Blue Castle Garden: Year 13

In 2017, numerous smaller projects were completed. Among them, a drainage issue was corrected, a support for a flagstone landing was built and the dry streambed was lined with rubber pond liner.

Flaking stain removal continued on the pergola with help of a surprising tool. New decorative elements were added and snow lingering into spring led to the loss of many prized iris.


Installed Pipes to Improve Drainage

The foundation for my neighbor’s newly built garage subtly changed the drainage along our common fence. Water began to back up in the streambed. I redirected the water to the front yard using buried plumbing pipe. 

A second buried piece eliminated a tripping hazard from the front yard downspout (left). Dug up plants were stored in buckets and bags (right). 

The pipe was routed under some of the flagstones to avoid disturbing the clematis vines (left). Pipe exited under the front fence, draining into the existing swale (right).

The backfilled and replanted side yard. Weeks later, the plants were already filling in. 

Flanked Back Gate with Trellis

Two half-circle trellises were attached on either side of the gate to eventually frame it with green foliage. 

This hot, sunbaked location is difficult for many vines so experimentation continues. 

Patio Post Hanging Baskets

Loving the romantic style of hanging baskets, I purchased a couple Gardman Victorian Parasol baskets for my patio post. A hummingbird sighting in the garden that spring led to the addition of a feeder near the baskets.

MiniFamous® Double Pink Million Bells created a pink cloud of flowers.

Obelisks for Pergola Pots

Adding obelisks to the pergola pots created columns of green foliage making for a cozier feeling. These Gardman Loire obelisks were initially white but spray painted black to match the rest of the garden.

Prism Sunshine Petunias and White Black-Eyed Susan Vines early in the season.

Built Flagstone Landing Base

The roughly laid flagstones were dangerous so the area was built up and leveled using a pressure treated wooden frame.  Flagstones were trimmed to fit the next year.

The sloping flagstone was trecherous when icy.

Digging a shallow trench to embed the frame. 

Due to an optical illusion my mom looked like a hobbit (left). Measuring the corner brace angles before cutting (right).

Screwing in corner braces to stiffen the frame.

Corner braces before backfilling.

The completed frame, backfilled and ready for flagstone.

Lined Dry Streambed

Previously laid stones in the dry streambed became obscured with dirt. To create a barrier between the stones and soil, a thick rubber pond liner was laid.

Stones were removed and the pond liner was cut to shape.

Water run on the pond liner ensured the slopes were correct.

Large rocks held down and disguised the edges of the liner.

Repainted House Trim and Installed Window Boxes

The original house paint and a subsequent repaint job hired out both failed within a few years. Research led me to a far superior paint, Cloverdale Ecologic Semi-Gloss, which in its fifth year shows no sign of cracking or fading. 

To enhance the flat facade, three removable window boxes with built-in water reservoirs were attached below the windows. 

Black paint is notorious for failing due to the extra heat it absorbs from the sun.

Mayne Nantucket 3′ (91cm) long window boxes in black.

Switched and Added New Birdbath

Looking ahead, I moved my dark Campania Chatham birdbath to the back yard and purchased a more substantial style that would better match my future pathway, laid in Year 14.

The new birdbath better suited the paver stone pathway. 

The dark birdbath matched the metal scroll bench and made a charming vignette with Ville de Lyon Clematis and Superbells® Grape Punch™ Million Bells.

Darkened Side Yard Trellis

After a hard frost the perennial kiwi vine was cut back, the posts were restained and the lattice replaced.

Black trellis stands out far better than light grey.

The Male Arctic Beauty Kiwi Vine grew back quickly the following spring. 

Purchased Pavers for Future Pathway

To get a head start on the next year’s construction, paver stones from several suppliers were transported to the back yard. This heavy material took us five loads to move by half-ton truck.

A convenient spot for temporary storage. 

Repainted Front Door

The front door was removed and repainted using several cans of Tremclad® Oil Based Rust black spray paint which was quick and surprisingly effective. It still looks sharp five years later.

Green painter’s tape protected the glass insert during painting. 


Hot Weather Slowed Stain Repair

To cure properly, stain requires a certain temperature range. A very hot summer meant staining could only be done in early morning hours, prolonging the job. 

After pressure washing, a wire brush removed flaked stain in tight corners. 

The partially repainted pergola in a deeper grey. 

Slow Snow Melt Rotted Iris

In shady areas, deep snow banks melt slowly, rotting some plants. Due to these conditions, many of my irises didn’t survive this year. 

Some of the iris that barely pulled through this year were wiped out in the next.

High Master Iris, a spectacular variety, was lost through rot. 

Fiery Temper Iris, with its vibrant orange beards, was another sad loss. 

Rustler Iris, another casualty.  


Skunks Love Dead Ground Wasps

The discovery of a ground wasp nest required action. Days later, I noticed a skunk was visiting the yard to dig up and eat the dead wasps. I plugged all holes into my yard with large rocks, not wanting a permanent visitor. 

Animals digging around plant roots can weaken the plant. 

A Pressure Washer Easily Removes Stain

To reduce hand strain, research led me to try a pressure washer to remove flaked stain. Not suitable for all projects as it can roughen up wood fibers, it cut down significantly on the time and effort required to prep the wood.

The Sun Joe SPX3000 pressure washer had a surprisingly long reach.

Color Coordination Creates a More Peaceful Look

After years of combining too many flower colors, I switched focus and began to simplify the palette. It still had great visual weight from the street. 

Prince Charles Clematis climbing the obelisk in the large pot. 

Blue Daddy and Sugar Daddy Petunias (left) and Kardynal Wyszynski and The President Clematis (right).


Difficult problems generally have solutions if you can think outside of the box. Some challenges have taken me a couple years to fix but with no time pressure and stress, the mind will eventually find a way. 

Many garden design issues were solved wandering the aisles of home hardware stores with the problem in mind. This relaxed approach sparked solutions found nowhere else.

This post is part of the Blue Castle Garden Timeline series. 

About Jolene

I’m an avid gardener whose mission is to bring more beauty into the world. I believe that with the right information anyone can create their own lovely, small garden paradise.

When I’m not gardening you can find me exploring the Canadian Rockies. Learn more…

Jolene Rempel on Cirque Peak, Banff National Park.

About Jolene

I’m an avid gardener whose mission is to bring more beauty into the world. I believe that with the right information anyone can create their own lovely, small garden paradise.

When I’m not gardening you can find me exploring the Canadian Rockies. Learn more…


Blue Castle Garden: Year 14 (Part 1)

Blue Castle Garden front yard flowers, bushes and trees.

Blue Castle Garden: Front Yard Plants – Entrance Area

Jolene Rempel looking at mountains from Guinn's Pass Trail in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada.

Galatea Lake and Guinn’s Pass: Majestic Serenity