Capability Gray

I may not be installing giant lakes, building fake temples, or displacing villages full of peasants, but I have been improvin’ my landscape lately, indeed I have.

First, an update on the play structure thingee I started building in February.  To refresh your memory, here is what it looked like several weeks ago:


And here it is today.  Ta-da!


The bottom deck is 6×6, and the top deck is 6×7.5 — cantilivered out, to provide a little more room upstairs.  The ladder and railing turned out a little…well, crooked, but thanks to encouragement from my fellow blogger and garden philosopher Calvin Caley, I have learned to embrace the imperfections in my handy work and simply call it wabi-sabi rather than stress about it.  Calvin shared with me his outlook on outdoor building: “after all, you’re not building a grand piano.”  Thank you, Calvin.

I still want to paint it or stain it (you can see where I tested a color), and maybe add some fun little touches like a pulley or something.  So far Charlie’s favorite thing to do is go up onto the second level (the Ledo deck) and fling his shoes off of it.

Next, I painted the little portion of fence and the gate leading to my backyard.  Here is before:


and now:


Not bad.  The metal sun and moon I attached to the gate was a purchase from a vendor at this year’s Philly Flower show.  It was created from an old oil drum by Haitian craftsmen with a hammer and nail. Pretty cool!

I want to paint some words on my gate, too, around the sun.  I think I want to name my garden…something French.  At first I was worried that would be too pretentious, especially since I don’t know a word of French and have never been to France.

But then I remembered, this is my garden, I can do what I want!  Hurrah!

Third, I built this little trellis in a part of the yard where my annoying neighbor has a clear view of us.  He stands on his porch and often calls over with some unwelcome question or comment, so I figure if I can get a vine to completely cover this, it will reduce our neighbor’s comments by up to 80%.  (Seriously, I’m not being an ass here, he is genuinely irritating and weirdly intrusive.)


I made it completely out of stuff I found in my shed (I’m so sustainable!) except for the paint.  I’m proud of my bold color choice, but I have to say that the metal fencing between the posts is not too attractive, is it?  I am hoping an aggressive clematis will cover it up in one or two seasons, otherwise I will have to think of something else.

Last, I have a new retaining wall!  Early readers of my blog may remember the post where I dreamed of a stone retaining wall to replace the rotting timbers that are there currently.  Well, finally Mary collected enough pennies to make it happen.  So no, this was not a DIY project…

My old, terrible wall:


And the new!


This wall is cinderblock, with stone facing.  I also looked into brick and those decorative concrete blocks by Techobloc and Belgard, but the wall I wound up with cost less than half of the estimates I got for using those materials.  Anyway, I am pleased with the color of the stone they used, because the rusty color matches the natural stones I find in my yard.  I wish a nice thick capstone had been in my budget, but c’est la vie.  (Oh look, I do know French!)

And while I love my new wall, I am very demoralized when I look at how decimated the little garden behind it was left.  Where there were once cushions of Carex pensylvanica there is now packed red clay and gravel.

I guess a Landscape Improver’s work is never done.

11 thoughts on “Capability Gray

  1. Mary – the wall looks fantastic!!!! And the sun and moon on the gate is so….inviting, like you are entering into a secret garden:-)

  2. ALL of your structural improvements look wonderful! I too, brought home a wall sculpture from Haiti at last years Philly Flower Show! As for your trellis/nosy neighbor defense – maybe try a fast growing annual vine in combination with your clematis which will take a while to get established. Dolichos lablab is nice (big and leafy, purple flowers and purple seed pods), or.. maybe a blue Ipomea to match the posts 🙂 Don’t worry about your smashed plants post-wall building – I had the same situation after some landscaping revisions, and after soil amending and transplanting, they came back after a year. Kudos for all you have accomplished!

  3. Congrats on the beautiful wall! It looks great, and now you can have fun replanting the areas that got smushed. (Silver lining?) And your other DIY projects, while smaller, are adding up to a big impact, I bet. I love the new color of your entry gate/fence.

    • Thanks, Pam! Meant to tell you I recently was surfing your site and saw the pics of your spring garden. LOVE some of your new plants. I also love the “Austin” sign you put up on your fence…was thinking that putting up a “Burke” sign on my fence would, sadly, not have the same cool effect. 🙂

  4. Hmm…you forgot ‘Cocktail Lounge Metaphysician,’ but being referred to as a Garden Philosopher is pretty swell! Your play structure turned out great-you should be proud, and I love your retaining wall. What’s next? Dovecote or folly, I think. Maybe a rootery. You can do it!

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