Thursday, May 26, 2016

Mayhem Part Five

This past Sunday night Joel called me while driving to his local yard waste facility.  He had removed sod from around the trees at their home to make mowing easier and was taking the refuse for disposal.  He was talking about his day when suddenly he stopped in mid-sentence, "Oh, wow, there's a nice rock here!"

That statement brought memories flooding back.   When the boys were little, we would go to the 'yard waste facility' aka dump in our little nearby city to see what was tossed out almost every time we were in town, usually at night after a hard day of work in the garden.  A great deal of the flat rock used in the construction of the walls of the formal garden came from the city dump.  The city is built on ledge rock and apparently when residents have to do any amount of digging in their yards, up pops pesky limestone which is/was often disposed of in the landfill.

The pictures below are from last summer but they show the extent of our limestone wall collection, probably ten percent of these one hundred fifty feet of walls came from the dump.
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Around and around they go

And where they stop.......well, they don't stop, it's a circle.   Anyway, one man's junk is often another man's treasure, no doubt about it.  We'd take the trailer along with us and head to the landfill to load up free stone and free plants and yes, even shrubs.  

The Mugho pines at the entrance to the Formal Garden were discarded at the dump, their trunks bore the marks of a chain which was wrapped around them when they were yanked out.  In the picture below, they are on the left and right in the foreground.  Joel and I have been doing creative pruning on these trees for at least a decade now.  I have no idea how long Mugho pine lives, but these trees have given us years of sculptural interest. 
Trees, free for the taking, why not?  
I honestly didn't think the poor pines would survive after their harsh treatment (and after our crude pruning) but so far, so good.

  Another glorious find for me was an enormous amount of what looked like giant daffodil bulbs someone had dumped out in a brown paper grocery bag.  The bag was chock full;  I had never seen anything like them, but of course it didn't stop me from scooping them up.  I went home and planted them here and there in the garden thinking how pretty the yard would be in the spring.  When the next spring rolled around, I was giddy with excitement when huge straplike leaves appeared, at least an inch wide and exceedingly healthy. One worry was relieved, I admit I was concerned the bulbs were somehow infected or faulty, though I had checked each one as I planted them to make sure they were solid. 

After the huge strappy leaves appeared, I couldn't wait to see the flower stalk rise, but despite my anxious checking, nothing more ever happened.  The leaves had sprouted before my normal daffodils and stayed green right up until June when they finally disappeared from whence they came.  "Well, that's why the previous owner got rid of the dumb things," I thought.  Who wants a bunch of green leaves to look at?  What a waste of time planting the silly things. 

 Still, in the back of my rookie gardening mind, I thought maybe the bulbs needed to grow a year before they would flower, maybe next spring will be the year we see some action.  I promptly forgot about the mystery bulbs. 

One day in mid-August a bunch of alien-looking leafless stems with pink buds began coming up all over the garden.  What in the world were these things?  

Turns out my mystery bulbs were indeed called by many names: Mystery Lilies, Surprise Lilies, Resurrection Lilies and ooooh la la, Naked Ladies.  The correct botanical name, 'Lycoris Squamigera', a member of the amaryllis family.  Every year my stand of Naked Ladies increases; the bulbs are quite pricey, I wonder if the person who threw them out had any clue to their value in the landscape? 

Anywho, returning to my nostalgic flashback, when we would arrive at the dump we'd all fan out and check things over, trying not to be too conspicuous.  We aren't city residents, so we weren't allowed to dump anything, which was fine by us, we were there to take things home.  At the time, the dump was not monitored by anyone, though there were stern signs warning people not to dump anything other than yard waste, brush, stone, etc.  Unfortunately, as is the norm, there were constant violations of tires, appliances and other household trash left behind, so after a few years the landfill was gated and only open on certain days when personnel was available to admit entrance.   Since you had to prove you were a resident, our days of spelunking in the dump were over.  

But now Joel is a resident of a city and guess what?  The tradition continues with the next generation.  (I'm not sure if David does any dump scoutings, probably not, he wasn't as keen on our 'hobby' as we were.)  I went along with Joel a few weeks ago when we were finished transplanting some hostas from our house to his and he needed to get rid of some sod.  This was my first trip to a dump in years.  I was excited.  (Yes, I am weird, thank you very much.)   

 The first thing I said after getting out of his truck was, "All dumps smell alike."  No, not a put-down, but complete nostalgia, the pungent odor of grass clippings heating is the smell I was referring to.  And the tantalizing hope of undiscovered treasure lurking, discarded stone and another thing we're really in need of, aging cedar fence posts.  We've built every one of our rustic fences here with landfill castoffs. 

The hardest part of dump spelunking is not looking too obvious.  There are usually other people there grimly unloading their vehicles or a few people loading up with mulch or black dirt for their gardens and it's hard to appear normal (ok, I'm not) sauntering around from pile to pile nonchalantly.  If you arrive with a trailer and begin loading big things up, people tend to take notice.   We were always happiest when people would leave so we'd have free rein to poke around. 

Joel could tell there was no way to lift the rock; he'd need our trailer and the come-alongs for winching purposes.  It was already 10PM, so the rock would have to wait until the next day.  His plan was to come and pick up the trailer after work on Monday and hope the stone would still be there when he arrived after work.

As planned, Joel fetched the trailer and chains and headed back to the dump.  The suspense was building; would the rock still be there?  We stayed home to continue working on a place for the rock to call home.  Then I got to thinking, wait a minute, what makes me automatically assume the rock is coming here?  After all, Joel and Abby have their own home.  I finally asked Joel what his plans for the rock were and he said he thought about taking it up to Grandma's but wasn't really considering it for his own yard in town. 

"We have a place for it, if you don't want it," I said.  


While we were awaiting Joel's triumphant return, Carl and I turned our attention to an area I ruined earlier in the afternoon.  

See, it all started innocently enough; my GADS was in high gear.  I was walking through the hosta bed on my way to do battle with dandelions when I noticed a few of the hostas were struggling to come up through some cedar limbs. 

 "Well, that won't do, the hostas would do better if they weren't struggling for light," I said.  

Yes, I said that out loud.  Plants do better when you talk to them you know.  And besides, my voice gets rusty if I don't use it now and then.

Out came my trusty Felco pruners from the holster.  And off went a limb.  Hmmm, that looks better, but maybe a little more off on this side, oh, look, there's a few more hostas under there, well, for cryin' out loud, ouch, this branch is too big for the loppers, good, I have my folding saw in my back pocket, there, just take this off here, and that off there, and this one hit me in the head, it's gotta go, well, might as well make it even, we'll take this off and that off and then, "Oh, what have I done!"  

The cedar tree looked like a new army recruit after a buzz cut.  The pile of branches I'd made was truly alarming.  What would Carl say when he got home?  Too late now, this can't be undone, remember fellow gardeners, think before you prune.  I will heed my own advice some day.

The cedar had spread out at least five feet all the way around the main trunk, so now there was this vast empty space to fill.  Nature abhors a vacuum and Nature and I have a lot in common.  Horrors, an empty spot in the garden!  Quickly!  Fill it in!

The Pile of Destruction
 I held my breath a bit when Carl came out to see what I'd been doing all afternoon.  To my surprise, he wasn't alarmed at all, even though it meant more work. 

"The cedar was overgrown, this does look better," he said.

"You know what this space needs, right?" I asked.

"A rock," he replied.

"Hurry up, I want to be ready when Joel gets back," I said. 

We dashed to and fro, hauling the branches to the brush pile, both of us wondering aloud if Joel was having any luck with his mission.  Or trouble.  Loading big stones can be tricky work.

Finally I received a text message from Joel, "Headed west.  :-)"

Hurray!  Go faster Carl, the rock is on it's way.  Then we noticed a fifteen foot white pine wasn't needling out at all next to the butchered cedar, so I walked up to Mom's and retrieved the tractor and chains to pull it out.  Another mess to deal with, but what's the difference, one mess or twenty, it's all the same around here. 

Meanwhile, back at the dump, Joel had to tip the trailer deck down to load the stone which garnered him many strange looks, he said a landscaper truck was there unloading grass clippings and the two men stopped for a bit and watched him winching the stone up the trailer bed, shaking their heads.  After he had it loaded and securely chained down with our chain binder and heavy log chains he saw a lady take a picture of the trailer cargo in traffic.

Finally, around 5PM, Joel and the rock arrived, safe and sound.  Here comes the trailer: 

And there's the rock:

Oh, it's granite and it's pink and yes, it will do nicely!  

"Grab a bar, Karen, let's get this off the trailer," Carl commanded.

I handed bars to Carl and Joel; voila, instant rock gratification.  

One is the loneliest number that you'll ever do........just like potato chips, you can't stop at one.  We need something to balance out the planting area.  Hmmmm....I've got it, what about that rock over there, hiding in the hostas?  Heck, that bed needs remodeling, too.  (Poor Carl.)  But once again, he was totally in favor of the idea.

"How long can you stay?," he asked Joel.  (Remember, Joel and Abby are expecting their baby any day now, so this isn't the time to inconvenience Joel.)

Joel sighed and chuckled a little, "I should have been home two hours ago, but ok, what do you need?"

With Joel's help, we moved the new dump rock in place and then scooped up the other rock on the forklift teeth of the tractor.

Backing up carefully...lots of maneuvering in tight spaces.  And look at those new tires, my my, I smile every time I see those on the tractor. 

And look at the ruts those lugs on the new tires make.  I'm still smiling though!
Carl, directing traffic, "Right there, good enough!"

Finally, with a little help from Carl and a pry bar, the second rock was in place.
The chickens arrived to see what the fuss was all about, too.

Nature abhors a vacuum, and you can't stop at one potato chip; well, I can't stop at two.  There's gotta be another rock around here for a group of three.  Well, looky there, another rock hiding in the pine trees, all overgrown.  

Joel, are you with us yet?

And with that, our son bid us adieu, he had to get home to his own work.  We are truly blessed to have his help.  

After Joel left, we set to work dividing and moving hostas around.  Then I decided to move a 'Golden Shadows' dogwood from the main hosta bed to the new area.  Time was flying, it was nearly dark and then it started to rain a little.  Carl was exhausted, so we finally quit around 9PM.  

The new pink rock, front and center.

We're still tweaking rock placement and plantings, dividing up maidenhair and painted ferns. 

Luckily last night we received some much-needed rain which put a stop to our work, but felt like a mini-vacation.  I'll be back at this job today.  

Hosta 'Sagae'

Stay tuned: we pulled out another big shrub last night.

Mayhem Part Six??



FlowerLady Lorraine said...

One thing leads to another!

Love that pink granite rock and the garden created.

You all do a terrific job.

Love & hugs ~ FlowerLady

Karen said...

Thank you, Rainey! Hugs and love to you, too, dear friend!

El Gaucho said...

Karen - These tales of yours just make me chuckle out loud. Seeing you and Carl and your son wrangle around these giant boulders for the sake of a lovely garden is truly the definition of being a dedicated gardener. The finished bed looks fantastic with that pink rock front and center, well done!