Thursday, February 05, 2009

Destination Solitude

At the far end of the garden is a newly open area. I'd like to create a destination for garden visitors, a place to stop and rest, where one can look back over the garden toward the house and the woods. The location is behind the large maple tree, shown by the yellow box in the photo above.

My first concept was suggested by an image on Peter Janke's website showing a rather format "allee" of old apple trees (I believe) and grasses with a seat at the end. I was intrigued by the contrast of this formal element with the wildness of the rest of the garden.

On further thought, this may be too different in character from my garden. I've reached no decision but I think this concept of a contrasting area isolated from the rest of the garden has a lot to offer. The view looking back across the garden from this point is a pleasing one, and the sense of isolation and separation imparts a feeling of tranquility. Here is a first very simple sketch of what the new area might look like.

This still feels rather stiff, so I'm considering loosening the planting to simply suggest the effect of straight lines, and possibly adding a mixed planting of perennials and shrubs on the right to break up and partially block the view back to the main garden, and to provide an even greater sense of separation. Perhaps the focal point won't be a seat. It could be a little pavilion, even something quite modern made of wire mesh. The possibilities are endless.

But it's early February ... perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself.

What do you think?


  1. I like the notion of a "destination." If you're worried about it looking too formal, what if you made a slightly curved allee? With just enough curve to take the formality off, but straight enough to see the destination when you stand at the start of the path...

  2. I think this will look lovely and not too formal. It will really fit in with the garden. I do like the idea of a little pavilion. This is the time of year for dreaming up new ideas. I look forward to the after pictures.

    Best wishes Sylvia (England)

  3. Hey, it's time to plan. I love having the contrast of formal and wile--I've tried to do that in a few places in my spread via arragement of some grasses around a bench, and a tall arborvitae at one corner. I think you are right on the money here, and the idea of a place to look back upon the garden is essential, I think, to any garden.

  4. Oh, it's a wonderful concept. I'm jealous of your skill at planning.

    What plants will you combine to pull it together?

    What is that pink grass in the photo in Janke's photo?

  5. Susan,
    Actually I'm thinking about that, but all the other paths in my garden are curved. Perhaps that's a reason to keep this one curved too. But I can think about it a long time. Spring won't really arrive here until May!

  6. Sylvia,
    I'm fond of the formal approach. Just not sure I can make it work here. I saw a wire mesh pavilion on the web site of a Uruguyan garden designer, Amalia Robredo, today, and I'm quite taken with that idea.

  7. Benjamin,
    Sure is time to plan. Can't do much else but read with the winter we're having here. I agree, the contrast of formal and wild is attractive, but I need to integrate it so it's not a jarring transition.

  8. Martha,
    Not sure what plants I'll use but I'm thinking some evergreen shrubs, broad leaved, mixed with grasses and perennials - at least in the area I want to screen this formal part from the rest of the garden. Perhaps Prunus laurocerasus. Maybe a quince because I love the blossoms in the spring. I'm not sure what grass you're referring to in the Janke photo. If it's the short grass on the left, next to the large Pampas grass, I think it's Calamagrostis brachytricha.

  9. I like this kind of "formal" way leading to a resting place. This little allee will increase the "quiet" effect which one gets when sitting there and looking back to the garden. I also like the good combination of formal and "wild" gardens, bringing vivid and interesting contrasts and a real eye-catcher too. I'm curious to see what you finally realize!

  10. Barbara,
    I agree. The formality will contribute to the quiet feeling. If I keep the straight lines, anyone entering this area will have to make an effort to break out of the circular walkways of the rest of the garden. One of the challenges, however, will be to handle the transition to this area in a well integrated fashion and to provide appropriate screening to create the sense of privacy.

  11. Hi - I'm not convinced that this would work along side the rest of the garden. You have such a naturalistic look - which I love. I do agree though that a destination would be good - would it be possible to look at someone like Piet Odulf and see how he deal with this sort of thing.

  12. I am thinking the same thing as patientgardener, check out Piet's site and see if there is something there to help. I love the slightly chaotic (natural) looking gardens, but have seen many where formality has been included with little or no 'jarring' effects. You may also wish to look at a garden that Marjorie Harris photographed for Gardening Life magazine, mag has folded but I think the website is still
    I am sure that whatever you choose, it will be beautiful in the end.

  13. Good suggestion. Up to now I've been intrigued by the German practice of running small, rambling, single person paths through the perennials and shrubs, allowing individuals to break off from a group on the larger path for a more solitary experience. This new idea is a different way of achieving that. I know the formal concept isn't natural to my area or my garden, but I'm nevertheless intrigued by the thought of making it a "surprise" feature. But it would have to be well hidden, I think. And it wouldn't be overly symmetrical; I'd use lots of asymmetry in the planting. I appreciate all the feedback I'm getting on this concept. I have at least three months to think about it (spring is a long way off).

  14. I'm a Piet Oudolf admirer so certainly will take your advice and look again. And I'll check out the Gardening Life site.

  15. I believe it is important to have something formal or at least something that shows human intervention within wild gardens. They show the intention of that wilderness. Piet Oudolf achieved this in a marvelous way in his own garden. I would like to share a picture, but I do not know how I can. I am sending it to James by mail, maybe he can do it. It is a very wild garden with a geomatrical path which you do not get to see, and ends in theatrical hedges. Also, he uses some formal shapes withing the garden to achieve depth. Perfection!!!

  16. Amalia,
    I got your email. I will see if I can extract the photos this weekend and post them.



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