I made it! My goal this week was to complete terraces on the hillside next to the hot tub before the arrival of winter rains which promise several days of steady moisture with temperatures holding in the 45 to 50 degree ranch. This project entailed completing over fifty feet of plantable terraces several feet wide and in some places several feet deep to prevent erosion, trap runoff, and provide color and interest to what was once a bare red clay hill with an elevation of about ten feet. The total project has extended over three years using three pallets of red-charcoal colored concrete landscape blocks and over twelve tons of varied size and color rocks ranging from 18 inch “giants” to tiny “pea gravel”.
The environment is sunny with little to shield plants from summer sun except for the north sloping hill itself. The underlying soil is dense red clay typical of north Georgia hills and mountains. Many rocks, mostly iron oxide variants, permeate the hillside and they range from one inch broken fragments to rounded five inch mini-boulders to a few giants that are simply unmovable. Not a great environment for my goal of a botanic paradise, so considerable soil amendment is needed. My estimate is that three cubic yards of garden soil, compost, and lighter mixtures is being used to fill terraces and serve as a more fertile medium for native and more exotic plant species.
Over the past two growing seasons, I have had good success with native plants such as Purple Coneflower, St. Johns Wort, Coreopsis, ornamental grasses, and Black-Eyed Susans. About a dozen other varieties were tried on a hit or miss basis with varying results. This year, I am expanding varieties to include many exotic and colorful perennials. I will also start labeling plants and keeping better records.
Some of the “new to me” choices include Crocosmia, a red flowered, sword like leaf, member of the Iris family that is originally from South Africa. It is considered invasive in some areas but will be well contained here and flanked by Purple Coneflower and white Phlox. I planted six “Croco” split vertically on two terraces.
The middle terrace is anchored by a lavender jumbo rose that is a birthday present for my wife. The center of the terrace has a “string” of six Turk’s Cap Lilies of red, yellow, and pink blossoms that will tower at least three feet above the base terrace blocks. I have never grown the Turk’s Cap which has a large recurved blossom and promises dozens of blooms all summer. I started the bulbs indoors in early January and since they are a native species, light frosts should not bother the six inch shoots I transplanted yesterday.
Another somewhat exotic perennial is the Mirabilis or Four O’clock for its habit of opening late afternoon. I won’t know what color until it actually blooms. Four Mirabilis were planted in the middle terrace. The upper terrace has two pink and white Peonies which have already sprouted as I started them in pots on my back porch in January. A dozen Liatris or Blazing Stars fill out the lower terrace and should attract butterflies and native bees. A small grouping of Aquilegia or Columbine edges out the middle terrace which gradually merges with the lower level. I have never raised Columbine and I won’t know what variety until it actually blooms in late spring.
Am I excited?!! The east end terraces are nearly completed although I may add some more rocks and possibly build a fourth terrace near the top. This spring and summer will be better structured than in previous years and the contrast in colors and texture will further inspire me to experiment even more in coming years. Thanks for visiting and I look forward to sharing views of fully developed terraces later this year.