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Blog: King Of The Chickadees

King Of The Chickadees

Sunday, August 20, 2006

If a man's home is his castle, shouldn't he have a courtyard?

I'm not a king.  And my "castle" is a 750 square foot rambler in a blue collar suburb of Seattle, Washington.  I've lived here since 1992 and have decided it might be time for a makeover.

A courtyard?

The front yard was planted in grass but was more of a meadow with violets and plenty of  moss and weeds.  It required water on a weekly basis in summer and still turned from green to blonde by late summer when only the dandelions flourished.  In the spring, I had to fire up the lawnmower once a week.

Water is a precious resource, all the more so in this era of global warming.  And the lawnmower ran on another increasingly precious resource, gasoline.

My little plot of land is located about five feet below street level.  There is a concrete block retaining wall that keeps the street and its run off out of my yard.  I've planted laurel and butterfly bushes in the parking strip above the wall.  The plantings not only screen off the street and traffic but attract sparrows, finches, and, my favorites, chickadees, not to mention butterflies.  These plantings do well in sterile soil and don't need to be watered in this climate.  I do need to prune them back from time to time.

The center piece in the front yard is a six foot long rectangular planter box now home to some overgrown rugosas.  The plants produce fragrant white flowers practically all summer and bright orange hips after the blooms fade.  Like the laurel and butterfly bushes, rugosas need no more watering than nature already provides.

The problem is the rugosas have overgrown the planter box and are overwhelming my front yard.

There is an evergreen tree in my front yard.  I believe it is a larch, about fifty feet tall with silvery blue needles.  The rugosas have grown up into the tree's lower branches.  A little separation would be more esthetically pleasing.  I'm thinking of transplanting the rugosas elsewhere and replacing them with a lace leaf maple with red foliage.

If it is to truly be a courtyard, it should have a pond with lilies and koi.  Well, goldfish, maybe.  And if I build a pond I might as well add a waterfall so the esthetics will be audible as well as visible.  The chickadees will appreciate a water feature as much as I will.

What to do about the grass?  I've already dug most of it up.  Right now bare dirt graces my courtyard.  That's liable to turn to mud during the rainy season.  Someone told me not to buy a weed barrier.  Newspaper will do.  I'll cover the newspaper with bark.  It might be worth it to invest in flagstones to build a winding path around water wise plantings.

Viola!  A courtyard fit for the king of the chickadees.  At least that is the plan.

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dgruver (Contact)
Burien, WA USA
About Me:

I'm an old dreamer and city dweller looking to carve a small niche in nature.

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