Above, one of the borders to the right of where the proposed bed was sited. This is an August view of the border.
This (above) is the October view of the same bed.
There is a slope to the terrain, so I knew I would need to create some sort of retaining wall to hold in the dirt required to install a planting bed. I had been to Naumkeg, a Trustees of Revervations property located in my hometown of Stockbridge, Massachusetts, in the spring and took this photo.
And thought using logs for the retaining wall would suit my house, which is covered in poplar-bark siding.
So now that I have learned to use a chainsaw—seriously, what took me so long???—I felled my first tree (see the video below) and cut it into pieces tall enough to create a level planting bed.
Once cut, we arranged the logs in an uneven, semicircular configuration and fiddled with them until we liked what we saw.
Then we went about securing the whole string of logs so that they would not budge when the topsoil was added.
We bought some metal wire fencing and unrolled and trimmed it so it could be seen from the good side of the bed. We secured the wire with horseshoe nails, three per log.
Next, we used a sledgehammer to drive stakes into the ground behind every fourth log or so.
Then we sawed off the tops with a Sawzall.
Then we screwed the stakes into the logs in three places. This will keep the structure strong and mostly immobile.
The next step was to stretch landscape fabric across the whole installation, leaving a foot or so on the ground to catch any dirt that might slip through the logs. We used a power staple gun (much easier on the hands) and about three staples per log across the top.
Now for the topsoil! We first spread a small amount by hand with a shovel against the landscape fabric to keep the cloth on the ground.
Then we were ready to dump the balance. We used a total of 6 yards of topsoil to fill this bed, which measures roughly 22 feet long by 8 feet deep.
Then we brought in the big guns to move the balance of the dirt into place. See Power Tool Empowerment video for my lessons in how to use a tractor.
Once the soil was basically in the right place, we used a rake to level it off.
And then the bed was ready for planting.
I went to my favorite local nursery, Windy Hill Farm, to choose the plants to fill the bed. My first choice was Little Lime Hydrangeas. I love their compact habit and their great green blossoms.
Next up, I got some Snow Queen Oak leaf hydrangeas. My mother used these in all the beds at the front of house, and I felt it would add unity to use them here.
To add some height and car camouflage, we chose a Cornus Shadow Celestial Dogwood, famous for its wonderful fall color and beautiful white blossoms in the spring. The plan is that this tree will grow up and fill out, providing even more coverage.
Windy Hill came to plant on October 23. Dennis Mareb of Windy Hill said that the fall is the BEST time to plant. We added peat moss to the topsoil and started to place the plants.
We moved some boxwoods that I already had into the bed. We also moved some hellebores and European ginger from the other borders to fill out the bed.