I’ve learned over the years, the hard way, that beginning with a new garden one must think the long term. Where are YOU going to be five years from now? Where are you going to be next spring? What do you like to do in your spare time? Do you have spare time?
This garden I am privileged to live within, is part of a larger landscape of old houses, and beautifully kept gardens. Each gracious, giving, and adding each their own charm to the overall landscape of the village. Great gardens, like great Art, need structure first, context, and grounding elements. From that point you can add charm, vibrancy and colour, but first one should lay the foundations.
Look around at what your neighbours’ are doing, does your street have pedestrians? When you come up to your personal entrance, what do you wish to feel? What will a stranger feel as they come upon your abode? Think cyclic, seasonal, times of day, and all-weather even.
This little place I have here, my own stoop, is but part of a larger old brick farm-house. Situated now at the heart of this trendy village-within-a-city, the small gardens that surround this house, may be up for grabs (given the right approach). The landlord is open to me doing some landscaping, but obviously it would need to be very low maintenance.
The property though, being on river uplands, enjoys a magnificent tree canopy. There are Ash Maples, Slippery Elms, and a giant Black Walnut, just outside my door. Offering shade, and cool breezes, privacy and grace, the landscape can afford to be a bit bold in some respects.
First must come the foundation though, and this is where I am now. I see perhaps some red-twig variegated Dogwoods, and ‘Bridal Veil’ Spirea. I see these beautiful feyish examples of these combinations throughout the village this time of year…little pockets of them line charming fence paths, and shady nooks. They soften the edges of some of these Grand, Old buildings.
You don’t want a garden to ‘hide’ the house, you want it instead to enhance the lines, the mouldings, and turn of the century architecture. Then underneath and surrounding those, will be variegated Hostas and Bleeding Heart with its dainty pink kisses. Lining the ground, will be maybe broad sweeps of Bishops Weed, Ajuga, or maybe just go old fashion, with Ferns and Periwinkle. Think always in terms of;
FORM ~ FUNCTION ~ FOLIAGE ~ FLOWER
Utilize that mantra in which ever order you wish, but design with those four fundamentals in mind.
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My family has a long history in this area. My Grandparents lived down the street when they where first married, and all through the war Grandma read letters, and worried, and waited for her Officer’s Secretary to return.
And down the other way was one of the old homesteads of another branch of my family, who were one of the original citizens of the village – Cobblers by trade.
The other way along this street lives another of my relatives, with a beautiful little shop of glass and mid-century modern – from a line of Traders at heart.
This morning I took Irish on a long, leisurely stroll around the village – capturing its essence thru my eyes, as well as my lens. There are many gardens of inspiration, gardens with old characters, and others with youthful, modern vibrancy. Different, individual, and gracious.
Makes you feel like breathing deeply and straightening ones shoulders, and letting the day put a smile on your face.