Friday, October 20, 2017

For the Love of Hydrangeas

Next to the boulder retaining wall coming out from my studio, I have planted a Hydrangea hedge.

It began with an invitation from Barbara G to dig up and take cuttings from her bushes last fall.

I planted the 2 root balls and stuck stick cuttings in the ground and left them for the winter.

Early in the spring they sprouted, grew enormous leaves and flowered profusly throughout the summer into early fall.

Barabara's plants are called 'lace' hydrangeas because the petals come out a few at a time rather than all at once.

They are blue and are likely to stay blue because our native soil is acidic. Pine needles and pine cones from nearby Douglas-fir trees continually fall on the soil keeping it acidic. 


Closer to the Green Shed I want the bushes to be pinker. I have been buying pink flowering plants and after enjoying them inside I have cut them back and planted them filling in the remaining space right up to the Shed. I pour my leftover tea into their soil and have added eggshells to help make the soil more alkaline (and the stalks fo these hybrids stronger) which supports pink flowers. However, most pink plants are now bred to stay pink so these ones are likely to stay the colour I bought.
I'll take a picture next spring to show off how the pink bushes pop against the dark green shed. As the bushes are further away they transistion into blues. This is the plan but I will have wait until next spring to see how things turn out. 

I love hydrangeas as do many of the women in my family. My sisters, mother, aunts and cousins grow magnificent hydrangeas in their gardens wherever they can. Karen, who lives in the mountains of Colorado, can't but I know she would if she could.
I made a series of hydrangea works from thrift store silk blouses.
Earlier posts about making these works here and here.

I gave one to each of my sisters and our mother.

We all remember how our grandmother (our mother's mother) grew magnificent hydrangea bushes that we spend many happy hours playing around.

I have a memory of watching her put some powder into the soil under the plants. She explained to me she was making their colours. It was my first introduction to aluminium ions and soil ph and I have been fascinated ever since.

I think of the hydrangea connecting our different generations. When I see them in my sisters' gardens I think of how our grandmother passed on her love of working with plants. I see I have passed this love on to my daughters.


Saturday, October 14, 2017

Garden Report: Successful Completion of Gravel Bed Garden Trials

The 'before' shot of the Gravel Bed Garden, before the Backyard Project got underway. A huge expanse of lawn that required care, so much water and it still looked a wreck.

October 2015
Tom at work painstakingly interlocking every rock to edge the boundary of the Gravel Bed Garden.

Sammy, Mat and Laura put in a french drain, laid drain cloth, added a layer of growing medium, and lastly placed the gravel.

April 2016
This garden is not going to be irrigated so I didn't have to wait for the irrigation installation before I could start planting. Early in the spring last year I started by transplanting rosemary bushes from other beds.

I started a trial path with different ground cover herbs to see which ones would be happy in the hot dry conditions.

Over the spring and summer, I planted samples of lots of different plants that fit my spec.
I marked the path out with empty pots which confused a lot of people - is that art?

August 2016
Plants have grown with only the occasional hand watering.

July 2017
The plants are thriving, having survived one hot dry summer and one cold wet winter.

Small Russian sage was planted early spring and by mid-summer had put down enough roots to support lots of flowers that the insects loved to visit.

Over this past spring and summer, I continued to buy and plant ground-cover herbs until the path was completed. Some plants aren't doing as well as others so next spring I may replant with hardier types.


Over the summer I often took my studio tea break sitting out in the Gravel Bed Garden so I kept an eye on how different plants were doing and when they needed help with a hand water.

October 2017
There was a lot of growth over the past summer. 

The 2016 plantings have grown to make the path covered over in some areas. Other plants were pruned after flowering then continued to fill out.

The Corsican mint path plants in the foreground did not cope very well with the very dry summer and may be replaced next spring. The other plants have done so well I will be cut them back a lot next spring.

I have researched plants that fit a spec and made a long list of suitable candidates. After successfully trialling some of these plants over 2 springs and summers, I can now go ahead and complete the plantings as planned. Come spring I will be out visiting my favourite nurseries with plant list in hand.


Saturday, October 7, 2017

Backyard Project: Soil Building in the Lower Patio

The construction crews may have left back in May but it was then our real work on the Backyard Project began. One of the first things we did was build soil in the Lower Patio area. A broken down hot tub had been removed and concrete walls built to support new garden beds in this very sunny spot. We have great plans for this spot but first, we need to build the soil.
By build I mean provide the right conditions for soil organisms to do what they do best - make soil.
I began by sifting through all of the remaining soil to remove all of the rocks and construction waste dumped there when the house was built.
Then I laid lots of different wood down, including alder branches high in nitrogen. A lot of household paper and cardboard was also recycled back into soil building.

Keeping in mind the "Brown then Green" rule I alternated thin layers - green garden waste - a woody mulch mix - ash from winter fires...

..more green garden waste...

...with harvested comfrey leaves rich in minerals...

...another layer of much - with a good watering in between each layer.

Fungi mushrooming was an excellent sign. It meant the mycorrhizal fungi are actively building up networks and making food available for future plants. 

A large number of roly-polies and woodlice/slaters was evidence they were happy with the conditions and working hard to break down the wood making the nutrients available to other soil organisms. 
We kept going with the layers until the contained beds were 3/4 full.

The soil probe scientifically registered the happy conditions with temperatures in the active zone.


Sammy dropped off a load of very good quality topsoil. The more soil building activity going on the more the level in the beds dropped down. Over the summer months, Ron has been keeping the soil level topped up. It has been a dry summer and I have been watering the bed to keep the soil organisms alive and busy. 
In the fall the irrigation will be installed then finally I can add the plants. I have a number of the plants bedded down in other gardens patiently waiting for their new home.


Thursday, September 28, 2017

Colour: A Personal Response Exhibition at ArtSea Gallery in Tulista Park, Sidney

Opening Reception of Colour: A Personal Response - Lesley and Sarah.
Thank you, Louise, for thinking of and taking a photograph of the 2 of us on the night of the opening.

The gallery waiting for the first viewers.

Each of the works is monochromatic, made using only one colour.
We hung the work with Sarah's making a colour wheel going clockwise around the room.

And my work making an intersecting colour wheel going anticlockwise around the room.

The result was each work was hung in a group with its complement.

At the small books table, we asked people to pick a colour and write their thoughts or feelings about that colour. It was a popular centre on the opening night and throughout the week.

I love the little drawings the children made.

Sarah and I spent our time while sitting the exhibition talking to people about how the work came about and what our concept was. There were lots of conversations in front of the works over the week also.


People stopped to read our artist statements and bios.

Sarah at the front desk keeping track of visitors, sales and answering questions.

Sarah had cards for each of her works for sale and did a brisk business.

Each work had its colour book. Sarah's were a result of her research on each artist she studied and made a work on. My books were marks showing the energy of each colour in a different medium - paint.

The fabric colour cards were displayed on turntables grouped by temperature.
The cool colours of the colour wheel.

The warm colours.

We sold a good number of individual fabric colour cards but the packs with all of the colours were the most popular.
The tally of visitors to the show tell it was a successful exhibition. For Sarah and I, we know it was successful because of the interest shown in our work by so many people over the week. They wanted to hear all about everything to do with how the idea started to how we worked, how we made each work and how we hung the work. There were people who came back again bringing other friends with them. Our viewers wrote lots of encouraging words in the guest book and have sent us emails of thanks since.
Sarah and I want to thank everyone who came to the exhibition and also all of those who have supported us while we worked to produce this body of work.
The exhibition is going to be travelling for a while. I'll keep you posted on where it will be stopping.