The “Garden Room”: Renovation

It’s been about 15 years since the bricks went down inside our fenced magnolia tree garden room — fifteen years for the bricks to mellow into lime-green moss overlaying blackened red brick and for the magnolia to wiggle up through all the holes in the brick. It was a good idea, but over time, the charm of the lime green moss became the fear of falling, particularly as the magnolia has gotten impatient with just fingering the bricks and has begun to heave them mightily.

The photo above was taken some years ago, but already you can see the bricks being pushed up by the big root coming straight at the little window off to the south.

I thought this photo evoked the sense of aging beauty and dangerous slime; the pile of rocks in the middle forms the base of the drop from the downspout, originally a chain, but now truncated to just below the roofline.

So, when the sun came out a few days ago (and as I slipped a bit going to the gate), Jer decided it was time for the bricks to go. He was tired of scrubbing them, trying to rid them of slippery moss. And he didn’t want to add anything toxic to the soil, like the commercial anti-moss products. Besides the tree wasn’t about to stop its flinging aside of bricks in its pursuit of getting bigger.

So here’s the process:

Jer pried up the bricks, tearing them from the magnolia’s grip, and laid down landscape cloth. Then he began to place gravel for the main path to the house and basement stairs. About the time he realized he needed some kind of border (and he was firmly set against using bricks) neighbor Jim appeared and saved the day with some curved lathe that he said he had left over from a job.

My contribution was to suggest the curve of the borders; Jer decided to vary the texture of the bark dust, from nuggets to finer stuff.  The paths aren’t as large as the camera insists on making them here.

Jer left the down spout area intact, for the rain to nibble at merrily.  And now that the bark dust is down, we will turn that space into a pot garden, pots as in terra, of course, appropriate for old hippies and the hip replacement crowd. We’re thinking of planting pots with monkshood and aconite, and perhaps some caladium for color in pots from Little Baja — our favorite terra-cotta treasure, just up the street. –June

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7 Responses to The “Garden Room”: Renovation

  1. June says:

    Thanks, Tani. If I ever get my act together enough to get back to blogging, I’ll post some photos. His plants are looking good — the area is so densely shaded that our 90+ degree heat didn’t get to the plants. He’s also misting them regularly, of course, and patting them on the head at least twice a day. The temps are now (July 10) back down where they should be in Portland — I figure it just took the weather folks a while to figure out how to get the settings right. It should be 76 and sunny tomorrow — perfect.

    Our mosquito population was invaded by the dreaded Floodwater variety; very different from the laid-back mellow Portland natives. That’s given us something else to kvetch about –snort —


  2. Tani says:

    Very chivalrous of Jere! Looking through my vacation photos, I realized that there is a LOT of moss in Washington and Oregon . . . one of these states should adopt it as the state plant/fungus/? . . . yes, I’m too lazy to look up the type of species that would categorize moss and slime.

    Can’t wait to see what this looks like with the addition of potted plants. My potted plants in PA are attempting to shrivel up and die under the duress of the heat that we’ve been experiencing. You’ve created a space, I think, that would elicit positive comments from a master Japanese gardner. I love the organic textures and clean shapes.


  3. june says:

    Jer just came back from a second trip to Little Baja. Don’t go if you’re in a hurry — they are a bit feckless. And indeed, you can double up your errands by hitting Columbia Art at the same time. C.A. isn’t open on Sundays, though, whereas L.B. was.

    And Sheila, this is a magnolia that’s happy — it’s grown at least 20 feet since we moved in — granted some time ago. We think it could slow down its enthusiasm a bit — the bricks didn’t do a thing for that….


  4. Reva Basch says:

    Ooh, must check out Little Baja. It’s right across from Columbia Art Supply, isn’t it? I’ve parked in front of it but never gone in.


  5. Barbara says:

    Safer and more lovely. Enjoy


  6. janetl says:



  7. Sheila says:

    The magnolia looks MUCH happier surrounded by bark.


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