Saturday, 24 September 2016

the embankment 2 years on

Its spring. Everyone loves spring cause flowers bloom and make the world pretty.

The downside of all this thriving is the grass (ie weeds that form what we affectionately refer to as our 'lawn') is also growing... like... well... weeds. 

I find myself walking across the yard and see a particularly obnoxious weed staring me in the face, grab my grandpa weeder* thinking "I'll just pull up this one, oh, and maybe that one..." and an hour or more later I'm still pulling up weeds.

This is the time of year you need daylight savings just to keep up with the garden!

However, its also the time of year when things begin to look amazing. This afternoon I mowed and was thinking how I need to get out the brushcutter (tomorrow is another day!) when I looked at the embankment and realised how my dream is finally coming true.

Do you remember when I first conceived of the embankment? When we moved here the driveway was just a slope, directing rain down onto the 'lawn' and under the house. We got the driveway levelled, put in a retaining wall alongside the house and were left with a really steep embankment which I thought would look lovely covered in flowers.

But the soil there is like cement - hard clay. So I figured I could make it work if I used old tyres, filled them with dirt to give the plants something to grow in till they could find their way into the cementlike dirt below. Its been a long, tiring project, but its finally beginning to look like I envisioned.

Take a trip down memory lane with me.


This is what the driveway looked like when we bought the farm. A gentle slope, covered in weeds.


It offered more space to park but it wasn't pretty.

The first step was to get in an excavator to level the driveway, which meant cutting into the slope, creating a steep embankment. Excuse the photo. Most of my old photos were lost when my external drive died.


Next step was a retaining wall to shore up the driveway but basically that was it. Done. A steep, dry, ugly embankment.


But I have dreams. First I tried planting succulents on the slope thinking that nothing else would grow there - and succulents can grow in anything. Well, some grew but they were taking forever and weeds began to take over again.

So my next idea: tyres. First we put down weed matting to stop the weeds. Then we put down tyres.


At this stage everyone said it wouldn't work. The tyres would slide down. The weight of the tyres, filled with dirt, when wet, would create an avalanche.

I didn't listen. I got my gardener/helper to hammer in metal stakes on the bottom row and randomly on the upper tyres in order to keep them in place. I figured they'd stay in place once the plants took root, as they'd act as anchors.


At first I kept the scattered succulents where they were, placing tyres around them. Later on they were dug up and moved. I water the embankment in summer and the hose reaches about 3/4 of it. The last quarter is where I've moved most of the succulents as I want the sections closer to the house and gate to be vibrant with flowers. I'm happy if the far end has green covering it.


(The ground is so hard used long nails and bits of plastic to secure the weed matting!)


Slowly I began to fill the tyres, breaking the weed matting, putting in clay breaker, filling with soil and planting all kinds of things. Most of the plants I put in were given to me by friends, dug up on the side of the road, or from cuttings. I figured that things which grew from cuttings or on the side of the road were hardy enough to grow on the embankment.

And that's how we went from this:


To THIS!




Amazing isn't it?

There's still tons of work to do. I need to weed for one thing. And trim frost bitten bits. Plus  I'm always moving plants. Some of the plants are growing over smaller ones in nearby tyres so they will need to be moved, or left to peek through gaps. Eventually I want it to be so well covered you can barely see the tyres.

I'm a lousy gardener... hit and miss is the way I work. I put things in the ground and it turns out they're the wrong size for where I put them (it doesn't help when I get things without labels and have no idea what they are!). For example I was given some poppy seeds. They were labelled 'big' 'small' and 'medium'. I had them in pots on separate tiers of a plant stand, small on top, big on bottom, medium in the middle. But I had no idea how big 'big' was... Till a lady told me they were iceland poppies and I googled them. They're HUGE. I had to move a couple of them....

There are still quite a few tyres to fill with dirt,  plants or both. And more succulents to move. But the embankment beginning to look like I wanted it to... a mess of plants all growing up to and around eachother.

Meanwhile, the rest of the garden is blooming as well. My anemones came back this year - I have my own method: In early spring I cut off dead flowers to encourage more blooms. At the end of the summer I let them go to seed and spread seeds in the garden beds.

Works for me.


I swear I never bought these flowers. Yellow/orange ranunculus.... The packet I bought was blues, pinks and whites. Wierd. But pretty.


Between these and the poppies which could be any colour, I think my plan of a limited colour palette in my garden has flown out the window.

Love the tulips. These are part of a section of tyres filled with bulbs. I'm thinking I'll sprinkle alyssum seeds in the tyres as well so there's something in them all through summer.


So there you go.

I'll get more photos when more things are blooming later. Its a promise.

z


* A grandpa weeder allows you to weed standing up, using your foot on a long handled tool to pull up weeds. I love it!

3 comments:

  1. When you finished your tire wall is when I started following you. I guess I didn't understand the plan at the time. Now, I see the beautiful flowers blooming! What a sight! You did have vision, and the hard work made something absolutely beautiful. I wish you all the best as you continue to work on this project. It was such a special treat to see this as we are going into fall. Take care...Fonda

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  2. Thanks! I must admit, I have no real idea when it comes to gardening but I've seen steep front yards where people have planted tons of flowers and I admire them. I needed to find a way to get the same look here and I am pretty imaginative when it comes to problem solving. :) (Not always practical, but imaginative!)

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