Monday, April 12, 2010

Looking at your Garden

I've been reading up on Garden Design, trying to go from a person obsessed with plants to a person obsessed with plants but with an aesthetically pleasing garden space.  There is a lot of great information out there.  The problem I'm having seems to be one of scale.  I look at these sweeping vistas of garden then I walk across the street and try to imagine a sweeping vista in my front yard and I just can't do it.

This is my front yard from across the street.  It's difficult to get far enough away to see a whole vista and even if I could get further away the size of the garden is definitely petite.  From the sidewalk to the house is only 15 feet, from the driveway to the corner of the lot is 60 (plus I have a 2 foot deep Hell Strip).  That's roughly 1000 square feet.  Not much room for a sweeping vista.

Ok. Well, how do I (and my neighbors) view the front?  Most of my neighbors view my front garden on foot from the sidewalk or the street.  I view my garden from foot or knee or flat out sitting on the ground (or, occasionally, from my new bench at one end of the front yard).

Oregano (Origanum vulgare).  This is how I view my garden, up close and personal, so I can smell the oregano.  I posted this in Scratch and Snif mode.  Lean close to your monitor and scratch the image.  Smell that?  Ahh.  What?  You don't have a Scratch and Snif monitor?  In that case go to your kitchen, grab a jar of oregano and inhale.  That what I was smelling when I took this photo.

How do I use this space?  How do I want to use it?  I use the garden to spend time outdoors, attracting and benefiting the local wildlife at small scales (bees and birds and earthworms and snakes), and interacting with the neighbors.  It seems like every nice day I'm out weeding someone comes along and I'm slowly getting to know the neighbors as they stop to comment on my garden.

 Thyme (Thymus vulgarus Archer's Gold(?)).  This one is planted in the hell strip and spreading onto the sidewalk.  Can you feel the slightly course texture of those leaves and the firmness of the stems that support them?  What?  Your monitor doesn't have Touch capabilities, either?  For this one you'll need to run out to a garden center with thyme plants and feel for yourself.  Don't worry, I'll be here when you come back.  I'll even wait for you to plant the new plants you couldn't resist buying while you were touching the Thyme.

This is beginning to sound like I need to think on a smaller scale.  If I'm on my knees (or butt or, honestly, sometimes stomach) my grand vistas should be smaller scale.  Like this mass of perennial Bachelor's Button (Centaurea montana Amethyst in Snow).  Do I really need to follow the rule of plant three of everything when this one plant nearly covers the width of my planting area?

Or this forest of newly emerging, finely textured Coreopsis verticalata Zagreb, also forming a spreading mass.  I could repeat this one elsewhere in the garden to get that magical number of three of each.  I don't think it's too aggressive.

With lot sizes continuing to get smaller the landscaping books that refer to a two acre property as a "small lot" just aren't working for me.  For example I'm not going to block any of my scarce and precious sunny garden area by planting trees (a small dogwood can have a spread of 15 feet, the entire width of my front yard!  I would have to plant it smack in the middle of that width in order to not scrape against the house or it would have to be pruned up to allow pedestrians on the sidewalk passage) no matter that the books all talk about how they are the backbone of the garden.   I have one tree in the front yard and it is plenty (and it's going to get way too big for the spot, it's already damaged the road and the sidewalk.  I mentioned to The Husband that if it wouldn't cost $1000 to remove I'd want to replace it with something a little more appropriate to the spot.  He said it wouldn't cost that much.  All he needed was a chainsaw and a case of beer.  I think the tree is staying for now).

So it looks like I'm going to continue to Garden in an Edgy manner - not following the landscaping rules and just doing my own thing.  If it doesn't look good I can always move plants around and try again.  That gives me another excuse to spend time in my garden, looking at everything up close and personal.
Buds on a white bleeding heart Dicentra alba

1 comment:

  1. *grin* My yard may be larger, but I see we are facing similar questions about garden design and aesthetics. The big question: "what the heck do I do with this space?!" If there are rules of gardening, I don't know them. I can't say I'm doing anything "edgy" because I don't know what "normal" is. I look forward to seeing what you do with your yard, and if you've got any suggestions for mine, feel free to share!