Kelly Memorial Garden

There is a quiet place next to the garage that has been asking for a garden for some years. It is one of the only places near the house that is sheltered from the view and noise of the road, tucked away in a corner. Yet it also is atop the retaining wall, with a commanding view of the busy space that is the raised garden, back patio, chicken coop, and hops. It’s exactly the sort of place Kelly liked, out of the eyes of watching neighbors, yet in control.

When I set out to build a garden here, Kelly’s death was still rather fresh – and well, still is. I decided to build it around various symbolic elements, reflecting on her life. This garden is now complete, mostly, after on and off work for two months. It doesn’t look like much, being now the edge of winter, with young small plants, but great things are expected.

First and second drafts of the garden plan. The second is to scale.

Firstly, Kelly was never much of a plant person, and while not complaining over much about being put to work on the farm, never voluntarily set out to plant plants. So what kind of garden do you make for a person who doesn’t like plants?

Well, luckily, Kelly also had oriental elements in her life, most prominently her study of Chinese, giving me an idea.

Garden after the first attempt at raking – using a pitchfork. Practice is needed.

I give you, the zen garden.

Complete with boulder (a purchase of mom’s) and a bench (a memorial bench from our Aunt Connie). Hopefully it will be supplemented eventually with potted maple trees – if any of the maple seedlings I potted survive.

This was built by my dad (at my cost), and as with all of his excavations, was significantly over-engineered. It features packed clay (existing sub-soil), a layer of geotextile, a layer of inch and a half rock (fives inches), a layer of class five gravel (packed, five inches), a water permeable membrane, and then several inches of pea gravel.

This photo was taken once upon a time, in the long forgotten past, that is, when it was actually warm outside.

Another theme is mathematics. Kelly was a math major, after all. Both of the back ‘corners’ of the above zen garden are shaped in a log(x) curve. Well, they were initially marked in that shape, but the normal movement of dirt during excavation, and the uncooperative edging, led them to being more an approximation than an exact log. Additionally, the entry path is a half-circle, also in the mathematical line.

Here you can see most of the garden, unplanted. This shot was taken facing east.

We will have to see how the PVC pipes inserted in the zen garden look once the plants planted in them fill out. Currently half are filled and they have some giant allium, a lily, and a heather plant. I may remove them if they continue to look hideous.

The soil in the garden is heavy clay – fertile, but so heavy it suffocates/drowns/rots many plants. Where the soil in the front has been amended is the area where the bulbs have been planted. Lilies, giant allium, crocus, and a mix of botanical/species tulips all from Fedco. The very front most part of that section will be annuals. The second quarter of the same circle is currently planted with hosta. A small rhododendron has been planted there, as well as another on the opposing side.

Botanical tulips arrayed for planting.

The back corners of the zen garden are planted with fern, on the right, and with an American Bittersweet (‘Autumn Revolution’) on the left to grow up the wall. The left side also has some pre-existing asters that I will probably remove. It also has a few botanical tulips added in (in maroon and gold, our colors at the U of M), and will eventually have something more once I decide what that will be.

Growing up the 9 feet or so of retaining wall, toward the garden from below, is a honeysuckle I planted earlier this summer.

Some more planting is yet needed, as will be some adjustment once things fill out. The biggest problem with the gardening is the edging used, it doesn’t hold a shape well, and the stakes used to support it don’t work at all with the hard-packed gravel base that dad prepared.

No poltergeist activity occurred during the making of the garden, so Kelly must surely approve.

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