The Aqueduct, Part 3: Planting It

Spring in Quebec comes late. It was mid-May before the ground was dry enough for trucks to cross the lawn. And we needed trucks to complete The Aqueduct.

The Aqueduct on April 6. Snow still lingers in shady areas and everything is a mess.

The reflecting pool went in — first concrete blocks, then steel plates to cover them.

Inside the pool we added a square box with a perforated bottom. Water would drop into the box and seep out into the pool itself, eliminating splashing and keeping the water in the reflecting pool calm. Views of the sky and surrounding landscape would be as clear as possible, broken only by ripples of wind.

More steel boxes arrived, planters that would fill gaps beside the steps. Once these were lined with styrofoam insulation and filled with soil, we were ready to begin planting. And about time, too: it was the end of June!

Steel planters wait to be filled. They protect the sides of the steps., although we will add a hand rail.
A wooden planter sits on top of the gabion wall.

I wanted plants with strong forms, in blue-grey tones to complement the colour of rusty steel. I consulted Eric Fleury from Hodgins and Associates and we chose three ornamental grasses: calamagrostis brachytricha, sporabolus heterolopsis, and panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah.’ The panicum pays homage to my roots in Virginia, and to my grandparents who farmed in the Shenandoah Valley. Its new growth is rust-red and the fall foliage is burgundy, so it should be spectacular against the grey stone wall.

There was no sign of red in these panicum ‘Shenandoah’ on the day they were planted,
but there was after a few weeks.

 

The junipers planted on the hillside are deer-proof. (Or so they say. Deer: are you listening?)  In a few years the shrubs will cover the ground like the blue carpet their name suggests. Popping up from them, like champagne bubbles or big rain drops, will be round shrubs: boxwood, the quintessential Virginia plant.
Plantings on the hillside beside The Aqueduct include juniper ‘Blue Rug’
and ‘Green Velvet’ boxwood.
The perennials in the planting boxes were chosen for colour and texture. Thyme fills the shortest one.

Above it, in the middle planter, is sedum ‘Autumn Fire’.

Autumn Fire is similar to Autumn Joy, but with thicker foliage and brighter flowers.
It was developed in Quebec, making it a good choice for me.

In the tallest planter, lysimachia nummularia surrounds a willow (salix purpurea ‘Nana’.) As soon as it was in the planter, I started second guessing. ‘Nana’ is meant to stay small but I think it will become too big, too bushy and not interesting enough for the space. If it does what it is supposed to do, however, it will become a silver ball. I like that vision — a silvery drop of water, beside water dropping.  I’ve pruned it already and will give it a year before deciding whether to keep it, but I welcome ideas about what to put in its place.

The willow shrub isn’t round yet. I may replace it.
But with what?

In part shade at the base of the tall gabion wall is a long thin planter filled with calamagrostis brachytricha, or Korean feather reed grass. I haven’t used this grass before; I hope it is a good choice.

Calamagrostis brachytricha is planted in the lowest and shadiest planter box.
Caroline works for a local firm that supplied the plants.
On the other side of the steps is a planter full of perovskia ‘Little Spire.’ The blue-grey colouring will look good when the steel rusts, as it will in a year or so, but this year I think the bloom looks anemic and the plant form too weak against the gabion wall.
Perovski ‘Little Spire’ doesn’t inspire me yet.
Next year it should be better.
On top of the retaining wall, three varieties of sedum are arranged in a ‘no pattern’ pattern. Sedum is ideal for this location because it grows in very little soil. I’ve used sedum repestre ‘Angelina’, sedum spurium ‘Red Carpet’ and sedum reflexum ‘Blue Spruce.’ They will grow together and form a carpet of colours and textures that should be wonderful to see.
Sedum on top of the gabion wall
They are doing that already. The photo above shows the sedum the week it was planted. The one below shows it two weeks later. I’m delighted with the effect.
The ‘no pattern’ pattern is starting to emerge.
We’re waiting for a few plants to arrive (don’t you hate back orders?) but they should be in place before long.  We are missing a handrail for the steps. (It will come. Eventually.)
In the fall we will tackle the final section of The Aqueduct. (Have you stopped to wonder where all that falling water goes?) But before then, we have to find and correct THE LEAK.
Yes, we have a problem. And with a project this big and complex, that isn’t surprising.
But more on that next week, along with a look at what happens to the water when it leaves the reflecting pool.