2008 - Open to visitors ? - Nope
June 2 2008 was destined
to become a milestone in the Hosta Mill
Not only would I reach the blessed age of 50; we considered this symbolic date the ideal moment to open up the garden to the public.
To my wife "open tot the public" meant throwing a garden warming party with family and friends. To me it means I finally have the opportunity to invite other hosta and garden lovers for a visit to the collection.
In order to get everything ready in time a lot had
to be done during the first half of the year. Fortunately I did
have an extra free day every week for 15 months, starting in January.
You may wonder how this is possible. Well, it's one of the benefits of living in a country with an almost perfect social security system. In order to combat unemployment, the Belgian Government offers working people the opportunity to work 4 instead of 5 days a week. Of course you don't get paid for the extra day off, but you do get a small fee. For every 5 people that step into the system an extra job is created; you may have trouble believing this, but in the end it's cheaper than paying the dole for someone without a job.
This was an opportunity I took with both hands. Not only to have more time to spend in the garden, but it gave me some extra time for the kids and I could start preparing the major renovation of the house, planned for the near future.
To make my blessings complete I managed to find a gardener who would come and help out three days a month.
Call me naive, but I thought this would be more than enough to carry out our plans.
Winter was extremely mild this year, so a lot has already been done.
All hostas in pots had their spring cleaning: removing dead leaves and weeds; plants that have outgrown their pot got a new, larger container and all plants were topped with a fresh layer of shredded bark. Finally an area in the garden was completely cleaned and all pots were put there, waiting for things to come.
Time to tackle the next hurdle: the planting and pruning of trained trees, lime trees to be more specific.
I'd already bought 10 common, untrained trees last year. The only quality I looked for was that the branches had lots of braches that grew in opposite directions, left or right. I only needed those branches that grew in a flat plane; every branch that grew to the front or the back was removed. The trees were planted 5 meters apart, 5 on each side of the cobblestone path that runs from the edge of the house to the side entrance of the garden.
Last but not least I built a wooden support
frame. It's made of 4 m high square beams, interconnected with 5
layers of wooden rods, 30 cm apart. The beams are not in the soil
directly, there are long metal pins at the base. After the frame was finished,
more branches were pruned and the remaining were tied to the frame.
I believe such a structure is called a Belgian Fence in English.
My artistic talents are very limited, but I managed to produce a sketch that gives you an idea what the final result will look like.
Not only does a lane boarded by two Belgian fences add an architectural focal point to the garden, it also provides lots of shade and filters the harsh sunlight, ideal conditions for hostas.
I'm left with one major hurdle to take: the
landscaping of the hosta garden itself is a disaster.
Therefore we decided to start over, with a stone sitting terrace, shaded by a construction with 4 roof platanes.
The terrace itself will have an edge in hard baked clay bricks, the center will have a stabilized foundation covered with flat rounded grayish pebbles. The paths leading tot the terrace will be made with small cobblestones.
There has been a setback, major mayhem: just after the Belgian fences were finished, they were blown away during a nightly storm. Apparently the wooden structure caught to much wind, the metal ground anchors were bent and the whole thing collapsed. It was, on the other hand, a big relief the trees were all right; a lime tree can take quite a bit. In order to avoid those problems in the future, the beams are put in the ground and the wooden rods were replaced with thick plasticized metal wires.
The front yard is almost ready
A lot of hard work has been done over the past months. The front yard got a major overhaul, and a number of hostas have been planted out. The rest of them are in concrete containers.
You can not imagine how many dandelions can grow on such a small surface. Digging them up, root and all, was quite a job.
This is what it looks like now (end of May)
Two H. 'Blue Mammoth' in containers in front, with their very recognizable light blue color, that last very long.
Star of the front yard, in the center, is H. 'Valley's Cathedral', an extremely beautiful plant from Jeroen Linneman.
In the back, at the end of the pathway, in a very large concrete container that is buried halfway in the ground, a large H. 'Sum and Substance' is the perfect focal point. A real show stopper.
At the left in the back are two H. 'Blue Umbrellas'. The tree doesn't seem to do them any harm.
Although I'm not really a mini fan, there was one spot in the front yard that was destined to be the home to a small collection of them: next to front door. This is the result so far.
At the side of the house
This bed has been planted a couple of times before, but it seems like the design is finished at last. All of the hostas are solid colored, and some of them are a bit older, so they are a decent size.
Next to the house
Next to the fence, in between and in front of a row of Taxus baccata 'Fastigiata'. These trees are tough competition for the hostas, so keeping the soil balanced with loads of compost is required, and regular gifts of fertilizer.
Well, I managed to become 50; that was the simple part, just keep breathing. The garden, on the other hand, is far from ready. The patch where most of the hostas are to be planted out isn't ready at all, in fact, work still has to begin. The middle of summer is the worst time to buy companion and hedging plants, because they would all have to be container plants, very expensive. The sensible thing to do is wait until autumn and get bare root or field grown plants.
The decision is hard but inevitable: the opening of the garden has to be postponed for at least a year.
July - August
Here it is, the Hosta Garden to be. The roof platans are in place, but there are no terraces or paths yet.
The weeds that grow here are amongst the most difficult to eradicate: there are a couple of difficult root weeds:
- field horsetail (Equisetum arvense), a gardener's nightmare;
- couch grass (Elytrigia repens);
- common sorrel (Rumex acetosa);
- creeping bent (Agrostis stolonifera);
- stinging nettle (Urtica dioica);
and a dozen or so different seed weeds.
Early August: my neighbor, André Baeyens, professional landscaper, has started work on the terraces and cobblestone paths in the hosta patch. My job: hard labor. Riet: designer.
Everything is ready to put in a stabilized base for the central terrace.
The evening of the first day. The central terrace in front, a smaller paved area for a bench.
Finished. That looks a lot better.
A few more impressions: