Tuesday, 28 April 2015

The Water Feature

Grand Folly now has a "grand" water feature. This came about because the new house next door installed a heat exchanger close to our shared fence. It doesn't look pretty and what's worse it shuts on and off regularly throughout the day and night. When it's on, the noise of the fan is very noticeable in our garden. The neighbours say they don't notice the noise, so we have been trying to find a way to block the sound from our side of the fence. Our first move was to have a pergola built. You can see what we were trying to block in the photo.

The first year we attached a grid of concrete reinforcing wire and grew runner beans up the wires . They made a nice green curtain, obscuring the object but not the noise it made.

The following year, we replaced the wire grid with bamboo screens, which blocked the view even more efficiently but still did little about the noise.

 So we bought some solid polystyrene insulation panels, painted them dark brown on both sides and nailed them up, facing them with the bamboo. Because we want to be good neighbours, we went to the expense of using the bamboo on both sides of the panels, to make the structure look good from their side too. Then we got a pond liner and commenced the first pond, installing a 900-gallon-per-hour pump to produce a decent column of splashing water.

The noise of the fountain was effective: all we could hear in the garden when it was running was the sound of splashing water - much nicer than the hum of machinery.

However, all was not well. As any Vancouverite could have warned us, and many did, there is nothing raccoons like more than to deconstruct a backyard pond. Every morning, we found the pump knocked over, even when we anchored it with a couple of bricks.

Michael's solution was to make the pond wider and deeper so that the raccoons couldn't reach the pump.  Unfortunately, this uncovered two huge boulders that had to be manhandled (and womanhandled) out of the excavation.

Then the construction began anew. This time, Michael levelled the ground around the excavation and made a frame, which he painted black, to support the edges of the first line of pavers.

The results were more aesthetically satisfying and for a couple of weeks we even thought we had outsmarted the raccoons.

Then they struck again. We have accepted a kind of defeat now. We cover the water with a not very beautiful piece of fencing wire, too thin to support the weight of even a small raccoon. If we are just working in the garden, we leave it in place. When we are relaxing outside or when visitors come, we whisk it out of sight.

Meanwhile, I've started to fill in the edges around the pavers with small lavenders and succulents. Eventually I hope they will spill over the edges of the paved area, disguising any small alignment issues and giving it a more natural look.

Our next problem to solve is how to deal with the algae. Although it is turning the water a pleasant shade of opaque green, we know it will eventually clog the pump if we do nothing.

Monday, 13 April 2015

The Flowers of Spring

When we got back from a short trip to Mexico at the end of January, I continued to take photos of the garden as spring advanced, but I've been slow to add them to this blog.  So here's a prĂ©cis of what has been happening in the last couple of months. 
Early February saw that wonderful early daffodil, 'Rijnveld's Early Sensation' brightening its patch of ground. It really does lead the way for others of its kind, not just in being so fast to bloom but also for standing so sturdily against the rain and wind that we so often get in this month. And I do like that emerald green stripe on the back of the petals.

Almost as quickly the snow crocus sprang up, although they refuse to open on dull days, 'Gipsy Girl' is almost better closed because it too has stripes on the back that you don't see when it is fully open. Even ravaged by slugs, it was a cheery sight.

The pear tree branches, still bare, were festooned with brilliant green moss.

Snowdrops in the dappled shade under Corylopsis pauciflora pushed up through fallen leaves,

... and were followed by the bright blue flowers of Anemone blanda.

Another anemone nearby, 'White Splendour' came soon after. It is indeed a bright white on top, but the undersides of the petals are bright pink.

I have a small collection now of these tiny daisy-like anemones, including delicate A. nemorosa 'Bracteata''

Nothing special, you might say, but it's the cobalt blue at the base of the bracts that is one of its secret attractions.

Above them all, Corylopsis pauciflora burst into full bloom by the beginning of March.

By this time Hellebore 'Peppermint Ice' and a cluster of species tulips , Tulipa turkestanica, had taken over from the snowdrops and winter aconites underneath.

Hellebores were also blooming in the front garden: deep crimson 'Rachel' and pale pink 'Frilly Kitty'.

And Enkianthus perulatus  produced a flurry of white bells, undaunted by being forever in the shadiest of the front garden beds.

We've had a warm, sunny spring so far and many plants are blooming ahead of schedule. My dwarf rhododendron
'Little Vixen' that I grow for the beautiful rich colour of the undersides of its leaves suddenly produced bells of garish pink, demonstrating why I much prefer it as a foliage plant. Fortunately the flowers are not long-lasting.