New Paths

Discussion in 'Garden Design' started by Palustris, Oct 1, 2010.

  1. Palustris

    Palustris Young Pine

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    First of all some back ground.
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    Quite a few years back we planted a set of Hornbeams in a semi-circle to form an Arbor over a bench. I made the bench from pieces of a friends Robinia Frisia which sadly died.
    However, recently it has become obvious that the paths to it were far too narrow and the beds in front planted with things which were too tall. You could hardly get to the bench and there was no view when sitting there.
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    We decided that now was as good a time as any to move the paths and to widen them.
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    To help with the weed problem we put down a layer of weed suppressing membrane. At the same time as laying out the paths I removed most of the plants. These were repeats from elsewhere in the garden, except for a few shrubs.
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    No problems until I came to level the path from the Arbor to the Pergola. I discovered the foundations of one of the houses which stood on this site until the mid 1950's.
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    The only thing to do was to remove the top of the foundations. I set to with my very powerful hammer drill which doubles as a jack hammer and dug out the bricks. Underneath the bricks I found that they had been placed on top of some rather nice boulders.
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    Everywhere one turns in this garden there are lots of what we call 'field stones'. These are glacial erratics left by the retreating glaciers from the last Ice Age. They vary in size from pebbles to very large and heavy boulders. I have made quite a few features using them. Needless to say I was pleased to find these large ones and dug them out.
    The hole was filled with some of the rubble and covered over with top soil and the membrane laid down. I used the smaller boulders to edge the path.
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    Then I turned my attention to the other paths. These were easier as they only involved removing unwanted plants, leveling and so on.
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    I even managed to gravel one section of path. The beds on either side will be left for a while for any weed seeds to germinate and for the couch grass roots which I missed when digging to regrow so that they can be removed.
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    A few more of the boulders did turn up whilst digging over this bed and making the other paths.
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    Now I turned my attention to the bed on the right of the path from the Arbor to the Pergola. This was never a very successful bed, except for a large Bamboo and a very tall Miscanthus. These separate the bed from the Gazebo in the Grass. When I began to dig down I found the reason for the poor growth. There was only about 4 to 6 inches of soil over a solid concrete floor.
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    A choice! Leave it where it is and put a foot of soil on top or remove the top 12 inches of the concrete and replace with soil or remove the lot. That is when it became a job too far.
    We decided that the best option was to remove the foundations from round the edge as it was obvious that there were more boulders used in their construction.
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    I did treat myself to a 5 feet long wrecking bar and it came in very handy too. After a fair amount of hard labour the foundations were removed down to the subsoil.
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    As you can see I did not need to go all the way along as there was a good 12 inches of soil over part of the area and the kind of plants we intend to use do not need a great depth of soil.
    There were some really nice boulders, but a lot of brick rubble. Many of the bricks were hand made Tudor ones. Sadly most of them were too damaged to be saved, Strangely enough I found very little evidence of people living here, only one piece of clay pipe for instance and next to no broken pottery. This we found very odd as the rest of the garden is littered with bits of broken china.
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    Eventually I ended up with a trench. It was useful to be able to see that the concrete was laid on top of loose rubble, so removing the concrete would not be too hard and would leave a permeable layer over which I could put a good depth of soil.
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    Next I cleared the soil from above the concrete, back to the Bamboo and Miscanthus. They are in a good depth of soil and we want them to stay so they were not disturbed, except to remove the Bamboo shoots which were spreading. There was actually less of an area of concrete than had appeared at first. It stops at the soil on the left and right of the picture.
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    Now all I had to do was break up and remove the concrete.
    Luckily much of the concrete was badly cracked so I had little difficulty removing it.
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    There is a lot of it though.
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    As I suspected under the concrete was a layer of broken brick and sand. However, under that was a brick floor. We think that the concrete was a later addition as when these houses were built the standard was an earth floor.
    I removed the brick layer. Some of them were in really good condition.
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    The larger pieces of broken brick and rubble I collected up and put in bags. The rest I raked out level. The useful bricks I stacked elsewhere. We always seem to need a few bricks around the garden.
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    The soil which I dug out at the beginning I now was able to spread out over the whole area, covering the rubble.
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    At last we could begin construction instead of destruction. The first layer of rocks was placed and the largest ones rolled into position at the back of the area.
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    And layer upon layer.
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    Once we were happy with the rocks and they were steady it was time to begin adding soil. I have a large mound of top soil available, so no problems there. It took about a ton to fill up the spaces between the layers.
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    Finally I put some small pebbles in front of the lowest row, just to complete the path.
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    The new Alpine growing area will be left fallow until Spring so that any seed weeds etc. can be dealt with. Also the soil will settle and probably need to be added to. The final layer of gravel will be added then.
    Now all I need to do is the remove the bags of rubble, clean up the membrane and gravel the paths. Oh, and get rid of this lot!
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  3. Sjoerd

    Sjoerd Mighty Oak

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    Well...what an excellent posting this time, Palustris. I can't tell you how much I enjoyed this one.
    I suppose it is because I like doing things like this myself, although I have never encountered such underlying archaeology in my little jobs.
    You really had to bot your back into this project, didn't you. Chapeau!

    The path and border adjustments were all interesting as was the fundaments that you discovered and dealt with...but the thing that i was the most interested ion was that last segment--the tiered alpine area. It is difficult for me to determine the percentage of incline on a foto, but it does look like a little hill there. I shall be interested to see how this develops over the months. Hopefully you will come back to this place and show what else you do to it.

    Thanks again for an enjoyable posting.
     
  4. eileen

    eileen Resident Taxonomist Staff Member Moderator Plants Contributor

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    Eric just looking at all the hard work you're putting in is giving me backache!! :eek:
    I have to admit though that it's well worth doing and the paths are going to look great once they're finished. Widening them was an excellent idea as it not only makes walking on them easier but it gives a much better look to the garden. I can see that by removing all the boulders and bricks (and then placing them properly) that you've created a lovely spot for the new alpine bed.
    Once you've got rid of the remaining rubble and have gravelled you'll have a real feeling of satisfaction I'm sure. Do let us see more photographs when the job on the paths is finished and when you plant up the bed next year.
    Oh, by the way, I really like the look of that bench!! :-D
     
  5. cherylad

    cherylad Countess of Cute-ification Plants Contributor

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    That was very educational. My back is hurting from just reading about all that work. I, too, can't wait to see it filled in with plants/flowers.
     



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  6. Palustris

    Palustris Young Pine

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    And by the way I started on September 8th. and only worked on fine days when we did not go gallivanting off. You do not know just how much pleasure it has given me to be able to work again after waiting 6 months for the bone in my big toe to begin to set.
    The slope from the path upwards is only about a foot up in 16 feet so not particularly steep. Most of the rocks were badly covered in lime mortar which is extremely hard to clean off, which is why all but the tops were buried. Normally I would have left more of the surface exposed as decoration.
     
  7. toni

    toni Mistress of Garden Junque Staff Member Moderator Plants Contributor

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    Wow, what a lot of work and a really great result. Less than a month, huh, that would have taken me a lifetime!!

    We need to put in a French Drain in our backyard, are you busy next month? ;)
     
  8. Droopy

    Droopy Slug Slaughterer Plants Contributor

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    I found the process very interesting, and am glad you showed it. :stew2: A lot of work, I'm sure, but with such lovely result I think it's all worth it. Please, may I come and walk on your paths some time?
     
  9. Netty

    Netty Chaotic Gardener Plants Contributor

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    Thanks for sharing your hard work with us, I really enjoyed reading about it. I can't wait to see the end result.
     
  10. Palustris

    Palustris Young Pine

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    Almost finished now.
    A smaller alpine growing area.
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    Almost there, just a short length of path left to cover with gravel and a little tidying up.
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  11. Netty

    Netty Chaotic Gardener Plants Contributor

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    That looks fabulous! Your garden seems to be well hidden in every direction by other gardens Palustris ... how large is it?
     
  12. leafylady

    leafylady New Seed

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    I love seeing this excavation and construction.
     
  13. Palustris

    Palustris Young Pine

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    The garden is just under an acee and on three sides there are fields. On the fourth side is our only neighbours garden. What you see in the pctures are bit of the rest of the garden.
     
  14. cherylad

    cherylad Countess of Cute-ification Plants Contributor

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    That is looking fantastic! Your hard work truly has paid off.
     
  15. Droopy

    Droopy Slug Slaughterer Plants Contributor

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    How much do you cost per hour I wonder? :D I'm so looking forward to seeing it all when you've planted it up.
     
  16. Palustris

    Palustris Young Pine

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    I get paid in kind.







    She is often quite kind to me!
     

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