Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The APEX project (basically ultimate) day 15


(Note the truck in the garden to the left for scale)

Today saw the last stones placed, the topdressing finished, 

 and the first 29 plants, including Othonna capensis, aka "Little Pickles" in homage to the site and gherkiny spirit of the place.


After dinner, I was aided by Kevin and Kevin.  Kevin of Timberline and Kevin Pykkonen from the Rock garden club, who has been fascinated with Manzanitas in recent years, so here he is with an Arctostaphylos patula getting married to the sweet earth...

We are bareroot-planting everything. Look how long those roots are when teased out of the "ball."   Kevin (the younger) was eager to plant on account of growing many of these plants up form propagules in the nursery and wanting to see how they do in the "real world."  He grows the manzanitas in a higher-perlite mixture, which has been the breakthrough for successful production of these enigmatic things.  We are planting them now because they are in active root growth, therefore fall is a good time to plant.  It's been warm enough the Muhlenbergia are still rooting, too.  

(Secret to timing for planting:  slip a plant out of its pot before planting to see if it is growing new translucent or white root-tips.  If so, it will establish quickly and healthily.  Looking at roots is an unrthodox but totally legitimate thing to do at a nursery to ensure a beautiful looking plant is also doing well below the soil. )

We worked until sunset.  I found myself lingering behind after closing up the fence. I'll be back to tie up loose ends and arrange the path grading/dressing, but this beast, phase one (stone) is essenitally done until early spring's phase 2 (plants plants plants).

I don't have an exact number yet from all the weights of loads of stone, but I know we are near or just under 60 tons, which would potentially and accidentally make this the world's largest crevice garden.  It depends how one measures it- square footage? Square footage excluding path?  Tons of all materials?  (That honour would go to Montreal Botanic) Tons of stone?  The latter is the practical measurement I use in business.

It's been fun. It's been exhausting.  It's begged people to meet eachother who never would have met- and have them work together.  It's asked questions like "How the heck does a person do such-and-such with such-and-such limitations…?" It's exposed weaknesses and strengths of people.  It's helped a few of them pay thier bills; distract them or stimualte them outside of their normal lives.

A friend of mine says that a way we humans find purpose in contributing to something larger than ourselves.  Perhaps.  I'm happy, right now, to be a cog, a component, in a machine like this- a great hulking heap of bafflingly upright stones which beckons exotic plants to lounge like sun-warmed green odalisques, which all consipire to turn a head- pique a nose- toward botanical curiosity.




Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The APEX project, (penultimate?) day 14



The fifth and last bed, far left, is halfway done.  The stone part of the project will finish tomorrow.  Epic front-range skies all day.

The fifth bed, half done, betrays our process: sunk perimeter stones encircling the sandy mix, which is in turn paved with stone and topdressing.  That's it in a nutshell.  After all the other beds, this one seems a breeze, even with only two of us working on it today.

The first plants- the largest  in the garden and the "accents," Mostly from Timberline Gardens, await planting tomorrow when the stone is done. They will keep guard all winter until 1200 of their friends arrive in spring- 90% of these being buns and cushions: classic and natural crevice species.

You see here: the prized electric Moltkia petrea, Muhlenbergia reverchonii, Juniperus scopulorum 'Woodward,' and 8 different true Manzanitas, who may benefit most from autumn planting. (Arctostaphylos pungens, A. patula, and A. x miwukka.)

Thank you to all who have stopped by to have a look at it in-process and encourage us on.


Monday, September 22, 2014

The APEX project day 13



A few more visitors stoppd by today; 
the "mounds" beg to be climbed.

Kevin is largely responsible for the afternoon's post-morning-rain progress; digging the trench in the hard clay for the perimeter stones for our fifth and last bed/mound.  One can see this trench in the lower right half of the photo.  It shall go very smoothly and quickly from now on.


Friday, September 19, 2014

The APEX project day 12




A sequence of the fourth bed, which is now done (minus topdressing):
 Thursday 10 am
Thursday 4 pm
Friday 4 pm
That's probably 3 tons.  Sandstone is light.  

Kevin (right) helped out today; he's Field Manager and grower of all your favourite perennials at 
Timberline Gardens.  It's nice when there is a shortcut to three oversized wheelbarrow trips, and that construction fencing is flexible.  A bed in the midst of haivng stones placed just gobbles up the sandy mix.   Marla and Jordan spent the majority of the day topdressing the large mound with gravels, completely hiding any sand and preventing it from sun, wind and rain exposure, which would otherwise dry, blow, or wash it away respectively.  It will remain moist longer if it is cool, and it will remain cool under an inch of gravel.  


Remaining to do is just one medium-large bed to build from scratch.  Some 55 tons are in the ground.  There are probably three days needed to finish it next week.  Stay tuned; thanks all for reading.

Some of us are dreaming constantly of the plants.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The APEX project day 11


That's compost- the great dark heap in front.  No, we're not secretly mixing it into the crevices or the beds.  Actually, it will go in non-creviced areas about the path (which were badly compacted during the rains) for more traditional plants like Veronica and Nailwort who appreciate compost.  But it will be safely away from the high beds and crevices which are meant to be a refuge from microbes who get happy in rich soils.





My friends started and almost finished the third (of five) bed, against a seat-wall, today.  

Sadly, it was the last day we had working with Ryan of Pan's Gardens.
Fortunately, we've got Marla of Roots Medicine Gardens; her startup creates custom home herbal gardens for folks' specific needs.  Looks like she's up to trying less useful and more fanciful things like our wee project.

It was a good days despite the heat.  We did company yoga.  
It helped wildly with the great strain on our bodies this thing gives us.

We've decided the garden is 73% done.  
As of now, we have five beds, in the full range of "doneness" from 
unstarted to totally topdressed.

A dozen accent plants will go in next week, the most exciting to me being the authentic greenleaf Manzanita- Arctostaphylos patula.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The APEX project day 10



It was an eventful day. 








50 tons have been set, and we will need a bit more to complete the last three, and smallest beds. 


Julie tapped some sort of magic in "the zone" and ascended to become a rockwork magician. 




We had lots of friends stop by to see the progress throughout the day, including Panayoti, who quietly took pictures. And he is rarely quiet! 








Greg, stalwart member of the Rock Garden Club, came by with his patient pooch and volunteered a few hours in the hot sun. 



In our first bed completed, 
The final dressing went on. 
The gravel topdressing. 
The frosting. 
I was elated. 

This is the last mineral component before plants! 

We used two things: 

>"Indian Sunset" 1.5" screen, from Pioneer Sand for the larger "chips" which lock into cracks, preventing erosion as well as being a visual 'size-bridge' between fine gravel and full-sized-stones, and 


>"Tan granite," 3/8" screen, for the rest; trucked all the way from the Rock Shop in Grand Junction (in order to match the stone and not be round in shape: peagravel works like ball-bearings to lubricate the falling and injuring of gardeners as well as rolling off slopes, failing to protect soil and keep it, in turn, from moving; it is better left in private gardens or when there are no other options) 

The Stone at large, you may have wondered, is "Siloam" stone, sold as rip-rap and palletized specimens, which I presume, but have not confirmed, to be Dakota Formation Sandstone from the Siloam Quarry in CaƱon City, CO. 

These are essentially "mulches" in the sense of the word that doesn't mean compost, protecting the mix (mostly sand) from drying by the sun/wind, as well as being eroded by rain/wind. 





Ryan pioneered a new technique. Blowing the excess sand/mix out of spaces; encouraging the gravels to settle to the top. I was 100% dubious. But it 100% worked. 


It's getting bigger. 
Lastly, a little discussion, inspired by Susan-in-the-Pink-hat, on 

The garden hurting people 
and 
People hurting the garden 

The green fence, in reality, has sprung up because someone said that kids had been climbing on the stones over the weekend on the site. We didn't even notice any stone out of place, fallen, or whatnot if that was the case. 

These things must be built strongly enough so that standing and walking on the stones does not dislodge them, and we check this during construction. This structural integrity also is also working against erosion and frost heave. The Gardener must walk over the stones as well, so not only are the stones locked together planted deeply, and often (but not always) pinning eachother in so they can't even be pulled out (in the case of plain old vandalism) but the soil mix must be at a level so that the topdressing settles between the stones and does not wander onto them, which would make a dangerous slippery-marbles-effect for the gardener or wanderer walking on them. 

Vandalism is a real possibility in any public space. I've dealt with it at public gardens, and I've been told about it in other botanic institutions. Dry Landscapes in Grand Junciton have had new cacti stolen (plant thieves seem to particularly love spineless claret cup, maybe it's the spinelessness…) I was told that Denver Botanic has a particular and widespread problem of people trying to walk out with the plant name-signs (no, not tags, but whole damn signs: stake and all!). 

Solutions are never 100% effective, but they will make a big difference. 

Our artillery is: 
-Sturdy construction 
-Cacti indeed 
-Sharp topdressing (stays in place, makes normal digging difficult, but trained crevice-gardeners will know how to bypass it) 

Every public landscape is vulnerable. Rocks lifted and thrown about? This is possible on every cobbled street, as well as at all those countless countless river-rock medians full of juniper and barberry in Wal-marts the country over. Flagstone paths in public parks could lose their pavers, new trees may be broken. The human miscreant is a pest organism common in the public environment. The Crevice Garden is not alone. 

Our clients, being a parks and rec district, deal with danger and liability all the time with swimming pools where people can drown every day, and ball courts where people can trip, bruise, and break themselves everyday. They were made aware of liabilities involved in the garden. Luckily, the nearest facilities, which are pickleball courts, are dominated by adults (although children may attend classes, et al, in the adjacent building.) 

The city of Lakewood, CO, boldly has agaves in medians- a plant that would surely impale a fool human who decided to fall headlong into one. That municipality's legendary Kendrick Lake Gardens has charted those waters for me with their cacti- and agave- rich plantings surrounded by walking paths.  

We will keep safety in mind with spiney-plant placement; and accomodating potetial young-climbers-in-training will be a botanical challenge for me when it comes time to place plants in spring. Agaves, particularly, I think hard about- avoiding places where kids are likely to slip off of rocks, but clever things like embedding them under shrubs, within beargrass, or whatnot may help. 

The plan is to be more exclusive against plants which have trimming-maintenence-needs than plants that are scary-looking in this garden; A Mark Twain quote about censorship may be laterally applied here: "Censorship is telling a man he can't have a steak just because a baby can't chew it.” 

We will use our mean plants, but we will use them wisely. 
Didn't Roosevelt say "plant distanly but plant a big Agave?"

{I have noticed just how often yuccas get planted on corners of sidewalks in landscapes- I swear, just look around- when there were hundreds of square feet elsewhere they could have been planted without invading leg space; usually, the fact that yuccas, being plants, will actually grow larger seems to be the forgotten consideration. It is so common…) 

At once, my inner civilist says passersby mustn't climb or whatnot on it, but my inner child, and inner realist and inner artist all laugh and point out the crevice gardens totally invite kids to climb on them and that they should- that kids are deprived of normal everyday dangers in our present society, (a theme on NPR a month ago or so) and the experience of crawling up an artificial rock outcrop draped with plants- (early taxonamy starts with the pragmatic distinction between soft and fluffy Muhnenbergia reverchonii and the dagger-stiff Agave parryi; this, in a world where fewer of us all the time can distinguish a tomato from a cucumber plant) some soft and some pokey, is a moment of exploration and wonder. 

As a human, I wouldn't dare take that away from another human being. 


Kids are magnetically attracted, even to my young and ugly apartment crevice-garden. 

An ex girlfriend once commented on my old garden at the time where a Musa basjoo grew over the main path, opening my senses beyond my eyes to what a garden can do: She said "Your garden attacks visitors. If they didn't notice that there was a banana in it, they get whacked in the face by one."

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The APEX project day 9


We must be looking dangerous; they enclosed us in green fence today.  

(picture courtesy of Julie)