Saturday, May 31

Saturday Project: The Bordeaux Garden

Like (too) many days this spring, Saturday was forecast to bring occasional rain but instead showered us with lots of sunshine. I sleep like the dead, so I cannot attest to the severity of our weather overnight, but my friend Amy who lives nearby said that it rained mightily in the wee hours. So the plants did get a good watering, at least.

The mix of sunshine and a deep drink coaxed one of the 'Ivory Queen' allium karataviense to start blooming. Here you see it with wooly thyme, a blueberry, and the orange tubes of firecracker penstemon... this combo was the first thing I noticed when I headed out to the garden for some project work:

The main project for today was to stain the posts for the grape arbor, and hopefully get them all secured up in their Groundmaster sleeves. I also wanted to set the last of the stones in the little patio beneath the arbor.

On the way to the back corner of the yard, I couldn't help but notice how cute the variegated lemon thyme (which is amazing on chicken and fish) looked, mingling with the dianthus I got from Mom's garden:

When I finally settled in to work, the staining went pretty quickly. I knew that I would be two posts short of what I needed for all of my trellising projects, and discovered quickly that the tall ones for the grape arbor are the missing posts. For now, I put two short posts up but did not secure them, both to see how the stain would look on a full arbor and also to more easily stain the shorter posts that do not yet have an anchoring system set up.

Luckily, I had cut the grapevine back so much last year that it was relatively easy to stain the post it had been climbing. I was able to just detach the nails, stain the post, and then reattach the nails without too much harm to the grape:

The beautiful shrub center stage above is 'Diablo' purple ninebark, physocarpus opulifolius. Earlier this spring, I was lamenting that I already had 'Diablo' because I was so taken with the spring color of 'Coppertina,' but right now I feel completely satisfied with my choice.

'Diablo' seems to like this position better than its previous one--maybe the soil was too rich in the heavily amended bed where it previously resided? The clusters of white flowers almost look fuzzy, as you can see here on a branch that leans out over the oregano that I really need to get harvested:

The rest of the stones were dug into the ground for the patio, and I replanted the two freebie ferns ('Ghost' and 'Wildwood Twist,' I think) that lived through the winter. I cut up two little pint-sized pots of leptinella and tucked 9 chunks of varying size in between the stones at the shadier back end of the arbor patio.

Once that was finished, I weeded and mulched all around. At this point, it was very close to sunset, so please forgive the washed-out pictures from here on. My old digital did the best it could do with little light, in the hands of a photographer who hates to use the flash! But even with bad photos, you can tell the whole garden looks better with some fresh (albeit from last year's yardage) mulch:

Did you notice the wide berth that I left for the hosta? This is a NOID hosta that I snagged from work, but if it isn't 'Sum & Substance' then it's a kissing cousin. It won't get enough sun to be bright gold here, but its big leaves will still be a nice chartreuse and provide a light background for the ninebark.

This space will be fairly dark once the arbor is complete and the grapevine clamors over it, so I put some trashpicked garden art in the corner to brighten things up a bit. Whoever broke this pedestal into two did so pretty cleanly, so I snagged both pieces from the curb. I am considering planting a small shade-loving annual of some kind, or maybe some of my black mondo grass, in the smaller piece you see to the right of the larger piece and the fern:

So far, I'm really thrilled with the way this corner is shaping up. My one concern in looking at these pictures is that... well... it might just be a little too pretty for me! But the pinky flowers of the chives and the ninebark will be done soon, and the gorgeous white blackberry flowers will (I hope) turn into juicy goodness.

And maybe I'll add something edgy at the end of the sidwalk on the right... or paint one of my trashpicked wooden window frames in a funky color and add it to the fence behind the arbor. That would give you something to focus on when you're looking over the Japanese garden and through the viewpoint under the dwarf cherry tree:

Or, maybe by the time the arbor is completed and I have hung a few funky lanterns from it, that will be all I need to make me happy. We'll see.

By the way, my apologies to those of you who were expecting to see a French-inspired garden because of the post title. It struck me as I was staining that 'Bordeaux,' which is the name of that particular stain color, was a great choice for a grape arbor. And it cracked me up to think of my little corner of grapes, grasses, humble herbs and funky shade plants having such a grand-sounding name... so the 'Bordeaux' garden it is!

Tuesday, May 27

What's In A Name?

Looking through my plant tags this evening, I realized that some of my plants seem to go together very well. Almost too well... as if the specific cultivars were chosen because their names went with a theme of sorts.

On the one hand, I have the "Warrior Plants." Plants with the names of warriors, implements of war, those who might lead others into battle, and things that might easily be fought over or spilled during combat, including:

'Samurai Warrior' Bearded Iris
'Troy's Gold' Plectranthus
'Silver Scrolls' heuchera
'Silver Queen' ajuga
'Ivory Queen' allium karataviense
'Golden Sword' yucca
Sorghastrum nutens 'Sioux Blue'
Sedum 'Purple Emporer'
Liriope 'Silver Dragon'
'Samurai' tricyrtis
'Ivory Prince' hellebores
'Purple Dragon' lamium
'Hadspen Blood' astrantia
'Othello' ligularia

On the other hand, there is definitely a "Fire and Ice" theme going on as well. This is probably very fitting for someone whose high school boyfriend referred to her as the Arctic Queen. (Yes, I know there is a clematis by that name... no, I will not be adding it to my garden!)

My Fire-and-Ice plants include:

'Solar Flare' bergenia
amsonia 'Blue Ice'
'Lightning Strike' tricyrtis
salvia lyrata 'Purple Volcano'
carex comans 'Frosted Curls'
'Dark Star' coleus
brunnera 'Jack Frost'
'Diablo' purple ninebark

Interestingly, I had very little (okay, nothing) in the way of plants with sugary, warm-and-fuzzy names, 'Sweet Kate' spiderwort aside. So that makes me wonder... what's in a name? Do the plants I tend to like lend themselves to certain types of names?

Most of the time, it's just about the plants when I make purchases. I have a few unfortunately named plants in my yard. And I would have purchased regular allium karataviense instead of these 'Ivory Queens'... but does a cultivar name subconsciously influence my buying decisions?

For example... would the beautiful red iris above have made it into my cart if it had a sappier name, like 'Heart's Delight' for example, instead of the bold 'Samurai Warrior' that (I admit) kind of gets my blood racing? (That it reminds me of a certain sexy actor in The Last Samurai doesn't hurt, either.)

Hmm. While I ponder this, I would be interested in knowing whether any other gardeners have noticed a theme running through their gardens, unplanned. These name themes certainly snuck up on me--it's not like I was planning a theme garden, that's for sure. I'm simply not that organized! Anyone else?

Saturday, May 24

Sunshine, Pathways, Locks & Stones (pt. 2)

In my previous post, I got a little carried away with showing off the garden in Saturday's rare sunshine. But eventually, I did take advantage of the cool, sunny day and even got some hard labor accomplished... so I'll continue my chronicle of Saturday's work here in part 2.

Project #1: A Floor for the Grape Arbor

I tend to work with materials on hand whenever I can, both to save on money and to cut down on waste. So when I first concocted my scheme of creating a little floor/patio of sorts beneath the grape arbor, I figured that I would break up the concrete next to the veggie garden bed at the same time. That way, I could simply reuse the concrete chunks beneath the grape arbor.

Luckily, before that could happen, I remembered the pretty cut stones that make up part of the pathway to the compost bins behind the garage. Most of the newer sidewalks in my suburb are poured cement, but the older ones are cut stone. So my guess is that these were remnants from a sidewalk refurbishing project.

The stones were mossy and slippery in their shady spot, and what's worse is that they were completely hidden from view. So I pulled the largest ones out and eventually arranged them in an asymmetrical pattern that I like, with pockets inside and around the edges for specific plants. Since it will be rarely used (just to check and harvest grapes, and weed around the plants) and I want a rustic/old look, I didn't bother setting the stone in anything other than the native dirt.

Once the rest of the posts are up, the floor is finished, the groundcovers are introduced, the ferns and epimedium are replanted, and the fence is stained... this will look like a whole different area, worthy of the pretty stones. And the cement that was to have been used here will just be crushed into smaller pieces and mixed in with the rest of the driveway gravel behind the garage to replace these stones. A win-win, as far as I'm concerned!

Project #2: Making a Path To/Through the Blue Locks

I could swear that I've shown these blue industrial shelves before, but I can't find the post... so the quick explanation is that they are trashpicking finds that I am using as a fun, recycled pathway material in the backyard.

**Edited to add: Thanks to Annie in Austin for finding my old post for me! If you're so inclined, you can read about the origins of this project in a post from last November, here.**

The first step was to clear and level the ground, and then I was able to lay out the pathway. The shelves are sturdy metal, but the blue enamel paint is chipping off in a couple of places, so I brought them inside this past winter and probably will continue to do so in the future.

I'll be building a simple 1-by cedar frame that each shelf will slip over when it gets placed in the garden. Inside the frame will be either paver base or decorative pebbles.--I'm not sure which, but am leaning toward the former. The frames will help me remember where each shelf will go, and they will also help keep the filler contained.

I can't do much more with the shelves right now until the frames are built, but at least I can start planting around them. Various culinary thymes, a few more salvias, and lots of veggies--red cabbage, carrots, beets, etc.--are going to be placed around here. And in those two, um, "circular metal planters" I am going to plant a couple of my treasured, rarer varieties of sedum. (Can anyone ID what those circles used to be? 1000 Cool Points for the first correct guess!)

Project #3: Lining the Locks with Stone

The first two blue shelves in the pathway I just laid span two of the three "dry locks" that Brian and I dug out last fall. At the bottom of the smaller picture below, you can see the shelf spanning the middle lock. The deepest lock is about knee-deep, the shallowest is about ankle-deep, and the middle one bridges the two. They are all connected by thin "channels," hence me thinking of them as "locks" instead of "ponds."

This is my take on the whole dry streambed xeriscape design, and is also reflective of my love of the water in general. So the locks are all planted with various blue- and purple-leaf plants.

Deep Lock has the darkest plants, including the deep-hued 'Metallica Crispa' ajuga. Middle Lock has silene maritima in its shallower end and sedum sieboldii in the deep part. Shallow Lock graduates from 'Blue Spruce' sedum in the "channel," to sedum pachyclados, to the tiny (and adorable) blue sedum hispanicum near the "shore."

Last year, I started using retaining wall block to line/mark the smallest of the locks, but it became quickly apparent that manufactured block was not going to cut it, aesthetically. I am lucky to have a source for free rocks (work lets me take them from the property around my office, as long as I haul them away on my own time) and so I have been working to line all three of the locks with pretty rocks to help stabilize their walls.

Here you see some of the rocks that I appropriated from work last week--the cool black rock in the middle was tapped for a slightly higher profile spot--and once I get them all laid out in a good arrangement, I'll work at digging parts of them into the ground and filling in around them with dirt to make them look more natural in their settings.

So a lot of work was started during this beautiful May Saturday... but I'll admit that none of it was actually finished just yet. There's still a lot to do, so hopefully we have a few more beautifully cool and sunny days in which to work.

When those days do come, my Gardening Assistant will have a lot more supervising to do. She'd better be ready to get her fuzzy butt in gear... and, preferably, off of my sedum! :)

Sunshine, Pathways, Locks & Stones

Today, for the first time since a short, warm week in April, I felt summer! It streamed through my window in the morning and pulled me outdoors, with no thought for any pedestrian pursuits like eating breakfast or brushing teeth. It even made me forget, for almost an entire minute, that I'm definitely not a morning person!

Only when my bare toes had felt the sun-warmed concrete of the driveway, and my tender veggies had made it safely back out into the sunshine after spending the chilly evening inside, did I realize how hungry I was. And since I had Big Plans for the day, I knew I would need a good breakfast.

But first, I wandered outside, coffee cup in hand, checking out the garden. I know that I have showed this simple combination of chives, sage (salvia officinalis 'Newe Ya'ar) and 'Fuldaglut' sedum before, but it continues to thrill me.

The 'Diablo' purple ninebark behind, and the stand of 'Caradonna' salvia to the left (both outside of this frame) really help define the space, but this plant combination alone makes me happy. Spikey, soft, upright, whorls of color... it's all there. And that they are all "humble" plants, two of them "mere" cooking herbs, makes it even more fun somehow.

It occurred to me as I walked around that I might have actually planted my shade garden too tightly. I meant to plant things closely, as my mind rationalized that with dry soil and the gardener's reluctance to water anything not edible, this trick would give the impression of a lush garden anyway.

But I might have taken that a bit too far, as you can see here with the 'Hillside Black Beauty' bugbane and its underplanting of pulmonaria. I thought that the bugbane would look tall and leggy, and the pulmonaria would provide a low, silvery foil, but right now it just looks crammed together. I'll have to keep an eye on this as the bugbane grows to see if it matches the picture in my mind's eye or needs to be moved.

On the brighter side of the shade garden, 'Othello' ligularia is doing its dark, brooding thing next to an unusually lively hakonechloa macra 'Aureola.' The Japanese forest grass sports these lovely red tips each fall, but I haven't noticed them in the spring before.

I'm guessing that our continued cool spell is playing a role in my garden all around. The hakone grass is tipped in red, my zebra grass is already almost 2ft tall and has yet to show much banding... but on the other hand my neglected moisture-lovers, like the ligularia, aren't yet looking as lackluster as they tend to do when it gets warm.

Eventually, I did take advantage of the gorgeous day to get some heavy work done, and as you can probably guess from this post title, my work involved pathways, "locks" & stones.

But concision is not one of my strong points, and I'm never able to edit myself well when I'm as excited as I am about today's sunshine and this current project. This is already a long post... and I have to get to the grocery store before it closes, or I will have nothing to eat for lunch at the garden center tomorrow... so the rest of today will have to be explained in a "part two" posting.

I hope that all of the rest of my fellow garden bloggers were able to take advantage of today's wonderful weather as well, whether working or playing. It really was a nice one--here on the sunny shores of Lake Erie, at least!

Wednesday, May 14

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day: May 2008

May has been an interesting month. Some of the early bloomers got all mixed up on when they were supposed to bloom, I discovered that serendipity had created a color theme in my spring backyard garden, and I got inspired by my brother and sister-in-law's ambitious first garden.

All the while, things have been blooming. Many things. But before I show you some of them and list others (in the spirit of May Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, hosted by Carol of May Dreams Gardens) I want to point out the beautiful state of decay of my Ivory Prince hellebore. Having such a small urban garden, I really value plants that look good when they are supposedly "past their prime!"

Most of the tulips are on their way out as well. The greigii tulips have long since shattered, decorating the front yard with their bright red petals. 'Black Hero' double tulip, a surprise returner this year, rests amongst the yarrow foliage:

And the elegant 'Prinses Irene' is fading from a bright mango orange into a shade akin to Tang:

At the end of the front bed, just before you turn to go up the porch steps, unnamed single late purple tulips sprawl through golden oregano, 'Purple Dragon' lamium, and my Japanese maple:

"The Bad Bergenia" has bloomed profusely this spring... as if to mock me for thinking about taking it out and replacing it with something prettier. And the foliage has looked nice, too. I still mostly scowl at it--what a cheeky plant it's turned out to be!

And finally, the garden's newer blooms. I keep wishing for the willpower to take out the doublefile viburnum in my front yard garden, because it is one of the least drought tolerant viburnums and I dislike fussy plants. But between the horizontal habit of the branches and the gorgeous texture of the leaves, I'm too deeply into my addiction here. And then there are the pretty flowers:

Also in the front garden, 3 of my 4 'Efanthia' euphorbias have rebounded and look amazing in bloom. The fourth plant has a few little nubs of new green leaves, but is nowhere near flowering like its friends:

People either love or hate geranium phaeum 'Samobor,' but I am always surprised to hear complaints that the flowers are not eye-catching enough. I guess that must be due to their size--because check out this amazing bloom color:

I am working on a theory that says something like the following: If you complain about one of your plants on your blog, and proceed to abuse the heck out of it (hopefully to the point of death, to avoid the necessity for shovel pruning) it will elevate its game. (See the bergenia above for further proof.)

And you might even start to have positive feelings for it, like the cautiously positive feelings I have for this garishly hot pink rhododendron, now that I've surrounded it with things like Japanese bloodgrass and goatsbeard to tone down the girliness:

This next bloom probably shouldn't even count, because the plant is still in its nursery pot. But I hope you can understand why I fell in love with the luscious flowers on this lewisia:

The blueberry flowers are doubly exciting--not only are they pretty, but they'll be good eating later! (In bud, next to the blueberry, are allium karataviense 'Ivory Queen.' I love its pleated and cupped foliage coming up through the creeping thyme.)

I wasn't sure what ajuga would think of my rather dry yard... but I'm happy to report that the diminutive 'Chocolate Chip' is extremely happy here. And handsome:

Other things in bloom on May 15, 2008:

grape hyacinths
bleeding hearts
'Samourai' pulmonaria
'Pine Knot Strain' hellebores
'Honeycrisp' apple
sweet woodruff
'Queen of the Night' tulips
'Geranium' daffodils
(note: Orangery and an unnamed daffodil would also be blooming... except that the elegant 'Geranium' ruined these showier daffs for me. I ripped them out.)
'Metallica Crispa' ajuga
silene maritima
carex 'Beatlemania'
tiarella 'Crow Feather'
carex platyphylla
an unnamed epimedium with a pretty deep lilac flower
blue fescue
'Cape Blanco' sedum
'Jack Frost' brunnera
alpine strawberries
phlox divaricata
lamium NOID (from Mom's garden)
This little carex, 'Hime Kansugi'

Other plants in bud on May 15, 2008:

penstemon NOID
culinary sage
physocarpus opulifolius 'Diabolo'
'Black Beauty' elderberry
clematis jackmanii
lonicera sempervirens
'Caradonna' salvia
'Marcus' salvia
these beautiful chives:

I just love chives... both edibly and aesthetically.

"Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
- William Morris

(Or both.)

Tuesday, May 13

Spring Garden Work

Spring is a time for new beginnings... and a lot of work in the garden! I have been staining fence panels as they are needed for espalier and trellising, and also double-digging some new beds.

I'm down to maybe 5 minutes total for mowing both the front and the back yard. My John Deere-loving father will be very disappointed with this turn of events... but he'll be happy to know that the amount of grass you see in this picture will basically remain. It will just be a more environmentally friendly grass, eventually.

Why keep some lawn? Aesthetically, I like the fact that it serves as a ground for the other plantings and gives the eye a place to rest. Practically, it gives both the Gardener and the Garden Assistant a comfy place to rest our bodies as well. In fact, we both snoozed for a while on the lawn this weekend... you know, just in case the neighbors were starting to wonder if I'd suddenly gone sane. Can't have them thinking that!

You might notice that I also moved the second square drainage tile (both were trashpicked from a treelawn in '05) into the same bed as the first. It is set a bit higher than the tile closest to the driveway, which will hopefully lead your eye to the cherry tree that will soon be planted and espaliered against the fence.

The tile will add some much-needed structure, along with the arc of lavender cotton that I'm planning, to this very wide bed. (Sometime soon I'll take a picture from my second-story bedroom window so you can see what I mean.) I'm not quite sure what I'll be planting in these tiles for the summer just yet, however. I'll have to take a walk through the annual section and see what strikes my fancy.

A few other things that have been amusing me this week:

- I am playing A-league women's sand 2's for the first time ever, and we won our first game last night. This is an athletic challenge that I am unlikely to experience again in my life since I'm already at the ripe old age of 32... and even though we're no Misty May and Kerri Walsh, we're having a heck of a lot of fun. I can't even tell you how much this is invigorating (and exhausting) me.

- I love to watch new foliage unfurling in the garden. Particularly baptisia. Particularly when the baptisia is backlit and covered in morning dew.

- Most of my time working at the garden center is spent dispensing advice and answering questions, but sometimes I am on the receiving end of ideas as well. Last week, a lady turned me on to this recipe for Grilled Chicken Sandwiches with Sage Pesto and Apples from an old issue of Bon Appetit.

She said that the sage pesto is so good that her family eats it throughout the summer and she rarely makes pesto with basil anymore at all. I doubt that I would go quite that far, but I definitely want to try the sage substitution. And it might be good with walnuts instead of pine nuts, too. Yum.

So many fresh ideas, unfinished projects, and new growth going on... yes, it's finally spring!

Monday, May 5

Spring Colors: Yellow, Purple, Blue

I feel like I'm always blaming my garden successes on serendipity... but maybe I don't give myself enough credit. I admit that I bought these 'Queen of Night' tulips on a whim because I was entranced by their beautiful moodiness... but made a conscious decision to plant them where they would fill in space in the spring garden, and play off of the light green emerging foliage of the goatsbeard and switchgrass:

Notice that the fence has been stained recently? The grays unfortunately skipped from medium gray to black, so I had to settle for "Coffee" instead of dark gray as a fence color. The trellis I'm putting up is to help encourage my native honeysuckle to climb the fence.

(Annie in Austin introduced me to lonicera sempervirens, which you can see in her April Bloom Day Post, and I just had to add one to my High Country Gardens order last year. It's not so "sempervirens" for me up here, but it's healthy, has flower buds, and its glaucous foliage will look gorgeous against the brown fence in a few years.)

I had given up on these species tulips, tulipa tarda, which you see both above and below, because they are supposed to be early tulips and they hadn't even shown up by the time the greigii tulips all bloomed. They were a nice surprise this weekend!

I planted them next to the purple foliage of 'Regina' heuchera, which amazingly enough is in its second year in the same spot, knowing that their yellow and white petals should show up well against the colorful coralbells. I guess it just goes to prove that some spring bulbs are indeed "late" in the first year after planting.

Grape hyacinths are tucked in all along the driveway bed as well. Their color mixes nicely with the leaves of 'Othello' ligularia and a miniature hosta. When I bought the hosta at a Master Gardener sale, 'Dawn' was the name on the tag, but I'm not sure that is correct. It's pretty, either way.

More blue and gold in the same bed. These are the baby-blue flowers of the handsome 'Jack Frost' brunnera, underlighted by fresh sprigs of yellow creeping Jenny:

Circling back around to the fence again, we find 'Chocolate Chip' ajuga just starting to bloom under the watchful eye of a pretty hellebore. In the background, 'All Gold' hakonechloa brightens up the show at the start of a bed of sweet woodruff:

I know that some of you might be wringing your hands at the thought of the sweet woodruff. But I absolutely love the scent so I deal with this high-maintenance groundcover. It gets pulled out from around the brick retaining wall as soon as it's done blooming, and thus stays out of the flowerbeds. Three scaly Buckler ferns have no problem growing up through the woodruff, and my broken-but-still-beautiful bird bath adds some height to the corner.

All in all, I'm pretty pleased with how these parts of the backyard are shaping up--and that they seem to have a spring color theme is definitely an added bonus! But there are plenty of areas of the backyard that I am not about to show off just yet... much construction will commence now that I'm recovered from both the flu and the sinus infection that it left behind as a parting gift.

And then maybe I'll be brave enough to take pictures of the rest of the backyard to share. :)

Friday, May 2

The Kids Are Alright

As I noted a few years back, my younger brothers were not gardening prodigies. But they have both come a long way since then. Both of "the boys"--and the wonderful women they lucked into marrying--have been growing small edible gardens at their rental housing for the past few years, much to my delight.

There has obviously been some branching out into the ornamental as well, as you can see in this succulent pot above. Also obvious here is that my brother, unlike me, has not inherited my mother's black thumb when it comes to growing aloe. Damn unfair genetics.

Jeff, the youngest, and his wife Amanda bought their first house this spring. The first thing he did was to refinish all of the wood floors on the second story before they moved in. They turned out beautifully, as you can see. (Be forewarned, Jeff: I'm definitely calling you for assistance when I want to redo mine in a few years!)

While other family members were asking about the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, I was scoping out pictures of the yard, wondering where and whether they might tuck in a garden or two.

Maybe a week or more ago, I got a phone call from the kids. They were all excited for me to check out pictures of the new veggie garden they had started in the backyard, and I was of course excited to hear that they had started one!

The first picture shows the work from day 1. The garden is located at the back corner of their property, a good 8 feet or so in from the property line.

See all of the string? I'm sure there was a level involved, too... my brother's an engineer. And we all inherited our parents' common sense and general "If you're going to do it, you might as well do it right," attitude.

The bed is pretty ambitious in size, and big enough to hold lots of veggies. I knew that they were planning to build up the wall a bit more, but I was surprised when I saw this next picture a few days later.

5 rows of retaining wall block! This side of the yard sloped more than I'd thought. I wonder if this project just evolved into something larger, or if Jeff and Amanda knew that it was going to take this many bricks when they started?

With all that space to fill, they of course had to get some dirt delivered. I'm known around my neighborhood for getting a huge pile (6 yards) of Sweet Peet mulch delivered every spring, but the size of this pile of dirt is kind of daunting even to me.

I admit, I take my time mulching--sometimes parts of the pile are still there in the spring yet. But as you can see, Jeff & Amanda filled up the new garden in fairly short order:

They even finished off the garden bed with one last row of bricks on the top. Doesn't that look nice? I love that this looks like it should be a massive landscaping bed in a fancy park, and yet it's going to hold fruits and veggies... veggies are beautiful enough and deserving enough of such a lovely home, after all.

So what's going into the garden? I have yet to see the full list, but I know that some of the neighbor girls helped Amanda plant seeds the other day--and as a result, she's way ahead of schedule! See, Amanda is a big softie (that's part of what I love about her) and when the girls seemed disappointed that they were "already done," she went in and found more seeds for them to work on. Generation Y exposing today's kids to gardening.... that makes me very happy!

No word yet on whether the extra seeds will require a matching garden in the other corner of the backyard. If so, I'm guessing it won't be built until next spring--it will probably take that long for their aching backs to recover from all of this hard labor. As you can see, even Miss Molly, their usually indefatigable Golden Retriever, was pooped after this huge project.

Great job!

***Updated to add: I just spoke with Jeff, and there are actually 7 layers of block on the highest side. They used 300 blocks and moved 10 yards of dirt into the garden.***