Our retaining wall (south of the house)

We’re working on getting our retaining wall tuned up. It’s really a nice-looking wall running along the south border of our lot, made of native stone with flying buttresses and a stone patio.* Serene. The wall starts out at maybe 18 inches at the front of the lot, and then it growed like Topsy until it’s maybe twelve feet toward the back.  As a result, our lot is fairly level.  I think the patio (just off the kitchen) is even prettier than this pre-ownership picture shows.

Patio in summer

The only problem is that the wall is covered with ivy. Well, that, and the fact that once you pull off enough ivy to make five or six or ten ivy people**, you find big cracks and crumbling mortar.  And a definite tilt toward our lot.

Huge pile of ivy Typical fault line hiding behind the ivy

We had an appointment with our rock wall guy Monday.  He says the flying buttresses were probably added later and are helping to prevent the wall falling over, but we really need to build more wall at the base to push back against the tons of soil and water and put in holes to let the water out.  So we are.  Or rather, he and his crew will.  The first load of rock came Tuesday morning.  This weekend, Don and I hope to get more of my landscaping books out of storage so I can show our rock wall guy what I want. (Once I figure it out, of course.)  I picture some raised beds, some niches for rock garden plants in the walls, plenty of stone seating in front of the raised beds.  (Since the wall is facing north, I’m not sure if the heat sink attributes of a stone wall will make it a warmer microclimate than its surroundings, but I guess it might be a good place for more tender perennials.)  Also, low voltage lighting, a water feature, and maybe a fire pit, but probably not.  A fire pit, that is, due to local codes. 

Oh, and maybe a cold frame?  I saw a neat one in Washington State Park this fall.  It was original to the house (Greek Revival so early 1800s), and dug down six feet into the earth, so it only got noon sunlight, but never froze.  Ours couldn’t go down that deep due to rocks, but maybe we could build something that could go over one of the raised beds and attach to the stone bench in front.  Then, we could raise our own lettuce and tender perennials.  Daydreams, but fun to think about.

Sunday afternoon was beautiful.  Sunny and in the 60s.  The Little One and I made seven wreaths with ivy and nandina berries, which made no significant difference to the amount of ivy left, but delighted her.  Then I pulled as much of the ivy off the wall as I could so our rock wall guy would have a better idea of what he would be dealing with.

While making ivy wreaths, we watched a gang of small neighbor boys rampage through the yard and up the highest flying buttress on to the next yard.  All wearing hoodies, sneakers, and skateboards. We saw the touring version of Peter Pan this fall at the Walton Arts Center, and we’ve been reading Peter Pan this week, so I suggested to the Little One that they might be Lost Boys. She said, “No, Mom. I know one of them. He goes to my school.” (I don’t understand the barrier myself, since she is currently Peter Pan’s sister, but I guess I’m grown-up.)  I like living in a neighborhood with rampaging small boys.

Enough of that. Let’s look at more pictures. When we bought the place, it came with a really large container for holding trash cans. I think it held six big ones and it was just west of the patio. You might be able to see the flying buttress the Lost Boys scaled just behind it.  (Sorry for the terrible picture, but the container is gone now so I can’t improve on it.)

Big Trashcan Container

Don gave it to a utilities guy he met one of the three times we’ve had a meter replaced so far. Here’s the guy hauling it off. You can see it fills his trailer up.

Nice guys hauling off big trashcan container

Pictured below is the space behind the trashcan container and the Lost Boys’ flying buttress (at right). It was mostly ivy-free already, but I pulled a lot more out between the trashcan space and the patio (where the green, mossy area is). The bar growing through the redbud (I think it’s a redbud — see summer patio picture) is a clothesline remnant.

After trashcan container left

Below are better before-and-after pictures of what the ivy-covered wall looked like. These are just east of the patio, but I pulled ivy off the entire length of the wall.

Typical before ivy removal condition After ivy removal condition

Here’s our first load of rock. It’s really pretty stuff, with lots of lichens. And I am very glad that I don’t have to move it.

First load of rocks to fix the wall

*Our neighbors to the north tell us they used to watch drunken bashes at our house. Kegs and beer bottles flying out of the upstairs windows. Police calls all the time. One of the more recent tenants spent a lot of time picking the broken glass out of the patio area, for which I am grateful. I did find a pull tab in the ivy Sunday.

** I Googled Ivy People.  Would you believe it’s a Celtic astrology sign, more or less?  And that Don and I are Ivy People?  Weird what Google will tell you when asked.

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