Thursday, October 04, 2007

Planting Rocks, Making Gardens

Thursday, October 4, 2007

New England continues to have fine autumn weather and Vermont is no exception. This has allowed us to make good progress on our new property and reach the goals we had set for this year. We intended to get all the daylilies moved and as of last night I had planted through the"P's" so we are on target for what has been a tremendous job. One of the difficulties is estimating the time to complete something you have never done before. We've only missed our timeline on the daylilies by about a week and a half and the weather has made up for our miscalculation. What I really missed on was how long it would take to install the perimeter fence around 5 acres but that came at a time when we had more time to play with.

As soon as we finish with the daylilies, there are a number of plants going along the western fence in large groupings. These are plants such as ligularia, cimicifuga, astilboides tabularis, different monardas, rudbeckias, darmeras, rodgersias and aruncus. They are less picky about establishing good root systems before the soil temperature falls below 50 degrees and they will transplant well.

The front display garden will follow that planting. It's started but a long way from completion. It will be ten feet wide by 200 feet long and will serve as a buffer to the parking lot. My intent is to get the ground prepared and the split rail fence installed before the snow flies. That's a bigger task than it seems because the first 50 feet is solid clay and has to be excavated a foot down, spread with gypsum and then back filled with a mix of aged manure, peat moss and top soil. I'll be bouncing around on the tractor with the rototiller, clawing an inch at a time deeper into the clay but in time that will come together.

Gail and I had discussed a display garden to parallel Route 2 so passers-by could see a fine display. We had discussed a garden 120 feet long by about 75 wide which would start at the end of the parking lot and work it's way to the western fence. The vision included a walk way linking to the western fence-side garden and then continuing around the entire perimeter. Good gardeners need visions and we have a lot of them.

One of the great things about a small Vermont town is you get to know a lot of folks and you find out that you sometimes have similar interests. Years back we met Jean and Brien Ducharme. Jean was the town clerk for years and Brien owned a logging business that had historical roots in his family. Jean and Brien both liked plants and one year they appeared to help us with spring planting and they have been coming back ever since.

I had heard that Brien had just completed a big rip-rapping job on a piece of the Winooski River west of our land. The rocks were from a local contractor who wanted to open up an area. I asked Brien if he had some time to move some rocks to our property for a display garden and his recent retirement made the response easier. What I didn't know was that Brien had his truck up for sale and it could be sold at any time.

Monday afternoon when Gail and I had just started setting up the water pump, Brien appeared. He was ready to move the rocks because the truck sold and would be moving to a new owner in the next couple days. We had already lined out the garden with rebar stakes and string and marked each rock placement with colored marking flags. I had also used Round Up where every stone would sit. We walked the proposed garden so Brien knew what we were doing and away he went for the first load.

I love to see craftsmen work and when I heard the roar of "Rollin Thunda", the logging truck, coming down Route 2, I knew the next few minutes would be a treat. Brien pulled into the drive and we had a quick discussion about unloading. I would have driven the truck right into the field but Brien cautioned that the field was soft in places and backing in means being able to drive out. Another lesson learned. He backed to the end of the field and then climbed the ladder to begin off loading.

It's fun for me to watch a person work the controls of a big rig and so flawlessly place giant pieces of material which weigh thousands of pounds on a dime in one smooth motion. Brien is no different. One after another the giant boulders, a couple like small Volkswagens, came off and went into place.

For some stones, Brien would use the pinchers to dig a quick hole in the sod and then he'd plant the stone, firmly placing it in upright fashion so it wouldn't move with winter's freeze-thaw cycles.

The first load come off quickly and our "Chief Financial Officer", Gail, made a spontaneous decision that another load was needed. An hour and a half later we were admiring the finished project and Brien was pulling up onto Route 2, just a little late for Jean's dinner party for 16. I have to say that I appreciated the efficiency of the project but mostly I liked the fact that Brien committed to helping and he didn't forget. Vermonter's are like that and a commitment means a commitment completed.

Standing around giving direction and confirmation was the easy part of this project. The difficult part will be the planting. Gail will be responsible for designing the placement of trees and shrubs, walkways and garden benches. She'll also figure out the planting scheme. In part this will become a certified American Hemerocallis Display Garden so it will contain clumps of everything we sell and and some we collect but don't sell. In a couple years it will be a beautiful garden that will stop traffic on Route 2. Right now it also stops traffic, like the cement contractor foreman who stopped yesterday to say "I drive this road every day to Springfield or Ludlow. What exactly are you doing and what are all those stones?"

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where a beautiful day is in the making as two young blue jays talk to me through the office window.

Garden wishes,

George Africa

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