The house is beginning to take shape. However the weather has made the progress of the house — and therefore the garden — much slower than I had hoped. Originally my plan (more of a hope actually) was to begin putting in some of the more distant trees and shrubs by now.
But we still don’t have water on the site – well, except for the excessive amounts of rain — so we can’t really sensibly plant anything that I want to live.
What we can do is start to lay out the paths – the strolling paths for a stroll garden.
Most of the paths are going to be Decomposed Granite, an inexpensive and rather informal surface, just right for walking along in a country garden. It really is crushed stone, sort of sandy or gravelly; and depending on the color you choose it looks like a mixture of sand and soil and feels comfortable and natural, yet is not muddy. I plan to make the edges disappear by covering them with overflowing groundcovers, perennials and shrubs so it should be hard to tell where the path ends and the plantings begin.
Someday it will look like this – a natural walkway curving through the Woodland and the Perennial Border.
When I open my eyes in the morning, I will see this combination of plants, a huge field of them, all summer.
Bronze Fennel, a deep purple, feathery leafed relative of the fennel we eat.
I’m planning 200 of them. A wonderful, waving mass.
It gets to be about 4′-5′ tall and flowers in late summer, a yellow cap.
Interspersed, a repeat-blooming yellow rose, ‘Morning has Broken’, its coarse, shiny green leaves to contrast with the delicate Bronze Fennel leaves and its golden, fragrant flowers to repeat the flower color of the Fennel.
All anchored by several Smoketrees, a haze of dark buff-pink over it all.
I’m working now on a design issue which is a new kind of puzzle for me — how to mark the transitions from one area of the garden to the next. It’s one of the most important ways to help visitors experience the gardens.
In England the best-known method is by creating garden rooms, each separated by a wall, or hedge or structure of some kind.
But I want to avoid the ‘rooms’ experience. I want the garden to be experienced as a whole, an entity as you walk through it, and yet – the different areas are different. It’s like joints on a body. The body is a whole, and yet you know where the calf ends and the foot begins – the transition is the ankle.
So far I’ve worked out a few transitions. The path under the pergola that leads from the house continues to the perennial border. The transition is a pair of evergreens, probably Serbian Spruce that one walks between. Yes, you can see the perennial border before you begin to walk through it, but the pair of trees act as an ‘ankle’ to mark the transition.
A seating area does the job of marking transitions between the woodland, the meadow and the perennial border — as well as offering a peaceful place to stop and rest for a while.
The light of a meadow seen from the shade of a woodland
I think I’m making another kind of transition by using and controlling light. The woodland will be dark, cool, shaded (eventually – gardens are not instant). And as you walk along the path you’ll see a distant glow of the open Meadow, like a burst of light seen from the shade of the woodland walk.
There will be a lot more to come on this important design issue.
Whoops…it’s suddenly a winter wonderland again. We just got snow! Lots of it. Everything looks white and clean and lovely and not at all springlike
I’ve completed a lot of plant layouts – most of the trees and shrubs anyway. Now I’m testing my plans against reality. And reality in Kansas is not quite the same as reality in Brooklyn. At least as far as climate is concerned.
As I travel around at this glorious time of year I’m seeing many of the trees and shrubs I’m planning to use, and seeing what they look like in (so far) two seasons: winter, when I first arrived, and now spring. I think.
The first trees I noticed in bloom were the Star Magnolias, their white blossoms looking almost tropical in the snow just a few weeks ago. Then, about mid-April, clouds of white everywhere – as the ornamental Pears started to bloom. Though they are pretty enough in bloom, they won’t be going into my garden – they’re too weak wooded and their interest is fleeting. Right now the Redbuds are putting on their show, with bright pink blossoms lining, and outlining, every branch.
Redbuds in snow
I’m planning to use quite a lot of (native to Kansas) Redbuds in the woodland, and so it’s good to know just when they are at their most garish (I mean that in the nicest way. After the drabness of winter I hunger for lots of bright color) I’ve seen Fothergillas sending up their bottlebrush flowers. Some Lilacs are in bloom.
And flowering Crabapples – I’ll be using those in the orchard. Most of the ones I’ve seen are a quite dark, rich red, but I’m planning to use a couple of white-flowering varieties. There should be a lot of color nearby from the Red Border and the Fennel & Rose Border and I think the red flowers (and later purple leaves) will conflict.