Archive for Feb, 2011

Today is closing day for the buyer of the former Tangly Cottage.  (The business name moves with us, but I will probably think of that house as Tangly until the new residents give it a name of their own!)  Any minute now the papers will be filed at the courthouse up in South Bend and Jon will be the new owner.

The change is not as poignant as I thought it would be because I could not be happier with the sale.  In 1993, a year before I bought the little cottage, I was invited into a tiny house in Seaview, where I saw the most cunning and beautiful built in storage areas and wood inlays from driftwood collected on the beach.  The brilliant carpentry work was by a man named Jon, and after I acquired my own tiny house, I often thought that if I did not spend ALL my money on the garden, I would love to have him come and make the inside of the tiny house perfect.

So, many years later, who should be the buyer of my little house but the very same Jon!  It is a gift to the house, which was well loved by me, but whose potential has never been realized.  Jon already has plans brewing, and the lack of extreme poignancy in the sale is the fact that I will get to see the results.

We had a walk through the garden before the sale closed and he showed a great interest in the plants and mentioned that he would have to learn Latin names now.  True, a lot of the plants I left behind don’t even have common names.  Jon’s partner, and a friend of theirs, are good gardeners, so the garden will be well loved also.   I thought I would have to do a last farewell walk around and say goodbye to the plants left behind, but I feel no need because I know they are going into good hands. Jon’s a civic minded chap, so I also think his residency here will be a gift to Ilwaco.

Allan kept an eye on the house for the last week because of freezing cold weather.  One day when he went over to make sure no pipes had frozen, he took some photos of the house and garden in snow.  So here’s a farewell slideshow:

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It certainly is going to take awhile before our new garden has the kind of quirky character that 16 years brought to the old one.  We almost tried to take those two big lower arbours to New Garden, but when I asked our real estate agent, Cheri Diehl of Discovery Coast Real Estate, if she thought it would make a difference, she said “Wait a week!”, with an air of mystery that let me know someone who appreciated the garden as it was might be thinking of buying.  I had told her I hoped for the perfect buyer, and her agent, Warren, certainly found me one.

When we went in to Discovery Coast Real Estate Friday to sign the final papers, there were hugs all around…between Jon and I, realtor Warren and I, glowing happy faces.  Would that all  home sales had such swift and happy outcomes. I picture the little green, purple and blue house  eagerly waiting for someone who will lavish lots of love and skill on the inside.  Little house, today is the day that your new life begins!

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Here is a slideshow of the new garden.  On Oct 20th when we took possession ’twas nothing but grass with not a decorative rock, plant, or gewgaw in sight.

My goal: to accomplish as much in three months of winter as I did in three years at my other garden.  It will be a several more years here before I reach the outer edges of the garden! Still many long term decisions to be made: grass paths or gravel? (At present I am thinking grass, as mowing once a week is easier maintenance than weeding gravel.  Ideally, all grass paths could turn to pure moss!)  A bridge remains to be build over the wet swale in the woodsy end.  Greenhouse or no greenhouse? (Would I use one for anything but messy storage?)   What is to become of Mount Sod?  Deer fence around the entire garden or just the front garden? And so forth…

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We continued to postpone the end of staycation while finishing the hardscaping with that eleven yards of gravel.

First, we got that work area on the east side of the house graveled and rolled for a tideir place to store work related objects.  You can see that I had made yet another small garden bed between the patio and the work area.

6 February, work area

Eventually, that Salix magnifica (from Emerald City Gardens) will provide a bit of a screen….underplanted with something…not sure what just yet.

One of the most useful things I have ever learned regarding garden design came to me in a workshop by Lucy Hardiman and Anne Lovejoy.  That is to not plant directly up against your house, leaving a strip about 16 inches wide to walk on for painting, washing the windows, and just for the house to be able to breathe.

Here’s the east side of the house, before: the passage between the old shed and the house itself.


And after digging out sod, laying fabric, graveling and tamping:



And here’s the nook between the sunporch and the heat pump, where an old dogwood may or may not continue to grow, depending on its performance this coming year:


I used those little river rocks for decoration atop the shed gravel edge.

salvaged rocks

We used the last of the gravel to top up the patio.  The trellises are just leaned against the house to visually break up the bleak exterior until the house gets painted in the spring.  Eventually, they will drop down from the edges of the roof so that it will be possible to paint behind them, and something that can have its base in a large pot will grow on them.

completed patio

We’ll have the trellises hooked at the top, and somehow hinged at the bottom, so they can be laid back for painting.

With the gravel all applied, Allan turned his attention to cleaning all the junk out of the woodsy south end of the garden.

Allan cleaning up woodsy end

Meanwhile, I had the urge for washed dairy manure and ordered seven yards from the Planter Box, where it’s known as “cow fiber”.  I highly recommend it. This is the great product that is washed into the pit at the center of a dairy barn, and is light and fluffy and wonderful for garden beds.

Ray Millner from Planter Box delivers "cow fiber"

lovely pile of dairy manure and some potting soil for my big containers

By the 9th of February I had the delightful mulch spread on the back garden beds and a bit of the front garden…and sadly, it was high time to tear ourselves away from our new garden and go back to work.  Money must be made to buy more plants…

new garden

This past winter was without a doubt the Best Staycation Ever.

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After having completed the three big garden beds in the back yard, I had a moment of thinking I was done with my winter project, until, as I mentioned last time, I looked to the left and realized that unless I made a patio (which had indeed been in my LONGTERM plan) I would be spending all summer moving stuff to mow under it.

21 January

By the 23rd, Allan and I had dug out the sod.  The edges would eventually be widened as I added gravel and, as always, changed my mind about the size.

23 January

Not much had changed by the 25th, as we spent a day at the old house getting more plant divisions and some rocks.  Indigenous rocks are scarce in my new garden.

25 January

While digging out the sod, we found a little vein of river rock, probably from gutter drainage of the old house that used to sit here (burned down on purpose in about 1979 to make room for the manufactured home).  The question was how much of the small river rock to salvage? It seemed a shame to just bury it.  The most precious find was some broken  china from lovely blue and white dishes.

little round rocks waiting to be rinsed


dish pieces

30 January

30 January

30 January saw the contruction of  a sort of gravel shelf (above photo, left) at the back of the patio, edged with assorted rubble which we had collected from a contractor friend and from the old house.  This took care of the drop in grade from the house to the edge of patio, and made an area for big plant containers and the garden hose.

On the west side of the house, in the nook created by the house wall and the back of the attached garage, a great big mess of bamboo canes, buckets, rubble and garbage can had accumulated and needed to be sorted, which created an excellent project to postpone the graveling!  By now, Allan had gone in Seattle for a week, and there is nothing like puttering and deciding where to put things without a second (possibly differing) opinion!

31 January, outdoor work/storage area

Once that area was sorted, I had no excuse to not move gravel, which was still lurking on the driveway like a humpbacked beast, having been delivered on the 28th.

gravel, eleven yards

I was hoping to get the whole patio made before Allan came home.  Procrastination and puttering was not getting the job done. But I had made a couple of patio features with old pipe bits, some from the old garden and some found around the new property.

patio features

While in Seattle, Allan did some shopping for me at Emerald City Gardens, putting owner Jay on the phone so I could do some long distance plant selection.

Jay talking to me on the phone

new plants on Emerald City counter

1 February

Now completely lacking in excuses to procrastinate (Could I have been somewhat out of steam after all the garden bed creation??), I started to move the rest of the gravel.

By the 2nd, Allan had come home…and there was still plenty of gravel to move. Oh dear.  But with two of us, it was quickly finished.  Since we usually go back to work on the 1st of February, I’d be glad that there were two of us to complete the work area and the gravel edges.  Our friend Ed stopped by and was the first to sit on the new patio.

first sitter on new patio

You can see our roller to the right….There is little in life more enjoyable and satisfying than running a heavy water-filled roller over newly laid gravel…is there?

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Some friends have expressed amazement at how quickly we got the house decorated and the gardens created.  Remember, we took a total of 12 weeks off paid work to accomplish this, and in fact I tore myself away from the garden only because I started to feel a bit skint…and needed income to buy more plants!

After digging the sod out of the front garden beds in order to be able to plant bulbs and transplants, I made the back garden in the same way that I created most of my mom’s old garden in Long Beach and my garden on the south side of town.  I’ve been using this method since long before it was called lasagna gardening (and if only I had thought to write a book about it!)

Our new back yard beds were made with a more instant method than “lasagna” which involved making layers and then waiting a season.  Instead, I made three very large beds by putting down first a thick layer of overlapped newspaper and then a about a foot deep of garden soil followed by a layer of washed dairy manure.  This will be thick enough to plant gallon sized plants in and by next fall’s bulb planting time, the newspaper will be decomposed enough to get the bulbs low enough.

16 November

The first hint of the beds: Behind a dug out strip for sentimental raspberries from my mom’s old garden (which sold about the same time as we closed on our new house) is a pile of clean non weedy clippings brought home from jobs.  Under that pile is newspaper, layered thickly and overlapped.  I still had not figured out exactly where the beds would be.

I had to break down and flatten this old pile of ditch soil that had completely grown over with grass.  ‘Twas a difficult job with the grub hoe and took a couple of days, resulting in no good reusable soil to speak off.

sod hill (or sodding hill!)

I knew it was in my way of…something…which at first I thought would be delivery of a load of soil to the back yard.  However, we realized our nice neighbour’s driveway was not strong enough for the huge soil delivery truck, so throughout the whole project all supplies were dumped in our front driveway.

8 December

Above, the compost pile grows as we accomplish fall cleanups at work.  By now I have dug two edges of the bed, into which I will layer the newspaper and soil mulch.

22 December

Just before Christmas, another load of soil energy is delivered, and I start making another back yard bed.  By now I have figured out that there will be three beds with two paths going down to the alder wood.  The layout is somewhat influenced by the placement of a large rhododendron, which was probably a mother’s day present for the previous owner.  It is enormous and has a beautiful cascading profile.

22 December

Above, dumping soil energy onto layers of newspaper…a particular challenging task when a wind is blowing hard from the Columbia river.

22 December

Above, layering newspapers in the wind.  It would have been better had they been wetted down first, but i was in a hurry.  During all this time, Allan spent an hour or more a day out scouting sources of newspaper from friends, recycling bins, the dump, restaurants…The project used an enormous quantity.

31 December

I did not have time to be daunted by weather and even broke out the old leg warmers that I hadn’t used in years.  For about a week, the pile of soil was so cold that it held together in sheets on the top.  A new fashion in garden hats.

newspaper method

There were times when all I could think of was whether or not Allan would be able to get enough newspaper for the next day’s garden bed expansion.

31 December: cold!

Meanwhile, I did take some breaks from making basic garden beds in the back yard to add some garden decor touches to the front garden.

We also took some time out from garden bed creation to clear the alder woods patch of debris and to remove a dangerously leaning tree, with the help of friends who hauled away five loads of firewood.

2 January

On January 5th, I lucked into buying a boat from a neighbour.  I’d always wanted a garden boat, and it solved the question of what to put in the area where that pile of old ditch dirt had been.

5 January, the exciting boat

By the 6th of January, I had three narrow beds laid out on top of newspaper and was ready to mark the paths.  I wanted them wide enough for two people to walk abreast and, in case I ever decided to fertilize the lawn, just the right width for a couple of passes of the lawn spreader, so I marked the width with lime and started cutting out the edges of the beds.

6 January

Each of the three beds would end up with a trench around it (as would the smaller bed being created around the boat).

trenched edge

filling trench edge with newspaper

pulling soil up to edge of bed

Every few months I will be going round these beds with the half moon edger.  Thus they will slowly get slightly wider as time goes on.

Meanwhile the weather was sometimes uncooperative.  I moved soil in rain, and this bit of snow (below) melted quickly.  Why is it that no one comments about any strangeness in a fisherman going out in the rain, but it strikes people as very odd to see a gardener wheelbarrowing soil on a rainy day?

11 January

Due to a serious lack of newspaper, I finished the last part of the third bed, between the rhodo and the camellia that came with the property, with cardboard acquired from the Imperial Schooner and Depot restaurants.  One of the boxes from the Schooner inspired a powerful thirst for Wild Salmon Pale Ale.

14 January

This last section was especially difficult because the ground was quite boggy in the rain, making it a soggy challenge to dig the final trench edge.  It was a hard slog so Allan helped out with the wheelbarrowing for a day.

15 January, the last of four loads of soil is delivered, for a total of 48 yards and about $1800 dollars.

15 January

I had finished the edge line around the last of the three garden beds and created a little bed around the boat…And for a moment was congratulating myself that the back garden project was, except for planting, done.

23 January

I was particular pleased with how the little boat garden had turned out, with Allan’s idea to use my “pilings” in a row the way they tend to be lined up in the Columbia River.

boat garden

(The boat is also filled with soil and will be a planter, possibly for salad greens.)

Then, after a short lived moment of triumph and satisfaction, I looked to my right and realized: Behind the house I urgently needed a patio in order to not have to move everything (tables, chairs, planters) every time I mow.  Then The Gravel Project became a burning need in my mind…and I made another call to Peninsula Landscape Supply and postponed the end of staycation…

22 January: Must have patio…HERE.

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quick garden creation, part one: front garden

With a thrilling new and empty lot (well, it did have a house and shed on it) to fill and a sense that time was not on my side, I scheduled one week off in November to make the front garden, followed by a two month long staycation in December and January to create the back garden.  I knew we would be fighting some bad weather and also that Allan might have priorities other than making the garden (such as arranging the shed exactly to his liking and visiting with his dad in Seattle).  Thus the garden creation went on in all but the worst of weather.

8 November, front garden

My first priority (no, sorry, Charlie Diehl, having the garage roof refurbished comes after the garden!!) was to create the front garden by digging out the sod and adding good soil so that I could immediately plant shrubs and perennials from my old garden and an assortment of bulbs from my annual Van Engelen bulb order.

14 November, front garden

The sod turned out to be surprisingly hellish to remove, and after the first day of me cutting the strips out with the half moon edger, Allan emerged from the house with a pick and helped me get the strips removed.  The soil, while much lighter than the clay of my old garden, was compacted by years of residence.  (Before the double wide, an old house sat on almost the same footprint.)

We also dug out beds on the east side of the house and in front of the old shed; in this shady spot Allan planned to transplant the shady plants from his back yard plot at the old garden.

14 November, east side garden

21 November, east side garden

I had ordered my first load of soil energy mulch from Peninsula Landscape Supply and with the help of Allan and a couple of hours from a friend,  got it spread over both the front and east side gardens, using up the entire 12 yards.

soil energy, load one of four

from shed to gate, 8 November

from shed to gate, 14 November

With the front and side garden beds in place and some plants moved from the old garden, we turned our attention back to paid gardening work until early December….when the lure of creating the back gardens here was so strong that we sort of let work fizzle out before completely finishing the fall cleanups…Oh well, garden writer Ann Lovejoy often advised leaving gardens “up” till late winter to provide bird habitat!

My plan for the back garden was a method that would make part two of garden creation go much more quickly.

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First: breaking news:  The old house and garden has been sold and within a month will belong to a wonderful new owner!

Now, as promised, on to the story of our new home and garden.

In midsummer of 2010, I rather suddenly decided that my ultimate dream would be to live closer to the marina and the joys of the Ilwaco Saturday market.  There were only about 7 houses in the entire town that fit my criteria of fronting onto Lake Street and backing up to the port parking lot.  I dreamed of walking out my back door and down to the market.  Only two such houses were for sale. Because my identity has always been strongly tied to living in a cute house, the one house that caught my eye was this one:

vintage house

We took a tour, and like vintage cottages of my experience, it had small rooms and needed some work and would probably be high maintenance.  From the upstairs windows, we could see the garden potential was limited, since part of the yard was taken up by a rental cottage ((grey roof to right, below, good for income, and lived in by a friend of ours!) and we soon learned that the yard ended well before the separate lot for the gear shed (to the south, between house and port) began.

vintage house yard

From another window of the vintage house, we could see this double wide manufactured home which was also for sale.  Our realtor suggested that just for fun, we have a look at it, too.  I was pretty much not interested but decided a look might be amusing.

double wide

The interior of the double wide did not please me, although the property did include a large and charming vintage shed (right, above).

double wide interior

But I soon realized what a hidden gem the property was.  For the price, did no one but us (and our insightful realtor, Cheri Diehl of Discovery Coast Real Estate) realize that double lots were 80 feet wide and almost 300 feet long, stretching from the street all the way to the port parking lot, with southern sun, a spot of alder woods at the end, and an almost completely blank slate for a new garden? Below, the second lot of the back yard…

back yard

Many of my friends were surprised that I could leave the secluded garden of my own creation over on the south side of town.  The simple reason: It was completed, and other than weeding, there was not much to do there.  Once it had achieved momentary perfection and its moment of glory on the garden tour in 2008, I started to get the urge to move on and create something new.  At age 55, I felt that if I were to create a new garden I had better get started while I still had the vigor to do the work myself and the time to enjoy it during the ten or fifteen years that it would take to mature.

Thus, six weeks later, on October 20th, we moved into the double wide and took two weeks off work to make the interior more to our liking. By mid November the interior had become cottagey enough for me to be happy there.  In fact, with its same floor laundry room and modern heat pump, I found it remarkably more comfortable than any vintage house I had ever lived in.  Skip from The Bay Trader on Sandridge Road built the bookshelves for a reasonable price.

all cottaged up

We went back to work for a month, planting clients’ bulbs and doing fall clean up, and meanwhile by mid November managed to fit in the beginning creation of the new garden.  Here’s the space we  had to work with:

our lots

[January 2013 note:  The lot is considerably wider than that photo; maybe twice as wide.  Not sure why I did such a narrow screen shot.]

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