I've been at this gardening thing long enough to know that our interests wax and wane. It's not always full steam ahead all the time, and that's okay. However, occasionally a project falls outside that normal pattern of intense interest and casual indifference. A project that drags on longer than you ever would have thought possible, this is such a project.
In late May of 2021 I wrote about some "found" space I had in which to garden, sharing photos like this, of the SW corner of our property—read that link to get the backstory on why this space hadn't previously been planted.
Just six days after that post was published I broke my ankle.
Two days before I broke my ankle Andrew and had gone to Vinje's Sheet Metal and bought these three pieces of ducting from their "to be recycled" pile—they were cast-offs from a job and exactly what I was looking for. The pieces on top of the ducting tubes came later (this photo was taken in late May 2022) as I was paying around with ways to cap the tubes and make a lightweight planter.
Last summer I was so frustrated that I had the vision, the metal tubes, but couldn't do anything to move this project forward for months. Once I was cleared to start walking again—in late July '21—that didn't mean I was really walking again. It took months for me to to feel sure footed enough to climb back in this corner and work on uneven ground. By then it was late fall and I had other garden work to focus on. I thought I'd be able to start working out here again in late winter/early spring of this year, but since our spring was unusually wet, I wasn't back out here working until May—a full year later!
While I could have planted a tree, or a couple large shrubs, in the newly opened corner, that wasn't what I wanted. From the start I knew I would raise the plants up on tall metal tubes (hence the ducting) to mirror the bromeliad planters behind the garage, on the opposite side of this area of the garden...
And so on May 25th, 2022, I was finally back out there cleaning up the leaves and other assorted debris (this area had been a bit of a dumbing ground, for years) and digging! Each of the tall pieces of ducting were dug into place and then three pieces of rebar pounded into the ground to help keep the ducts upright should something (balls from the neighbors yard for example) come in contact.
This same method has worked for years with the bromeliad tubes, but they're shorter and not balancing a 48 pound concrete slab on top. Yes that's right, I wanted to use these tubes as pedestals, and so I bought a couple 18" square slabs, smaller versions of the 24" slabs that make up our patio.
Remember the second photo from the top? With the metal planter shapes, like the one below?
That was my "brilliant" idea to reduce the weight load, I could use those metal pieces to hide a plastic nursery pot. They'd look planted, but they wouldn't be—so much lighter and easier to change up! However the squirrels (racoons? bears?) had other ideas, and let me know right away they'd be throwing those light pots right to the ground, even with a plant in place. Dammit.
I used plastic tubing (sliced open and worked around the edge) at the top of the ducts before placing that 48 lb slab on top.
It's squishy and a little grippy.
Slabs in place!
Since using the metal planter covers over plastic pots was no longer an option, I went "shopping" in the garage for planters I already owned that I could use instead. I went with chartreuse pots and filled one with Platinum Beauty™ Lomandra—wondering if it would be kicked off the top within a day or two. Thankfully it's heavy and that hasn't happened yet!
I decided the shorter tube would act as a planter and hold a large pot of Hedera colchica 'Sulphur Heart', then I took advantage of the space—and a ground plane that was hidden from all but the most prying of eyes—and dug in a spot where I could tuck the not-hardy Trevesia palmata (Snowflake Aralia), making it super easy to lift in the fall and move under cover. Because I LOVE those leaves!
A friend (this guy) had given me a large clump of aspidistra that I divided and placed in the ground at the base of tubes.
Another friend had offered up chunks of an astelia she's removed, they also found their way into the mix, along with some saxifraga I divided from elsewhere in my garden and a Mahonia x sevillana I brought home from a visit to the Miller Garden last fall.
A large pot in front of the corner stock-tanks became home for another chunk of an astelia from Lance Wright's garden. A plant that had also been kicking around the garden, looking for a home, since the ankle break upended things.
But let's get back to the tall tubes and what I've decided to put on top of them! When the fine folks at the Sunset Western Plant Collection offered to send me the lomandra, it was with this project in mind that I said yes. However once it was in place, I didn't love it.
On the second pedestal I tried an Agave bracteosa. I had been considering an agave and went with this one because 1) I already had it, and 2) this agave doesn't seem to mind a bit of shade.
Then I decided I needed more pots...
And then I had the opportunity to purchase this nice variegated Agave bracteosa, so...
Out with the lomandra, in with the agave and friends! However...
Did you spot the lomandra still in the picture? Back in April when Marcia Donahue visited my garden she noticed the three tall pieces of ducting in the corner and we talked a bit about my plans for them. She observed there was actually room for a couple more. At the time I thought, "nah...that's not what I have in mind." But you know what? She was right. The space NEEDED a couple more tall planters.
Interestingly I happened to have two metal pieces a neighbor had given me. I don't know what they were in their prior life—not ducting as they have bottoms, and a lip around the top edge—but this one worked right into the design, and all for the low, low price of free. The lomandra helps to obscure the view through the fence...
Better! But then I noticed there was a bit of an empty spot to the right...
And so the second free piece from the neighbor was pulled into service. Bonus; that keeps the numbers odd (five as opposed to four), which is always a good thing.
The final planter is holding a fabulous clump of Pyrrosia sheareri that also came from my friend Lance Wright. He's (sadly) selling his house and garden and moving away from Portland. A huge loss for the gardening community here.
The pyrrosia is magnificent.
The small pots sitting with the variegated agave were planted up with a couple of begonias, a B. semperflorens ‘Harmony Plus White' (a gift plant from last summer that I managed to over-winter without even trying), and a NOID. I didn't get a label with the second, it jumped into my cart simply because of those big dark leaves.
I love the combination of dark foliage with the bright chartreuse.
The black pot next to the other agave was filled with a Trachelospermum asiaticum 'Ogon Nishiki'. I have a couple others of this plant around the garden and love it's crazy color combination, especially when the orange new growth is more evident.
I have considered rubbing down the concrete slabs with a little soil, to start the aging process—they're a little bright for my eyes at the moment. But I suppose that will change with time, with no help from me.
Oh and check this out... the Lomandra 'Platinum Beauty' is blooming! I knew this was a perennial, not a grass, but I was still surprised to see the flowers.
The large stock tank in front of the tall planters contains a tall Tetrapanx papyrifer (that's it's trunk you see), a pair of Schefflera delavayi (one short, one a tall stick that I hard-pruned earlier this spring), a trio of ostrich ferns (Matteuccia struthiopteris) that I'm hoping will be happy and get huge, and a lot of Acorus gramineus 'Ogon'.
I'm sure the plants in the corner will change over time, in fact I'm already thinking about changing out the pair of Agave bracteosa for a wider leaf agave that will make more of a statement. Or maybe I'll decide to plant right on the slabs, a sort of built up fern table-like planting.
Like the project that went on and on, with no end in sight, this post has gotten to be much longer than I intended. But for now, the important thing is that after year and two months I have finally seen this project through to completion. Hallelujah!
All material © 2009-2022 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.