Down the garden path: a renewal (continued)

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.

Living in a courtyard apartment means that the landlord can always swoop in and make changes to your carefully planned plot. Read what happens when "Landlord's Folly" descends upon you!