Sunday, May 09, 2010

Garden Diary: End of April, First week of May

This is a personal post to record what's happening here in this year, and to help me articulate for myself what I'm doing in the garden. You're welcome to read it if you find it of interest.

A brief, early heat wave has pushed the garden's growth so fast it's a little scary. No time for all the tasks I thought I needed to get done. All these photos were taken last weekend, and this weekend I already see several inches of new growth and greater definition of forms as the plants emerge from the undifferentiated green carpet of garden.

The graveling of the path by the little pond is almost complete. This is the base course, to be following by a layer of so-called "river washed" pea gravel.

The next view is foreshortened using a small lens aperture. The willows at the back (Salix koriyangi 'Rubikins') are flayling in the wind. Three more to their left will soon obscure the view of the deer exclusion fence.

Below, on the right, the long, low curved stone wall has been given much greater visual prominence by the gravel path. This is now a major visual "armature" of the garden, creating a contrast between its rather severe, and serene, formality and the wildness of the central "prairie."

Here the direction of the stone path points directly toward the location of a second raised stone planting bed to be built further out in the garden; this will continue the "curving diagonal" begun with the pond and existing planter, across the garden toward the back left corner, where a new hornbeam hedge and sitting area will be. (I should credit Peter Holt for pushing me to do this.) This diagonal element also carries the eye toward the opening in the woodland wall (barely visible here) at the back, which is the major focal point of the landscape and the point to which all things "flow" visually. It's also the point to which all drainage flows and, as I've mentioned in other garden diary posts, the natural drainage pattern is what dictates the overall form of the garden.

Backing up to the woodland entry garden (below), which isn't yet properly planted, you can see how this area is a path of flow for storm water around the raised mound on which the house was built. I just transplanted five large Rodgersias to the top of the curved stone wall, next to the cut-leaf Japanese maple. The bank is now covered by Deschampsia 'X' seeded five years ago, but I hope to turn it into a shrubbery of hydrangeas, buckeye, and other plants with foliage that will be fun to observe close-up while walking along the path.

The lower area has been cut to allow newly planted Senecio aureus, Acorus gramineus 'Ogon', and existing colonies of Matteuccia struthiopteris, pulmonarias, sweet woodruff, and ajuga to get a head start.

Potential for more planting here. The Kriengeshoma palmata on the right has filled in since this photo was taken last weekend and the Chionanthus virginicus above it has leafed out and formed flower buds.

Aster divaricatus at the base of the tree (a couple of spreading colonies of this), newly planted Acorus 'Ogon', and Mattuecia struthiopteris.

Collision of Pulmonaria 'Samouri' with other ground covering plants. We'll see how much human intervention is needed here over the next few years. The pulmonaria does so well I expect I'll plant more next year.

And here Ajuga 'Caitlan's Giant' being invaded by sweet woodruff. It looks like the sweet woodruff has the upper hand. Who knows? As it gets hotter, the sweet woodruff takes it easy, and the ajuga gets larger, so this story hasn't ended yet. Time will tell.

Arisaema triphyllum ... it grows all over, popping up year after year, with new colonies appearing all the time. One of my native stalwarts, with highly decorative, bright red fruits in the fall.

Another native, Podophyllum peltatum, also in spreading colonies, but it's a slow spreader.

Back to the "Main Axis." Something for me to think about.

I'm reading Henk Gerritsen's Essay on Gardening, and I feel I've found a kindred spirit, though his knowledge of plants is formidable and far surpasses mine. In a sense, he's telling me the story of my garden, or his version of it. He's done it already.


  1. James,
    That was a great post. Thanks for letting us hear you think out loud. I'm glad you got Essay on Gardening. I knew it would speak to you.

  2. Again, your property is absolutely beautiful. How lovely to have all that room to meander in. :)

  3. Michael,
    I've never heard of so many of the plants named in Essay on Gardening it's almost frightening. Gerritsen's book reminds me, in its emphasis on appropriateness of plant to habitat, of Hansen's and Stahl's Perennials and Their Garden Habitats. I hope to get to Priona Garden some day. Thanks.

  4. Nancy,
    Only about an acre, and I haven't gotten to some of it yet. I'd welcome visitors if you're ever headed south.

  5. Only an acre? Looks like a surveyor's township! Not sure of New Jersey terminology, but in Tennessee "river washed" pea gravel is a fancy way of doubling or tripling the price.

  6. That's why I put it in quotes. I don't imagine this gravel has seen a river, but it sounds nice and, as you say, helps justify a premium price.

  7. All your work seems to have unity and a progressing's a joy to be able to look over your shoulder...Faisal.

  8. James:
    Your type of gardening makes my heart sing. What a delightful posting. The labor of love that you have put forth is readily available from the wonderful photographs that accompany your wonderfully detailed text! A lot of work has been accomplished! I hope you are proud of the results, they truly are stunning!

  9. Faisal,
    I'm certainly aiming for unity and harmony, so if you see me moving in that direction, I'll take that as confirmation I'm gradually getting there.

  10. Barry,
    Well, that pleases me. You're such a plantsman, I'd thought you wouldn't particularly care for my "en masse" approach. I love plants too, but I can't grow many of the delicate things you do, and I can't afford them either since I need 10, 20, 30 at a time. When I look back to the messy cedar woods, full of dead trees, brambles and general sense of abandon I found on first moving in, it's hard to believe only five years have passed, particularly since most of the work has occurred on weekends. Thanks for your comment.

  11. James!

    I just looked at these recent photos of FT for the fifth time in a couple of days and remembered an idea that popped into my head nicely a few days back regarding the mostly unplanted area in the 9th photo up there...a raised mound (low berm) echoing the shape of the pond planted densely with multi-stemmed acers would sit well there. A copse of acers if you will. Think Keith Wiley. You could underplant them with woodruff and ferns, perhaps. It's an idea. You could have a small seat in the middle of the acers for hiding and contemplation...

  12. Peter,
    Hey, I'm quite taken with your idea. Is this garden design "from a distance"? A huge amount of storm water flows through that area, so it would have to be an island, so to speak. Multi-stemmed acers? What species are you thinking of in particular? Anything in that area would have to love water and, I would think, need to be kept relatively small without a lot of labor. Are you referring to Keith Wiley's new garden where he sculpted the land, or to his former garden at The Garden House?

  13. Such a lovely garden you have, so harmonious and peaceful. It actually reminds me of my garden Sweden, which I long for so much this time of the year; large trees, woodland, meadow and cliffs. Mine is still very much a work in process, and living here in the US for a couple of years will not help much (even if I hope that the apple and cherry trees I planted before we left will thrive and grow during this time). Oh well, in two years time I'll be in Sweden again, and then I certainly will take some inspiration from your wonderful garden when I start working on mine again.

  14. I can't imagine leaving a garden for years at a time. You must have left it in someone's care surly, or it would run out of control. Mine, like yours, is still also very much a work in progress (slow gardening) and probably will remain so. I enjoy your visits to other gardens, so I hope you will continue an English language version of your blog when you return to Sweden.



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