This is the garden in early spring, after all the herbaceous plants have been burned or cut down. I rendered several photographs in black and white to emphasize the underlying structure of this wet prairie garden, and to help decide what to do to add meaningful structure at such bare times of the year.
The photo above shows a large network of intersecting lines that make the underlying structure of the garden: three stone walls on the right and left, as well as one at the base of the bank from which the photo was taken, another major diagonal formed by the narrow pond and its visual extension in a long stone planter filled with 'cloud' box woods and Bergenia, a diagonal line of Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis) along the path on the right, and an evolving 'screen' of deciduous woody shrubs at the back.
Above in close-up you can better see the screen of the shrubs. Three high-pruned Salix sachalinensis sekka (Japanese Fantail willows) appear to be small blooming trees on the right (they are not). The lack of color, even without fine resolution, clearly reveals the varied structures, shapes and textures of the shrubs. Further to the left, in the center of the photo, are two thin twigged willows (Salix koriyanagi 'Rubikins'), all verticals, with a structure that waves gracefully in the wind. Yesterday, I took long cuttings and planted them further to the left to create a screen of five evenly spaced willows. These will stand immediately in front of a line of five Arborvitae. My intention is to extend the screen with a hedge of European hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) starting a few feet beyond the Rubikins willows and continuing for ten or twelve feet. After a further space, there will be a smaller hedge perpendicular to the longer hedge.
In the photo above you can see how the hornbeam hedges will form a corner that will visually terminate the garden at the far side, creating an enclosed space that I want to enhance with a 'forest' of various hydrangeas.
Above, a view of the far 'corner' taken from a position slightly to the right reveals how the right angle of hornbeam hedges will extend the line of the distant stone wall, then turn to the right to join with the rows of shrubby greenery across the back side of the garden.
Another shift in point of view to the right, above, almost shows another focal point--one not visible in the photo: a circle of dark red painted logs. The red, unfortunately, shows as black in these photos. And below, the main path, newly paved in gravel, has become a prominent geometric feature, far more so than when covered in wood chips.
A color photo, taken in July of last summer, just to show the dramatic difference when the herbaceous vegetation is at its full.
And next two more photos ... one in black and white taken today, contrasting with a color photo from last summer, taken from approximately the same position. Here you can clearly make out the dark red circle of logs in the distance.
Here is a photo taken from the opposite end of the garden, just inside the enclosure that will be formed by the hornbeam hedges. You can clearly see on the left the slant of the land, which becomes rapidly steeper as you near the Lockatong Creek about 1200 feet below the house. The rough, stubble field will soon be invisible beneath the wet prairie of the summer of 2011.
Below the three Japanese Fantail willows clearly show their high pruning. They require rather frequent pruning down below, where new growth continues to emerge throughout the season.
A view toward the house from the far end of the garden shows the need for embellishment of the view, particularly the wooden fence leading up to the house (made necessary to prevent deer from entering the garden). Cutleaf sumac on the bank will provide some interest. I've already dug holes for two new groups of Japanese Fantail willows, which will add visual interest as well as a feeling of intimate enclosure to that garden entry point.
Note the circle of red logs on the right above, and in the center below. This metaphorical feature will be a focal point of the 'private' space that will be formed by the hornbeam hedges and the 'forest' of hydrangeas between this viewpoint and the path.