The stream runs along a section of the southern property line, bordering a narrow area of forest bisected by a natural, spring fed creek. A wide spreading serviceberry (Amelanchier) overhangs the small pond and much of the length of the stream, dropping leaves during various dry spells until autumn.
References warn against placing water features is such a position, but the steep banked, fern lined creek was the inspiration, and handfuls of leaves are easily scooped where they accumulate in the rock lined stream. Maintaining this water feature is no more or less bother than the garden’s four other ponds in more open settings, but this has become the garden’s favored view.
A crude stone path parallels the stream with river gravel between that has been covered by seedlings of geraniums, strawberry begonias (Saxifraga stolonifera, above), and a variety of fern sporelings (mostly Japanese Painted and native Sensitive ferns, but others also). The path is shaded by the serviceberry and two Japanese maples, but glimpses of the sun shine through before noon and in late afternoon, though never so bright as to scorch hostas that reside on each side of the path and stream.
Of three variegated leaf fatsas (Fatsia japonica ‘Spider’s Web’ (above) in varying degrees of shade, one along the path outgrows others by double with late day sun exposure. Uppermost leaves have been unusually white this year, though certainly these will fade to the typical green with prominent white veins.
This is the third spring and summer since the fatsias were planted. After a trial to determine winter hardiness confirmed that one without protection of leaf filled cages failed to survive a few nights nearing zero (Fahrenheit), I prepared to cover the remaining three this past winter, but with only a handful of nights below twenty degrees, and none colder than twelve, protection was not necessary in a very mild winter.
The fatsia, large leafed hostas, hardy gingers, and a Korean yellow wax bell (Kirengshoma koreana, above) give a tropical feel to the path, and with rich green, moss covered stones edging the pond it is no wonder this is the favored place in the garden.
At the start of the stream a stone slab bridges the water, with a dense colony of sweetbox (Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis, above) invading the gaps between path stones, where it is occasionally chopped out. Be encouraged if you have cursed the slow pace for sweetbox to fill a space. This area was once occupied by a happily growing ‘Carol Mackie’ daphne that towered over the evergreen sweetbox until it was crowded out. I must watch that a yellow striped Japanese Forest grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’, below) is not bullied into submission.
A small open space along the path is occupied by seven native Putty Root orchids that flowered in May, but will be dormant with no visible growth until a single striped leaf appears in autumn. I manage neighboring hellebores and hostas not to encroach on these treasures.
The path ends (above) with an edging of ground hugging variegated sedum and dwarf Mondo grass between the last path stone and a dark, basalt step bordered to each side by tall toad lilies (Tricyrtis). A circular patio, retained on the top side by lichen covered boulders, provides a relaxing view of the lower half of the stream and path. But, there is good reason for the weary gardener to pull himself up from the shady, cushioned comfort of brightly painted chairs on the patio to view the upper half of the stream and path.