All’s well in the grotto

When I first heard there were problems and complaints with the grotto project, my heart sank … Here the grotto was less than 2 months old, and probably still didn’t look like much to the naked eye, yet it had already had a tremendous impact on me personally.

It had inspired me on my personal projects around the house, and even given me a new perspectives on how to approach projects in general, not just gardening. And it had given me something outside of my own yard and normal everyday life and routine to look forward to.

I was curious as to what the problems could be. Maybe people didn’t like the name … how we were referring to it as ‘the projects’ or ‘the grotto’ (thinking ghetto). But I was relieved to learn that the problems were more centered around public access than with the garden itself … it seems once they saw the elaborate designs for stepping stones, they thought people would want to venture off onto them.

And maybe we had done more than they had anticipated, caught them off guard as they underestimated the KDOC. Perhaps they didn’t realize that we weren’t just going to show up for a weekend and plant a couple flowers. We were going to really make something …

Anyway … progress resumed Sunday morning. Workforce was about the same as at the second grotto work party, but this time we split into two groups – one side tackled the pond, and the other side worked on the stepping stones and solidified the mini wall which held them in place.

As it was, the access trail we built on the north side of the Columbarium worked great, but its biggest flaw was at the base. We had hastily capped off our nice, meandering, z-shaped trail with a steep 45-degree angle ramp at the bottom. So on Sunday we built the bottom up so it was more level with the stepping stone retainer wall, and ultimately ended up placing level steps all the way up to the access trail’s new base. We placed frames for about a dozen stepping stones and poured concrete in them.

When you look out at the grotto garden from the windows of Kannon Hall, your eyes naturally go from the lava rock wall with all its beautiful green moss (and eventually orchids) to the plain gray concrete blocks that hold the Columbarium in place. They stuck out, at least they did, until they were painted on Sunday.

Although painted doesn’t sound quite like the right word, because when you think of painted concrete you always think of a solid color, which doesn’t look much different than normal concrete other than it’s been painted. These were more textured. Technically painted, yes, but in a way to make them blend better with the existing lava rock. Which is also deceiving to say because they weren’t really painted to look like lava rock; rather, painted to match. First they were sprayed with a light coat of gray primer, followed by a light coat of brown and then some black. Not one coat did a whole lot on its own, as they were light coats, but the resulting effect combined was rather impressive. It tones them down … think muted instead of painted. (The same treatment will be applied to the stepping stones after they have cured for a week.)

The water line will be moved so that it runs along the same course as the power line, then we just have to worry about hiding one thing, and the electric line runs a more natural direct course than they aimless wondering water line.

By the time I made it back over to the pond, it didn’t even look like the same place. The camellias and azaleas and palms had been cut way back, which helped tie the two areas together and give it a more airy feel … it doesn’t feel so cramped on the walkway now, over near the back door.

Pond was cleaned out, the face rock had been moved from the center to the back, and placed so well it looks like it has always been there. (I’m guessing from this point forward it always will be; I heard it wasn’t light). Pond will be filled with gravel this week, and somehow a 4-foot-diameter lava pot is going to be airlifted in.

In the course of retracing my steps I remembered that I forgot to move the hose back to where I found it in the front. We were mixing concrete for the steps, then we finished, somebody brought out lunch and I left Dick to clean up … My thoughts naturally went from grotto to food – total blackout – then I took me and my thoughts to the beach, and we didn’t get the back to the grotto until I sat down here at my computer, and as I replayed the course of the day back to myself and type it out, try to make sense of all of it, well, it was then that I realized the error …

– Clint Zavodny

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