There's the north side of the house, there's the fence separating it from the property next door and in between ... see that? That's an alley.
When I toured the house in August of 2013 I took little notice of this 40' long alley. I zeroed in on the very manageable piece of land making up the back yard, on the many trees, deciduous and evergreen, surrounding the property and on the garden shed, all of which I had long yearned for.
Yes, I noted the lack flowers, the weedy "lawn" and the bare, hard ground around the few poorly placed and unhealthy looking shrubs. No matter. I had the vision and I knew I could turn this plot into something special. It's true my stamina had waned in the years since I last carved out and fashioned a lovely, vibrant garden. However, my semi-latent green-thumb-enthusiasm overcame any doubts or misgivings.
Sunshine and glorious fall colors greeted me as I moved into the home in October of 2013. Toting, unpacking, sorting and placing all the things that make a house a home kept me from thinking about the exterior--front and back--and what I might like to accomplish. It simply felt so amazingly wonderful to be in my own home!
In a little over a week, just as I began thinking "outside the house," the fall rains came. Undeterred, I slogged around in the back and front yards hours at a time, tucking in "gifted" shoots and replanting the many perennials which came from pots on the deck of the apartment. If you're a true gardener, you have a sense of the unbridled joy my mud-mucking brought to me.
Probably the only downside to this gardening glee was trekking back and forth along what I now referred to as "mud alley," discovering just how deep into the ooze one's boots can go and just how slippery and slimy thoroughly soaked clay soil can be.
Arriving home after a quick three-day trip in late December, I discovered the south fence at the back had fallen over. The HOA approved new fencing and within two weeks the work began. Contractors had to use "mud alley" to haul, tote and lug the materials from front to back, back to front. They never complained (at least that I could hear) but it wasn't difficult to imagine the depth of their irritation when I looked at the hundreds of muddy holes left by their work boots.
In March one of my *sons smoothed out the sludge in the alley, laid down some ground cloth and covered all with 4" of hemlock chips. Aesthetically this looked wonderful and practically it absolutely solved the problems presented by "mud alley."
That summer, 2014, perennials began to show their colors and glory all over the front and back yard. I still had some lessons to learn regarding where the sun shone brightest and longest, where the shade stayed for most of the day and which areas might be trouble spots.
The late afternoon sun shines laser-like and searingly hot down the length of "mud alley"; sometimes dappling the plants in its path; more often, if the angle is just right, attempting to fry them.
I'm pondering some sort of shade-inducing trellis to screen the most vulnerable plants. What I am not doing is cursing that blatant, strong beam of spring and summer sunshine when it does course along the alley.
I am grateful for the clear, focused brilliance traveling down a previously muddied and muddled path.
All my hurts my garden spade can heal
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
*my two sons are always at my beck and call for painting, hauling, fixing and fussing with all manner of things.