Another cure for the label problem. Was: Re: Microchips in lieu of labels

Jim McKenney
Tue, 17 Mar 2015 16:54:04 PDT
I'm enjoying this thread because I've had these same problems over the years. But I've hit on a solution which makes the labeling issue irrelevant. But it comes at a price, both figuratively and literally. 
I'm rebuilding a low 40' dry wall originally built with brick stacked on the broad side to a bit less than two feet high. The brick has a warm color and is very harmonious with the plants in the garden: it definitely looks right. But deer have tried to climb this wall and have knocked parts down. Frost heaving has done the same thing here and there over the years. 
This is a dangerous time of year for gardeners like me: until this week, it's been too cold to work in the garden, and all that pent up energy has to go somewhere, so it goes into dreaming up schemes to "improve" various parts of the garden (or ranting on PBS).  I've been dreaming walls all week, and the other day something I had been reading pushed me over the edge. Instead of using brick, I'm going to use cinder block and stack the blocks in stair fashion. The blocks will be stacked four high which will put the top of this tiered wall at about 32".That something I had been reading was Lawrence Thomas' article "Alpines in Containers" in that great little book published by the North American Rock Garden Society nearly twenty years ago: Handbook on troughs. Here's what Thomas wrote (this comes from a discussion of plants in containers): "Even ubiquitous cinder block can be used as a container of sorts. I've seen a splendid terrace herb garden constructed of nothing more than a series of cinder blocks artfully stacked and planted to perfection. Alpines could be similarly displayed." And I'll add: so I'll bet could bulbs!Each cinder block has two hollow spaces 5" x 5" x 8". Since 32' of the wall will be tiered (an 8' space will be left for a bench), that means that each tier will have 20 hollows to be planted. Each stack of four will thus have 80 such hollows. There will be two stacks (one on each side of the bench space) so there will be a total of 160 hollows to be filled. Each hollow will be assigned a number, and what has gone into each hollow will be kept track of in a computer database. Good by labels! If I can pull this off (a long talk with my 71 year old back is scheduled) , I'll have to learn to live for a while with the off-putting, heavy-duty industrial look that comes with the cinder blocks. But the tiers will be an open invitation to plant plenty of floppy, sprawling, creeping companion plants (phloxes, delospermas and so on) which will eventually soften the otherwise austere look. 
Wish me luck!
Jim McKenneyMontgomery County, Maryland, USA, USDA zone 7 where I'm humming Rossini's aria "Mura felice" right now. 

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