Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A Little Mulch Music

Acalypha hispida or as it is commonly known Chenille Plant in the garden.  It is very tender and froze last winter then came back in a matter of a few weeks.  It will grow to 6 feet tall.
I am taking a break from the house to return to my calling - gardening.  I say calling for it is my artistry and my passion.  I have been watching a series of episodes on PBS on Crafts in America that deal with the act of creation of the many forms of artistic crafts.  Whether pottery, glass, cloth, or anything that inspire some people to devote themselves to crafts, some leaving  jobs and careers, others knowing outright their artistic path that lead all to this passion of making something with their two hands.     Watching these episodes, I reflected that I needed to return to some of my other arts, but when I think of it, my greatest pleasure is to garden.  To plan. To layout out concept of color, texture, fragrance and the dimensionality of space and time - this is my craft.  To all craftspeople their art is forever to be indulged.  An art director described that artist need to work and spend time in a studio.  My studio is my garden.
The first of the tropical beds coming along nicely
When I garden, that is when I scrutinize vistas, plant choices, soil conditions, irrigation choices.  I do this automatically with little thought of what I am doing because it is part of my conditioning as a landscape  architect.  Because it is so natural, doing it is a pleasure even when it gets physically hard and I am drenched with perspiration. I am sure that is relaxes me and possibly even lowers my blood pressure.
The Lower lawn in the adjacent lot surrounded by buffer plantings that include black bamboo from Collingswood
When I tell you what I have been doing in the garden you may think that I have slipped or lost some marbles along the way as it is not glamorous indeed.  Yet I have laid the foundations of other gardens before and without it they would not flourish or reflect their Genius Loci, from the Roman, a latin phrase for the spirit of the place- that which makes it unique.  Yet every single one of my gardens or my landscape projects has had a major element of preparation prior to receiving the plants.
One of the three piles of compost/mulch left.  Slowly but surely!
Last year at this time I was in New Jersey prepping the Collingswood house for final sale and escrow closing.  More importantly before leaving, I had come across a source of local mulch/compost  delivered to my door free and for as much as I wanted.  I had seen what my neighbor had received and it looked great, so I wanted some for my garden.  Many phone calls later I had a delivery scheduled that had to be cancelled until the return from New Jersey due to some truck issue.
A new middle garden bed in the adjacent lot will feature this Brazilian Cloak (Megaskepasma erythrochlamys) [a real mouthful from Venezuela not Brazil] that will grow ten feet accross and bloom a scarlet tiara of bracts and tiny white flowers.
Upon my return a few more calls got things started and the truck arrived with a rich dark brown load of soil, mulch and ground up Florida.  I asked how much I could have not wanting to be gready but knowing that this pile of mulch/compost would not suffice my efforts.  So encouraged by the truck driver I said could I have three more loads and the man was delighted.  The county was delighted that they had found someone they could dump a few yards of their mountains of mulch.  It appears that homeowners typically would call and when they said they needed half a bag or a few bags worth the county agents would refuse service due to minimum requirements.  Everyone warned me that I was going to get fire ants, toxins, anything you can imagine me to discourage my efforts.  The mulch delivered was still cooking and steaming.  So far I have not grown any extra limbs or gills but the garden has certainly prospered everywhere I used it without any fire ants.

The High garden behind the house being covered in mulch.  This garden will feature most of the fruits .
Unfortunately with Kitchen, interiors and bathroom remodeling four trucks capacity of mulch sat on my empty lot for almost a year.  Little by little I would take material from the piles, resembling sleeping dinosaurs to mulching of specific beds here and there.  I estimate that I received approximately 50 cubic yards for my yard.  Of this amount I might have used 10 yards and had the majority blocking the view, the garden and my plans.
The other high garden bed in the adjacent lot is shaded by live oaks.  Here I intend to do a Florida Woodland garden with Camellias and native azaleas.
So I have been on a quest to finally finish laying out all the compost/mulch according to my mental plans for the new garden, beds lawn areas and groundcover areas.  I am changing the topography significantly as I am laying it on thick.  Approximately 1 wheel barrel of mulch for about two square feet one foot thick. This of course will not last as it will compact and slowly get absorbed by the sand base that I am covering.  All the organic material is changing the composition of the sandy soil for the better and it will help retain some of our torrential downpours that now wash my sand around like a wave washes a beach.

Glorious Camellia in Bloom under the Oak Canopy at the Huntington Camellia Garden
There are not any pictures of anything finished as what has happened thus far is a baseline for all the planting that is still to come.  One bed that I worked on a few months ago and now filled to capacity with all manner of tropicals is really doing well.  As for the plans of all the empty spaces I have been thinking of planting a camellia and azalea grove that will be sheltered by a canopy of a large  oak  in my yard and a row of neighboring oaks.  Camellias are often planted in the shade of trees as they cannot take direct sun of the type available here in Florida.  For that matter, that is how they really like to grow in symbiosis with oaks.  My foundations as a gardener were honed while working at the Huntington Botanical Garden in San Marino, California as a volunteer many years ago.  Henry E. Huntington was related to the early transcontinental train fortunes and so rich that his California ranch once reached much of what is now the San Gabriel valley.  Of those, two hundred remain with some of the most beautiful gardens in California.  One of the great gardens is a canyon with California live oaks underplanted with thousands of camellias that have fallen in favor to a brand new Chinese garden. Regardless, it is a garden not to be missed.  Happy gardening! 

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous06 June, 2012

    Rene, Somehow I knew you were due for another posting to your blog, and when I logged on I was certainly not disappointed. This garden, as all your gardens, is well on its way to being spectacular. Certainly worth a visit from us northerners. Lucky you to have all that beautiful mulch to say nothing of that beautiful talent. Happy Gardening to you too!
    Love from your Moorestown/Lake Dunmore friends who hope to see you soon......