It’s hard to believe this garden is so young, a little over two years. I attribute it to the twenty yards of soil and mulch that we laid on top of the preexisting lawn. The planting had no trouble getting its roots established. You can see the initial plan for the garden above. The exiting patio on the left and the outline of the house frame a space that was sunk into a deep rockery and tall fence. Rather than let this shape define the garden I created hills to rise above the stone work and carefully placed trees to soften and frame the garden.
Now the morning view from the breakfast nook is not a lawn, rockery, and fence. Rather you see a elevated display of perrennials, and multiple levels of trees that smoothly combine the once boxy elements. The landscape rises up around you at times hiding a destination by displaying something, then leading the eye to search for a resting place. You find yourself drawn to a spot under a tree arching from a small hillock built to help you enjoy its fall color to best advantage, like stained glass against the sky. Down near your fingers… blueberries and edibles adorn the path to make the walk fruitful, and each new view as you turn suggests a new angle on life. Having easy access to the garage, the main purpose of the path, becomes forgettable after all the delights that are found on the daily visits to the garden.
Even with a well thought out plan there are always seasonal changes to keep us fit and active in the garden and make these living-rooms really come alive. Above you can see some of the editing I do visually, a grass needs to be moved that looks too hairy cascading down a rockery in back and replaced with a oakleaf hydrangea, an opening between two grasses on the side needs an annual to fill the blank spot temporarily, and the sedums that were planted along the path have grown enough to be split up and divided again throughout the garden.
While busy here and there in the garden doing maintenance this is when I contemplate if there is enough seasonal interest. I stop for a moment to consider the shape of a tree, if it will need winter pruning. While at the same moment I admire the arch on the tops of the sedum autumn joy, and then remember a fantastic species of yarrow that I saw at the nursery who’s shape would fill in for the sedum that I don’t want to over use but want a match to in another bed. Gardening is full of these types of reminiscence, connections, and satisfactions difficult to enjoy as freely elsewhere in life.
Below you see I’ve taken a picture in late Spring of one of the perennial garden beds at the entrance to the garden. Spring in all it’s excitement! I can almost feel it. Everything is new and either a little pert and small or droopy from rain. The sedum in the bottom right corner has not yet started to open up its buds, hiding under pink eye lids. The ferns in the distance are standing upright with their new orange fiddle heads and fronds adding a musical note. The scented lavender is in full bloom, as are the lupines off in the distant ‘blue room’ against the stone wall. On the left in the foreground the fennel is covered in drops of water mirroring many minute worlds. Even a small picture like this one tempts me now to wash my face with it’s dew.
By mid summer the buds on the sedum have begun to bloom and open their white hearts, the ferns have lost their orange and the fronds have fallen more to reveal a yellow cross hatch or lattice pattern throughout the garden. The heather flanking the path has put on new growth and filled out, the lavender has deepened its blue, and the grasses in the upper right corner have turned more yellow and gold. Then light pink yarrow and yellow cone flowers were added to reflect the shape of the sedum in the foreground and add seasonal color.
By fall you can see the russet tones of the sedum and the agastashe is in full bloom almost raspberry colored with minty silver green leaves in the upper right corner. The heather is turning more orange with the heat before it blooms late as an autumn surprise. The grasses that I wait all summer for thinking always they will arrive earlier have finally sent their soft seed heads up. In this picture you can see the fennel is also ripe with seed branches droop with their bounty, almost touching the ground, but not quite.
The tone of the garden continues to change from season to season! The same plants take on new disguises. But this isn’t only a seasonal phenomena. As you walk past the rise in terrain a planting you saw one way now looks another. I’ve added two pictures below of a bird feeder as the focal point. Here at the entrance to the garden in summer the white hydrangea and pink and purple sedums predominate, you don’t even notice the fennel off to the right.
But if you turn to look again once you’ve gone further along the path the hydrangea recedes in the distance and creates a bright foundation from which the fennel can echo it’s shape with yellow umbel forming flowers. Effects like these depend heavily on the angle of the light dictated by the time of day and seasons. So when planning a garden I always leave room for these sort of spontaneous associations, that you can continue to layer with each new observation and visit you make.
Now that I feel that the garden is satisfactory. I’ve started to think about artistic embellishments… And have made a new plan for the garden that includes all the changes that have been made. The revision is mostly for myself but if I see anything interesting I’ll be sure to share it, like these pictures, they are a key to being able to remember where the garden needed to evolve. Marty and I have been chatting actually about how to incorporate some of his work in the garden.
At first I wanted to do some kind of trade, since I wanted to have him make a vase that reminded me of the garden. I brought some books to share about Ikebana or Japanese flower arranging, and we settled on a boat form that is typical in the Chabana style. Usually these vases are like a macrame hanging planter, but I suggested that it have an additional piece that it could rest on. Like the arc on the mountain, so that it has a transformational quality.
This of course has gotten me wanting to make more art myself… And ideas that have been sitting are beginning to stir. This is always when there is time and an inclination for creation, fall. Of late I’ve been reminiscing on my visit to Spain several years ago and wishing I could follow a path there that I did not take. That whole region around the Mediterranean is reminiscent of the Northwest with all our water ways and cultural connections. The trade of the best ideas breaking things down and like stones in a mixer smoothing them to perfection.
Here’s a little something I did to experiment with the garden so as to break free of how I usual see it. Typically I can get a little precious about the plantings being natural and unpretentious but lately I’ve started to feel hemmed in by how perfect that had become. I’ve been hungrily waiting for this cross roads for what feels like longer than a lifetime. Without making too much of that, I’d say I’m looking forward to making some time for art over the winter.