Saturday, July 29, 2017

Stones With Plants

For as long as I can remember the beauty of stacked stones has captivated me.  Many hours across several decades have found me gathering raw materials and then building dry stone walls.  In this instance the walls serve to separate areas of the garden and serve as a  backdrop to brilliantly colored flowers.  The area in the background immediately in front of the house features stones serving a functional purpose.

Our home is a simple single story house on the north side.  The basement is partially exposed on the south side.  Winter sunlight fills the basement where we grow tender plants and start from seed many others.  Those features function as planned but the necessary slope outside stymied me for years.  Plants were needed there but their soil needed to stay in place.  Occasional running water and its resultant damage to the ground were not part of the plan.

After a delay of more years than I care to admit, placed stones of some size were arranged to soften the slope.  The incomplete path shows that this project awaits completion but the planted area endured this year's frequent heavy rainfall with absolutely no disturbance of the soil surface.  As this year's garden winds down, we will refocus on this area completing the stone path that will separate the garden from the field grasses.  These stones were never intended to stand out visually like a wall.  They have a lasting important job to do while they disappear behind the plants.  So far so good.

These stones are also being placed with a eye on function.  Our attempts to grow native ephemerals have for the most part fallen short.  These plants require more moisture than our deep gravely soil can provide.  Large flat stones set in at an angle are planned to direct the rain that falls upon them into a specific area.  Additionally, stones gather moisture every summer night.  This extra liquid will also be near the roots of moisture loving plants.  We will see if the extra moisture delivered by these rocks will keep the blood root alive and the trillium expanding.

Appearance always counts and in this case we are trying to duplicate to a degree an area in the back woods where broken chunks of bedrock break the surface.  The stones in the left background were the first ones placed and they do not look natural.  When the trillium already planted in front of those stones are in bloom no one will notice the stones.  As the moss spreads down over exposed surfaces the stone work will be further muted.

The bagged leaves need to be run through the mower to both speed their decay into woodland soil and improve their appearance.  My neighbor takes great pride in his home and he likely wondered about all of the bags of leaves piled near his manicured lawn.  We hope that the stones and the leaves will help move this area into a flourishing woodland garden.

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