Gardening is a constant process of regeneration. It's no surprise that the hardscape
of our gardens should age just as softer materials, like plants, do. It's also the job
of infiltrators (like weeds!) to assist in the process of breakdown. Keeping on top
of the situation requires honesty. You need to be honest with yourself when it's time
for a clean-up.
The view at right (click the image to enlarge) shows the sorry state of a former garden path,
which actually can't be seen anymore. It leads to a "secret" part of the garden that was
built for children to hold tea parties and the like, but the path is obscured by weeds. This
despite a bottom layer of a fabric weed-blocker, a woven design that was meant to allow the
soil to breathe but to prevent weeds from poking through. It was good while it lasted, but
nothing gold can stay.
When it's this bad there's no other solution but to get your hands dirty.
That means deconstructing the path by pulling up the grey stepping stones, sweeping out
as much old redwood bark as possible, gathering up the invasive oxalis and Bermuda grass, and
starting all over again with fresh weed-blocking fabric.
The stepping stones and bricks are kind of a sorry sight. They're remnants of some stones that belonged
to neighbors some twenty years ago, but when the neighbors decamped to other quarters I harvested
the stones and have used them ever since.
I'm a great believer in re-purposed garden materials.
I'm also very frugal. At left (click to enlarge) they're piled up next to some pelargoniums (zonal, ivy,
and regal), as well as some basil, roses, agapanthus, and lobelia. The stones looked much better
after a wash and scrub-down to get rid of pesky, clinging oxalis roots.
Note: do not try to accomplish a garden project like this all in one day. Space it out
so you can think clearly and envision how you want your path to be situated...and to spare
your sore and aching muscles! (For which, if you're looking for a medicinal reason to
have a gin-and-tonic, this type of project is perfect for it...something about the quinine
in the tonic, I'm told, rejuvenates the muscles like nobody's business.)
Next step: plan the pattern of the path, either by drawing it out or creating it in your
mind. Take your time. You'll be living with this design for at least four to five more years
before you'll have to rip it all apart and do it again.
This time I used a lot more weed-blocking fabric than I did the first time around, with multiple
layers overlapping each other, the better to keep weeds from making their magical appearance again.
Then I put down the stepping stones and bricks in the pattern I'd selected. Final step was to use
redwood bark to cover up the weed-block fabric and flow in and around the stepping stones. Redwood
bark has a distinct advantage over just plain generic bark because it's long-lasting and it smells
heavenly when fresh. You can also slip a bit of the bark under a stepping stone if it wobbles or needs
some shoring up.
At right is the finished project. Click the image to enlarge the photo.
Using a few Japanese river stones I outlined the part of the path leading up to the wooden chair. This
adds a bit of hardscape texture to the area. If you wanted to be creative (or if you had more stones) you
could repeat this design along each node of the path, but it isn't strictly necessary and it might be a tad
too fussy. This is a judgment call and is entirely up to you.
I also brought in
a wooden table to complement the wooden chair for those afternoons when a cup of tea in the garden (or a
gin-and-tonic) would nicely cap off all your efforts.
If you're already an ardent gardener, or if you want to become one, you may enjoy some
of the resources listed in the links at right.
If you're new to the hobby, just plunge right in and start with something simple. Evaluate your
space and climate and decide what's works for you. Ornamental or practical or both, a garden doesn't need to be
complex. Remember: it takes real work to kill a plant. Don't work too hard.
Links for the rosarian
Gardening and gardens
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