Thursday, June 25, 2015

Two Thousand Pounds of Carpe Diem

Before you read any further, I must warn you I'm a fairly energetic person. While this statement is in direct conflict with the sloth calendar that hangs in my bedroom for mornings I'm so groggy I need the type of empathy only an animal that sleeps 20 hours a day can provide, as a general rule once I've had a few hours to wake up, my energy level switches from a zombie-like trance to a steady simmer that keeps me going til I collapse into bed.


I don't recall posing for this picture...


Last month I decided to extend my rain garden after realizing a 13 foot section of my lawn was full of standing water and mosquitoes. Tired of muddy dogs and of dealing with a problem not solved by planting clover or allowing native carex to take over, I had a single day available to complete the project before a week of rain slowed me down. With my family only able to provide limited help, I knew if I wanted to get it done, I'd have to do it myself.

So I did. It only took eight hours.


The drainage pipe from our sump pump as well as a pipe from under our patio kept this area so saturated it stunk.


This is the swale that leads to our rain garden. It is a total bog most of the year and grass only grows in a drought. It is also right in the middle of the dog path my dogs use to run about the yard. Since one of my dogs is blind, deciding to rip this up meant I'd have to train him to cross the new riverbed.


I bought 1500 pounds of cheap river rock to form the base of the bed.


Because the new extension would be feeding directly into the existing rain garden, it was vital I kept the soil at the same grade it was before I started digging. While this sounds challenging, it wasn't. I simply dug up the soil and flipped it over, grass and all. Very little soil needed to be removed, which sped up the process. I used water permeable landscape fabric made from recycled soda bottles as a weed barrier.


Digging the extension and filling it with rocks took eight hours. Later in the week, I added 500 pounds of decorative rocks and created stepping stones from beautiful pale green flagstone. Almost everything in my garden is soft and curving so I kept the new grass path as curvy as possible. 



Scout went blind from diabetes.

My blind dog Scout navigates around the garden based on surface texture and freaked out when he discovered a chunk of his lawn has been replaced with a new river bed. Despite sliding a plate of bacon and eggs across the flagstones to convince him to cross, he simply ate the food when he got to the other side and then avoided the rocks.


I added Japanese iris (iris ensata) and variegated sweet flag (acorus) to keep it from looking like a shallow grave.


Native carex grass has already taken over but I don't mind. I looks more natural. I needed plants that would thrive in wet clay as well as survive a four dog squirrel chase. 


Japanese iris 'Butterflies in Flight'



I filled this little area with blue eyed grass since my dogs like to run through this part of the garden to bark at people walking by. It stands up to dog traffic quite well.

The new extension blends seamlessly into the existing rain garden.




The caladiums, which like well drained soil, are planted in a pot that's been sunk into the ground. If this area fills with too much water, I can just lift the pot til the subsoil drains. But they're the perfect compliment to all that fabulous purple, so I had to think of a way to work them into the design.


I finished off the project by adding a few of my sand dollar fossils to the garden. 

89 comments:

  1. That took an amazing amount of energy and determination. There's nothing like a stinky mosquito farm to get a gardener motivated. The plants look great and make it blend really well with the rest of your landscape.

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    1. It was an easy, skill-less job. All I had to do was keep moving. But I was pretty sore the next day. But getting rid of my mosquito farm was all the motivation I needed.

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  2. I'm suitably impressed by both the effort and the result. (In contrast, I encountered a miniature swamp in my own garden this week and immediately summoned my husband to investigate the irrigation system breakdown while I ran inside to slather my mosquito bites with Benadryl lotion.) I hope that, after bringing up the rear in several squirrel chases, Scout will overcome whatever apprehensions he has about the rock and follow the other dogs without a full-blown meal to drive him.

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    1. Scout will avoid the riverbed forever. He just can't make sense of where he is when he's touching rock. He gets really confused. But he can see motion and contrast in light so he navigates the garden/lawn pretty well. When he get's lost in the garden or becomes disoriented, I just call his name and he follows my voice. :o)

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  3. That's a lot of rock to move. The result looks well and truly worth it though. It looks like it was always part of your original rain garden. I love the idea that the weed-mat is made from recycled soda bottles.

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    1. One of the things I love about gardening is the combination of mindless physical labor with cerebral problem solving. It's the perfect combination. The weed barrier is pretty cool. I love that it's recycled.

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  4. I am in love with the result of your hard labor! It's a timeless trickling stream. So beautiful (and so thoughtful of you to think of your dogs in the planning.)

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    1. As much as I love my garden, I love my dogs more. I'm always having to make sure the garden stays tidy so Scout doesn't run into tools left laying out, etc. The stones in the riverbed are so pretty after it rains. I just love how the project turned out.

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  5. My back hurt just reading this! But wow oh wow, does it look grand and your nice dog will get used to it in time, food notwithstanding. Fabulous job. I need to take some Ibuprofen.

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    1. Ha ha ha!! My other three dogs have decided the flagstones are much more convenient than the river rocks but Scout just goes around it. My arms were more sore than my back but it was an excellent work out. Buns of steel, baby!

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  6. You are so industrious, Tammy! If I had a day off this time of year, I would probably walk around the garden with a glass of lemonade. Or sit in a lawn chair watching the hummingbirds and reading a good book. Please come over to my house to help me with my projects! ;-)

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    1. I did this project a month ago. :o) Right now I'm just taking it easy, although I did do some early summer redesigning that kept me in the garden for several hours each day this week. I'd love to come over and help with projects! You'd end up very sweaty and dirty. :o)

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  7. Those rocks weigh so much, I can not imagine how you did it, but it turned out excellent. The iris are a nice natural touch and I hope your blind dog figures out the new yard.

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    1. I had the bags of rocks loaded for me at the store and my husband moved them from the back of my car to the wheelbarrow and then dumped them in the bed. I opened the bags and then dumped them where I needed them. I moved the other 500 lbs myself but had a lot of help from my wheelbarrow. :o) Scout avoids the river bed but has other grassy areas where he can get in and out of the yard.

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  8. Wow! Good job on your swale extension project! Doesn't it feel grand to complete something big like that? And what a pretty Japanese Iris.

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    1. Seeing this project completed so quickly was immensely satisfying. I love the way it turned out. :o)

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  9. That looks really fantastic! You must have some sore muscles. You made quick work of a big job. Boggles the mind. The plants mixed in with the stones looks very attractive and natural. I really need to put a dry river bed SOMEWHERE in my garden. There must be a place where it would make sense.

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    1. Any spot that tends to be moist is a great spot for a river bed if you want to make a rain garden. If you just want to cover up crappy soil and add interest, it works in that sense, too. I really love mine. After a big mid-day storm, butterflies will land on the rocks to lick minerals from them. It's very cool. Even the birds love it for a bath when it's full of water.

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  10. PS - when I first saw the title I thought the post was going to have something to do with carp, like a marathon gefilte fish-making session.

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  11. Dang Girl...it looks really GREAT. Fabulous job. I learned a bunch too. (As well as laughing all through your story, until the part about the shallow grave at which point I howled!) I recall my old, partly blind dog, Rufus, trying to get out to pee in snow and ice when he had never seen or been on snow or ice! He stood there and I could see the words going across the grid of his forehead: how am I gonna pee, how am I gonna pee? Then he pushed a spot of snow by the house, leaned against it and did his thing. I could swear he smiled. It's so funny watching dogs figure things out. GREAT JOB CHICA, you must feel super happy with this solution.

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    1. Gracias! After the first day, it really looked like I'd buried some one in the backyard. I am so glad not to have to deal with all that mud. 16 muddy paws tracking through the house is just too much. I absolutely love the longer riverbed. :o)

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  12. Hi Tammy, yikes, you certainly do have a lot of energy and physical strength! The new river bed looks great and I really like the part with the Caladiums and the purple flowering plants. So sad that your dog went blind from diabetes. Hopefully he learns to cross the river bed on its own.
    I wish I have a carpe diem day like you had this upcoming weekend. There is so much to do in the garden at this time of the year, I just can't keep up.
    Warm regards,
    Christina

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    1. Twenty years of gardening has made me pretty strong. :o) I don't think Scout will ever cross the river bed intentionally but at least now he's no longer scared of it.

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  13. On well done, I love it! What hard work but we'll worth the effort. I love a project where you see a big difference at the end of the day.

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    1. Thanks and me, too!! I hate doing a load of work and then looking at an area and not being able to tell a difference. That makes me nuts.

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  14. Wow Tammy!!! Job well done!! It looks like a professional landscape company came by....love those irises!
    Try sitting on the rocks with Scout and while talking to him just move across the bed and see if he follows you across...then repeat the process back across until he realises that the rocks are okay for him to walk on....he just feels unsure since it's something new.
    When my dogs went blind, I had to keep my garden the exact way that it was so they could navigate safely.

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    1. I think Scout can't figure out where the stepping stones are so he just avoids the area. His blindness was a big reason why it took so long to decide to do this project. But the mud and mosquitoes were maddening. The irises do work well there. I wanted plants that would look natural in a stream setting so I went with grass-like foliage that would bend if it was run over by the dogs instead of breaking in half. so far, it seems to be working.

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  15. Sounds like a hard project to me but what a beautiful solution to your problem. Integrates well into the original.

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    1. Physically it was challenging since it was really hot/humid that day but I stayed well hydrated and just powered through. We've had so much rain lately that not having to deal with the constant mud has been wonderful. The riverbed was the perfect problem solver. :o)

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  16. Phew! I'm exhausted just reading about all your hard work. I see a career move in the not too distant future.... ;)

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    1. I don't think I'll ever go into landscape design! Working with kids is funnier. But this was an excellent workout. :o)

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  17. What a wonderful job you've done - I can't believe it took you only one day! Jobs around our house unfortunately tend to take much longer than that - in fact, I am often surprised when we get stuff completed in one season, much less one day ;)

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    1. It only took a day because my daughter came with me to buy the rocks so we could load two cars at once and then when I needed more, she took a break from what she was doing to go to the store and buy another load for me. My husband brought them all back to the garden for me and then ordered my favorite Thai food for dinner. I was determined to get it all done. :o)

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  18. I am impressed with your work and the energy it took. I know about digging a creek bed path and laying rock and the incredible effort it takes. This came out so great. I love how the extension meanders naturally out of the rain garden and how the iris wanders into the pebbles. It's hard to get a rock bed to look natural (and effortless -- ha!), but yours does -- very nice job!!

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    1. Thanks! When I dug the original rain garden, it took a week of working after school to complete everything. Because all I had to do was dig the outline, and then flip the clumps of soil over and keep everything level, this project went much faster. I really wanted to avoid a manufactured look. I want everything to look as if it just popped out of the ground naturally.

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  19. Oh my goodness!! I love this! The shape and movement of that bed is extraordinary! And all planted up it just looks so beautiful! Well done my friend! Your work here is simply amazing! Nicole xo

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    1. Awww, thanks! I do love the big curve along the bed.

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  20. It's beautiful! I find it hard to believe you only work up to a simmer all day - not after seeing the amount of work involved in this project. While I don't have a blind dog, I do have a young dog that is blind to everything under her feet. I have to use the same amount of care with my yard.

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    1. Today I didn't even make it to a simmer. I was just lukewarm and spent a big chunk of time laying in the hammock with a book, enjoying every second of not being at work.

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  21. You continually amaze me my friend! Such a brilliant idea and it looks fantastic! Such a great problem solver using the contours and character of your land, and it's so visually appealing as your eye follows it and moves through your garden. Your plants are as usual lovely! I can't believe you moved all those rocks, but then I truly can. im on Team Tammy in the Zombie Apocalypse!! Dirty muddy paws from four dogs?!? I have one dirty terrier and it is bone dry here. I don't even know where he finds any mud or water.

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    1. Thanks for the love! I've always thought I'd totally survive a zombie apocalypse, but since I'd be carrying four terrified dogs and have bad knees, I'd probably be a goner in a hot minute.

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  22. Well you have inspired me yet again as we have to redig ours and take out part of the lawn as well...so I hope we can get to it this fall, but if not then early spring...I need to dig up stuff in fall, move it and then put down the landscape fabric, stone and replant....more than 8 hrs but well worth it to stop the deluge each spring and fall.

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    1. We've had a rainy summer and not having all that mud tracked into the house has been wonderful. I wish we'd done this years ago. I'd definitely get as much done as possible this fall so you have time to tweak it next spring. You'll be so glad you did. :o)

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  23. OMG ... Tammy girl you are an exceptional landscaper ! ... This is the sort of dry stream bed I would love to have if I had the room (or the unbelievable energy and perseverance you have !) .. you are NO sloth madam ! .. I love the iris and those fossil rocks are gorgeous .. the whole project is amazing, and your concern for Scout is wonderful ... he will figure it out sans eggs and bacon eventually ....
    What a way to spend 8 hours ... but wow ... it is so worth it (only other gardeners really know how much it is truly worth !)
    Hope you aren't too sore and your back is still in place !
    Take care : )
    Joy

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    1. I'm a sloth in the morning. I'm just not a morning person. Scout is my baby so I'll do whatever is required to make sure he's ok. I'm his Seeing Eye Person. My back was fine. It was my arms, legs, and butt that were sore. ;o)

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  24. What a lovely solution to a boggy problem. The result looks absolutely brilliant!

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    1. Thanks! A long standing problem has been solved with style. :o)

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  25. I'm with you on the zombie, then simmer.
    But a whole day of simmering would never get me this result.
    It looks perfect in every detail.

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    1. Thank you! I really appreciate that. :o) I only got the bed dug and the base layer of rocks done the first day. I added the decorative rocks and the plants later in the week. But I needed to get as much of the project done as fast as possible before it rained and the dogs tracked more mud into the house.

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  26. That's a great idea! Looks so natural, love the 'stone garden'. Thank you for sharing!

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  27. You go girl! I'm impressed with both the time frame in which you did this and the beautiful result! It looks really great, Tammy! Nothing can beat a hard workin' gal with a vision!

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    1. Thanks, Peter! My vision was "Get it done!" I was so sick of all the mud and muck.

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  28. Wow, this looks great! Not only is it beautiful and practical, I like the way you took the dogs' needs into account, too. I hope Scout gets used to it eventually. I do wish I had your energy, Tammy--I start out as a zombie and by after lunch I turn back into a zombie:) With all our rain, my whole yard is turning into a bog--I wonder how many hours and pounds of rock it would take me to cover it all up:)

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    1. Scout avoids it but the other three dogs don't mind it. We had 2.5 inches of rain today and the new riverbed kept my house from becoming a mud pit. The hard work was worth it.

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  29. It's a great idea and really looks the business! I need to do something similar here. There's a french drain that collects run off from the vertical bank behind the house, but then it just dumps the water on to a path. Wet feet all round. Something like this would be perfect.

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    1. It's such an easy, attractive solution. Go for it!

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  30. Thanks for showing how you went from muddy to marvelous! Wow, really fantastic. Hope Scout gets used to the path.

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  31. First of all, Tammy would you please, please, please come to my house and redesign (well, just "design") my gardens! Think of it, a nice little trip to the other end of the country. We'll feed you well. Wow. You are amazing, girl. I love the look of that gently curving creek path with the irises planted in it. I have a total bog area that would really benefit from this kind of approach. However, there is something almost oxymoronic about "decorative rocks." "Decorative" sounds so festive and light and colorful, while "Rocks" sounds more heavy, dry, and punishing (especially when I think about actually moving any of them). But your result is definitely the former.

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    1. Your climate is so different than mine, I'd be the last choice to design your garden but I do love your enthusiasm. I love rocks. I have some really beautiful ones in the riverbed. I do have a bog garden in a different part of the garden but the narrow part of the river bed where the iris are is a swamp. It's so nice not to step in mud anymore.

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  32. Your ambition paid off, this looks very nice.

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  33. Let me get this right: You moved 1500 lb. of river rock, 500 lb. of decorative rock, flipped 13 feet of lawn grass out of the way and added deceptive plantings as a finishing touch? In just hours? All by yourself? It looks wonderful, and you are a girl after my own heart!

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    1. I moved 1500 lbs of rock and dug out the riverbed in 8 hours. My husband hauled all the rock to the garden and then I moved it where I needed it. The rock was in 40 lb bags so it wasn't hard to move. The decorative rock and plants came a week later.The project looks harder than it was.

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  34. OK, I know I said decorative plantings! How come that came out deceptive plantings? Are your plantings hiding something?

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    1. They might be! Probably just weeds. :o)

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  35. Love it. You are giving me courage to build a riverbed in the center. Circle that grows only weeds. Thanks for the advice on Lewisa. She is in very dry soil in spot that I genally forget to water and mulched with pea gravel. Aside from this year when we had abundant rain, we are very dry, so she should do well in the succulent garden.

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    1. Do it! You'll be glad you did. I wish I'd put this in years ago. I hope your lewisia is glorious. :o)

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  36. Great job, not just the hard work but also the results! It really fits right in and makes what you had look even better. The iris is beautiful.
    I seem to spend most of the day in sloth mode... wish I had more of those high energy moments!

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  37. That project is one I find gives me a good nights sleep. It looks great!

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  38. That is a great change. Functional and beautiful.

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  39. Love it! Hard work is almost fun when you have results like this at the end of the day. If only those irritating family members were as easy to fix:^)

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    1. Thanks! They were working on other projects that were actually more important so I didn't expect any help. Even if they had tried to help me, they probably would have driven me nuts. My husband did bring the rocks into the garden and my daughter ran to the store for more rocks when I ran out. They did what they had time for.

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  40. Wow.....eight hours! And what fantastic results!!! I love the grasses and iris and the stones look lovely, I hope all that does the trick! Awhhhh....bless Scout, what a sweetheart, I hope he has adjusted to the new path and that you get to eat your breakfasts!!!xxx

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    1. I added the plants and decorative rocks a week later. Only digging the soil and adding the base layer of rocks took eight hours. We had tons of rain coming and I was determined to get that muddy swamp covered up before the dogs tracked it all into the house. Scout avoids the riverbed but still begs for my breakfast. :o)

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  41. What a landscape you have now! Wonderful, well done Tammy.
    I loved the most the irises you added to your dry river.

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  42. Oh my gosh....you are a maniac! It looks awesome. Are you standing upright these days? I'm going to share this with a client...he is going to need to do this very thing! ~Julie

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    1. I was sore the next day but not too bad. Tylenol helped. :o)

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  43. I'm impressed Tammy! It looks fantastic. What a great way to get rid of your mosquito farm and keep your dogs' paws clean. You rock!

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    1. I have a head full of rocks to do that much work in one day but I'm tired of cleaning the floors every day! Muddy dogs are the worst.

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  44. Muddy dogs are the worst! I would have wanted a solution to the standing water, muck and mosquitos too. Your riverbed extension looks terrific and has a rather natural looking flow to it. Too bad Scout is not a fan. Even if she wasn't blind, dogs can have odd phobias. Scarp is afraid whenever I rattle around in the drawer below the oven. He runs down the front hall and cowers until I have found the cookie sheet or muffin tray I am looking for.

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    1. He's pretty skittish. Everything has the potential to make him jump. All the dogs at our house are big weenies. :o)

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  45. Hi Tammy, two thousand pounds is what I like to spend on clematis, each month. Failing that, you're in the same league as we are when it comes to soil, manure and compost quantities - we're talking tonnes. It was really good to see the "in progress" pictures. I remember the first time to you made the rain garden, the when you extended it, and extended it again, and now this! I really like it and it's something that we might have to do with a very soggy part of our own garden. Keep digging!

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