Side Trip: Our Garden

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Several years after moving into our house in 1978, my wife, Alice, decided it would be nice to have a garden.  She had admired a garden designed and built by a friend of ours, Helga Hoppes.  I agreed to help her with the project, not knowing what lay ahead.  We finished the project three years later!!!!

Alice and Helga talking over plans for the garden.

Helga's garden - complete with bricks, boxwoods, and planting arrangements.

Alice and Helga took a hard look at our yard and pondered ways to use elements of Helga's garden in the space around our house.  We had some unique problems as we had just added an addition to our house and had a very narrow side yard.  They decided to to construct a narrow brick path down the side of our house leading to a larger open brick area in the back yard.  Before beginning construction, Helga and I surveyed the yard and made a diagram on graph paper, showing the measurements of the house and lot.  Helga then retreated to her office to make several preliminary sketches.  In the mean time, Alice and I  removed every tree, shrub, and plant from the back and side lot to make room for the new plantings.  Helga returned several weeks later and consulted with Alice.  They decided on a final plan, and Helga made a detailed drawing of garden to include plant types, walkway dimensions, etc.

Our next step was to order bricks.  We went to a nearby brick yard and ordered 12 pallets of bricks (approximately 7,000 bricks) and several tons of sand.  I used the sand to level the back yard and lay a 3 inch foundation for the pathways and brick concourse.

The daily routine quickly developed into a pattern.  Before the start of each daily session I would assemble the tools and stake out the area for the bricks to be laid.  Next I would wet the sand, tamp it down, and screed (smooth) it in preparation for the bricks to be laid.  Finally, I would bring a supply of bricks to the area where Alice would be working.  Alice would then use a trowel, rubber mallet, and level to lay the bricks according to the plan.


The first phase complete - before I started keeping photographic records.

Wetting, tamping and leveling the sand. Smoothing the sand in preparation for the bricks.
Alice lays the bricks using a rubber mallet to level. Helga checks progress on the first circle.
Alice works in the early morning. My brother Mark and Alice's mom, Bernadine.
Alice and her sister Elizabeth as the 1st circle expands. I grab a load of bricks from one of many pallets.
After each day's work I throw sand on the bricks. Sweeping the sand into the bricks.
Alice starts the second circle. The second circle grows.
The second circle nears completion. Alice uses two levels to check her work.
Working on joining the side yard walk to the back. I lay the outline for the walkway.
Where the side yard walk meets the circle. Making templates to use in cutting the bricks.
Marking some of the bricks to be cut. Using a tile saw to cut the bricks for the odd slots.
The cut bricks ready to be inserted.

Alice begins inserting the bricks.

The final product after cutting and inserting the bricks.

Another "custom" area. I use a 2x4 to measure how deep to set the "soldiers".
Alice starts the third circle. The third circle grows.
My mother, Yvonne, enjoys a Florida winter day. The third circle near completion.
Alice takes a break from working on the third circle. Making the pathway from the shed to the third circle.
The pathway in progress. Making the pathway from the third circle to the back gate.
Odd bricks cut and ready to be inserted. The finished product.
Before moving from the back to the driveway. I excavate so that I can lay a 3" sand base for the bricks.
The sand goes in. Alice poses before starting on another pathway.
I put in a fence and gateway to the back yard. Alice back at laying bricks.
A pathway in progress. Alice completes the pathway through the gate.
Alice reaches the driveway. I finish putting in the irrigation system.

The backyard completed with plants and furniture installed.

Another view.

We build a wall, gateway, and path to the front walk. An outline of where we want to go.
Alice prepares the sand for more bricks. Alice laying the bricks.

The wall and walkway completed for Christmas.

This is our garden today.  The plants have all matured, we've installed a fountain, and the old storage shed has been replaced with a gazebo.

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