Monday, September 11, 2017

Changes in 2017: The Batting Cage

Continuing with my saga of the changes 2017 has brought to the gardens, next up is the aptly named 'Batting Cage'.  As you may recall, in November of 2016, we had the back yard torn up due to our septic tank/drainage field/mound replacement which left us with a lot of mud and dirt where the River Bed and lawns were.  

Since we were going to be replanting the lawn and siting the River Bed in a new area, the question came up about the old gazebo.  Should it stay or should it go?  Cut to the chase, Karen, yes, it did move...(I wrote a three (or forty?) part series on the move, but if you're interested in the really short version, there's a video showing the process:  Gazebo Moving: The Video

The Gazebo in early May before the Big Move
In the above picture, the gazebo is gone and we are left with an empty feeling.  The area needs something, but what?  At this point in May, we had not reconfigured the River Bed yet nor planted any grass.  

With the gazebo gone, upon entering the back yard, the Quarry, barn and chicken coop areas were all visible at once, which was a bit overwhelming.  I prefer to have a bit of mystery in the garden which draws visitors in to see what lies ahead.  

In our stash of things Carl has purchased from work for scrap value was a set of five stainless steel drying racks we've had for years.   I always walked past them and wondered where we could put them to good use.  Now the time had come.  

We thought about making an arbor for morning glories and hyacinth beans that would close in the view a little bit and add some dimension and interest.  We carried the panels up to the old gazebo site and buried them to a good depth; angling each panel slightly to give the illusion of a slight curve. 

Carl, burying the first of the five panels
Carl had built the titanium planter a few years ago for Valentine's Day as a gift to me. I thought the design of the planter worked well with the drying racks.

There I am, holding the first three panels in place while Carl takes a photo: Do we like what we see?  We're not sure.....yup, it looks like a batting cage, doesn't it?

Ok, so maybe it wasn't the best idea, but we didn't have much money or effort invested yet, so let's keep going and see how this turns out.

Using stainless wire, Carl ties the panels together at each joint.  Eventually, we had all five panels installed.

The next step was to plant the area; here I'm planting canna bulbs along the fence with the hope they would grow and form a maroon back drop. 


Two of the Girls (chickens) assisted me by raking the dirt smooth with their feet.  I rolled the titanium planter into place after planting it with dichondra 'Silver Falls'. 


I ended up rolling the planter back out of the area so I could plant my hyacinth beans and morning glory seedlings on the fence.  By dark, I was done with the first of the planting.

I couldn't resist putting the lawn chairs right in front. See, I was trying to convince myself this wasn't a baseball diamond, but was instead a garden feature.
The following morning, I transplanted some 'Albomarginata' hostas on what would be the shady side of the wall once the vines grew up the fence.

The pipes were sunk into the ground from years of sitting around.  (The big stainless circle will 'some day' be polished and installed in the garden, too....but I don't know when.....?)
We still felt like the area needed something else, though, maybe some big urns for structure.  My next bright idea was to utilize some very heavy one inch thick side wall stainless pipes which Carl had also purchased as scrap from his work.  The pipes had been lying out in the Back Eight for who knows how long; we always wanted to use them somewhere, but didn't know where.

The pipes weighed far too much for us to pick them up unaided, so we incorporated the Super H tractor and lifting straps to haul them to the Batting Cage.



After jockeying for position, backing up and going ahead, and me asking Carl to turn them this way a bit, no, maybe not, come forward.....a little bit south....maybe a little bit northwest?....ok.....I'm satisfied.  I think..........we had them where they were going to stay. 

We filled each of the impossibly heavy cylinders full of soil so I could plant sweet potato vines in lime green and burgundy, along with a variegated geranium and a miniature King Tut grass.
Every time I watered the pipe planters, the soil level dropped another foot or so; I forget how many times I had to rescue the poor plants which had slid halfway down the pipes.  After a week, the settling stopped and the plants were much happier.

As spring went into June, the Batting Cage was starting to take shape.  I know we had our doubts about the whole thing, but once in awhile it is fun to branch out and try something entirely different.  We had several visitors stop in while we were working on this project and most people (I could tell, even if they didn't say too much) were as doubtful as we were about the 'beauty' of the plan.  We couldn't blame them, it was really weird looking.

But as the plants started to grow, the Batting Cage started to grow on us, too.  Though it is hard to see, I added some stainless steel wire lathe 'chips' in a vining pattern to the drying racks which gave the illusion of a stainless steel vine meandering around.  I also added two sets of one hundred tiny solar lights following the vining pattern and when they light up at night, I smile every time I see them.

Here we go, into the end of June, things are growing in a bit more.  I planted Dusty Miller from seed along with a 'Queen Red Lime' zinnia which grew to over three feet tall which blended in well with the dark cannas.

Another view coming through between the house and garage.

As the season progresses, things changed.


By the time August arrived, we couldn't see the Batting Cage any longer. 

The cannas rose to all-time record heights for me; must have been all the rain we had this summer.

The whole Batting Cage took on a jungle appearance. 

By the Booyah party in August, the lawn had come in quite well and you'd never know we'd did some major renovations.

Another reason we wanted to move the gazebo was so we had a place to set up our big circus tent for our annual second Saturday in August booyah party.  With the gazebo gone, the tent fit perfectly in the area and we set up tables and benches for guests to be out of the sun (or rain---but so far, we've been lucky with no rain!) while they eat.

 So, despite our worst fears, the Batting Cage turned out to be a success.  (The booyah party was fun, too; we had a great turnout, around ninety friends, family and neighbors.)

So now, we're into September and here are some pictures I took yesterday:

 Even the back side of the Batting Cage is interesting and casts a lot of shade.
May 2017
Amazing how much plants can change things in just a few short weeks time, isn't it?  

September 9, 2017
I am not looking forward to removing all the vines from the drying racks after our first frost, but it was fun while it lasted.  Once we dig all the bulbs, pull out all the annuals and remove all the vines, if there isn't too much snow on the ground, heck, we could still play baseball.  It's a multi-use garden area.

Batter UP!


Charade said...

I'm awestruck. I guess there's no excuse for me to keep looking at a bare patch we've had for ??a while?? and lamenting that we've never done anything with it. I still can't believe you coaxed all that growth out of that area in one season! Beautiful.

Ellie's friend from canada said...

This is just so creative, imaginative and spectacular! So the batting cage, if I read it correctly, are stainless steel drying racks. I have a pot I've been thinking of having trellises but I don't know where I'd get drying racks like yours! I am contemplating what to do with a trench that was dug into a small hilllside (to find a downspout that went under the patio and theoretically should have come out in the trench). I want to make a couple of "bird beaches" but don't want them to have deep water as I don't have a totally fenced yard and wouldn't want some child to have an accident. So I am trying to figure out the logistics of this. I wish I could sit down for a coffee with you and Carl for some inspiration. Have you ever thought of having a pondless waterfall? I would love one but unfortunately don't have electrical or water in the right area! Anyway, your project is wonderful!

Ellie's friend from canada said...

Instead of "I have a pot" that should read "I have a place".

outlawgardener said...

Incredible! I was a bit skeptical at first but your batting cage ended up looking amazing!

Karen said...

Charade, well, no worries. Believe me, we weren't sure what to do with the empty spot either. And I'm not too certain I'll enjoy looking at the batting cage all winter and early spring, but we'll see. Maybe we'll come up with something different, but it was kind of fun going outside the box this year. :-)

Karen said...

Ellie's friend from canada, yes, the drying racks were a one-of-a-kind thing Carl picked up as parts not used in a huge tank project at work. Being stainless, they are so pretty and will never rust. But I think you could use just about anything to coax vines to grow. We had thought about burying posts in the ground and stringing wires between the posts if we didn't have the racks to put to use. I toured a gorgeous professionally landscaped garden where the architect made a long tunnel out of heavy iron for a grape arbor. It gets so dark in the tunnel that they light it with twinkling lanterns. It is stunning.

And yes, I would love a pondless waterfall, especially if it meant I could get rid of my pond. I realize that sounds harsh, it's not that I hate our pond but there is maintenance and upkeep and worry in having one. This year, the water level was amazing all season due to our heavy rainfall, but other years it dwindles down and anyway......yes, a pondless waterfall would be wonderful! What fun we would have planning more projects!

Karen said...

Peter, you weren't the only one who was skeptical, rest assured. And as I said, I'm not sure I'll totally enjoy looking at the cage all winter, either, but we'll see. We had a couple stop in while we were wiring the cage together and they just didn't know what to say; I could tell they wanted to be polite, and they were, but the silence spoke volumes. My dear friend Ann said she also had her doubts (especially over the tall pipe planters) but once it filled in, she liked it, too. It's an acquired taste. :-)

Rebecca said...

I love it! Even the backside is pretty fabulous (like a green wall). I'm jealous of your pipes. I've been wanting something like that ever since we moved away from our first house in the Northeast. We had these awesome glazed terracotta rectangular tubes that were about four feet long and had multiple cells in them. The old owners had used them as a front walk in the ground, but they were so slippery. We took them out and moved them to the side of the house and planted them on end and used them as awesome planters around our greenhouse. We couldn't take them when we moved to Texas and I have yet to find something similar for the garden. Someday I'll find just the right thing I'm sure.

Larry said...

Wow... no shortage of creativity to the north of here! On our homefront I'm actually trying to simplify a bit... and then the neighbors removed huge footings from under a couple of silos they took down... they look for all the world like marvelous boulders! I even asked what was to become of them... until I remembered my back issues... not to mention what my wife would say... LOL ... guess I'll content myself in following your 'escapades' that involve so much hard work!!! Hope you are feeling better... Larry

Beth @ PlantPostings said...

You had the vision, and it worked! Wow! Those Cannas are amazing! Along with everything else. I admit I was thinking what the heck when I saw the initial structure, but with the plants it really looks fabulous. Thanks for sharing your inspiration! Wow!

FlowerLady Lorraine said...

Wow, how neat is that!!! Amazing how everything grew so well and filled the area in. It looks lovely and will be a joy for you every year.

Love & hugs ~ FlowerLady

Karen said...

Rebecca, the terracotta tubes sound amazing! It must have been so hard to leave them behind. I agree about the back side of the batting cage, too...I think it would make an amazing privacy screen if a person needed to screen their yard. In our climate, though, the leaves would fall off in the winter, but for the summer, it would be a pleasant buffer. :-) I'm keeping my fingers crossed you will find some pipes for your garden!

Karen said...

Larry, I know just what you mean! We should be simplifying, too. Oh, boulders right across the do you stop yourself from acquiring them? I know, more work. But boulders......! I hope you're in good health, too.

Karen said...

Beth, now you will have to help me come up with inspiration on how to make the batting cage presentable for six months before I can coax growth again. I can see cedar and spruce boughs in the pipes, maybe some more metal 'vines' worked into the drying racks; ok, I guess it might work. Thank you, Beth!

Karen said...

Rainey, so good to hear from you!! Thank you so much!

Alison said...

That turned out fantastic! Even if it hadn't become completely covered, it would have been great, with an industrial vibe, which I love. Yes, it's very different from most of your other garden decor and structures, but you sure made it work. And I loved hearing your sense of humor again in this post!

Indie said...

Wow! I was really wondering how it would look with the first few photos, but it turned out gorgeous! I love how it is incorporated into the curve of the garden bed with the edging of dusty miller. The bed looks so lush and pretty with the different colored leaves. I love the big pipe planters with the sweet potato vine!

Karen said...

Alison, thank you! Yes, this is a huge departure from my usual gardening style, that's for sure. Still debating the winter look, but we'll see what I can come up with. :-)

Karen said...

Indie, thank you! I wonder how big the sweet potatoes will be when it comes time to dig them? I'll be able to cram a lot of pine/spruce boughs in the pipes for winter interest. (I hope!)