Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Backyard Project: Garden Rooms

Gravel Bed Garden Room
This garden room came about because of the site conditions. Grass would not grow in this area of the back lawn. We found the reason why after the thin layer of topsoil was scraped away before the studio construction began. Bedrock was exposed. Thin soil exposed to 12 hours of sunshine and reflected heat from the house suited a hot dry garden bed.
Tom dug down around the bedrock to make a sunken 'U' shaped garden room. The 2 entrances to this room are accessed by flat rock steps.  
It has rock walls and grey/white washed gravel flooring. I laid out a length of yellow yarn to mark the path through the room.
I have started planting. I have gone around to other beds to find plants that would be happier in a place with full sun and free draining to dry soils - rosemary, thyme, sage, lavender.

Marking out the beginnings of another garden room.

The walls will be a hedge of pineapple guava (feijoa), fig trees and Callistemon (bottlebrush).

Another room is called Walter's Gorge. It is now bisected by the deer fence but still reads as a room because of the plantings - Japanese water irises, horsetail and a number of different ferns, as a start. The blackberry we cleared from this area a couple of years ago still tries to inhabit the gorge but doesn't take long to cut back now.

I am starting to develop the garden room next to the studio porch. The pink tulips, hyacinths, and alliums will be transferred to the Water Drop bed once they finish blooming and die back. To the left will be a hydrangea hedge. Cuttings have been planted and the whole bed mulched with straw. 
The floor of this room will be a meadow of native ground covers that can be walked on but doesn't need mowing. The soil is being built up before their planting.
Valerie Easton's book 'A Pattern Garden The Essential Elements of Garden Making' has been most helpful while designing these garden rooms. Her design philosophy is based on the Japanese concept wabi-sabi and the Pattern Language work of Christopher Alexander. She designs garden rooms using 14 of Christopher Alexander's patterns.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Surprise Visual Treat While Out Malling

While rushing through the mall to pick up a few things I was slowed down by a visual treat.

Mannequins dressed in blooms.

Dressed by 'Victoria's best floral designers'

The mannequins were still being dressed so some weren't complete.

But I saw them when the flowers were at their freshest.

The event was called 'Victoria. Stop and Smell the Roses'

It certainly had that effect on me and on others passing by.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Backyard Project - Mulching and Tree Planting - Beginning of the Guilds

After the green cover crop was turned under the soil was covered with straw as opposed to hay. Hay has seeds which is part of its nutritional value for animal feed but seeds mean lots of unwanted plants for me to pull out. Straw is the stubble left after the crop is cut off. It is quite expensive because here on the island we don't have any large flat areas for growing grains. The straw has to be brought across from the mainland.
Straw makes a wonderful mulch or cover for bare soil while newly sown seeds are thinking about germinating. It stops evaporation of moisture out of the soil and keeps the soil warm creating ideal conditions for those soil organism working on breaking down the newly turned green cover crop.

The key element and the beginning of a plant guild (a collection of plants living symbiotically and in harmony) is the tree. After much reading, list making and pondering we have begun the tree planting. I will detail the guild compositions later but here only to say at this stage the Water Drop hugelkultur bed has a pear tree, and behind it the Feather hugelkultur bed has a cherry tree.

The Leaf hugelkultur bed has a medlar tree....

...as does the tip of the Feather. Design-wise I wanted the symmetry of these 2 trees at the entrance to the path to the studio. They repeat the perceived symmetry of the studio windows and porch posts.

I can tell the trees are happy because within a couple of weeks they are producing flowers. My sister said to nip off the flowers in the first year so the tree concentrates on producing lots of roots and leaves. So, yes, sister, I did as you advised and nipped off all the flowers.

In the bed leading away from the studio porch, I planted cuttings from a friend's hydrangea bush. (Thank you, Barbara, for working in the rain with me to share your hydrangea).
The cuttings got a cosy covering of straw mulch and a good watering to help them along. I can already see the magnificent hydrangea hedge they will become.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Backyard Project Update - Green Manure/Fertility Crops

Green manure crops growing on the hugelkultur beds with a log-ends 'gardener's path' in between.
These seeds were planted in the beginning of winter. The birds couldn't believe their luck and feasted before they flew south. The heavy rains washed many of the seeds to the bottoms of the mounds.

The green manure plantings are not doing as well on the hugelkultur beds as those in the Rock Garden beds that were planted in the spring. This picture was taken on the 3rd of April.
The spring sun is heating up the rock masses which transfer the heat to the soil supporting an early start for the spring growth.

This was taken on the April 6th.
The green manure plants are thick and starting to flower. It is time to start digging them into the soil.
These raised beds have been filled with young soil that needs building up before perennials are planted. Spreading cover crop seeds is the best way to add fertility, smoother weeds and hold the soil together. Annual ryegrass and vetch add a large amount of biomass in a short time and when turned under add valuable organic material to the soil. Peas and other legumes support soil organisms that can fix nitrogen out of the air and make it available for other plants. The vetch and pea flowers attract beneficial insects needed for pollinating other plants.

This picture was taken on April 12th. The digging in starts.
An apple tree has been planted in Rock Garden Bed #1. It will anchor the guild of plants in this bed. More on that later.

Rock Garden Bed #4. The green manure crop has been turned under. 
I have wanted to see how a straw bale garden grows. Two straw bales are placed next to the wood chip path in this, one of the sunniest Rock Bed gardens.
Things are humming along in the new garden beds.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Gathering at the Edge Day 3 - Studio and Self Guided Tours

Gathering Day 3 - Sunday, April 3, 2016
After meeting over breakfast in the hotel Gatherers took in hand their specially marked-up maps and a sources list highlighting art, textile and fibre shops; gardens in full spring bloom; art galleries and nearby eating establishments and headed off on self-guided tours of the area.
Some had booked a tour of my garden and studio at 11:00 that morning.

I'm not sure what I am explaining here.

Inside the studio, I shared the concept plan for the Backyard Project.

Then I gave a quick tour around the studio.

The second group arrived at 12:00 noon for the next tour.

Here I am showing maps for the Sun/Shade analysis for the backyard area, an early stage in the planning process.

A couple of hours later I raced back to Coast Collective to meet up with Barbara McCaffrey and Judi MacLeod and her husband.

One last look around at the work.

Then it was time to take all the work down and pack it in 2 large shipping crates to be sent on to the Sunshine Coast for the next showing from July 9th to August 21.
And that was it - the Gathering at the Edge -3 days of wonderful networking, making new friends, renewing old; and together: experiencing, sharing and learning.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

More Gatherers Stand 'At the Edge of the Forest'

Eleanor Hannan

Jean Cockburn

Jennifer Love

Judi McLeod
Judi was the official photographer of the Gathering. She did a fabulous job capturing the atmosphere and the action of every event. Thanks, Judi. 

Katie Stein Sather

Lily Thorne

Patt Wilson

Bryony Dunsmore

Gloria S Daly
Gloria was the recipient of the “Award of Excellence” in memory of Mary Frances Fox. Mary Frances Fox was an SDA Ontario Representative and textile artist who inspired the original concept for this exhibition.
There will be one last opportunity to see 'Edge of the Forest'

July 9 – August 21, 2016, Fibreworks Gallery, Sunshine Coast, BC

Friday, June 10, 2016

Gatherers Stand With Their 'Edge of the Forest' Works

Lesley Turner

Shamina Senaratne

Terry Phillips

Connie Chapman

Deborah Dumka

Donna-Fay Digance

Judy Alexander

Laura Feeleus

To find out more about any of the works visit the 'Edge of the Forest' website  here
Thanks to Judi McLeod for masterfully taking presentable portraits under gallery lighting.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Day 2: The Gatherers Meet at the Edge of the Royal Roads University Forest

After Kerry Mason's talk, there was time for a quick lunch at the Habitat Cafe on the Royal Roads University campus before walking across the road to the edge of the forest.

Gaia College instructor, ecological landscape designer and consultant, Manon Tremblay (centre) took the first group upstream for their walk in the forest.

She led the Gatherers through a series of sensory exercises to help them explore the rain forest.

Meanwhile, Gaia College instructor, Ecological Landscape Designer and Master Gardener, Debbie Guedes (centre), took her group downstream to experience the shifting ecologies as they walked towards the ocean.

Debbie sharing her wealth of knowledge.

An excellent example of a wildlife tree seen from the track.

The Skunk Cabbages are in fine form.

At the same time, under the shade of the forest trees, I gave the third group a quick workshop on earth dyeing.
Here I am showing Jean Cockburn a dyed cloth while she massages earth into her cloth.

I use Bengala earth dyes. They are so simple to use I was able to set the workshop up under the trees for 40+ people.

Shamina Senaratne checks her cloth as it dries on a branch.

Debbie and Manon try their hand at earth dyeing.
I could not have run this workshop without my 2 excellent assistants - Sarah McLaren (in red) and Louise Slobodan (in green). For 2 hours, with cold wet hands, they helped people, reorganised the work table before the next group arrived and packed everything up at the end.
These 4 made this an event enjoyed by many. 

After each group had rotated through the 3 activities it was time to return to the hotel to freshen up before the next event.
The post-event survey results had comments from some Gatherers that they wanted a longer time out in the forest. We were lucky with the weather but if it had been any colder, windier or raining the 2 hours would have felt too long. The committee decided to take the risk and allowed 2 hours for the outside activities. We left time the next day for the Gatherers to return to the forest to experience more on their own.
Thanks again to Judi McLeod for the use of her excellent images.