IN JUNE I CONFESSED TO AMBIVALENCE about my weeping Cornus kousa, which grows beside where a much larger tree was lost to disease last fall. The odd-shaped little dogwood, raised from a tiny stick, seemed even odder without its former companion: really the sore thumb. Should it stay, or go? I asked. And you answered. It stayed, and then some. Never one to under-do anything, I went a little wild. The damn thing is now not just at home, it’s virtually enshrined. Say hello again to your old friend (up by the red arrow).
Because of the sharp slope the kousa and I are on, I started with a single retaining wall around it, as you’ve seen before.
Then I was frozen for a month or two; paralyzed by possibilities, and unable to sort what else would happen in the space beyond the kousa, which stretches to the west of the house.
It’s good not to move too fast sometimes in the garden, especially when a long visual memory is still stuck too far forward in your brain. I hadn’t really let go mentally of the big old pine that dominated this whole area, a tree I loved.
Finally, it came to me: Since I’d already made a commitment to “terracing” or changing the grade with that first retaining wall below the kousa, why not create another flat spot on the level below that (flat spots being in short supply around here) for a table and some chairs? And so the second terrace was born, looking very much like a gravel-filled old foundation, perpendicular to the house.
You can see how severe the grade change is throughout my property by looking at the new wall, which fades from nearly 3 feet high to barely one stone tall over just 16 feet of span.
It required a proper footing, of course, and I loved watching the whole process unfold. Almost as much as I loved tossing in every errant stone or broken brick or any other form of rubble I could find. The wall project turned out to be a big cleanup project here, too–the end of small piles of unused, unwanted stone I’d left here and there. Buried!
I guess I have the kousa (and all of you) to thank for Margaret’s Big Adventure, hardly the kind of thing a largely unemployed person in a downturned economy should be doing. But I am glad I did it, anyhow. You only live once: and I plan to be doing some living out there on my new terraces, the paved one above the kousa, and the gravel-filled one below. By next spring I’ll track down a table and a proper chaise for up on the paved area, where the green wooden chair serves temporary duty. Oh, and carry away those few extra stones that didn’t find a place, like the one in front of the chair, below. Oops.
I know, you can barely see the kousa in that last exposure, against the wintry sky. But it’s there, just to the left of the left-hand column, feeling a little naked, but also terribly important after causing all of this madness to unfold.