Barring some brief, miraculous frosty transmogrification, the garden is gone for the year. I'm ready to burn what I can and cut the rest. Winter's barely here and I want to move on.
I have projects, changes to make, things to do. I was recently notified, you see, that the garden will be on the Garden Conservancy Open Days next year. Nothing like a deadline for motivation. Right now, unfortunately, this feels like work. Where's that delight in gentle, impulsive garden making? I want play and pleasure--not work. For years toiling in the corporate coal mines I kept as my mantra (or complaint) Robert Frost's words in Two Tramps in Mud Time:
My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight.
It seems I never accomplished that goal, so as next best, I've semiretired to garden play, or so I thought. Could it be the competitive instinct is inborn, so deeply ingrained, I can't stop it? So to prepare for next summer, I've started on a series of changes, "improvements" as they were fond of calling them in 18th century English landscape culture, more I'm sure than I'll have time or money for. Down the road, I hope I'll be able to remember this is play too.
The first project is this one ...
We just finished the new reflecting pool. Much work remains--building a low stone retaining wall for the gravel bed, deciding what pattern to use for the paving, entirely replanting the area around the pool. I want a touch of formality, probably mostly shaped box wood and Thuja spires, contrasting with the wildness and informality, especially here near the house and pool, where straight lines and right angles lend a greater sense of geometric order.
Hidden under the bank going up to the house, I hardly see this new pool area from above. But from down in the garden, it's been an annoyance. The garden is young--barely seven years--and I just hadn't had time to deal with it. I planted a Salix 'Hakuro-nishiki', which grew fast and helped cover up the inattention, but it was time to fix this.
|View coming down the stairs from the house.|
My initial thought was to create a simple path and paved area, and new plantings, to add strolling options and a more engaging experience in the garden. Then it occurred to me I could make room to add a reflecting pool. (I've been exceedingly happy with the new pool in the small Brooklyn garden, so the thought of adding a reflective element at Federal Twist caught my interest.) The ideas started morphing and I realized I could also take this opportunity to remove a gravel path I've always disliked, reuse the gravel in the new pool area, and turn the unsuccessful path into a new planting area, even mound new soil on the path, creating a kind of irregular berm, with the hope the improvement in drainage will allow me to grow some plants that don't thrive in heavy wetness.
Once the pool was finished, however, I wasn't satisfied. I wish it were larger, but topography prevents that. Much more importantly, it doesn't look like it belongs. So instead of using this new area as open negative space, which I had planned to do, I'll enclose and partially hide the pool within close plantings of shrubs, grasses and perennials. It can be glimpsed through the plantings, but will remain an enticing, seemingly out-of-reach mirage from many parts of the garden. The photo below shows something of the veiled, partial glimpses I'd like to create.
|When the area around the pool is fully planted, it will be partially hidden, veiled by vegetation.|
I made these mark-ups with a simple program called Skitch to better envision how massing might work to make the reflecting pool a private area for contemplation. First, the view from the south, shown below. Small paths will allow entry from the left, the right, and the back. The green shapes may be shrubs such as box wood and spires of Thuja occidentalis (Arborvitae), which does very well in my wet soil, and is an extraordinarily beautiful, native evergreen in spite of what you might think! The yellows and blues show how various mounding and vertical grasses and perennials might be used to create privacy and screen views into and out of the area--and to hide the unsightly deer exclusion fence at the back (another problem solved).
Below is a view from the opposite (north) side. Another aspect of the new plantings--apart from screening and visual pleasure they can give--is controlling reflections in the pool. To some extent I can experiment by moving plants around in containers, but intuition will certainly play an important role. I can already see that distant trees will probably dominate the reflected view, and am pleased with that. Again, apart from the green lines, which indicate Thuja and box, the other colors represent general concepts for massing of grasses and perennials, and perhaps other shrubs such as Lindera angustifolia (if I can find it), viburnums, or coppiced willows (I'm particularly interested in finding Rosemary willow, Salix elaeagnos 'Angustifolia'.)
This final view shows the area from behind the path I'm removing. This will become a messy, sprawling (read "naturalistic") berm planted with shrubs and perennials, giving some added height. Though I will order a few "prize" plants from remote sources, I need large, well established specimens from local nurseries to get a finished effect in time for next summer. That means using what's available locally and remaining open to improvisation.
I think using Skitch has awakened my sense of play. We'll see.