Sunday, May 28, 2006

Renovation Under the Hobbit Tree

With the Hobbit Tree all trimmed up (as told in The Hobbit Tree Got a Haircut), and with some likely plants gathered together, it was time to renovate the bed underneath it. I'd been wanting to fix it up for quite some time, but it didnt' seem worthwhile to fix it up all nice and pretty just to get it trampled when the tree trimmers came through. Those folks get paid by the job, and it's in their best interests to get the job done as quickly as possible, which leaves them no time to be delicately tiptoeing around someone else's tulips. If you want work crews to be careful of your plants, you've got to say things like, "And there's an extra $50 in it for you if you can get the job done without crushing my plants." And even then there's no guarantee that they'll know the difference between your prize dianthus and a dandelion.

At any rate, with the crews gone and any damage already done, renovation could begin. I'll do like the old Charles Atlas ads in the comic books -- not with muscular guys in Speedos, but with "before" and "after" pictures. So here's "before":

The grape hyacinths have died back, the wild bleeding hearts are fading, and the hostas, now exposed to sunlight more than before, are getting sunburnt. Some clumps of yellow Sysirinchium are still doing all right, though it's so hard to tell it apart from a particularly nasty grass that's been invading the bead that weeding requires painful delicacy.

Here's "before" from another angle.

Still lots of twigs and debris from the trimming, and with all the dying grape hyacinths, this patch really needs some help. Plants that I had high hopes for have faded over the years, leaving a haphazard arrangement of the survivors. While it's not absolutely dreadful, it could still be much better.

Now here's "during":

Yuck. Looks like a mine field. But things often have to get worse before they get better, and a flower bed is no exception. I've raked up most of the debris, some of which is piled up on the right, and rough-dug the bed, loosening the soil so that the earthworms can have free reign. The dwarf boxwood is fine where it is, but I'm wondering at this point about the pulmonarias, and a large clump of violets. The hostas are in the process of getting moved. Some have already been relocated nearer the base of the tree to help cover the bare stems of the rose. After this I spread three bags of steer manure and rough-dug that it.

And here's "after":
After raking everything smooth, I planted some new plants. The hostas are now all clustered near the tree, as are several young blue columbines, transplanted from another flower bed. The "Red Hobbit" columbine is near these. In front of the columbines I've put some scarlet coral bells. There's a deer tongue fern near the box. I planted some tiny aubrietas and creeping penstemons near the front, both of which are low and will spread. After planting everything, I watered in all the transplants, and spread four sacks of hemlock bark to protect the soil and keep in the moisture. In the picture there's still some debris to clear up and the sidewalk needs swept. But it's looking a whole lot better, and will be fabulous when the plants grow up, fill in, and start blooming like crazy.

Not a bad day's work if I do say so myself.

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