Saturday, October 14, 2017

Garden Report: Successful Completion of Gravel Bed Garden Trials

The 'before' shot of the Gravel Bed Garden, before the Backyard Project got underway. A huge expanse of lawn that required care, so much water and it still looked a wreck.

October 2015
Tom at work painstakingly interlocking every rock to edge the boundary of the Gravel Bed Garden.

Sammy, Mat and Laura put in a french drain, laid drain cloth, added a layer of growing medium, and lastly placed the gravel.

April 2016
This garden is not going to be irrigated so I didn't have to wait for the irrigation installation before I could start planting. Early in the spring last year I started by transplanting rosemary bushes from other beds.

I started a trial path with different ground cover herbs to see which ones would be happy in the hot dry conditions.

Over the spring and summer, I planted samples of lots of different plants that fit my spec.
I marked the path out with empty pots which confused a lot of people - is that art?

August 2016
Plants have grown with only the occasional hand watering.

July 2017
The plants are thriving, having survived one hot dry summer and one cold wet winter.

Small Russian sage was planted early spring and by mid-summer had put down enough roots to support lots of flowers that the insects loved to visit.

Over this past spring and summer, I continued to buy and plant ground-cover herbs until the path was completed. Some plants aren't doing as well as others so next spring I may replant with hardier types.


Over the summer I often took my studio tea break sitting out in the Gravel Bed Garden so I kept an eye on how different plants were doing and when they needed help with a hand water.

October 2017
There was a lot of growth over the past summer. 

The 2016 plantings have grown to make the path covered over in some areas. Other plants were pruned after flowering then continued to fill out.

The Corsican mint path plants in the foreground did not cope very well with the very dry summer and may be replaced next spring. The other plants have done so well I will be cut them back a lot next spring.

I have researched plants that fit a spec and made a long list of suitable candidates. After successfully trialling some of these plants over 2 springs and summers, I can now go ahead and complete the plantings as planned. Come spring I will be out visiting my favourite nurseries with plant list in hand.


Saturday, October 7, 2017

Backyard Project: Soil Building in the Lower Patio

The construction crews may have left back in May but it was then our real work on the Backyard Project began. One of the first things we did was build soil in the Lower Patio area. A broken down hot tub had been removed and concrete walls built to support new garden beds in this very sunny spot. We have great plans for this spot but first, we need to build the soil.
By build I mean provide the right conditions for soil organisms to do what they do best - make soil.
I began by sifting through all of the remaining soil to remove all of the rocks and construction waste dumped there when the house was built.
Then I laid lots of different wood down, including alder branches high in nitrogen. A lot of household paper and cardboard was also recycled back into soil building.

Keeping in mind the "Brown then Green" rule I alternated thin layers - green garden waste - a woody mulch mix - ash from winter fires...

..more green garden waste...

...with harvested comfrey leaves rich in minerals...

...another layer of much - with a good watering in between each layer.

Fungi mushrooming was an excellent sign. It meant the mycorrhizal fungi are actively building up networks and making food available for future plants. 

A large number of roly-polies and woodlice/slaters was evidence they were happy with the conditions and working hard to break down the wood making the nutrients available to other soil organisms. 
We kept going with the layers until the contained beds were 3/4 full.

The soil probe scientifically registered the happy conditions with temperatures in the active zone.


Sammy dropped off a load of very good quality topsoil. The more soil building activity going on the more the level in the beds dropped down. Over the summer months, Ron has been keeping the soil level topped up. It has been a dry summer and I have been watering the bed to keep the soil organisms alive and busy. 
In the fall the irrigation will be installed then finally I can add the plants. I have a number of the plants bedded down in other gardens patiently waiting for their new home.


Thursday, September 28, 2017

Colour: A Personal Response Exhibition at ArtSea Gallery in Tulista Park, Sidney

Opening Reception of Colour: A Personal Response - Lesley and Sarah.
Thank you, Louise, for thinking of and taking a photograph of the 2 of us on the night of the opening.

The gallery waiting for the first viewers.

Each of the works is monochromatic, made using only one colour.
We hung the work with Sarah's making a colour wheel going clockwise around the room.

And my work making an intersecting colour wheel going anticlockwise around the room.

The result was each work was hung in a group with its complement.

At the small books table, we asked people to pick a colour and write their thoughts or feelings about that colour. It was a popular centre on the opening night and throughout the week.

I love the little drawings the children made.

Sarah and I spent our time while sitting the exhibition talking to people about how the work came about and what our concept was. There were lots of conversations in front of the works over the week also.


People stopped to read our artist statements and bios.

Sarah at the front desk keeping track of visitors, sales and answering questions.

Sarah had cards for each of her works for sale and did a brisk business.

Each work had its colour book. Sarah's were a result of her research on each artist she studied and made a work on. My books were marks showing the energy of each colour in a different medium - paint.

The fabric colour cards were displayed on turntables grouped by temperature.
The cool colours of the colour wheel.

The warm colours.

We sold a good number of individual fabric colour cards but the packs with all of the colours were the most popular.
The tally of visitors to the show tell it was a successful exhibition. For Sarah and I, we know it was successful because of the interest shown in our work by so many people over the week. They wanted to hear all about everything to do with how the idea started to how we worked, how we made each work and how we hung the work. There were people who came back again bringing other friends with them. Our viewers wrote lots of encouraging words in the guest book and have sent us emails of thanks since.
Sarah and I want to thank everyone who came to the exhibition and also all of those who have supported us while we worked to produce this body of work.
The exhibition is going to be travelling for a while. I'll keep you posted on where it will be stopping.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Colour: A Personal Response Exhibition Gets Hung in ArtSea Gallery Tulista Park, Sidney BC

Sarah unwraps her artwork.
The first task once we got access to the gallery at 6:00 Sunday evening was to set up tables to work from.

We laid sheets on the floor along all of the walls we were planning to hang on.
We did a check to see if it would all fit in the space.

While Sarah and I did a rough hang of the work Ron sorted out all of the hanging cables and placed what was needed above each work.

While Ron and I got each artwork leveled, at the right height and spaced from its neighbour, Sarah set up different colour centers. 
Here are the Fabric Colour Cards in their individual racks on rotating stands. We are selling individual cards and have complete sets of 24 cards packaged up as well.
On the wall is one of each colour card mounted in a frame by our fabulous framer Jane Conner in the Mat Shop. She framed all of the works in the exhibition and gave us lots of good advice along the way.

Another colour centre is in a quieter space in the back alcove of the gallery. I made 24 little colour books and am asking people to pick any book and write in it how they feel about the colour.

Another colour centre has 36 colour books set up in racks. 
Sarah is going through a book with Isobel Jones, an early visitor to the exhibition the morning it opened.
I'll show a better shot of this centre in a  later post.


Sarah has chosen not to sell her original works at this stage but has made prints and cards of individual works to sell.


Speaking of selling - here is Ron programming my Square in preparation for sales.
We worked until after 10 last night and were back in the gallery early this morning to do all of the remaining tasks before officially opening. The gallery committee support person, Dale MacEwan, was in the gallery last night and first thing this morning to explain all the gallery systems to us. Thank you, Dale, for all of your support.
The gallery is open. The exhibition is on!



Saturday, September 16, 2017

Colour: A Personal Response Exhibition - getting ready to hang

For the past 2 years, Sarah McLaren and I have been producing bodies of work based on how we feel about specific colours.


I have produced 24 works, each one exploring the energy I feel from a specific colour.

Sarah has explored each colour through the works of one of her favourite artists.
Here is her 'Modigliani in magenta' and my 'Synesthesia #5 Green'.
Earlier in the year, we set up a little taster of our exhibition in the gallery where we will be exhibiting next week - ArtSea Gallery at Tulista Park, Sidney BC, September 18th to 24th.

We both made colour cards in 24 different hues with shades, tints and tones in fabric on one side and paint on the other. We are busy packaging these up in sets to sell.

 We both made colour books, one to match each of our fibre works.
Here are my books laid out flat while the matte medium layer dries.

 I also made a second set of smaller books. 

The rack cards and poster have been designed, printed and distributed.
Many thanks to Sarah's daughter, Margo for all of the work she has done to promote the exhibition. 
In these last few days, we are working through our checklists of all those tasks that need to be done to mount an exhibition. Labels - check, print stickers - check, pick up cards - check, .....
Sunday evening we begin hanging. Sarah and I are very excited to see for the first time how our work looks together. I'll keep you posted.

'Colour: A Personal Response' 
September 18th to 24th, 2017
Artsea Gallery, Tulista Park, 9565 Fifth Street, Sidney BC
Open 10am to 4pm daily
Opening Reception September 19th, 2017 from 4 to 6pm