Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Garden Diary: Adding Structure, Adding Void

The top photo shows the remnants of the garden after several bouts of early, heavy ice. Comparing it to the second photo, taken ten weeks earlier at the height of autumn fullness (over fullness), shows the need for more open space (void) and structure.

Look closely in the lower right of the top photo and you will see an oblong outline made with a garden hose. This will become a raised planting area, built of dry laid stone wall, about four or five feet wide and 25 feet long. The planting will probably be geometric and minimal - perhaps a row of box balls. The new area will extend the void created by the pond and reflect its shape in a contrasting material.

My intent is to introduce more openness into the garden, create a spatial reference point, a sort of "home point" that will help the viewer judge size and spatial relationships, and provide more of a structural frame for the wild garden.

I'm also looking at the two photos to determine where I can introduce some evergreen elements to help carry the garden structure through the worst of the winter, and create more structure throughout the year.


  1. I adore garden structure. Can't wait to see how it all turns out.

  2. I love the design. I am looking forward for more posts. Thanks for sharing it.

  3. Stumbled upon your blog. I knew I was a fan when I saw the combination of "New American" and "The Gestalt Gardener"! I'm originally from MS and love Felder. Have you seen the new book by Scott and Laura Ogden, _Plant-Driven Design_?

  4. Susan and Jan,
    Thanks for your comments. We'll see how it turns out. Lots of stone to move to get this done.

  5. Daniel,
    I'm originally from MS too (Canton). I remember reading Felder Rushing's column in the Madison County Herald (my mother sent it to me) many years ago when he was county extension agent. He's very entertaining. I've read reviews of Plant Driven Design but haven't gotten a copy yet (way behind on my reading). Where are you from in MS?

  6. Thanks again, James!

    When I came across your descriptions of installing the pond I couldn't help but wonder why you chose a shape that seemed neither wholly natural looking nor particularly unnatural. But the shape is quite intentional then? Huh.

    These are exciting ideas for some structural bolstering...I can't wait to see how it plays out. What sorts of evergreens do you have in mind, anyway?

  7. From Brookhaven about an hour south of Jackson on I55. I grew up in the pasture land and farmlands there. I think that is one of the reasons that I enjoy grasses so much. I'm trying to connect with some naturalists who work with grasses here in Georgia to learn more about there incorporation into landscapes here.

  8. Peter,
    If you think of the pond as a linear feature, perhaps, on a very small scale, imitating a lake scraped out by a glacier moving over the earth's surface, you get a better idea of the rationale for the shape. (I also have to admit I'm not dealing with perfect workmanship, so to some extent the shape is a matter of chance, or mischance.) I'm thinking about how to repeat the shape, with variation in form and material, to create a visual rhythm that is a metaphor for the natural drainage pattern. If you look at the Finger Lakes region of New York State, you get a better idea of what I'm talking about.

    I've considered making several elongated "islands" or raised beds of dry laid stone within the garden, but this could easily get out of hand, both visually and financially. So I'll take is slowly, one piece at a time.

    Probably the first evergree I'll try will be arborvitae (Thuya occidentalis or plicata) since they like wet, swampy conditions. From there, I'll just have to experiment. I've read that Piet Oudolf's garden has a high water table, yet his wavy yew hedges are famous (I've also read he lost some yew to the high water).

    Well see what I can afford come spring.

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