It is just quirky enough to catch one's attention and slow the feet. The garden stakes are very nice. Do the neighbors notice the improvement?

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    1. Thanks! They were too polite to say anything about the screen but love the way it looks now. They love being able to enjoy my garden without having to do any of the work.

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  21. Tammy how creative...I love it...the way the lilies and rods come through the bleeding heart swept me away...then all the other blooms growing...fabulous.

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    1. Thanks! I'm really happy with the way it's turned out. :o)

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  22. Yet another triumph in the garden for you...Bravo!!
    Too many plants to agree that I like.... :)

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    1. This section wasn't designed as much as it was cramscaped. I just crammed it all in until it looked just right. I think it worked. :o)

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  23. Love what you have done with the area, particularly the lilies and obedient plants. The rods are a great idea and so decorative and unusual. I may have to make some of those for my gardens.

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    1. Thanks! If you want to make the rods, contact the blacksmith through Etsy. He's very nice and easy to work with.

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  24. Well, you've turned an unused space into a an amazing looking area! The handmade stakes add a wonderful touch, and I love that birdhouse. The Asiatic Lilies are such a pretty colour, they must really brighten up the garden.

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    1. The lilies and tall black stakes give that area the vertical punch it needed. Plus, I just love iron/metal in the garden. I love the structure and rigidity against the softness of the plants.

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  25. Yup. I have that same ignored spot in my garden. I do gymnastics when taking photos for my blog to try to keep it out of view. Like all your garden bling too.
    Ray

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    1. Thanks, Ray! I'd love to meet you, if you ever want to get together. :o)

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  26. Those stakes are awesome and I was just wondering where you found them when I read that you made them. You clever woman you! Easy to find old doorknobs that don't match but brilliant adding them to a stake. This area looks fantastic now. Like that you used obedient plant. Despite it's issues I think it's actually quite beautiful.

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    1. Thanks! I really love obedient plant, despite its rambunctiousness. The bees are crazy for it in the fall.

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  27. You are just full of plant tricks and ideas! Nice work! For those nasty little pockets that exist, I throw in some garden art and it seems to work:)

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  28. Love the idea of the markers. I forget my "special attention" plants all the time. I may have to steal this. Love your new bed, it looks great!

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  29. Love, love, love the custom made plant stakes.....makes your garden come alive even more....if that is really possible.....looks great!!

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