Gardening with water runoff in a stream and pond

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Living in a mountain setting generally means having to manage storm runoff at times.  Luckily for my mother, the previous owner of the property finished drainage ditches with stones.  For the most part, all she needs to do is keep them clear of weeds and debris.  However, she is currently recovering from a bad fall and cannot get out into the ditches to do the work.  If you look at the slide show above, you can see how badly one small section of the stream and the pond filled in with forget me nots.  As is with all weeds, digging them out is best and I filled the bushel basket I was using about 6 times with plants pulled out from the stream and another two or three times with the plants growing in the pond.

Once everything was cleaned out, I reopened the trench that runs down the hill to the pond and began contouring the sides of the stream bed with rocks.  If there was one thing I did not need to worry about, it was having enough rocks to do this.   Never in all of my years of gardening have I encountered such a large amount of rocks in the ground and it made the work challenging.

Once I had the stream bed finished, I started adding plants for color.  Blue Eyed Grass, Sisyrinchium angustifolium ‘Lucerne’, is such a dainty little plant that will not reseed vigorously but will grow near stream beds.   Did you know that this plant is not actually grass?  True fact; it is a member of the iris family and my guess is that is why it likes to be near water.

After clearing out the stream bed, it was so muddy and barren that I decided to try some plants that I know will spread; Ajuga reptans ‘Black Scallop’ (commonly called Bugleweed) and Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’ (commonly called Creeping Jenny). Only time will tell if they also enjoy frequently moist soil.  After just over a week, both are showing some growth.

IMG_7620Let me just say that I am not a landscaping expert.  My first idea was to shingle the rocks starting at the top.  The thought was that the flow of water would be slowed down from hitting the cracks and crevices created by the rocks.  It did slow the water but it also created many little pools of water and as I stood out there in a down pour watching, I realized that I needed to try it in reverse order.

IMG_7665Because I had previously hauled all of the rocks to the stream, reversing them was a fairly quick task.  For my second attempt, I started at the bottom and shingled them upwards.  So far, it seems to work better but I suspect that in time, I will have to come back and truly dig out the stream bed to create a deeper channel that I can line with rocks.  For now, this works.

IMG_7642As I gathered rocks, I tried to pick them for shape and color but also for moss.

IMG_7638Lichen also makes nice markings on the rocks.

IMG_7636Because this is a mountain stream, mosses were a must and there is also no shortage of it here.

IMG_7667By carefully digging out small ferns, I was also able to add them to the rocks.

IMG_7625Once the stream was finished, I began working on the pond area.  The person who built the stream bed had it all flow down hill into a small pond which acts as a basin to hold most of the water.  The area is terraced and has a dry bed as well as a wet bed where the water from the stream flows in.  Almost the entire yard is shaded or has dappled sun light which makes it easy to use plants like hostas but beware, deer will eat them and the pond is fenced in to keep them out.IMG_7645The flowers on shade plants generally are not as showy as their sunny counterparts.  This tiny spike of pink blooms on the Tiarella Pink Skyrocket, commonly called Foamflower, it your reward for taking the time to look closely at the plants in the garden.

IMG_7676If you recall, about a year ago, I posted here about my mother’s garden.  In that piece, I mentioned how she is a gardener of things rather than plants.  This meant that I spent some time rearranging the statues in the garden as well.

IMG_7623In the wet area of the pond, I had the chance to plant some water lovers; Iris versicolor Blue Flag and Iris sibirica Sparkling Rose.  Keeping them company is a Ligularia stenocephala Little Rocket (commonly called Leopard plant or Ragwort), Lobelia speciosa Vulcan Red (commonly called Cardinal Flower),  Pulmonaria Raspberry Splash (commonly called Lungwort), Phlox divaricata Blue Moon (commonly called Wild Sweet William or woodland phlox) and Astilbe chinensis v. taquetii Purple Candles.IMG_7628One of the surprises in the yard is the large quantity of native Jack in the Pulpits growing.  With a small trowel, I carefully dug a few smaller specimens up and moved them into the wet area as well and near the center of the photo, you can see the trio of leaves from a single plant.

IMG_7649Ligularia in bloom makes a statement and is large enough to be easily seen from the deck.

IMG_7647The pulmonaria and the phlox have adapted well to their new homes.

IMG_7651The cardinal plant has show quite a bit of new growth; the bright green leaves will turn darker with age.

IMG_7674This is the first time I have tried gardening in my mother”s yard and everything I have planted is an experiment.  Between the growing conditions and the deer, I am hoping for success.  After seeing the amount of growth on this Cardinal plant in just one week, I am encouraged!

IMG_7680Whoever did all of the stone stacking and terracing gets the blue ribbon!  When the stream empties into the pond, it comes over this pile of rocks and collects in the basin which is lined with cement.  Years of water have led to lots of ferns, moss and lichens but I think I like the reflection best.

IMG_7682On my next visit, I hope to bring help with me along with a mattock; that hose needs to go!


there’s gnome place like home…

IMG_7587Long story short, I am staying with mom while she recovers from a fall.  While out in the yard, she fell, broke her leg and had to have a rod inserted to support the bone.  Thankfully, she is well on her way to returning to normal but it will take some time and for the next few weeks, I will be here doing all of the things she cannot do and some of the things she does not care to do, like baking cookies.

IMG_7600Leaving my garden for a month was rough.  We had really just begun to get the summer crops in and there is still much to do to eradicate the bermuda grass.  Here in PA, spring is still in the air and the trees have only recently leafed out.  In case you haven’t visited this blog before, I have posted photos of my mother’s yard before.  In her community, deer are prevalent, and as a matter of fact, there are several grazing in the yard as I write this.  Because they eat everything, including plants that they shouldn’t, mom gardens with things rather than plants.  As you walk the yard, little statues and hidden treasures will become obvious.  Of course, gnomes have a mind of there own and we never quite know where they will pop out and surprise you.  Standing stock still and looking like a statue, you will almost think that someone placed them there on purpose…

IMG_7602Moss grows all over the yard because it is shady and moist.  This little cherub spends his time watching the yard but if he knows what the gnomes are up to, he isn’t telling anyone.  He sits and stares in disbelief as raccoons and squirrels come to the basin to drink water.

IMG_7604This little guy seems to be guarding the front door.  We throw peanuts to him from the deck but he usually lets the squirrels eat them.

IMG_7607The yard is so lush and green right now that the only color that pops out is red.

IMG_7611All over the yard are these tiny blue blossoms, wish I had my wildflower book with me!

IMG_7612When you walk the yard, you really need to watch where you are going, it is easy to step on the residents.  This moon face greets all that visit the pond.IMG_7617It must be nice to have the time to lounge in the woods all day.

IMG_7576Mom is not a big fan of chocolate so I made a batch of crispy lemon cookies with a small amount of anise seeds thrown in for fun.  Since I do not have my cookbooks here to flip through, I used this recipe from Taste of Home magazine.  They really are crispy and for the most part, I followed the recipe except I used fresh lemon zest instead of the extract, threw in a half teaspoon of anise seeds and scooped them out with a #70 scoop.  Because I am unfamiliar with the oven here, I lowered the baking temp to 375 which allowed them to spread out nice and thin but I did have to increase the baking time by 2-3 minutes.  The review, mom tested and mom approved; this recipe is a keeper!

Happy baking and gardening and if I were you, I would keep an eye on those gnomes-just leave them a cookie every now and then, that should keep them happy…


my mother’s garden

IMG_5924Just as there are many types of plants, there are many types of gardens.  Some gardeners work with shade, some with flowers or succulents and others with just vegetables.  Potagers, cottage gardens, rain gardens and so on.  Personally, I have an herb garden, a shade garden and a sunny area planted with perennial flowers in addition to the very large potager style vegetable garden that takes up much of our front yard.

Then there is my mother’s garden which is nestled on top of a mountain in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania in a forest like setting; the rocky soil is deeply shaded, heavily wooded and full of wildlife.  Planting a garden in her yard is challenging because of the large rocks in the soil, the lack of sunlight and the fact that the deer eat everything, including the things they shouldn’t.  Despite all of these things, my mother’s garden is inviting, full of surprises and a wonderful place to visit and sit a spell…

IMG_5927Gardening with deer is a challenge.  Especially when the community you live in is surrounded by state owned forest land.  At times, there can be a dozen or more deer grazing around the yard.  The landscape provides areas for them to sleep and rest and even when you think the small herd may have left the yard, it is entirely possible that some are still there but out of view.  As if the deer weren’t enough, black bears also live in the area and have come through yard and more than one raccoon has raised a litter of kits in a tree near the shed.  If you think deer can do damage, mischievous raccoons and squirrels can also cause problems.

IMG_5931As a result, my mother is a gardener of things.  All around the yard, you will find statues and knick-knacks, baskets of silk flowers and plants, gazing balls.   She finds things in stores and yard sales and has them all over the yard.  Bird houses hang from low branches all over the yard.  Every where you look, little pops of color are present and it truly makes for a restful place to spend the afternoon outdoors.

IMG_5934The deer really do eat just about everything and it was surprising that these little bluets were present since they are usually eaten to the ground.


IMG_5940A constant theme in the garden is a smiling sunface.  Actually, sun and moon faces are all over.  That may be partly my fault since I often send them to her!

IMG_5945In a small hillside drainage pond, frogs rule.  They are loud and you can hear them all over the yard.  On this afternoon, I saw four of them in the water and on the rocks around it.

IMG_5947This is one of the few parts of the yard that actually has plants.  The previous owners of the yard placed fencing around plants and shrubs to protect them from the deer.  It was an unattractive sight and my mother has removed most of it.  Although that meant the plants within met a nibbled to the ground death, it greatly improved the appearance of the yard.  One place she left the fencing was around the pond and in this small area, she has a few hostas, several sedums and lily of the valley along with statues and knick-knacks.

IMG_5952Lichens and moss cover all of the rocks in the yard.

IMG_5953The pond is truly the focal point in this part of the yard.  The Autumn Joy sedum has filled in the crevices above and moss and ferns are filling the areas near the water.

IMG_5954Gazing balls are one of her favorite ways to add color to the yard.  She will tell you that they must be colored and not silvered.  Twice, my mother has placed silvered gazing balls in the yard and twice, a woodpecker tried to kill his reflection.  Both of those gazing balls were shattered.

IMG_5957You must walk around the yard to see it all because it is everywhere.

IMG_5959Along the back of the house, she has a simple row of silk plants with pottery and glass accents.

IMG_5960 (1)In that row, tucked in a corner, is what remains of a deer skull.  It seems that this buck died on the property and after the vultures cleaned it, my mother placed the skull in her garden along the back of the house.  Squirrels continually gnaw on the bones to keep their teeth in shape and have chewed up quite a bit of the skull and antlers.

IMG_5962Have you ever heard the phrase referring to “bones knitting,” especially if you have broken a bone?  It is easy to see why they say that when you look at the fuse line going up the skull.  This was one of the most fascinating things to look at in the garden!

IMG_5965You really must look carefully or you might miss something.

IMG_5967And look everywhere, despite being colorblind, my mother has a talent for choosing colors so that they either blend in seemlessly or jump out.

IMG_5968She also has a talent for finding unusual pieces like this pottery base to a planter.

IMG_5928This old bench is so worn out that she has added a board to hold the objects on it.  That gnome looks familiar-he lived in our house in Nashville for years and when we moved, I sent him to live with my mother.  One of the girls, I think Alix, painted the tile and yes, the plants are silk.  At least the deer won’t eat them!  But beware, the raccoons love to move things and you never know what they will do.