A new path…

We came up with what we think is a great solution to two issues we have in the front half of our yard:  1) lots of shade – too much for grass to grow, and 2) a bunch of concrete blocks left behind in the yard by the previous tenants.

The blocks were laid out in a grid pattern, creating some sort of square platform which you can see on the right hand side of this photo taken right before we moved in:

We don’t know why they decided to lay down these blocks at all, let alone right there.  We wonder if they had a table on the round concrete area and were trying to create another level place for a BBQ to stand?

I’ve been mulling over how we could use these blocks for some other purpose and what to do with that area and the one across from it.  We want to walk there, yet grass won’t grow.  I want to plant ground covers, but we don’t want them ruined by people stepping on them.  You see where this is going.

Voilá!Obviously I need to weed and get rid of the rest of the grass, fill in with ground covers, etc., but it’s a great start and we’re really  happy with it!

These photos were taken before I had much planted there – by the time I got plants in the ground it was a little too dark for photos.  Here are a few more shots of our new path:

Now we can walk through these areas, stand there to pick figs, etc and yet still have ground covers in an among the stones.  Guests will have a clearly-defined (we hope) path to follow so they know where (and where not!) to step.

Charlie came up with idea to have the path that appears in the foreground here continue on across sidewalk, crossing the other path and curving to the right.

At the end of the path we plan to put a statue of St. Francis of Assisi, which will satisfy two things:  Charlie’s Catholic nostalgia / his wish to have a saint somewhere in the yard, and my interest in animal rescue, animal welfare, etc.  (St. Francis is the patron saint of animals.)

As we have a yard full of soon-to-be-neutered feral cats, I thought it even more appropriate.  Here’s Arthur, a quiet, sweet but shy boy sitting on the steps in the corner of the yard, waiting for me to move further back so that he can feel safe coming over for a drink of water.

Here are some other pictures of that path that I tried to take later on after I’d finished setting the stones in and planting around them.   It was too dark and the flash washes the photos out.  The photos aren’t very good, but you can see where I’ve planted some of Bev’s plants.  (Many of them went in the ground 2 weeks ago, but I’ve been waiting on some – put them in bigger pots and have played around with their placement in the yard / driveway to see how they like the location / light level and how they look there.)  Here’s what I came up with yesterday:

In the above photo we have, on the left, a hosta and a Japanese painted fern a little further behind the hosta.  A couple of weeks ago I had planted (on the left side of photo) Lily of the Valley, ajuga, hosta and Plumbago.

Opposite view:  Lily of the Valley, Ajuga, Plumbago on the left.  On the right:  Liriope and, just behind it at the base of the tree, a white Helleborus.  I’m not sure how it will do there, but I figured I’d give it a try!  The soil under that tree was surprisingly good – I was please to see lots of worms and other critters.  There was not root to avoid in that little spot and I liked the idea of the Helleborus being tucked away – lots of little things to discover as you walk through the path.  It’s a shady spot, which is good, and if it does indeed come up early next spring we’ll be able to see it from our windows.

Another view of the hosta, painted fern, and back row of shade-lovers.

The photo is so small you can hardly tell, but starting from the left, that’s a Foam Flower (Tirella), and a pink “fern-leafed” Bleeding Heart (Dicentra).  The wooden basket indicates generally where the St. Francis statue will eventually go.  Probably to the right a bit.  In the are between the stone path and the fig tree border on the the left I put a few evergreen ground covers – I forget the name – white flowers in spring, red berries in autumn.  Creeping thyme is now high on my list!

Looking lonely over there is an Autumn Joy Sedum.  Out of frame to the left is another hosta.  To the right is a wee little spot of Lobelia Cardinalis – we’ll see how it does here – this area gets about half day sun (a solid 3 hours of afternoon sun + 1.5 hours of dappled shade.)  Next to it:  Blue-Eyed Grass and a Heuchera (Coral Bells.)

In the back corner of the yard (near the steps where Arthur sat) I planted a lovely white Balloon Flower.  It’s one of the sunniest spots in the yard, so I hope it will do well – I like the white flowers contrasted against the maroon garage.

Everything got a good dose of compost, thanks to Bev, but I was pleased in general that the soil seemed easy to dig into and had many more critters in it that I’d expected it would (including some of the biggest “rolly” bugs – I think we used to call them potato bugs as kids? that I’ve ever seen.  I’ll have to figure out what they are.)

I need to get this area cleaned up and turned over and figure out what else to plant there.  Bev, I haven’t even made it to your seeds yet, but now that I have all of the plants in the ground, I can figure out where to try out some of the seeds.

I also planted in the driveway beds.  I put the Cassia, the Coneflower (Bev, you were right – there were several little Sweet Woodruffs emerging from the pot as well!), more Lobelia, the other (hopefully dormant) Sweet Woodruff, a few more hostas, and the large Aralia shrub that a friend gave me.

There is still a lot to do, (hello, leaf clean-up) but things are shaping up!  We’re getting there.