That’s how it felt last Wednesday morning, as the sewer repair crew arrived with their much-larger-than-expected excavator. (Though the excavator’s color did nicely echo the orange of the Mexican Sunflowers.)



The sewer line they had come to repair lies partly under the path to the front and partly under the Driveway Border, which is the very first border I installed after moving into our house. I felt like a parent whose beloved child was being wheeled into the operating room. And the doctor was going to operate with a gigantic orange excavator.


The crew had to dig a trench that was just 3 by about 8 feet. Only thing is, it had to go about 7 feet deep, so it generated a LOT of dirt.


The Front Garden is blessed with exceptionally deep topsoil, but go 18-24 inches down and you’ll find the subsoil is dense with clay. This surprised me for some reason, though it really shouldn’t have.


Here’s the trench. The light isn’t great, but you can kind of see here how deep the darker topsoil goes.


The sewer guys were not gardeners (one asked me if the daffodil bulbs he had uncovered were radishes, so maybe they weren’t cooks either), but they deserve credit for doing their best to minimize damage to the border. Before they came I had dug out the Nepeta, Culver’s Root, and some of the Wild Bergamot that looked to be in the way. We did have one serious loss: a mature Wild Blue Indigo. I’ll plant a replacement, not necessarily in the same place.


When they were done they filled the trench. It rained that night, and the next day the path to the front door was a gushy, gooey river of clay. As a temporary expedient, I threw down some plywood boards to make it passable.

This has nothing to do with the topic of this post, just a nice picture of a Bush’s Poppy Mallow bloom with some Bluestem Goldenrod.

Week after next another crew is coming to redo our driveway and front path, both of which are seriously falling to pieces. Once they are done I can start to repair the damage. There will be lots of new bulbs and some new perennials to plant, along with putting some other plants back where they had been.

So on the day after the eve of destruction it turned out things could have been a lot worse. Of course, we’ve still got a ways to go.

54 Comments on “Eve of Destruction”

  1. I was out of town and missed it all! Due to storms in Chicago, my flight back from Austin arrived at O’Hare at 2:15am Saturday morning, and I slogged through the wet clay soup at 3am. Luckily, I had a very nice cab driver who put my suitcase on the porch and then advised me where to step so my feet didn’t sink in the muck – there were no boards at that point.

    It’s a little horrifying, to tell the truth. I’m looking forward to having it all put back together.

    I’m in Seattle next week – my schedule this fall is appalling, but I go to half-time November 1st. I’ll be home the week they install the new walk and driveway, and take a day off to watch and make sure they do it right.

  2. Wow, I’m so sorry about the destruction to your garden. But on the bright side you have an opportunity to put in some new plants. You truly are blessed with great soil. I’m in the western suburbs of Chicago in a 70 year old house and I have about 4-5” before I hit the dreaded clay!

  3. I’m sure your garden will be back to looking beautiful eventually, but in the meantime I can sympathise, it must be dreadful to see your planting ripped apart like that. New planting opportunities mean lots of lovely new plants, you will enjoy the planning, I’m sure!

  4. I shudder thinking about the clay soil. It looks like it will be some time before you get your front garden put back to rights. I don’t envy you your job. It is so disheartening to have to do this. Good luck with your project. A good thing that Judy will be able to watch the reconstruction of your drive and walkway.

  5. I had a chortle over the radishes. We had a problem several years ago with our sewer connection to the street and it needed to be dug up right through our foundation bed, so I know the angst this causes. I hope it’s back together in no time.

  6. Oh, I feel your pain! When I was finally able to get city water here, I paid extra for directional drill so they did not have to dig up any garden beds. Before that, though, the well repair guy had to kind of run over one bed with his big truck to position the drill correctly. Next year the city is going to dig out swales and put in more storm sewer lines to improve drainage. I think the damage will miss my plantings – fingers crossed!

  7. I did laugh at the comment about the nice color coordination between the machinery and the Mexican sunflowers. At least you have that nice topsoil, too, instead of Houston’s infamous black gumbo clay; it holds water forever after heavy rains, is sticky when wet, and like cracked concrete when dry. We wish that on no one.

    It must have been hard to watch that process, even though you know that between your efforts and nature’s self-repair things will be better. As Jimmy Buffett puts it, every stop there’s a place to start.

  8. That has to be a gut punch in some respects .. but ? .. opportunity in others (to try and look n the bright side .. a bit ?) .. I know it would impact my disposition in a huge way .
    So maybe writing this out as a post put a little more perspective in your direction and planning for new bulbs and perennials is a bit of an uplifting aspect .. hopefully ?
    Best of luck and I am sure it will all turn out beautifully !

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