We were blessed with yet another gorgeous autumn weekend here. I can't say enough about how wonderful the weather has been for most of this year, but I feel like we deserve it after two really cruddy years. I'm still gardening in shorts most of the time and I can't think that's common for this time of year at all.

In an effort to keep you up to date with the oval circle garden progress, I thought I'd just give you a quick peek at what was happening this weekend. Frankly, I'm in full-on scramble mode, so I've not been taking much time to take pictures (or do anything else, like clean my house), but I did snap a few here and there.

You can see how the paths are coming together here. The random cobblestones more or less show where the inner circle path will be.

The big project in the ongoing circle garden ordeal was to install the metal edging. As I mentioned, I found it at Lowe's for about $10 per 8-foot piece. I bought extra stakes that are a foot long and really much better than the ones that come with the edging. I didn't really even bother with those. I have also ordered some end stakes for the inside ends, but those should be easy to put in.

From this angle you can see that the two side segments are going to be quite small. I may have to alter the design to accommodate that.

Mr. Much More Patient was in charge of cutting using a jigsaw with a blade for cutting metal and I handled the rest. The process wasn't difficult .... just a matter of leveling each piece from end to end and then with its partner on the other side of the path. I didn't bother with leveling each path's edging to the other paths. That would be impossible and the gravel will accommodate small changes in level.

The next step will be to install the paver base and the gravel, but first I have to dig the inner path around the circle down a little bit.

As the paths become more real, I'm seeing that the side segments are quite small, which may require some changes to the design. Fortunately I have all winter to think about that.

I also spent a little time this weekend being thankful for whoever invented the bulb auger. Last spring Mr. MMP said he'd love to see the woods full of daffodils, and I told him that was no problem so long as he would help plant them. With him running the auger and me putting the bulbs in and covering them over, we cranked through 200 bulbs in less than half an hour. Earlier in the day I planted 45 alliums in an hour and a half using a traditional bulb planter. Clearly the auger is the way to go.

And the last exciting tidbit from the weekend is a find that I'm super excited about. I've been so thrilled with how the rose I'm growing in a container is performing that I decided I'd like to grow a few more that way. My plan is to put them on the corners of the driveway apron where it meets the patio, but of course this requires a pair of matching containers of some size.

Here's the pair of planters I snatched up at a great price. I'll need to change the color though.

Although I went to the Restoration Hardware outlet store looking for a bed (I really want an upholstered bed, but that is really another issue all together), I swung by their outdoor area and saw a matching pair of their Adamo cast stone planters in the medium (24-inch) size. These babies go for $369 each on the website (really, RH? You need to get real with your pricing!), but they were marked down to $100 each at the outlet, plus there was an additional 30% off of everything that day, making them just $70 each. The color, called Honey Lemon, is sort of a light buff color and not my favorite at all, but I think I'll be able to stain them a gray color. I can't tell you what a relief it is to have found these at a great price. I struggle each year to find good containers and I feel like I often overspend. I'm envisioning a white rose in each pot with annuals around the edge.

Oh, and my favorite maple tree is starting to put on a show. I shared this photo on Instagram because even people who aren't too happy about autumn, like me, can appreciate that kind of beauty.


Some weeks Friday it feels even better than usual when Friday rolls around. So it goes this week.

Some affiliate links may be used. This means that if you buy what I link to, I may get a small percentage of the purchase price. This helps support this blog and I very much appreciate it!

Before we kick off into Friday Finds, I wanted to tell you that Sharon was the lucky winner of the Daring Forms Allium collection from Longfield Gardens. Thanks to all of you who entered!

And with that, let's get on to what I'm digging on the Interwebs this week.

Deborah Silver does it again. This redesign of a driveway and stunningly mature-looking landscape is so simple but so spot on. How does she do it?

In case you find yourself with a bunch of green tomatoes (I wish! I had such tomato issues this year), here's what you should do with them.

Creative Vegetable Gardener photo
It's garlic planting time! Here's what kind you should be planting this year.

I'm a sucker for a good source roundup. I sort of collect them on Pinterest. Here's one on exterior lighting.

Available from The Purse Co. on Etsy.

I'm not a purse person, but I like to carry a small wristlet with the necessities in it. Every three years or so I wear one out and I go on a hunt for a new one. I love shopping at Etsy for these things because it's unlikely I'll see the same bag elsewhere. I just ordered this leather wristlet last week.

I'm obsessed with these food designs (I don't know what else to call this amazingness) from an Australian company called Your Platter Matters. Take your basic cheese platter and multiply it by the entire table. The pricing is by size: $389 AUS for a square meter. How cool is that? Check out their Instagram feed. I want to have a party just to try this. Of course it would take me five hours to do and by then everything would be uncomfortably warm.

One last thing:While I was shopping on Etsy, I came across this box. This cracks me up because for years one just like this (with the name of the county I grew up in) sat in our garage and was used for newspaper recycling. I wonder if it's still kicking around my parents' house.

Have a great weekend!


One thing that can be said for sort of tedious gardening tasks such as weeding or moving mass quantities of soil is that it gives you a lot of time to think. And over the last several weekends of working in the oval circle garden I've spent a lot of time reflecting on the mistakes I made there.

It was the first garden I designed from scratch so I give myself a big pass on a lot of things that went wrong there. It was also the first time I built paths, and more than anything else that I've learned from my mistakes in that garden, I learned a lot about how not to build paths.

So I'm going to save you from the anguish of a poorly constructed garden path and tell you exactly what you SHOULDN'T do.

The oval circle garden was cursed with poor design decisions from the get-go. The 16-paths were way too small and oddly curved when they didn't need to be.


This is a relatively small garden and when I created it, I was concerned I wouldn't have enough room for plants, so downsized the paths, to a paltry 16 inches wide. I suspect that I was also trying to save some money on the hardscaping. In general, a path meant for one person should be a minimum of 24 inches wide. If two people are meant to walk together or it's a longer path, go wider: 4 feet at a minimum.

Skinny paths not only just feel wrong, they also look wrong and nothing else will feel right when the hardscaping sets the wrong tone.

I'm a sucker for meandering curves on a path, but they should make sense. The path should curve because it has to to get around an obstruction. When I made the path to the garage, I installed gardens that forced the path to curve, which might be cheating, but it's a chicken and egg thing. When I did the paths in the original oval circle garden, I thought that curved paths would keep it from being too formal. For two of the three, it worked, partly because the curve was gentle enough that you could still walk straight. But the third path had an odd, too-sharp curve in it that was all wrong.

This is the remnants of the landscape fabric I pulled out of the garden. Yuck.

Some people are going to think this advice is crazy. In fact, the internet thinks this advice is crazy. If you do a Google search for how to build a path, nine times out of 10, the instructions will tell you to put down landscaping fabric. And yet, many landscape professionals never put it down.

Landscape fabric is great for a year, maybe two. You'll be applauding how well it has kept weeds out of your paths. But paths, especially gravel paths, get dirty. Soil falls in, blows in or is tracked in and then is trapped on top of the fabric. This creates an environment that is very hospitable to nasty little weed seeds, which sprout. And unless you are a gardener out there every other day on your hands and knees pulling all these little sprouts (you're not), they get away from you. And then they send down roots THROUGH the landscape fabric, which makes it impossible to pull them out. Worse yet, it has a way of emerging in places you don't want it to.

A wild violet was one of many weeds embedded in the landscape fabric when I pulled it out. The roots extended underneath and were also intertwined in the fabric itself. DON'T DO IT!

Then, when you finally decide you just want to get rid of the damn fabric, you can't pull it up because you've got gravel or stone on top of it.

For the new paths, I plan to take the same approach that I did when I built the path to the garage. I'll lay down a couple inches of compacted paver base (finally crushed stone), which is in itself an inhospitable place for anything to grow. Then I'll lay down a couple inches of gravel on top of it. Yes, soil will still get in there, but when weeds do show up, I'll be able to dig them out properly, or, even better, hit them with the weed torch with no fear of lighting a giant chunk of landscape fabric on which I may be standing on fire.

Friends don't let friends use landscape fabric. Be a good friend.

Once I removed most of the pea gravel, the metal edging was still in place, but you can see that the soil was backfilled right up to the top edge of it. This just meant more soil crept over the edge into the gravel. 
When I made the paths on this garden the first time, I installed metal edging, although this same mistake can be made with every other kind of edging. Back then, I backfilled soil right up to the top of the edging. Then, on the other side, I backfilled gravel damn near to the top. As you can imagine, there was plenty of soil that ended up in the gravel and vice versa. Keep materials below the top of edging to make sure they stay where they should.

With the gravel dug out, even though I backfilled too high on the metal edging, 13 or more years after I installed the metal edging, you can see that it was still doing it's job (there's still some on the right side of the path) before I pulled it out.

There are a lot of options for edging materials to divide a path from the grass or a garden, but I've been thrilled with how metal edging has worked out. Generally, I prefer steel over aluminum and a 4-inch tall edge over a less expensive 3-inch edge. It can make a perfectly straight path or a curved path with no breaks. Because it is so thin, dark colors such as black and brown blend in well. Unfinished steel edging will gradually rust which is a lovely affect as well.

Of course this comes at a price. It's not cheap and shipping can cost more than the edging itself. I was all set to order this edging until I found out it would cost about $150 (more than the cost of the edging) to get to my house. Fortunately it turns out that Lowe's has the same edging in a slightly shorter size so I can drive to store and get it.

Even though it's not cheap, at least when compared to plastic edging (no, no, no) or bender board, it's still on par with or less than any kind of stone treatment. And it's certainly easier and faster to install, all of which makes using metal edging a big DO for me.


Progress continues on the renovation of the oval circle garden but I won't lie, I'm getting nervous about how slowly it's going. I spent a good part of last weekend working on it and have gotten it to the point where I'm waiting for materials before I can move on. My goal is to have all of the hardscaping finished before the snow flies so I'm feeling better about reaching that now.

When we last checked in on what was happening, we had spent a ton of time marking everything out. I'll just tell you again, my advice is to not make an oval anything. Circles are easy: Stick a stake in the center and run a measuring tape from there. But ovals, especially this one, which is not perfect, is much more difficult to get everything even. And since this is meant to be a very symmetrical design, that's an issue. My hope is that it will be close enough that no one will notice a few math errors here and there.

The paths had been 16 inches wide, which was way too narrow. I'm widening them all to 24 inches. Here's the inner circle with the path marked out. The perspective makes it look quite large, but for reference that inner circle is 5 feet in diameter.

Since we marked everything, I've been painstakingly forking over the whole thing. I had previously moved out all the plants except for a few in the center, and relocated a bunch of the chives for the hedge to a section. Once that was finished I attempted to get rid of every weed root I could. A few years ago I battled a particularly nasty weed called Campanula rapunculoides, aka creeping bellflower.  It was particularly bad in one section of the garden so I pulled out all the plants and brushed Roundup on every little leaf of it, repeated the process a week or so later, then waited several weeks before replanting. It worked quite well, but there are a few little spots where it still pops up. It was the first time I'd ever used a herbicide in any part of my garden, but desperate times call for desperate measures. 

The other weed—and I'm prepared to take some heat for using that term—that is problematic there is lily of the valley. It came with the garden and I sort of liked it. In fact I quite like lily of the valley in the right place and in small quantities. But the nature of lily of the valley is that where it is happy, there will be more. And it is happy in a lot of places. 

Lily of the valley and I are no longer on speaking terms. This is just a very small sample of all of the roots I dug up.

I pulled out lily of the valley roots by the wheelbarrow full. No lie. I knew it was rampant there, but I had no idea it was that bad. I'm certain I didn't get it all and the fight will continue.

As I grumbled about the stupid weed situation, I made two interesting observations. The first was the health of the soil in that garden. It is a lovely texture: not too sandy (a concern here), not full of clay (believe it or not, also a concern, from where soil had been brought in over the years, and full of worms (I take large quantities of worms in my garden as Mother Nature's atta-girl). I worked on the soil in that garden over the years, adding compost, mulching and, frankly, not doing much else, which in my opinion is better than a lot of disturbance. The other thing I noticed was that all that forking over was creating a lot of very fluffy soil. 

After two days of digging, the tools were strewn everywhere and huge piles of soil were mounded up. It's crazy to think that all that soil fit in there before!

With that rather laborious, not to mention boring, process finished, I started digging the new paths. As you might imagine, this displaced a significant amount of soil in the process as well. By the time I was finished it looked like a backhoe had been busy. I know a lot of soil will natural compress in time, but some of it has to go, so now the next step will be to do a bit of soil relocation. That's no problem here: there is always an area that needs a little soil. 

There is a small amount of digging left to do. The area around the inner circle, needs to be dug down a bit more. Unfortunately it is very compacted there from the path that had been there and I just didn't have it in me to tackle that. 

The next step will be to install metal edging along the paths, then replace the cobblestones along the inside edge of each segment. After that it's time for paver base and gravel. Like I said, the clock is ticking. 

Two parting notes: 
  1. Make sure to enter to win a fabulous collection of alliums from Longfield Gardens.
  2. When I needed a break from digging dirt, I found this picture on Pinterest:
So of course I went out and tried to French braid some grass. I'm not sure if what I did counts as a Pinterest fail, but let's just say the effect is somewhat different. In my defense, the picture is of a nice green Miscanthus and my Korean feather reed grass is getting pretty crispy. I will say, though, that the alternative was just cutting it off because it was flopping everywhere and irritating me, so at least now it's reined in a bit.