My seventeen feet of heaven


One seventeen foot stretch of the garden is of incomparable lushness and beauty. I walk these six paces frequently, though I take my sweet time about it, and six full paces are more typically a dozen shuffling steps. Often, a few moments are spent kneeling to enjoy the scene longer and from a lower perspective. It is difficult for me to believe that I’ve created such a paradise, though quite a small one, and perhaps not worthy of even piddling mention alongside masterpieces of the gardening world.Stream planted with ferns and hostas

While overjoyed by this seventeen feet, the eighteenth and nineteenth are not so bad, and smaller spaces throughout the garden bring similar satisfaction. In all, there is no place I would rather spend time than in this garden, though there are times when weeds have grown tall and thick that I could be persuaded otherwise.Hosta and nandina along a path

No doubt, the garden has its flaws, which my wife is happy to point out. Unsurprisingly, her criteria and mine are poles apart. I relish the garden’s wildness, and if paths are partially (or mostly) obscured by oversized leaves so that small frogs must leap from their cover as I approach, this is my joy. Yes, paths are too narrow, and stones unstable. Some stone walls were constructed two decades earlier, and now they have fallen into disrepair. Snakes lurk between and beneath the stone slabs, and though I’m not deathly fearful, I would prefer to skip this confrontation, so the walls will remain as is.Hostas and Forest grass

Plants are too often planted too closely, but for a few errors, this is how I prefer the garden. One plant flows into another, and in this seventeen feet there is not a spot of bare earth until winter. There is water, a narrow stream that winds between moss covered stones into dark, deeper pools alongside a path of well worn fieldstone. Water, stone, and plants, I cannot imagine an ingredient that is missing.Linearolobum Japanese maple

A mix of large and small leafed hostas border the path and stream and several hostas emerge from gravel at the pond’s edge. Overhead, branches from a red leafed Japanese maple with deeply cut lobes, and from a serviceberry arch so that visitors must duck slightly to avoid wet foliage after a rain. The deep, damp shade ensures that hostas and Japanese Forest grass thrive, and that a slow growing colony of sweetbox could be encouraged to grow through cracks in the path to be almost invasive.Japanese forest grass along a stream

The stream and plantings would not be nearly so pleasing if not for the thick covering of moss. Surprisingly, at least to me, there are people who object to moss, and there are potent products intended to eliminate it from the garden. Certainly, I understand keeping a paved surface free of moss, though I don’t care to, but for me any moss covered surface is improved immeasurably. If I could cover all the ground beneath plants with it, certainly I’d be quicker to remove leaves in late autumn.Mossy rocks in the shady stream

The hostas that grow here are a combination of ones that I’ve planted, some that have grown from seed, and others that reverted from one form to another. This creates a mishmash of sorts, but hostas are quite forgiving so that variations of size and color usually blend successfully, no matter the skill of the gardener.

Japanese Forest grass is another that blends harmoniously in just about any shaded area. It is slow to establish, but patience is rewarded by a mound of golden foliage that brightens any shaded area. In dry shade Forest grass is not so content, but along this seventeen foot length between the coolness of a stream and fieldstone path, it flourishes.

9 Comments Add yours

  1. Anne says:

    Just…….Beautiful! Our gardens really are our refuge. Thank you for today’s and for each article!

  2. Liz says:

    Pure poetry today, Dave! Thank you. Is the stream natural or contrived? I would love to have a narrow body of running water in my garden, but am wary of biting off more than I can chew as far as upkeep is concerned. Would love your thoughts on that.

    1. Dave says:

      There are five ponds in the garden that I’ve constructed, and this stream leads to a small one. Once the ponds are cleaned in the spring I spend almost no time on maintenance in a month. Occasionally, I have to top off the ponds to compensate for evaporation, but that’s about it.

  3. Liz Manugian says:

    Thanks so much for your prompt response, Dave. So, since the ponds have been constructed by you, am I correct in thinking that you have a pump to recirculate the water? And the system is fairly low maintenance? Just curious: what would prevent all the debris clogging up the works? Sorry to be so persistent: it is just that my husband thinks that I may be opening a can of worms, what with all the leaves, pollen, etc. we have here in Memphis, TN. Water adds so much to a garden, and we already have a rill, but I am still dreaming of building a rivulet in the naturalized part of the garden. Many thanks for your expertise. : )
    Your posts are the highlight of my day!

    1. Dave says:

      Yes, each of the ponds has a separate pump. When I built my first pond the pump was on the bottom, and it was a maintenance nightmare having to clean debris almost daily. Now, all pumps are protected in a skimmer that is connected to, but just outside the pond. The skimmer has a leaf basket and filter pads to keep larger debris from fouling the pond. This one addition to a pond makes a huge difference in maintenance, and I would never recommend a pond without a skimmer. There are many sizes and styles available depending on the size of the pond, and most pond supplies are available online if this is a project you’re doing yourself.

      1. Liz Manugian says:

        This is exactly the information I was looking for. Thank you for being so generous with your time and sharing your wealth of experience and information with others. I find that we can learn so much from one another and your gardening expertise is an inspiration to us all. If I should build a recirculating rivulet in my garden, I will let you know. : )

  4. Yvonne T says:


    So serene and breathtakingly beautiful. I echo others who says your posts are the highlights of the day for me. I have a wooded area that I hope will one day look like this with no bare soil showing. Youe streams, ponds and waterfalls are inspiring me to think about (finally) doing something with a sloping hilly area I have. It’s the only reamining place to do some additional gradening on my lot and it seems to make sense to take advantage of the natural slope.

    1. Dave says:

      As I reconsider this, one thing missing from this area is a place to sit. All of the ponds have a sitting area to rest and enjoy, but at this midpoint of the stream I did not anticipate that it would turn into such a delightful spot. If I thought I could create a bit of a flat paved area this would be ideal, but this would require too much demolition, so I’ll have to be content with the way things are.

  5. Ray says:

    I hope that some day, my back yard gardens will look as mature filled as yours. Moss is not bad . . . as long as it is in the right places.

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