Too old?

Begrudgingly, I admit that my enthusiasm for planting and for creating boulder edged gardens has run up against physical limitations. From here on out this could be a moot point since I’ve now run out of spaces to add granite boulders (my wife hopes this is true), but I’ve said that before.

If an understanding of leverage was less necessary in prior years when I muscled boulders that should be too heavy to move, with advancing years I must be more realistic. But, I am stubborn and no doubt overconfident in my capabilities, so this can be troublesome.

My August project started with three tons of granite boulders, figuring where all could go, then moving them into place. I carefully selected two pallets of boulders, none too large, but knowing a few partially obscured at the bottom were questionable.

Fortunately, all were to be hauled down the back slope, so the challenge was only to move the larger boulders onto the dolly, to control the overloaded dolly on the slope, and then to work them into position. Boulders must be placed as nature intended, with a natural stagger, so the shifting of a few inches can be the hardest part. In any case, with all the strength I could muster, and with a sturdy, steel spade to leverage the final inches, all boulders were placed. And, without the need for medical treatment, so I must not be declared too old just yet. (This also encourages the next chapter, whenever, of moving objects that should be too heavy for a person of my age.)

The next step was supposed to be to acquire a truckload of soil to fill behind the boulders that now border the forest, but while considering less expensive alternatives, the idea popped up that accumulated sediment could be dug from the seasonal, dirt bottomed pond dug years ago to help dry the damp, lower garden. This seemed like a great (and cheap) alternative, until the digging and wheelbarrowing began. Even in the heat of August, the soil was damp and heavy, and while I recall a time I could push endless wheelbarrows no matter the heat and weight, it’s a bit more work nowadays. But, despite the appeal of moving lighter soil downhill, heavy and cheap won out, and now the soil’s in place, so planting can begin, though what to plant is still in the works (below).

The planting has started with several transplants (including an Umbrella pine), several perennials, two dwarf ginkgo and a tiny Japanese maple. I hope to add to the planting in the next few weeks and then to dress the bare soil with a fine, pine bark compost. I prefer to start with larger plants for a fuller look, but I wanted specific plants and didn’t want to pay thousands for them, so it will take a few years.

With a few leftover boulders, a second, smaller planting area was dug from a small area of lawn beside the greenhouse, and here the excavated sod and soil raised the level perfectly without additional soil. This spot had troubled me, but this is the answer, I think, with a small ‘Shaina’ Japanese maple planted and a small euphorbia and euonymus transplanted that were struggling in overly shaded spots. To fill a bit more I dug a handful of Bletilla orchids. Yes, it’s August and not ideal for transplanting, but I can’t wait so I’ll watch and water if needed.

The Shaina Japanese maple needs to fill a bit to tie the new planting together, but I expect enough growth in the spring so that the area looks decent. It will be several years before it looks close to what I envision, and another several years before neighboring plants must be moved as the maple spreads. Two sedums and Euphorbia myrsinites are expected to spread over the boulders onto the gravel, and these should be low growing enough that they will stay as the Japanese maple spreads.

‘Shaina’ should be an ideal Japanese maple for this small space. Another failed several years ago, the victim of a late freeze injuring tender newly emerging leaves, and again the next spring. I figure that as the maple grows, the orchids will be moved elsewhere, and someday, if ‘Shaina’ grows too wide, the path can be relocated. But, that will be years from now. It is fair to question if I will still physically be able to move the path then, but I will always say yes I can.

13 Comments Add yours

  1. Louise Kahane says:

    Always a read I look forward to! Thank you.

    1. Dave says:

      Thank you. I’m happy to share the garden.

  2. MBDavis says:

    I salute your work on this project, especially in August! I also enjoy reading your posts, thank you for the inspiration!

    1. Dave says:

      Still a ways to go to complete the planting, and then to wait while it grows in.

  3. lbacrna says:

    I love your ideas for your new plantings, nestled in boulders between and betwixt the forest and the lawn. I look forward with anticipation to see your plan progress in the coming years! i enjoy your posts, thank you!

    1. Dave says:

      I’ve probably overdone it with boulders in the rear garden, but I like it and that’s most of what counts. In any case, the way I plant it will all be overgrown in a few years.

  4. Linus says:

    Don’t you have sons who can help with the boulders?

    1. Dave says:

      Our two sons have been out of the house for almost twenty years, but I prefer to do the work myself. I’ve set every rock and dug every hole in this garden, though while the youngest was in college I did need his help moving the 1500 pound liner for the koi pond. He brought a buddy along to help. The friend pushed on the rolled up liner for a few seconds, then gave up. It was easier without him.

  5. Valerie says:

    The boulders add such interest to your garden! I can’t wait to see how the plants fill out over time. I also planted a shaina recently in a border garden; it’s 1.5 feet tall. It gets a lot of sun. I hope it survives the winter, but I also hope I live long enough to see it become a tree! Keep us posted on how well your small maples do!

    1. Dave says:

      The first Shaina’ I planted was shorter, but much wider than the one just planted. In ten years it grew slightly taller, but to about four feet wide. This one is tall and thin, as mail order maples often are, but it’s a good, healthy tree and I expect it to grow quickly in this sunny spot. My Japanese maples have never had winter problems, but the common issue is with late April and May cold when emerging leaves are tender.

  6. Rick says:

    From a 72 year old my joints are aching while viewing this. I am about 90% finished with my rock garden, on a slope covering an area of 14′ x 35′. Using quarry rock, left over from a stone retaining wall project, my Kubota compact tractor was an immense help. It would have never happened without machinery.

    1. Dave says:

      Happily, my 68 year old body weathered the hauling of tons of boulders and soil, but then I injured my shoulder swatting bees. Better now, but a reminder that I’m not what I used to be.

      1. Rick says:

        BTW most of the plant material was sourced from MF of Winchester. My cart was loaded with their entire catmint stock.
        Neighborhood deer/rabbits limit the variety of plants that will survive here. They have devoured 2 junipers, but those grew back, the following spring. They took a few bites from a boxwood, it’s taking awhile for that hole to fill in.
        The photography on this blog is outstanding.

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