Stairway to heaven?

One item on the unbelievably long list of steps to revamp the front yard was “stairs through front bed”. Before the front bed was brought back under cultivation folks tramped willy-nilly through it, oblivious to the fact that expensive shrubs and perennials slumbered under the knee-high grass and weeds. No amount of shrieking at the menfolk could stop them. Now I have proper stairs: a clearly delineated path through the ever-more-beautiful garden that has been transformed from the bane of my life to my pride and joy. Anybody tries to blaze their own trail now gets pummeled with whatever I have handy — firewood, BB gun, shovel, rolling pin. Be ye warned!

On Saturday night I laid out the path from the front door through the yard and bed. I used the really-long-measuring-tape-and-knotted-string trick for folks who shy away from the Pythagorean theorem to ensure that my very long rectangle was both “square” (that is, had four 90-degree corners) and perpendicular to the house. Overhead the sun was going down rather spectacularly.

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Cue the choir.

Yesterday I got the treads carved out, the scrap wood 4 x 4 risers cut and placed, and the landscape fabric pinned down. By that time it was past noon and well over 80 degrees. I wanted desperately to be done but I couldn’t manage it. I went inside, drank 2 quarts of instant lemonade, consumed an entire honeydew melon, and took a 2 hour nap.

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This morning I finished the project. I installed little side blocks to keep the gently mounded soil on either side of the treads from falling back in, redistributed all the displaced soil, planted the four new plants I had been holding back because I wanted them near these stairs, and filled the treads with bark mulch.6e5b5-dscf5092

Eventually the front yard will be stripped of grass and a grid of raised beds will go down in its place. Open ground will be covered with more landscaping fabric and wood chips. I opted for wood chips because as nice as pea gravel and decomposed granite look in gardening magazines they can be expensive, they are heavy, and they travel (pea gravel especially refuses to stay put). Bark mulch and wood chips are gloriously free and abundant when one is married to a logger and lives next door to a would-be arborist. They don’t pack as well as, say, crushed rock, but they do eventually compress. They need replacing and topping off, but, again: free and plentiful. Also, they retain moisture and are soft and quiet to walk on. I passed on the idea of pavers and/or bricks because I think the garden should be in keeping with the style of the house. My house is very plain and simple. A formal garden, no matter how well designed and maintained, would be terribly at odds with my plain Jane home. But I think a potager, softened at the edges with a cottagey sort of garden would be just right.

— Amanda

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