October Bloom Day

Marigolds
Marigolds
My attempts at creating a stone mosaic in the Secret Garden.
My attempts at creating a stone mosaic in the Secret Garden.

And the middle of the month is upon us.  The garden is winding down but I’m celebrating my new brick pathways.  I’m gradually replacing the rocks that used to line the crushed limestone paths, but were used in some of the stone mosaics in the pathways.

The new brick and field stone entrance to the Secret Garden. Note the single white clematis bloom a the lower left.
The new brick and field stone entrance to the Secret Garden. Note the single white clematis bloom a the lower left.
Where the two paths diverge, a stone and brick flower...
Where the two paths diverge, a stone and brick flower…

The marigolds are the true champions of October.  Though the ones in front of the boxwood hedge did poorly this year, the marigolds I planted near the back door and in front of the Secret Garden are lush.  And, the Honorine Jobert anemones are still blooming.  The nameless pink anemones are done and I’ll be cutting them back soon.

The fruit from the kousa dogwood is ripe and falling onto my new brick paths.  The flies and bees are thick around the smashed fruit.  I’m surprised I don’t see more birds and squirrels in the tree.  The fruit is sweet and edible and I keep thinking I should try making a jam out of it.  I wonder why more people don’t harvest and eat the fruit.

Do scroll down to earlier posts to see more pictures of the pathways.  And please click on the video I made using stills of the garden.

Honorine Joubert anemone
Honorine Joubert anemone
The weird and edible Kousa dogwood fruit.
The weird and edible Kousa dogwood fruit.

And the Pathways Begin

My wonderful neighbors brought the large center stone back from a trip out east where it sat in a stream that ran below a wooden covered bridge.  It is now at the entrance of the Secret Garden.  Surrounding it are Petoskey Stones that I picked up on a beach in Leland, Michigan.
My wonderful neighbors brought the large center stone back from a trip out east where it sat in a stream that ran below a wooden covered bridge. It is now at the entrance of the Secret Garden. Surrounding it are Petoskey Stones that I picked up on a beach in Leland, Michigan.

When I first envisioned a Secret Garden in my very urban back yard, I saw brick pathways and green walls, or, actually, English manor-type stone walls with ivy.  I knew the stone walls weren’t going to happen.  A friend suggested I plant dutchman’s pipe on wooden supports and soon after that I hired a handyman to put up the supports.  My friend didn’t mention that dutchman’s pipe is very invasive and that I would need to spend a lot of time just keeping it in check.  I do that, not gladly, but with the understanding that if I do not regularly pull up new vines, I would have nothing but dutchman’s pipe growing in the Secret Garden.

This little medallion marks the spot where the two paths in the Secret Garden diverge. At the top is the entrance to the garden.
This little medallion marks the spot where the two paths in the Secret Garden diverge. At the top is the entrance to the garden.

That same friend suggested I put in crushed limestone pathways because the materials were inexpensive.  And, along with that suggestion came his offer to help put those pathways in. That offer sealed the deal and within a few weeks I had lovely crushed limestone pathways and the basic bones of the Secret Garden.

But this summer, around mid-July, the idea of brick pathways bubbled up again.  It was always hard the keep the shredded bark out of the limestone, and the limestone out of the shredded bark even though there were bricks and rocks along the edges of the pathways.  And, even though the limestone sat atop a layer of landscape fabric, there were always some weeds that took root among the tiny stones.  And, stray cats seemed to find the limestone particularly inviting.

So I called a landscaper.  He came and took some measurements. We talked about brick color, and I thought by the end of the summer I would have perfectly presentable brick pathways.  But then I mentioned my idea to a good friend who lives in Maine who just happens to be unemployed this fall.  She had installed brick pathways in a garden she once had in Michigan and said that if I flew her to Grand Rapids, she would install the pathways.  I jumped at the chance.  I wondered how I would explain to the landscaper that I was no longer interested, but he never got back to me with an estimate.  And, the friend who suggested the dutchman’s pipe and the crushed limestone had a neighbor who needed to get rid of about 1400 bricks that had once been a retaining wall.  A few weeks later, the bricks arrived at my house.  And a few days ago my friend from Maine arrived.

This path leads to a circular sitting area where I had a table and chairs.
This path leads to a circular sitting area where I had a table and chairs.
The large circular area is starting to emerge.  I'm thinking that the table and chairs should go somewhere else and that I should put the curved teak bench and a couple of teak chairs here.
The large circular area is starting to emerge. I’m thinking that the table and chairs should go somewhere else and that I should put the curved teak bench and a couple of teak chairs here.

Because I have always been in love with rocks, my friend from Maine, who has been given free creative license, decided to use both stones and bricks.  I saw some stone mosaics online that she found particularly inspiring and so the project began. We are learning as we go, about design and materials.  For example, we now know that we should not use very small stones.  The design gets too busy.  So, the early work that my friend did will probably have to be redone.  Plus, I now know what polymeric sand is and that mortar works far better than cement for stone mosaics.  I’ve learned I can carry four bricks at a time and that it takes a lot of trips to move 1400 bricks.  I’ve learned that sand weighs a lot and I’m not as young as I used to be.  But the walkways are beautiful and all the more special because my friend from Maine laid each brick and rock.

This afternoon we decided that the little table and chairs that sit in the circular area in the back of the garden should go elsewhere and that the curved teak bench in the entrance garden would be a lovely addition to the flowing brick and stone circle that is gradually emerging.  I think one of the things I love about this project is that nothing is planned out.  My friend doesn’t know what she will do next.  She just feels her way along, letting the bricks and stones and pathways guide her.  There’s a metaphor here.

Another view of the sitting area and the "movement" of the bricks.
Another view of the sitting area and the “movement” of the bricks.
The stones and meandering bricks create a lovely sense of movement.
The stones and meandering bricks create a lovely sense of movement.