Sunday, March 26, 2006

Projects and Plans

My garden has grown like topsy, probably because I'm a confessed plantaholic. I do draw up plans, that's how I stay sane all winter. I use large sheets of graph paper, 4 squares to the inch, and have measured every feature in my small yard many times. The plans include the boundaries, the outbuildings, permanent features (the pool, all the fences and gates, utility items, and trees), and the house's doors and windows are indicated. It's not that I stick to the plans religiously, but it's great to know in advance how much space you have to work with, when you hit the local nurseries or spy a particularly delectable plant on line.

I spent the past two seasons working on the front garden, removing lots of lawn and completing a big mixed border and arched brick path along the road. The problem with the back yard became clear to me after my hiatus from this area and after reading Gordon Hayward's The Intimate Garden this winter; the garden does not engage visitors the way I'd like it to.

Step into my yard, come through the side gate or out the back door with me. Ignore the recent excavation, done by my young Curly Coated Retriever Ollie - yes, the lawn is a mess right now, but we'll get it repaired in time for summer parties. No, the problem is that, when you arrive in the yard, you're not sure where to go. Hayward's idea is that a path should lead right out the door and draw you into the yard. Our path runs the length of the yard, along the house, to the small in-ground pool. If you're not here to swim, you probably don't want to go sit by the pool, and there's no indication of how to get out to that cozy-looking corner with the low table near the New Dawn roses on the tall trellis out back.

So, this years project. Brick path lining up directly with the back door, intersecting the long path, and inviting you out to the (to be built) paved area near the back fence. The paved area will have rounded corners at the far edge, echoing the shape of the brick seating area at the pool. There will be the long low table, made by my husband, from very old, heavy planks, and several rustic wooden chairs, made by my son. It will be backed on the North by the shingled garage wall, to the west by a tall rose arbor covered in old New Dawn roses and vines, and to the south by a mixed border. To the east, back towards the house, there's an existing mixed bed with a young Stewartia, lots of Nepeta (Catmint), pink poppies, assorted campanula, salvia, and bulbs. I'll have to move some plants, because this path will go right through an existing bed. An old Wigela is probably too close to the new path, and several pink Oriental Poppies will have to move, as will an old Caryopteris x clandonensis 'Longwood Blue.'

I hope this bed will still work well, though, by creating a transition along the path and a feeling of seclusion in the new seating area.

Next steps will be laying out the new path on paper to determine the exact location, making up a materials list, moving plants out of the way, and then laying the path itself. Then we'll reassess the scene before proceding with paving the seating area, and think about building an archway in the old bed to rfurther mark the transition into the seculded new area.

The Season Begins

As usual, I'm behind in the garden. OK, it's only March, but my list of things to do before Spring really arrives (forget the calendar, Winter stays here on Cape Cod until the end of April) is long, and getting longer.

My garden is small - we live in the center of a medium-sized town, and our lot is 1/3 acre. It's pretty tightly packed with treasures, and the lawn gets smaller every year.

I am drawn to plants that bloom in the off-season; right now there are Eranthis (Winter Aconite), Helleborus (Christmas Rose, Lenten Rose, and Stinking Hellebores) , as well as Hamamellis (Witch Hazel; Arnold's Promise, Jelena, and Diane), Jasminium nudiflorum (WInter Jasmine), Galanthus (snowdrops), early crocus, and Erica (winter heath). The heath have been at it for about 2 months, there's one deep purple one backed by the glossy dark green leaves and red berries of a cotoneaster that I can see from my desk - it's breathtaking.

Almost as appealing as the early flowers, Sedum matrona and the ubiquitous Autumn Joy are sending up their lovely leaf buds now, as are the peonies. These signs make it seem that winter can't hold on too much longer. Hurrah!