The Best Laid Plans vs. the Best Habitat…or Why I am Putting in a ‘River’ of Siberian Iris and Golden Carex

I’ve been trying, really I have,  to stay with the plans I laid out a year or so ago.  Perennials here.  Red border there.  Groundcovers over there.  These shrubs in this place and those trees in that.

But I’m discovering, now that we’re here all the time, that some of the ideas don’t work as well as I planned. The land itself isn’t cooperating.

For example, there are some low-lying areas that have standing water for a day or so after a heavy rain and since they are in an irrigated zone, they don’t ever get very dry.  The lawns or groundcovers I planned just won’t grow there.  But you know what will?

Siberian Irises. Iris sibirica

And Golden Carex. Carex Bowles Golden..


So I’ve developed a plan for a ‘river’ of gold Carex ‘Bowles Variety‘  instead of lawn, with  swathes of Siberian Irises ‘Caesar’s Brother‘ down the length of it for their deep purple bloom in June.  And their grass-like leaves the rest of the summer will contrast with and complement the golden leaves of the Carex.  This ‘river’ will run across the perennial border, from the Orchard all the way into the Woodland – several hundred winding feet.  It will not only be suitable planting for a wet area, but by tying two distant areas together it will actually be an improvement to the design.  I had initially planned a stone path for that purpose — but I think this planting will do a better job.   Later, if I like, I can still put in the path, but the ‘river’ will give the path a reason for being.

I am an on-paper designer…


I have met people who are able to design a garden without drawings… on the ground so to speak.   They walk around a site and can create something right there on the spot.  They know just where they want to put a flower border, trees or shrubs, a patio, a walkway.  I can’t do it that way.

I plan everything out on paper (or, nowadays, on the computer).   I start out taking measurements and photographs of the site.  And then I start to sketch out my ideas on paper.  I see the result of the ideas in my mind’s eye as I work…and sometimes as I’m creating spaces and paths, in my imagination I become a tiny person walking through the garden.  I feel as if I can reach out and touch the trunk of a tree, walk down a stairway, through a pergola, see what the view is in front of a bench or on a patio.  So I guess in a way I am testing out the design ‘on the ground’… but if something doesn’t work I can change it as go.  I redraw and take another walk.

That’s the stage I am at with the gardens at Timshala.  The design – verysketchy – is on paper and ready to be fleshed out.

 First Schematic Design

I’ve laid out areas for a Woodland Garden; a Crabapple Orchard; a Grassy Meadow sparkling with red poppies in the spring; a Perennial Border; an area for Winter Color to be seen from the bedroom window; an Herb Garden; some Rough Lawns; a Shade Garden on the north side of the house.

I’ve also laid out the paths that wander through the different areas…a woodland walk, a mown path through the meadow and the orchard, stepping stones connecting the house to the major paths.