How does my garden grow?
Disorder abounds! If an area of the garden should seem too mannerly, too structured, there must be room for a dozen more plants. Or more.
In my garden, not yours. Certainly you have more sense than to plant so that one neighbor tumbles over the other, that perennials requiring sun are shaded because some ignoramus planted a large nandina that blocks it, then planted a tree lilac over that . Stone paths are laboriously constructed, then hidden beneath huge arching hostas.
This journal has been filled with photos of flowers, much like I see in garden magazines that tout the beauty of a garden without ever showing the garden. Gardens are difficult to photograph. Colors and textures fade so that hardscapes, patios, walkways, gazebos, and arbors dominate the camera’s eye.
Today we’ll take a tour through the garden. Don’t expect tidy.
As tours often do, we’ll start in the front, briefly, for this area is small, dominated by a purple leafed beech that was slow to establish, but now towers over the house. The front is obscured by two large ‘Seriyu’ Japanese maples that were intentionally planted close to the house so that visitors must walk beneath them to arrive at the front door.
The bluestone walk is inset with colored concrete panels of tortoise and koi, but its beauty is best left to your imagination, for it is constantly littered with debris from the maples, and a dogwood and Bloodgood red leafed Japanese maple that overhang from the opposite side.
Take a step up off the front path to a small stone patio (now covered with pots of various tropicals outdoors for the Summer) and a small pond with twin waterfalls, the newest of six ponds in the garden. The pond is oriented facing the house, since the ground slopes away from the street. Neighbors walking a dozen paces away are often unaware of the pond except for the sound of the crashing water.
Back to the driveway, the right side property line of more than three hundred feet is a continous mix of trees; magnolias, both evergreen and deciduous, hornbeams, several varieties of Colorado spruce, weeping cherry and green leaf beech, Golden Raintree, dogwoods, several variations of holly, cryptomerias, redbuds, and a river birch.
Wherever a gap presented itself, small trees, shrubs, and perennials were planted. On my side of this mass of trees are mutlitrunk fringetrees and Silver Cloud redbuds, two of each planted not as part of a grand design scheme, but they were all that was available. Also, deciduous azaleas, hydrangeas, abelias, and more of this and that.
To the left of the drive you enter the back garden with three ponds and plants crammed into every nook and cranny.
The oldest pond has suffered through repeated revisions and rebuilds, is overhung by a large weeping green leaf Japanese maple that must be limbed up each Spring to prevent it from covering the pond. Behind the waterfall is a large weeping Norway spruce, then stewartia, a dwarf upright maple, and variegated Wolf Eye dogwood, underplanted with ferns, mahonia, hostas, heuchera, and spirea.
The next pond cannot be photographed. Plants cover nearly every inch of water surface save two small areas where waterfalls agitate the water. Overhanging hostas, and a weeping Blue Atlas cedar make it more difficult to distinguish that there’s water under there.
The third pond in this small area begins as a stream of perhaps forty feet in length along a stone path, flanked by sarcococca, spirea, hostas, hake grass, nandinas, and ferns, under a canopy of several large Japanese maples and an amelanchier.
Below this pond is a small slate patio with a wall of small boulders retaining the slope. The patio overlooks a swath of ill kept lawn that leads to the swimming pond, the most recent addition, and thus the least overgrown area in the garden.
The swimming pond is thirty five by almost forty five feet and averages more than three feet deep, in places up to four and a half feet. On the low side a curved stone wall retains the pond, and provides access to the lower third of the garden.
Building the pond was a convenient excuse to add the gazebo, a firepit, stone and travertine patios, and another section of garden.
The sixth pond, in the back section of garden, is dirt bottomed, built to drain the boggy lawn created by poor grading by the builder. During wet seasons the pond is full, but other times it might dry to a muddy hole. Then, there are sufficient plants to hide it.
Thank goodness we have reached the end of the tour. Many areas have been avoided in the interest of brevity, or that they are an untidy mess.
I built this garden for me, not visitors and not for neighbors, since most of it is hidden from view. I am happy to spend my free hours here, delighting in the wonders that a garden brings. Next week we’ll return to documenting the garden one flower at a time.