Spring Project I: The Pebbling!
Between the previous owner's dogs and last summer's construction, what was intended to be a verdant squared off curve of green grass around the pond was more like scrubby crapgrass (not a typo) and dirt mixed with the occasional sharp stone. I had two choices: baby along the grass, spread lots of grass encouragement, and buy sod OR remove all grass and put down an alternate surface. Naturally, I chose the harder, more expensive, and heavier labor option.
My initial plans for the pond included putting down pebbles and pavers along the long edge of the pond that faced the majority of the patio; to that extent, I had had 16 bags of pebbles (visible in the before picture below, taken during our hurricane remnant last year) delivered with the lumber and mulch and other supplies last fall.
I started out slow - I'd just line the two sides of the pond that faced the pation with peagravel, putting down pavers so I could feed the fish while barefoot, I thought, and create a geometical layered L look that I could live with. I conveniently ignored the fact that the worst grass (or lack of grass) problems were in the rocky clay soil in the L, I designated for grass. I killed the grass in the greener L, and headed off to the local garden centers to look at paving stones.
I needed something that would go with my patio - although it was concrete, it had been molded and tinted to resemble slate. I ended opting for some concrete masquerading as a grey stone. They were a few shades grayer, but they shared a similar surface texture. I already had two wide concrete slabs of a very similar finish that had been stepping stones outside each of the sliding glass doors. The pebbles that had been living on my patio for seven months would set them off nicely.
I put down landscaping fabric to prevent weeds poking through, and then started laying out the pavers I had bought (6 squares, 4 stretched "diamonds") and moving the heavy large slabs around. After spending an afternoon moving pavers around, I found a layout I liked. The next day I started opening and dumping bags of gravel around the stones. In what would become a theme of this project, I ran out of gravel with more than a third of the L left to go. Off I trundled for more gravel.
When I got home with 10 more 50lb bags of pebbles and had spread it out along the L, I noticed two things: I had laid them out too thinly in areas, and the new gravel didn't match the old pebbles, despite being from the same company and brand. The old stuff had been blanched out by the snow and hurricane and 6 months of idleness on my patio. The new stuff was browner and sandier than I had initially planned. I was going to have to blend it.
Then I took another step back and decided I wasn't happy with the other L, and that I should cover those with pebbles and pavers, too. That'd significantly cut down on the number of things that'd require mowing (always good; my mower is off to college next year), and I wouldn't develop an obsession about making my grass grow to my standards. I neglected to think about the fact I'd already spread more than a ton of pebbles over less than half of the area that'd be eventually pebbled.
Still, I went ahead and killed that grass, and headed off to load my car up with more pebbles and more pavers. Because I was still in denial, I didn't get nearly enough pebbles (not that that much would have fit in my car), and the cool stretched diamonds (whose layout I wanted to mimic on the three other sides of the pnd) - had been taken off display the week before and were no longer being sold. Apparently I was the only person in the country who liked them. The manager took pity on me and loaded my square pavers and bags of pebbles into the car.
I put down more landscape fabric, put anchored it down, and went about arranging and rearranging the pavers. I moved old ones, shifting some, and moving the heavy large ones (4 feet by 2 feet by 4 inches) multiple times. I went back and got more pebbles and more pavers. There was more rearrangement. Ultimately, I decided to be very geometric and orderly for 3 sides of the pond; on the fourth (the far, long side between the future vegetable bed and the pond; the largest area that needed pebbling), I went for something slightly more whimsical - I laid the stones out in what I refer to as the hopscotch pattern, culminating in the far corner with the geometic squareness suddenly gone haywire as several squares are turned on their radii in an odd curve.
I started pouring gravel around the stones. In addition to being wider, the far wall also required a deeper layer to even out the path of pavers somewhat. It will come as no surprise that I ran out of pebbles again. In fact, I had to make 2 more trips before I could finish the pebbling. By the time I had finished, I had laid more 4000 pounds of pebbles down in my backyard over the course of a two month span. My back still isn't speaking to me, but my cat likes it.
I put on the final touches this weekend - I used the last 3 bags of pebbles to help me blend the old pebbles in with the new so the contrast wouldn't be jarring. I used several handfuls around the dragon's breath and ice plants I planted in the triange shape formed by the extended diamonds.
These pictures show the current state of my back patio - I brought out all of my house plants into the patio this weekend, took my various loungers out of storage and got a start on the practical bed at the back of the garden - I planted strawberries and the blackberry plant next to the lower patio and climatis and bleeding heart along the wall. Later in the spring, I'll plant tomatoes and zuchini and peppers and whatever ever my whim demands.
I planted some summer-blooming perennial bulbs (allium, bitterroot, a salvia relative, cone flowers) in the flower bed run amok; If my narcissus hadn't bloomed prematurely (in the middle of winter!), the bed'd be a perfect mass of color; I think I've set it up to get blooms straight through 'til fall. It'll be interesting to see if my plans work.
I moved my delicate water plants (papyrus and tarro) to the pond, and set up the kettlepot that had been holding them outside. When my fish start spawning, I'll use it as a nursery to avoid cannibalization.
In the front of the house, I planted some black eyed susans, more peonies, some phlox, and an iris; I have some small gladioli that I'm tenatively assigning there, but I think I need to add some filler annuals just for immediate color.
I have one final piece of advice: if you ever want to pebble a large expanse, get teh pebbles delivered!