Thursday, March 27, 2008

Making Space

Here is the garden at Federal Twist from space, much thanks to Google Earth. The terrain slopes rather sharply from left to right, carrying tremendous volumes of storm runoff down to the Lockatong Creek, a large, rocky tributary of the Delaware about 1000 feet below the house. As a consequence, my garden is very wet.

The house (the brown roof is visible on the left) overlooks the garden in progress. An irregular oval path, the "great circle," partly hidden by trees and shadows on the right, delineates the central garden area, and is connected by linking paths to both ends of the house. The lower linking path is through a woodland area and is almost invisible in the photo.

When we moved to Federal Twist Road three years ago, the house was surrounded by first growth forest, about 40 years old, mostly of cedar (Juniperus virginiana). One thing was clear. Many of the cedars had to be removed to create space and light. After we cut the trees I didn't know how to define the garden in proportion to the house and surrounding forest. Then I remembered a device John Brookes recommends, and used a grid taken from the dimensions of the house to define the space. The crude drawing at the right shows the initial, and final, layout of the garden pathway using a grid based on the modular structure of the house - squares about 30 feet on each side.

This technique helped me recognize the need to remove additional trees to create more breathing room in the garden area. By giving me a firmer grasp of the spatial constraints of my land, forest-bound as it is, it also helped me understand how the garden can grow. The lower woodland path in the drawing, for example, will become the armature of a new woodland garden already begun. The back side of the "great circle" will, in the future, break through into a "cove" of open space (just visible in the photo) that curves down and away from the main garden, giving an area of privacy (mystery?) from which the house can't be seen.

The Google Earth photo looks so bleak I offer two more photos to show a real garden is actually emerging. First, a landscape shot into the "great circle."

Next, details of the evolving "wet prairie."

In a later post I'll write about garden elements that will quietly allude to the culture and history of this area - light touches, I hope, that will be so integral to the garden design only those who want to see will see.


  1. I love wildflower gardens. This one looks like a dream garden. I bet it is full buzzing insects and wildlife.

  2. trudi,

    It is certainly full of wildlife. The Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum muticum) literally buzzes with innumerable bees and other insects when it's in bloom in late summer. I've never seen anything like it.

    Jim Golden

  3. What a challenging but exciting project. I wish we had more wetness here. I love the idea of your wet meadow. Keep us posted.

  4. One problem with plants that like it wet - they are very slow to get started in spring. I need to work on adding bulbs and other early flowering plants that like, or can at least adapt to, saturated clay. I hope you and others will offer suggestions.



Related Posts with Thumbnails