Sunday, October 6, 2013

How my allée came to bee

I've recently started referring to the side yard here and there as the Abeille Allée and I wanted to explain a little further. I'm a huge francophile. HUGE. I started taking French in 7th grade and it was love at first sight. I continued through high school, minored in it in college, and studied abroad in Paris during my junior year. I long to be a Parisienne and I Frenchify everything in my life. Naturally, I can't then just have an English name for part of my garden. Mais non! It has to be in French.

When my back yard was cut in half (see post about it here) and the amount of space I had to garden was therefore reduced, I turned to the side yard to expand upon my garden. I had a couple of bushes and some leftover daylilies there, but it was just a means to travel from the front to the back.

Before

Last year, however, I dug out a small bed on the side in the hopes of starting to realize my vision of a curved bed where you can't quite see around the corner, and then eventually and suddenly, you're in the back yard and a whole new "room". I even have an entire Pinterest board named "Jardin - Paths" (see how I Frenchified the name?) to inspire me.

Summer of 2012

As you can see in the photo above, I only dug out about 2 feet. It was enough to put my free Eastern redbud tree and the new plugs I had bought with some neighbors. It's difficult to tell in the photo but there's quite a downhill slope. It's very, very gradual at the beginning (lower right corner) but gets significantly steeper at the end (toward my neighbor's car). I was concerned about water runoff and wasn't sure if this would be a runny, muddy mess. The slope also poses a challenge because the pathway has to be pretty narrow, unless I send visitors meandering on the hill.

Luckily, last summer showed that the new garden bed wasn't a mess but it clearly needed to be expanded.

Back to front: You can see me using the hose to outline where to dig
Front to back

And so I worked on it, little by little, foot by foot, starting this summer. The process was very slow due in part because I insisted on hand digging everything (like an ass) and there was also minimal room in which to throw away my sod piles. I kept imagining that the garbage men were going to turn away my garbage cans for being too heavy!

Early summer 2013. Slow. 
Mid-summer 2013. Still slow. 

It was roughly around the time that the photo above was taken that it came to me - what to call this garden! See, after reading this great post by Laurrie, I'd been pondering what to name my gardens. I mean, Front, Back, and Side Yard are all super creative and memorable names but I felt like there was a little something missing. Well, on my hands and knees digging out sod I noticed the incredible number of bees on the flowers, particularly the St. John's Wort and the Nepeta siberica. In French, bee is "abeille". And though an allée is often, in the gardening world, a straight path with tall trees on either side, it also means "pathway" or "walk". Abeille allée just came together perfectly and with little thought - it had to be the new name for Side Yard.

The project was abandoned during the high humidity days of July and the frenetic busy-ness of August. Luckily, last month Neighbor M brought home a small rototiller. Realizing it would take me until 2017 to complete this project by hand, I went to town digging out the rest of the grass. It took me all of 30 minutes, and that includes the 6 times I had to restart the machine. With all of that new space, I then went on a shopping spree at my local garden store - they finally put their buy one, get one sign up AND they had a whole table of $3 plants that looked sorry but just needed some TLC.

Hooray for autumn sales!
Pre-planting spree. The path is (mostly) complete. 

Finally, when J and I went to visit my parents in New England a couple of weeks ago, my mom and I took a little trip to the very helpful Cranesbill Nursery, where they helped me pick out three different shrubs that would not grow too wide (a problem in a narrow garden). I also came home with another peony and a bunch of divisions from my mother's garden. Within twenty minutes of getting home from that trip I was planting everything in the ground. Who needs to unpack luggage? I have bushes to save!

Back to front: The new bushes and plants are in the ground.
Front to back.

The curve of the path is not at all as dramatic as I'd hoped, but I'm pretty limited by the slope of the hill in places. I still need to define the path's edges and then lay out some stones or add some pavers, but that will have to wait until after marathon season is over. I'd also like to finally replace the old, rotted arbor that we took out in 2009-ish to define the entrance to the Allée at the front, but that too will have to wait until J feels like helping me install some concrete post supports.

I have hope that by this time next year, some of the plants will be overflowing on to the path and the bushes will be a lot taller, making it more of an "oooh what's around that curve?!" situation.

(I do intend to make a separate post about all of my new plants, if for nothing else than so I can remember what I have and where!)

13 comments:

  1. I think it looks great. :o) I started naming all the sections of my garden several years ago to help me keep them straight and tend to change the names as my garden changes. I'm a sucker for fall sales. I just can't pass up a cheap plant. What shrubs did you buy?

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    1. Thank you! Stay tuned for the shrub post (aka a copout since I need to go home and check the tags).

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  2. I can't wait to hear more about your plants!!

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    1. Thanks! I'm really excited about them.

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  3. That's a lot of work. And I completely see your vision! It's going to be a beautiful, French pathway by this time next year.

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    1. I'm glad someone can see my vision!

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  4. This is my favorite kind of post -- seeing a thought process, watching the slow development of the idea, following the progress, and then getting a peek at what the final garden will look like. And the fact that you had obstacles (like the slope and the narrowness) made it a really interesting challenge.

    And thanks for referring back to my post on naming garden spaces!! I think your name is perfect - The Bee's Allee, only in French : )

    You garden like I do. I also am creating paths for the eye, defining long spaces that I like to think of as allees to partition off the yard. And I do it like you do, way too narrow to start, lots of hand digging, slow progress that takes a long time. And then help in the end!

    Can't wait to read about the plants that have gone into Abeille Allee. I am liking the shape and the way the eye is drawn to the corner. Nice job.

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    1. Thank you! For the first time I was really able to "see" what I wanted the final product to look like, so that helped as I worked. Feel free to come help me create a rock wall now ;)

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  5. I love your Allee. The plants installed last summer have come a long way in one year, and you got a great selection of new plants. Only last year, on our first trip to France, I discovered my inner Francophile. Though I did suggest during the anti-French Iraq war hysteria that the creation of a Fair Play for France Committee whose focus would be the consumption of French wine. Anyhow, now I wish I could go there every year, and am looking into applying for political asylum.

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    1. Thank you! They have come a long way, so I'm hoping next year will be even more lush. May I join your FPFC? The French winemakers need our support.

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    2. Welcome to the FPFC, sister! Ours is a noble cause, and one that requires unceasing efforts.

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  6. Am I nuts for saying that this looks like it was fun? And I can already tell it's going to look fanatastic when it's done. French wine, French desserts - both great. My only problem with French things is that they are so hard to pronounce. What's with all those extra letters at the end of their words? Really.

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    1. It was sort of fun, except when it was super humid. Many of the extra letters at the end of French words are silent, so you can just forget they exist.

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