With no more problematic trees obstructing our progress, 2012 finally saw the beginning of real landscaping in the backyard. Before discussing the largest project we completed, here is an overview of some of the various smaller improvements around the property, beginning with one that actually started in 2011.
Our driveway is shared, by way of an easement, with the owner of The Trimmer Store building next to us and is located to the right of that structure. Like so much associated with that property, the drive was a neglected mess in need of a make-over and not a pleasant site to have to see after arriving home from work every day. My first order of business was to define the strip of earth that hugs the Trimmer building and distinguish it from the driveway itself. For years the soil and weeds had spilled over into what little gravel made up the driveway.
Coincidently, the much mutilated 18th century building next to The Trimmer Store, once known as The Franklin Hotel, was getting a new cinderblock front stoop, the excavation of which coughed up a huge pile of field stone. The owner said it was for the taking, so I carted over the best bits and tried my hand at a low dry laid stone wall.
It was a lot of fun to make and seems to be holding up reasonably well. I filled in the newly defined bed with soil and planted a number of plants, some of which did quite well and others terribly. As the gravel part of the drive was still a mess, the weeds exploded like crazy in front of the wall and if left untended, could obscure most of the wall from sight in an alarmingly short time. I intended to improve this section of the drive but projects in the backyard, Super-storm Sandy, and a delivery of gravel that resulted in a dump truck knocking over the corner of my field stone wall have left this to be tackled in 2013.
On to the back. Directly behind The Trimmer Store was one of the massive and troubled Maple trees that came down in 2011. The enormous stump was left to rot in the ground and surrounded by partly exposed roots, too close to the surface to allow many weeds to grow in the thin, dusty soil. Continuing on down the driveway, a dense patch of myrtle leads to a cluster of Forsythia that had struggled for light under the enormous spread of the Maple’s canopy. It took no time at all for it to spring to life after the tree disappeared. The building’s owner agreed to a collaboration whereby they would cover the expense of procuring plants if I did some planting.
The first order of business was to take a pick axe and remove as many of the tree roots as possible. That took an entire day, they were so large and plentiful. A small brick patio already hugged the back of the building, so I extended it a couple of courses and then added a few extra pieces of bluestone left over from the patio project on either side. On one side, the path connects the bricks to the driveway, and links to the grass connecting the two properties on the other. To continue the delineation between the drive and the garden, I set a line of bluestone curb into the ground as edging. In the triangular bed in front of the bricks, soil was added and a number of very low maintenance perennials planted. The tree stump was rotten in the center so I filled it with sedum.
In order to level the drive, help was hired to flatten it and in particular, remove the excessive hump that ran roughly from the narrowest point to just before the brick patio. There is still tweaking that needs to be done but it is much closer to the height the driveway would have been when the cinderblock addition was added to the back of The Trimmer store in the middle of the 20th century. It should make plowing the drive easier in winter and prevent gravel from sliding toward the road with rain erosion.