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DIY Projects ~ Laying Bricks for a Trash Bin Patio

Laying paver bricks  is something I have wanted to try for a while. Mr. Ethereal and I have finally figured out how we want our backyard to look so for my first attempt at laying bricks I began with a troublesome area of our yard ~ our trash bin area. Let’s begin this DIY home tutorial and lay some bricks!…

Phase One

I began this brick laying project about a month ago when I set all these keystone bricks as the border for our family’s trash area. This area sits just outside our back fence gate and next to our roll-up garage door in the alleyway and it is constantly muddy. Definitely needed a refresh!
Level both across and width-wise adding sand/dirt underneath to get each brick nice and level. Set the next bricks the same way leveling the first row across all bricks. You can turn the bottom row upward to create a stop-fence for the successive rows. I didn’t need to do that for this project since bricking will butt up to these keystone bricks. 

Keystone bricks are awesome as they are already pre-made to break in the middle. Just score your brick with a flat brick chisel then repeatedly hit with a hammer to fracture it. This brick broke beautifully for me!
I used a small level, both flat and spade-edged shovels, my trusty garden trowel for putting dirt underneath each brick, and a lot of elbow grease! 

I dug out the dirt from underneath the wooden fence and leveled the area tamping it with our square tamper (that tool to the right of the flat shovel). All the removed dirt I moved into the two flower beds I made last summer and last fall.

Bonus prizes!! Former homeowners had set in this round and a couple of flat wide bricks and a metal edging to try and deal with the mud. I also found a round medallion for a rose bush which used to be on this site, which I kept. Sentimental, I know… 🙂

It only took two days (about 4-5 hours each day) to level the dirt under the wooden fence and put in/level each one-to-two-level stack of red and black keystone bricks. 


I curved this section to make a nice edging mirroring the curved cement driveway transition into our garage.  And to prep for Phase Two…


This photo shows the lower set of brick which are buried and are more for support. Some of the Old Town bricks were also used to fill gaps as needed. In back are some of the materials used in this project: the 15″ x 15″ main pavers, bags of sand for underlayment and the keystone bricks themselves.


Phase Two

I chose a combination of keystone brick, wide brick pavers (approx. 15″x 15″) in a red/black mixed color, and regular-size Holland Old Town Blend pavers from Home Depot (not sponsored; I wish!) to make an interesting combination of bricks to fill this area.

Begin by taking out dirt to create a level space to add in sand. Be aware that this takes A LOT of physical work. I removed dirt, some tree roots and a bunch of weeds and acorns getting this mostly level. For bigger projects, a rented electric tamper would make this really level. For my project I just used our hand tamper and eyeballed the leveling.* I also ran a long 2×4 across the dirt to help level the area.

Note: Enough dirt needs to be excavated to leave room for gravel (if needing drainage underneath) plus a couple of inches of sand plus the top height of the bricks to be flush with the surrounding edging/walkway/keystone bricks. 

Lay down and pin landscape fabric into the dirt below. I used three pieces of this fiberglass-type fabric here and make sure to overlap each piece by about 8″. This keeps the sand and mortar from seeping below, and also keeps any weeds from rising up to crack through your brick project.

Dry run your bricks

Lay in your outer bricks and cut any to fill gaps. I had some trouble here as I have a tile saw and tile blades but not a brick or paver saw blade, so I had to break bricks by hand… If you have the right saw, use it! 😉

Use a large square to help align your edging bricks and then begin laying the larger bricks from that 90 degree corner. Add sand in low areas and recheck for level in both horizontal directions on each brick AND brick to brick. Use a long level for this step.


Score and hammer off sections of brick as needed to fit each section as you go. This was tricky and didn’t always work as I would have liked so I filled in the final section with these wonky pieces.

The Free Press WV
source

Here I was adding in sand underneath so moving small piles of sand closer to the work area was helpful.

Ready for sand! In the dirt section below I’ll add some Sweet Alyssum seeds to beautify this area. Alyssum grows well in clay soil and doesn’t require much maintenance.
This was another two days of work where I finished around 4:00pm and left brushing in the sand for the next day (third day).

Use the right sand

First I swept in the underlayment crushed granite sand, which normally would have been fine… Except I realized I wanted this to be permanent and keep out weed growth and to let water to run off this paved area.

So… I had to brush most of the sand back out of the cracks and use paver set sand instead. This paver sand is much finer and gets underneath the edges of your pavers to really bond and hold all the bricks together. 

Tamp tamp tamp

This paver set sand works great but your pavers have to be really dry to use it. Take a small container and pour paver set sand around each joint and then just brush it in with your work broom. 

Follow the directions on your container of paver set sand for this section as you go, and finish this with tamping each brick with a shovel handle (flip your shovel upside down to use he handle rubber top) to compact the paver sand. 

After it settles the first time, add more paver set sand and tamp again. Repeat until the sand stays put at about 1/4″ below the top of each brick.

Finished set pavers two days later after plastic was removed.
The final step is to gently spray-mist the paver set sand following the manufacturer’s directions. This brand had me gently spray it until it wouldn’t accept any more water, then let that water soak in, then spray again. Repeat until each section won’t accept anymore water without causing white foam to run on top of the bricks. Wipe off any white foam so the bricks won’t look hazy when dry.

Cover with plastic for 72 hours to help slowly cure the paver set sand and then uncover and enjoy! This little brick patio is ready for its trash bins!


*This brick trash bin storage area project turned out pretty good. I only have one real boo-boo spot at the front left side where the Old Town bricks butt up against the existing tabby walkway ~ it’s a little low spot which collects water, but I can live with that! 😌 I asked Mr. Ethereal how I would fix it and he said I’d have to remove a few bricks and reset them. If you have an area like that as you build your brick patios and walkways, feel free to reset your bricks as needed. 


Thank you for sharing any of these photos!

Please leave me a comment and do let me know if this helps you in the future when you are laying bricks. I’ll be doing more outdoor projects as we move into summer, so check back for more. Thanks!



Hugs,
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Fall Garden 2019 Update

Our garden design is coming along as I see elements I like in other gardens nearby and throughout Texas. Here is a little update on what I have planned…



My inspiration garden

This summer  I just fell in love with this simple boxwood garden at a home near ours, situated on a small manmade lake. Our first home had a view fence just like this and it made our tiny garden look really large because of the view beyond our backyard…






Isn’t this view gorgeous??!
I love the design of this garden and how the owners planted boxwood and other evergreens around their oak and pine trees. They incorporated rough cut stones around each of the topiary beds and little statues ~ perfect in my book!

There is a lovely stone and cement patio with chairs and a table on it but I was trying to be discreet when I shot these photographs to not invade the owners’ privacy, so no shots of their patio. You can see a little bit of it in the first photograph:

Our general backyard plan

  • Use the cut stones leftover from creating the flowerbed and rock wall behind our master bedroom. Buy remaining stones to finish the planter.
  • Loosely make an oval shaped garden bed above ground for new boxwood and holly found on-sale.
  • Plant around the main oak tree using reclaimed composted soil from local waste management company. 
  • Cut back any dead branches and shape into balls before next freeze so plants can harden to the weather.
  • Consider and possibly buy a few flat stepping stones to try in the area from the patio to around the first oak tree.

Here are the plants I found at Walmart last weekend for $5 ea./large 5 gal. container and $2.00 ea./smaller containers. I bought three large boxwood and three large holly bushes and several small boxwood to use in pots and elsewhere in the yard.


Here you can see how I loosely began the planter bed by laying out the remaining cream-colored chopstone (limestone with sawcut tops and bottoms).  There was no rhyme or reason to laying out the bags of soil and when Mr. Ethereal came outside he suggested laying them where I would want the dirt then cutting each bag open with the shovel.

“How do you do that?” I asked casually… (I really wanted him to come help me with this project since my workweek involves combative kids who make my muscles really tired from holding them back, trying to keep them from fighting with each other.)

Final photograph with potted plants pulled to the garage wall for protection from the hard freeze we had most of this week. Lots of acorns have fallen again even though a bunch were just raked up…
Mr. Ethereal was good and did come throw bags around for me placing them where they needed to be and opening some. (I had already carted them from the car to the garden just before he got home from inventory counting. This was Saturday mid-afternoon, afterall.)

My helper!

Mr. Yoda kept me company and sniffed for squirrels while I schlepped the Better Homes and Garden cart filled with 3-5 compost bags up the steep alley driveway curb and into the yard…

He is a good boy and enjoyed roaming around while Mom worked.
:)’

The planter bed starts coming together and I love how it looks!


The oak trees cloaked in autumn glory above…


Don’t you think this new bed will balances the yard?! I love it!
This was the last of the really nice weekends of this year’s Indian summer ~ low 60’s on Saturday and 50’s on Sunday. Here you can see the two hydrangeas ready to be pulled indoors on a moment’s notice to protect them from the cold and freezing temps. 

The rosemary topiary looks terrible but that’s because I gave it a severe haircut to shape it. It had grown crazily during the late heat of summer in its spot over by the garden shed. And I had forgotten to turn it more often so it would grow evenly around its main stem… My bad.
🙁

A beautiful mess

Looking out the window late on Saturday as the sun dipped down towards evening, it was time to reflect on the day’s progress made and enjoy the beginnings of a new yard… Happy to be home!



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Câlins et bisous,

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Tom’s Secret Garden in Corsicana

Temps passé dans le jardin*  is by far my favorite way to spend the day, and on this day I found a secret garden. It really isn’t so secret to the people who live in Corsicana, Texas but it was for me!! Let’s venture into the garden, shall we?…

*Time spent in the garden


I took  these photographs with my iPhone and they are a bit dark as last Friday was overcast and cool but the weather was absolutely perfect for stepping into this lovely secret garden! 


 

Situated just outside the shop Victorian Sample Florist owned by Tom Adams in historic Old Town Corsicana (est. 1848), this lovely garden was created when the shop was quiet over the years in memory of his late parents, Derrell and Kathryn Adams.

Love the foliage creeping up the red brick wall!
Also shot from my cell phone while I was taping.


Two ladies who own the shop (Emporium 1905) right next door to Mr. Adams’ shop told me the story of how the garden came to be.


Screen shot from the IG video I posted. 🙂

As a person, I know I don’t know Tom Adams at all but as a gardener I feel that I do. Gardens are such personal expressions and extensions of ourselves that they share a person’s soul, don’t you agree? 

His shop and the ladies’ shop next door I’ll share in a separate post coming soon but for now know that when you happen to stop over in Corsicana for a rest, do head through the historic district and say hello!

Tom’s blending of plants is stunning ~ from low variegated ivy and creeping vines, which shelter the ground and creep up the brick wall, to the palm-like frond here in the front and the perennial bush to its left. I love the textures! As a florist he knows his plants ~ something I’d like to become more adept at, bad grammar aside.
😉


Another “moving photo” from the phone. 🙂

I am sure the City of Corsicana was more than enthusiastic that Tom would share his gardening talents with the public here in this little pathway! 

I’ve shot a number of pictures sharing the brick pathway as I love brick walkways and would like to make one at our new little home.  As you can see this pathway isn’t finished… It takes hundreds upon hundreds of bricks to create the soldiers and path itself. Maybe Tom receives donations of used brick from customers, or from the City as they tear up an older section, or from when a building is torn down, then he incorporates those into his design?

This is down at the end of the block. See that lovely ivy hanging as a “spiller” in the three potted trees? This is what I’d like to do with the ivy in the plant I received for our anniversary. 

(Oh, you may not know about this yet! Check out my Instagram post to read the story about this delivery…)

Back to the garden… Tom has hung sweet hat lights between the trees as well as high hanging baskets filled with soft asparagus ferns, my mother’s favorite.

Such a beautiful way to hide a wall of crumbling bricks or an unsightly water drain coming off a roof!

Love the spiky with the hanging pearls in this cement urn!
I did ask the man behind the counter inside the Victorian Sample florist shop (a lovely gentleman in his 60’s or so with a soft southern accent who didn’t want me to take his picture, sadly!) where all the planters and pots were found. Turns out Mr. Adams gets them on buying trips to Dallas and the design district/flower market when he travels up there.


                  
I need to go down there! I haven’t found many good pots or urns to replace those I took over to my friend Sandy’s home when we had to move out of our Big House.
🙁

All in all a lovely way to spend an afternoon tucked up nice and cozy in an ethereal garden!


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 Joyeax automne!
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A Summer Garden Update + More LBJ Garden Ideas

The other day as I was writing the post about visiting The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center with my daughter, I realized that I forgot totally to share the succulents and a few other hardy wildflowers…

In the research garden section of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center sits a number of flower beds with flowers which bloom in different parts of Texas. This particular flowerbed is set up to show visitors which native plants to plant to bring hummingbirds to our gardens ~ sweet birds I think we’d all like to have visit us!
🙂

Here are those wildflower beds and it’s a really interesting place anyone could go to study what plants will work in clay soils. Here in Texas we have this crazy swelling-and-cracking caliche soil  (sounds a lot like those sausage-filled yummy German kolache sandwiches) so it was good to see what really thrives here.

Earlier this spring I shared the beginnings of our rose garden. I’m still learning whether this area will work for roses as it is pretty shady. I have worked the soil and added a ton of composted dirt mixed with some of the caliche so the roses get used to it. 

More dirt is needed to fill up this flower bed so I can add future plants, but so far the roses are happy in their spots! They aren’t stressing with the summer heat unlike last year when I lost three rose bushes… ugh!
🙁
The main planter bed just after the second rose was planted. The
three little lavender plants from the May Pinterest Challenge moved
into this pot until they grow bigger.
This type of clay soil is a calcium carbonate sedimentary soil which is a binder in of all things CEMENT. 

So… I will be watching this experiment in gardening very carefully… I am really glad that I added a bunch of rocks in the bottom of each hole.
🙂


Happy tomato and herbs in their planter by the garage…


Here is a quick look at how I prepped the soil:


For really heavy clay soil adding rock in the bottom makes all the difference with drainage. I added good loamy soil on top, mixed in some of the caliche, then planted and topped off with more good soil. I also mounded up a berm of clay soil around each plant to help with watering.

Freed up pots

From there I went on with planting and repotting two hydrangeas, a rosemary topiary (which needs a haircut again), and the first of two boxwood I’ll be taking out front later this fall.

I found this new white planter on sale at Nebraska Furniture Mart for under $30 and I love it! This pearly pot is now home to a very crowded plastic pot of amaryllis. 



This was a fun merry-go-round afternoon moving plants here and there but the results are soooo worth it! Only two roses are left to plant and hopefully I can entice Mr. Ethereal to help me dig the holes…

The coup de grace and a great end of the day project ~ creating
a little sitting area under the far oak tree. Love it! And you get
to see the side yard ~ a project for next year.
We’ve pretty much decided to pave the backyard around the oak trees as this will keep the mud and dust down. We hope to start work on that soon before the acorns and leaves begin falling. Clean up should be a lot easier then! 

Mostly iPhone photos today so that’s why these pics are a bit grainy and the lighting is a bit wonky. The sun was also peeking in and out of the clouds all day.  😉


We are very happy with how the yard is coming along and now it’s ready to welcome visitors.
Yoda is pretty happy in his new yard, too!



Come on by!
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Build Yourself a Small Rock Wall

This past month  I have been working hard on getting the first project done in our new garden so I can share it with you! After not having a big garden for several years I am so not in shape to “rock and dig,” as my father used to say. If this were a One Room Challenge I would say that 6 weeks to get it done is pretty much perfect, Lol!

However, I am not letting being out of shape keep me from creating this first rock wall project and frankly after the first day of five hours and finishing at 9:00pm, a really good stretching session before bed, and a hot shower, I felt stronger and my back felt better.

I am really excited to share this big project with you…

These are the inspiration photos I shared earlier this spring in this post here. Today’s tutorial will help you make a dry stacked rock wall for your very own garden.
🙂

In these inspiration photographs is the color of limestone I wanted ~ a white or cream chopped stone. 


How to begin your rock wall

First you’ll want to visit a rock yard and decide on what type of stone you would like. I drove up to BnB Stone in Sanger, Texas to visit my friend Chris who is the manager there. I’ve known Chris ever since I moved to Texas as he and his wife live at Wagon Master RV Park and Alpaca Farm from which we just moved. 

*Be sure to tell them I sent you when you go up there, thanks! This post isn’t sponsored but I would love to be!!! {hint hint} 

Better yet, send them an email at: bnbstone@gmail.com and let them know you love their stone and that I featured them here at French Ethereal! {Huge thank-you! :D}




Here’s the man himself! He was a great help showing me all the
different stone types BnB has to offer the public. They sell these
wonderful metal repurposed sparkplug butterflies, too, along
with other metal sculptures ~ really adorable!


Chris suggested I go with a “sawn chopped stone.” Sawn stone has had the top and bottom edges cut flat making them much easier to stack and to stay stacked.

Great idea! 😉

In the inspiration photographs above is the color of limestone I wanted ~ a white or cream chopped stone. 


Lay out your wall

I began by measuring from the center of the window to each outside wall (94″) and laid out our garden hose for a rough estimate of how I want this garden wall to look. 
When you lay out yours, play around with the “height” or distance from the wall in the center of your arc, if you make an arched wall like this one. Mine ended up being about 65″ from the house wall itself creating a nice big garden space for these roses and future plants.

Next I used a can of orange spray paint and drew my arc. This is your digging line and really helps to keep things even.

Don’t worry if you have to change the curve or lines a bit as you go or have to repaint due to rain. I worked on this rock wall over 20 hours and a two-week period so I had to spray a couple of times. The paint dries up and becomes inert so it won’t harm the environment ~ something I looked at beforehand. But it will permanently paint small rocks.   
😉

Level the ground

This is the toughest part of making any rock wall ~ leveling the ground under each stone in both horizontal and “vertical” directions, for each stone and from stone-to-stone all along your bottom row. Just keep a trowel handy to shovel dirt under any low corners as you go with each stone. You’ll be burying your stone a couple of inches, too, with that first layer. 

The beauty of getting it right the first time, even though it is really time consuming, is that your wall will stay level unless tree roots grow under it. I chopped off all the big roots and feeder roots which would grow into this bed in the weeks before I began digging. This is a good way to while clean up the yard of storm debris, too. 

Keep a bucket handy for any stray acorns (I had zillions!) and grubs you’ll not want growing in your garden bed. 



French Country Peach Tuteur Trellises capture your attention as soon as enter the walkway

Judith at Botanic Bleu shared her Peach French Tuteur Garden Trellis recently and this is one of the ideas I really like for a garden pathway. Doesn’t it remind you of cobbles and she used the exact same stone as I did but the uncut version. J’aime cela! {Love this!}



 Clean up your stone

When you need to chip off some stone to make your stones closer together, use a stone mason’s chisel and a hammer. Place the chisel’s beveled edge against the stone facing outward and whack it hard. Refine the edge as needed to clean off leftover pieces of stone. This is the tough part and it will make you really tired! 

Since I like my stone to be fairly symmetrical from the centered out, I had to rearrange some early stones after I passed the center of my wall. You can begin your wall from the center outward but fairly soon you will see that it doesn’t really work since you have to level from the beginning, so it’s best to start left-to-right or right-to-left.

Trying a third layer of stone…

Here I went back and chipped off the second layer of stones to make them sit close together since they would be the top stones. The gaps in the first layer are for easy drainage and also because there was no way I was going back to try and fix the spacing more ~ it was tough enough just getting everything level! Lol!!! 🙂


A side view of the planter with just the corner of the playhouse
visible on the very left.

Totals for everything

All in all I am happy with how this planter wall turned out. I won’t kid you and say this isn’t a lot of hard physical labor because it is, but you’ll feel really good physically when you are all done, your shoulders and arms will look better, and your back will be aligned. Cheaper than any gym or spa session!  
😉

Total time: This was about 20-22 hours of digging the trench, leveling the ground and between each stone on the bottom layer as each brick was laid. The first layer takes so long because of this but the second layer puts up in half the time. I worked on this project over two weeks with 5 1/2 hours the first day, and shorter times for the rest of the days.

Total costs: $68.00 for the cream chopped stone ~ $44.00 for 1/4 ton (250 lbs. of 4″w x 6″deep, in various lengths). $24.00 for a 1/3 ton (350 lbs. of 4″ x 4″, in various lengths). The second batch of stones were lighter over all so they cost less, woo hoo!

Exhaustion and pride in good work? Yes, lots!!! I have to say I slept really well after each day of working on this wall. A good hot shower or bath, stretching all major muscle groups and especially the forearms and hands really helps, too. 🙂

A picture to pin, thank you!
I hoped to have a final “planted photograph” for you but this will have to do for now. My friend Joe just dropped off a yard of stones just this past weekend and it’ll be another two weeks of turning the dirt, putting in stones at the bottom where the clay layer is and digging in compost to help with drainage.

*Here’s where the cute playhouse photo ought to be however I never shot photos towards the fence due to the “ugly” around the shed ~ a bunch of cement blocks, piles of wood, the iron railing in back, and our white plastic storage. Now there’s torn down fencing there… No wonder I don’t have a cute picture for you!  🙁


On a fun note! *Joe’s young daughters came over to help and you know that little playhouse we adopted when we bought the house?  (See the smidgen of the playhouse in two photos up…)

Well, good trade! The little house went home with them in their truck! No final photo for you but I have a really cute memory of the playhouse sitting in sideways in the truck as Joe was driving away and two girls couldn’t be happier…
🙂


More soon…