the journey continues... project 2009

woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)April 6, 2009

As I have said before, to me developing the garden is a process that I enjoy for it's own sake and to 'finish' the garden is not an end I seek. But I do look to improve it each year. Last year's major project was reshaping the lawn in the backyard. This year's major project will be to reshape the front garden by adding a new bed that will wrap the driveway border around the main bed and turn the remaining bit of lawn into a path.

In the drawing below, the new bit is the narrow bed at the road side. (Pardon the crude, unlabelled drawing - it is to scale; because it is just for me and I know what all the plants are, it is unlabelled. My course teacher would probably not approve of the quality of the drawing but I'm an easier taskmaster :- )

All the other plants are already in place - you can see what various areas look like now by checking the linked album. Only the narrow strip has to be dug, brick -edged, and planted. At this point, my plan is to use the same range of plants as are in the driveway border - Pink Beauty potentilla as the dominant plant, with peonies, hardy hibiscus, asters, lilies and spring bulbs tucked in here and there.

I also think I'll change the grass path that runs between the back of the driveway border and the small rose bed tucked into the curve of the driveway to a bark mulch one. That will leave the main path around the bigger bed as a sweep of grass and make the loop around the rose bed clearly a secondary path - and, since it is heavily shaded by the rose and its neighbours, the grass is dying out there anyway!

The paths through the main bed always remind me of 'Gumby goes to Heaven' (see when I look at them in plan view. I tend to like more formal cruciform paths but while the big cedar lives, that doesn't really seem to be an option. This layout is functional since it aids in maintenance and takes me where I want to go when I walk around the garden. So I just call them 'Gumby goes gardening' and leave it be :-) The odd shape is more obvious in the plan view than when walking about I think.

Comments on other things I should be considering...? I'm halfway through the 'The Poetics of Gardens' book that Ink recommended. This morning I read this:'A garden you walk through, however small it may be, must be composed in time as well as space.' I'm not quite sure how to address that - but it seems profound :-) My garden is definitely one you walk through - lots of paths in both front and back garden areas. There is an element of time in that we've been working at developing this over the last 8 years. Some of the things - like the cedar - are mature plants that have been incorporated into the garden while others, like the flowering trees, are still too young to be making a big impact.

Now is a good time to solicit ideas for other things to consider - so add your input here....:-)

(P.S - the blank spaces in the beds are where perennials are; the narrow bed on the south side of the driveway is largely an herb bed; the round circles on the driveway are pots of strawberries, blueberries, peas and misc. other veggies and annual.)

Here is a link that might be useful: front garden

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Monzi zone 8a South Carolina

I just wanted to say "beautiful" !I have no ideas for you but I will take some from you :) !!!

    Bookmark   April 7, 2009 at 11:51AM
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LOL, Gumby gone gardening Woody. I think your plan works well for your yard. I hope to see some pics of it in bloom later on.
I wish I were disiplined enough to make a real plan. I might get more accomplished.


    Bookmark   April 7, 2009 at 10:30PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

Thanks monzi. I spend a lot of time thinking about/planning the garden. Most things work out well I think but I'm always looking for ways to improve things - although it can take me years to actually get things done at times!

Norma - I generally 'wing it' without a 'real plan' so this is a relatively new approach for me :-) Really though, it's just putting my 'wing it' plan on paper so I can think about it a bit more before digging.

I'm a bit disappointed by the lack of comment by the 'regulars' who say they'd like something more interesting than 'curb appeal' to comment on.... Should I assume that this plan is uninteresting and not worth commenting on or is 'silence is consent' and you have no suggestions for improvement?

    Bookmark   April 8, 2009 at 7:03AM
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I have a really hard time visualizing the before and after of your new project. I think that a picture or two from farther back (like from across the road and from the front door) would give a better overall picture and get design input. I also like to know what the "intent" of the new project is so we can evaluate if it has been achieved.
Sorry, I can't help.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2009 at 10:23AM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

I will try to take some more pictures today - but things look pretty barren at the moment in comparison with the summer pictures on the album I linked above. I haven't cleaned up the garden yet because I wanted to leave everything for protection through this (last one I hope!) wintery spell we're going through.

This picture from the linked album shows exactly where the new bed will go - across the front, running from the Chinese wisteria tree/bush on the left to the small bed on the far right side where there is a young Japanese wisteria being trained as a tree/bush as well. Imagine a 3' wide grass path and then the new bed running along the top of the ditch. The picture was taken from the end of the driveway/edge of road.

This one from the linked album is taken from a little to the left of the arm of the path that faces the road, standing at the front of the big bed, looking back to the front porch. I can't find any pictures from last year that look from the porch to the garden.

The 'intent' of the new project is largely to do what the garden is telling me it wants to do! Every time I look at it, since some time last summer, I see the new bed there - so the garden wants it there :-) It's probably that 'enclosure' issue....

(You might notice that the front door of the house is oddly aligned with the steps and wonder what the stuff at the left end of the porch is... This house was built for disabled access for me; the funny stuff at the end of the porch is a 'porch lift' - outdoor elevator sort of thing - that I use for access and my access needs causes some changes from alignment that you would otherwise expect.)

Does any of that help?

    Bookmark   April 8, 2009 at 11:33AM
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catkim(San Diego 10/24)

Hi Woody, I'm trying to visualize the plan. As stevega suggests, a photo from across the road would help.

Anyway, I wonder if a low white picket fence along the new bed above the ditch would help define it? I see your plan shows a curve, but I see the fence as a straight line there, from the drive all the way to the corner, and maybe a short return piece going back toward the house, 6ft or so. I just think it would make your bed "pop", as they say all too often...

    Bookmark   April 8, 2009 at 1:14PM
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mjsee(Zone 7b, NC)

woody---it's the pros busy season. Heck, I merely work in a garden center, and it's MY busy season. Your vignettes are pretty...but it is difficult to get a feel for the whole project. My only comment is...

YOU PLANTED CHINESE WISTERIA? On PURPOSE? Good luck with that. Stuff should be banned. Maybe it's ok up in zone 5...but down here in 7b it will eat a property...and the yard next door as well. Not quite as bad a kudzu...but almost. I know it's not as pretty as the chinese, nor as heavily scented...but Wisteria frutescens has better manners. It might not be too could dig out the chinese wisteria and plant with the native...

    Bookmark   April 8, 2009 at 1:15PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

LOL mjsee - I forgot you are all in warmer areas - garden centers are still pretty dead here and not much garden building going on here yet although it will start soon as the frost is mostly out of the ground now. Yes I planted Chinese wisteria (in 2000) and I love it! It is being grown as a free-standing tree/bush so it gets heavily pruned. There is nothing nearby that it can latch onto. It produces two or three suckers a year from the roots in the bed it is in and they get ripped out (to try to remove the bud wood) as soon as I notice them. If any suckers have appeared in the grass of the lawn or ditch, I haven't noticed them and DH would have mowed them down. In zone 5 the only serious issue is whether the flower buds get killed by late frosts or not! (I lost about half the buds last year...) I always remove any seed pods I see but did leave a few up throgh the winter this year and then harvested them about a month ago. I planted a dozen seeds to see if they were viable/would germinate. I got two seedlings (which I am now trying to turn into bonsai) so I will continue to remove any seed pods I see in the future. I - and the whole neighbourhood - like the Chinese wisteria so much, I planted a Japanese one at the other end of the lawn in late 2007. It will be grown as a tree too. The Chinese one continues to bloom for most of the summer - every time I whack off one of the new whippy growths, about 10 days later new flowers appear. It's a great plant here, grown as a tree - I wouldn't grow it as a vine on an arbour or pergola - too hard to access it to prune or remove seed pods.

catkim - white picket fences are not part of the venacular here and would look very out of place. The bed is likely going to be pretty much straight on the edge except for the far end where the existing bed that it will join on to curves a bit.

Here are some pictures from an hour or two ago:

Looking at the house from across the street:

(The Chinese wisteria is what is in that loop that swings right off the driveway border.)

Looking from the center of the porch to where I took the picture above from (I was standing in front of the black truck.):

Standing on the road by the Japanese wisteria, looking towards the house (This bed is the one where the new bed will join on to and end.):

Standing at the end of the driveway by the Chinese wisteria, looking up the driveway to the house:

Standing on the lift looking across the driveway to the front bed:

The front porch from the lift:

    Bookmark   April 8, 2009 at 1:50PM
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catkim(San Diego 10/24)

Right, we don't want to turn your home into Diznyland. ; )Is there any kind of low fencing that is used in your area? Not to keep anything in or out, just to complement your floriferous garden? Post and rail, crossed-rail, basket weave, stacked stone? The vision of flowers spilling over stone or between rails seems like it could be altogether charming, especially now that I see the top photo in your most recent post. I *do* like grass paths, don't see them often enough.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2009 at 3:18PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

catkim - I would love to have a cedar rail fence with blue clematis spilling over it.... but fences, other than in backyards, are rare events around here. (I grew up on the esat coast and picket fences were common garden structures there in my youth, so I do understand their charm.) And a structure like a fence would actually be pretty inconvenient. It would interfere with ease of mowing the ditch (the pictures 'flatten' it - it's actually about 30-36" deep with steep sides...) And there is a gas line that runs along the front of the main bed. So I'm not allowed to dig more than 2' deep or put in a post that would go deeper than that. So that effectively eliminates any sort of fence. If the gas line ever needed digging up (and there is a buried electrical cable under there too...), the garden or any sturuture there is going to get destroyed. That's a risk I'm willing to take when planting a 'fence' of shrubs but it doesn't make sense/isn't possible to put anything more permanent there.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2009 at 3:45PM
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mjsee(Zone 7b, NC)

Sorry, woodyoak...didn't mean to go off like that. Just have horrible memories of dealing with out-of-control wisteria at our last house...shudder

I think I have PTWD. (Post traumatic wisteria disorder.)

    Bookmark   April 8, 2009 at 6:29PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

msjee - I quite understand your comments. If I was in your zone, I would probably not plant a Chinese wisteria. Even here, I was very careful about where I planted it and prune it constantly throughout the growing season. I think growing it as a free-standing tree/bush where it can be accessed from all sides and kept within reach for easy pruning is the way to go. A neighbour who is Chinese has one growing on her front lawn too. She is very disciplined and keeps it pruned to fairly short stubs on all the branches. Hers is only a few years old and hasn't flowered yet. It's only about 4' tall. I wanted a wilder sort of look to mine. It's about 8' tall now and I won't let it get any taller or it will get out of reach of the long-handled pruners I use to cut the top growth back. But I can't resist those flowers and scent! There aren't many of them growing around here and even fewer grown as trees/bushes. When it blooms, we usually have a few strangers stop to ask what it is...

    Bookmark   April 8, 2009 at 8:24PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

This is for mjsee - here is a picture of my Chinese neighbour's neatly pruned young Chinese wisteria tree:

    Bookmark   April 9, 2009 at 9:58AM
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woodyoak, I was having a problem reconciling what I saw in the photos with the plan to get my mind around the garden. I needed to give myself some help so I daubed some color on your plan. I hope you don't mind. With the location of the tall conifer, the wisteria, paths and structure nailed down, I think I am starting to get the feel of the 3D space.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2009 at 3:58PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

pls8xx - that looks good... Some info that might help: The property is 75' across and it's ~60' from the driveway edge of that small bed at the base of the porch to the edge of the road. (The drawing was done at 1/8"=1'.) The young Japanese wisteria is across from the cedar at the end of the new bed area. (My hope is that between the two wisterias I'll have a long season of wisteria bloom - first the Chinese wisteria will bloom end of May/early June; then the Japanese wisteria will bloom in mid-late June; the Chinese wisteria does a secondary bloom through July. So the wisteria and the long-blooming Pink Beauty potentillas - which bloom from June into October - in the driveway border and continue around into the new border, will provide a note of bloom continuity while other perennials and shrubs cycle in and out of bloom in harmonious colors....) The front yard slopes to the street - I haven't figured out the grade - it's noticeable but not extreme. The street - and the property - also slopes downhill from north to south. The neighbour to the north's driveway is about 2' higher than the north side of our property so there's a steep bank bordering the garden on the north side. Similarly, our driveway is ~2' higher than the neighbour to the south's driveway, which is immediately adjacent to ours. The herb bed on the south side of the driveway grows on the steep bank. At the foot of the herb bed is level ground - about 6' or so of grass alongside the neighbour's driveway. The front yard of the house is higher than the backyard - so you might visualize the house as sitting on the top of a small mound with the front and back yards sloping away from it. The path that angles off to the left at the south end of the porch is heading towards the south alley gate entrance to the backyard. The north gate to the backyard is the door you can see that swings out against the garage. The north and south alley paths join up in the back yard with the path around the rectangular lawn that was 2008's project. So you can start on the driveway, go down the path to the south gate, along the south alley, across the back of the house and patio along the path that edges the lawn, up the north alley path, out the north gate, around the end of the garage and either follow the grass path to the driveway or detour through and around the perennial beds to take the scenic route back to the driveway and front entrance. Or you can start with the flower garden and go the other way around... The garden is very walkable with lots of places to explore and things to see along the way, which was/is an important objective of my garden-making.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2009 at 5:42PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

Catkim - no fence, but I laid the bed out today with string and the road side of the bed is a straight line running from the driveway by the Chinese wisteria to the outer edge of the Japanese wisteria bed. (I think the Chinese wisteria bed in the drawing needed to be shifted a bit further down, closer to the road...) The straight edge looks better I think but it does make for a skinnier bed in the middle section. The path is 3', using the main bed edge as the reference point so the inner side of the new bed traces the shape of the main bed. I figure I'll plant the shrubs close to the ditch side of the bed and let them drape down into the top part of the ditch.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2009 at 8:46PM
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holleygarden Zone 8, East Texas

When I first saw your post, I admit I couldn't get it in my head what it would look like. But now that you've put more pictures up, I understand. I think it will be beautiful and a great place to meander and smell the flowers. I also understand what they mean about a fence/wall of some kind, but see that in your plans, you have a hedge of sorts, so I think this will suffice in the same sort of feel. Good luck! I think you'll really enjoy the outcome.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2009 at 9:41PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Woody, I think this will meet your needs perfectly which I think is the goal of good design. I think you will feel more private in the garden, on the grass path or on Gumby :-) and I think that you will be able to enjoy all your plants up close which I think will suit you (it's one of my design criteria too - and entirely antithetical to objective landscaping criteria). A designer might merge more beds for deeper borders. But your language is accurate - you're garden-making, not just landscaping.

I know you don't like evergreens but I will mention, for the benefit of others, that I think more evergreen presence would reduce the impact of the fairly light coloured edging stone when the beds are bare of foliage in winter. Of course in summer it nearly disappears, or you certainly can't see all of it at once. But the shapes are pleasing, and without edging the whole would be too amorphous for my taste.


    Bookmark   April 11, 2009 at 2:51AM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

Karin - I used the term garden-making without thinking but, you're right, that's exactly what my interest is! There's obviously an overlap with landscape design in a broader sense and I do try to keep landscape design principles in mind, but apply them in the context of making a garden. Which begs the question - what is the difference between making a garden and designing a landscape?

I'm not sure how people like laag and Ink and others would answer but, for me, it seems to be about intimacy, and relative importance of plants and the house. While I want the house and the garden to relate well to each other, I see the house as the backdrop for the garden and not the garden as just an ornament for/something to enhance the house. In other words, I want a garden with a house in it and not a house with a garden!

By intimacy I mean the closeness and interaction between the plants and the gardener/garden visitor. Which is one of the reasons why paths are an important element in my garden - when you're in my garden, you're IN my garden. You experience the plants - color, scent, texture etc. -both from a distance and at an intimate scale that allows for easy appreciation of details and ability to 'stop and smell the roses'. Even at this time of year, there is interest in being able to easily monitor emerging foliage from day to day and appreciate the early, small spring bulbs - or fall bulbs at the other end of the season! In winter, when the garden is under its blanket of white, the paths are usually still visible as smoother areas of snow so continue to add interest to the garden space.

It's not that I don't like evergreens - the large, older, existing ones are an essential part of the background to the garden and the garden would be much the poorer without the big cedar in the front and the white pines in the back. But I find that, unless you have a very large garden - which this isn't - there is a real risk that the evergreens can become overgrown, dull 'dead space' that seem to suck the life out of the garden rather than add active interest in the 'off' season. When I do add evergreens, they tend to be broad-leafed ones. There are hollies, mahonia and 'Emerald Gaiety' euonymus in various places in the garden. I find the broad-leafed evergreens are more 'lively' than the smaller coniferous ones for my garden. I keep them pruned to control size but retain a natural shape.

I also agree that the brick edging made a big difference - although it's a bit of a pain now that I have to undo some of it to make the new bed! I put the brick edge in place largely as a maintenance reducer (there is a metal grass barrier to keep the grass from growing between the bricks). Trench edging was becoming too much work. The brick edge made a big difference in giving the beds more definition and I now much prefer the look of brick or stone edged beds. My only regret is that I didn't have enough space to be able to use wider stones as edging.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2009 at 11:33AM
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Woody, what I see here is why I could never turn my own design over to a professional designer. Landscaping is a harmonization of the whole. But for a gardener, the importance lies with the intimacy of the individual plants. A gardener has no problem ignoring the whole of the site to concentrate on the plants, no mater how bad they might clash with their surroundings. I have years of photos of beautiful plants and they are all close ups. A wider shot would show how out of place the plants are.

Surely a landscape should meet the needs and interests of the owner. I would suggest to pros, if you are designing for a gardener, forget the plants, with the possible exception of a few larger trees. If you are to harmonize the landscape, it must be done with grade and hardscape, for we feel the need to change those plants on a regular basis. And the fact that a plant does not fit will not stop us. If it is a plant we want, we shall have it.

For me, though my attention is held by individual plants, there is a background perception of the space of the landscape. It's like a computer program running in the background but not seen. And so my mind is always tracking orientation, landform, and a sense of mass within the landscape. I get an uncomfortable feeling if I cannot point to north, 24 hours a day, though I'm never conscious of keeping up with directions. I can not start to feel a landscape until this mental model begins to take shape.

Turning to Woody's garden, I really blew the contours, at least as to the landform of the neighborhood. The clues were all there in the photos, I just failed to look close enough. My mind makes the corrections.

So, if I am to take a mental stroll through Woody's garden, seeing it from different positions, I let the brain develop the model. There are things that can be described with language and those that cannot. How can one hum a remembered melody without any knowledge of music or notes?

For me, a landscape begins with a hazy feel for the negative and positive, the elements of mass and height, and their position. When I look at Woody's, the best I can describe it is something like this ...

So now I advance the calendar to summer and the garden is in it's glory. I stand where the path leaves the drive near the garage. Before me is the garden whole, but the circular path and the trellis suggests an entry to a special inner garden within the whole. Do I see around the curve the end of a garden bench? I have often found the greater drama of a landscape to be a the junction of a strong vertical element with the horizontal. What better place to set a garden bench than at the foot of the tall cedar? Surely there is a strong focal point created.

A lot of what makes this garden work is the location of plant height. Something that came from years of trial and error?

Now if the theme of the landscape is to be a garden within a garden, it can be seen how the new bed is necessary to complete the feature.

And I note the harmonious use of color running from white through pastels of pink, lavender, and blue to the occasional spot of vivid red.

I won't suggest plants to Woody, for they will be what she wants. I have one small suggestion to enhance the feel of a special inner garden. A flat area in a slope creates drama and can make a special "people" place within a landscape. I would recommend that the paths of the inner garden be adjusted to a level grade if possible. I note that the short side path of the inner garden back toward the garage is uphill. In my mind I see this short path end in a wall of roundish stones with an end that has fallen in ruin to wrap around the end of the path, holding back the earth from the lower and flat path. The standing wall runs a short distance toward the magnolia.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2009 at 8:50AM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

I like the 'garden within a garden' label. I was thinking this morning as we walked past it when we took the dogs out, that the new bed makes the front garden look both bigger and smaller. Bigger because it simply takes up more of the available space; but smaller because it puts the original big bed in a better context by wrapping the driveway border around it so it become part of a greater whole. Here's what things look like as of yesterday afternoon when I turned the sod for the new bed (DH cut the sod into squares and I wrestled it out of the ground. I'll let it dry off for a few days then return the soil to the bed, discarding the grass to the compost heap.)

I like your fuzzy image of the garden. I was undecided whether to remove the grass path at the back of the small rose bed and replace it with a bark mulch one. I think I will do that to make that loop less obvious and clearly make the bigger bed the main focus of circulation.

The side path towards the garage actually feels quite flat - it's the one going towards the road that is quite noticeably downhill. If I was going to put a 'ruined' wall, it would be at the end of that path. There actually is a small pile of stones there - stones we had to dig out when we hit them when trying to drive in the support stakes for the metal edging between the bricks and grass. I'm sure we'll be digging out a few more when we put in the edging for the new bed! (This area was all once lake bottom in prehistoric times when Lake Iroquois was here instead of Lake Ontario. So we're always encoutering flat, relatively soft 'lake stone' whenever we dig more than a few inches.) So maybe I'll arrange them at the end of that path. Some of the larger ones I put at the back of th bed and planted hens'n'chicks around them.

The main 'people place' in the garden is found by following the path around the garage, through the north gate, down the north alley garden and into the backyard woodland garden to the lawn and patio. The next major project I think will be to make that path lead more strongly but I think I need to wait until the serviceberry tree gets bigger and has a stronger presence. The serviceberry tree is basically the pivot point - coming from the driveway go to the left of the serviceberry and you head to the north alley path; to the right and you go around the 'inner garden'. (I think you've just named that part of the garden for me :- )

    Bookmark   April 12, 2009 at 11:11AM
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How does the linear ditch and shadow play into your composition? It appears that it is overlooked.

Can you install a culvert?

Overarching plants will play into the shadow and leave the drainage-way unobstructed.

Also another depression coming off from the ditch will break up the linear shadow and cut-edge effect.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2009 at 6:05PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

Isabella - there's a culvert under the driveway but the Town does not allow the ditch to be replaced by a culvert the full length of the property. In spring run-off and during heavy rains, the ditch is full to the top. We are near the bottom of the street - I wouldn't call the street a hill but there's a definite downward slope so there can be a lot of water running quite fast in the ditch at times. I think the linear edge of the ditch - which wil be 'reinforced' when I brick-edge the bed, will be a nice contast to the more rounded shape of the main bed.

I like the look of shrubs draping over a hard edge - the 'Pink Beauty' potentillas do that now in the driveway border - they drape over the concrete curb onto the driveway and I think it helps a lot to soften the rather large expanse of driveway. I think shrubs spilling down into the ditch will make the ditch look deeper and make the garden look a bit like it's protected by a moat! So the garden will be an enticing view but also have an element of remoteness and privacy because of the barrier of the ditch.

I'm not sure that shadows will have a big impact. In the morning, the trees across the street shade the front edge until around 8:30-9:00. The Chinese wisteria is now big enough that it is starting to cast some shade on the main bed. I'm not sure yet if it will be significant enough to affect the plantings. In the late afternoon, shade from the garage creeps across the bed, but it's not significant until late afternoon and evening. The trees at the back of the bed are on the north side so don't have much shade impact on the bed. Shrubs along the ditch would shade the path in the morning for a bit and the ditch in the afternoon. I supect that the shadow in the ditch would just enhance the sense of the ditch being deeper.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2009 at 6:35PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

I like how you worded that about gardening vs. landscaping, PLS. This is a conflict/co-existence that has been tormenting me for years and it re-emerges every now and again, as here. As I've struggled with my own little composition (I've had to call it an uglification project rather than its opposite sometimes), the tool of grading is something I've just recently added to my arsenal, and it really can contribute to making a garden a landscaping installation.

Looking forward to your summer photos, Woody. Maybe I'll have some to share by then too.


    Bookmark   April 13, 2009 at 7:00PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

My goal is to have this done and planted by the end of May - I'm probably dreaming in Technicolor :-) And I do hope you'll share some photos of your garden Karin - I vaguely remember a circle in paving stones...? Was that in your garden...? I don't remember what else is there....

    Bookmark   April 13, 2009 at 8:15PM
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I've enjoyed this thread. I really struggle with getting my own beds in order. I always feel that something is wrong, that the design is lacking. (some areas lack any design). But I love the idea of garden-making. I grow the plants that make me happy. The bees and butterflies have not been critical of the design.

But I do realize that it's the design flaws that bother me, so every year I try to make improvements as well. What you've done, Woody, is marvelous. It looks like a happy place.

I'm reminded me of one of my favorite bits from a Henry Mitchell (collected in the "Essential Earthman"): "By the time one is eighty, it is said, there is no longer a tug of war in the garden with the May flowers hauling like mad against the claims of the other months. All is at last in balance and all is serene. The gardener is usually dead, of course." I don't think I read many of his columns in the Washington Post when he was alive, maybe one needs to be an older, more experienced gardener to appreciate him.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2009 at 11:51AM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

Maureen - I've enjoyed the Henry Mitchell writings that I've read - I'll have to look for more of his writing...

Making progress slowly here... About 1/3 of the sod is cleaned off as of today. In the picture below you can see that I've converted the path around the little rose bed to mulch which makes the grass path sweep down past the inner bed to the new path stand out nicely I think. I need to shape the end of the mulch path to flow better to the new path - but I'll have to wait until I start extending the brick edging along the new path. Then I can measure to the edge of the inner bed, with the objective of maintaining a constant path width as the grass path makes the turn past the rose bed and becomes the new path along the 'moat bed'.

This is what gardening literally by the seat of your pants looks like... I have an intimate 'up close and personal' relationship with my garden! :-)

    Bookmark   April 19, 2009 at 3:57PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

An update for those who like to see before-during-after sequences... There will be more 'tweaking' and lots of filling in for the plants to do, but today was a major milestone - the bed is in place and planted. It is narrower - especially through the middle! - than I had initially projected. I think the path is a bit wider and the ditch a bit closer than on my drawing! The brick edging takes up planting space too. So, in the middle portion, the bed almost vanishes! The brick edging is a bit wiggly-waggly instead of a nice smooth line - it's hard to get it just the way you want when you're doing it 'by the seat of your pants'. Oh well... I've learned to live with such minor inconveniences:-) I will be seeding in some columbine after the ones in the inner bed flower and set seed. And I need another plant or two under the wisteria overhang. I also still need to do some shaping of where the bark path joins the grass one. But, overall, I'm reasonably happy with how this year's project is going.

Looking south late afternoon today:

Looking north from the driveway, looking between the Blanc Double de Coubert rose and the Chinese wisteria:

    Bookmark   May 22, 2009 at 7:27PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

Another update from today....

We are really pleased with how the new bed shapes the remaining lawn into a nice sweeping path. We think it really improves the look of the big bed (which is just starting its summer bloom season). In the 'A Pattern Language' book Ink recommended on 'The conceptual stuff' thread, one of the 'patterns' had to do with making positive space out of negative space. Last year's rectangular lawn project and this year's path both seem to fit with that and I think I've 'got it' on that one :-) I'm finding now when I look at garden spaces I'm consciously looking at what shape the negative space has and it's starting to look like wasted space if it doesn't have an interesting shape!

    Bookmark   June 7, 2009 at 8:23PM
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I love lawn paths. I love yours. And from the earlier pictures I cannot imagine how you sit down in that position. You must be extraordinarily flexible. You are an inspiration to me. Today the orthopedist told me my knee, (what's left of it) is ready to be replaced. The gardening season is a major factor about when I do it.

Idabean (frequemt lurker)

    Bookmark   June 8, 2009 at 11:43PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

Idabean - if my knees - or hips - go, I'm in serious trouble in the garden! I have learned that 'the more you do, the more you can do' is the best operating policy. I suspect most of the neighbours think I'm a lunatic - I can look pretty odd in the garden at times. :-) While it may not appear so at first glance, the garden is planned for low maintenance. That brick edging - with its all-important metal grass barrier between the bricks and the grass - was primarily motivated by the need to eliminate the work of trench edging. It was a lot of work to put in place but it has been a fantastic work-saver ever since. I have virtually eliminated edging as a chore.

Good luck with the knee replacement and keep gardening come what may - it's good for you!

    Bookmark   June 9, 2009 at 9:51AM
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Well you definetly have a gardner's landscape. Not typically what I see on the rounds, but very nice looking.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2009 at 10:03AM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

We continue to be ver pleased with hown the new bed is working out. It's filling in a lot faster than we expected and makes a big improvenment to the front garden. I need to get a picture of it from across the street to get the big front bed in the picture too but here are a few views from this morning:

This one showns the south end by the Chinese wisteria (which is doing its summer sparse bloom phase) so you can get a feel for how it is filling out since the similar June picture above:

From the road, looking south:

From the end of the wisteria path looking north - you can see how I didn't have room to make the bed wider because of the ditch...:

One thing that is really bugging me is that the variegated weigela I had planted several years ago in the main bed seems to be refusing to grow! That is leaving a void where I wanted a show of green and white foliage (and pink flowers in early summer) so I think it will get yanked this fall and replaced next spring with another one that will hopefully grow a bit more vigorously!

rhodium - definitely a gardener's landscape here! :-) It's actually not too unusual in the immediate neighbourhood as there are a lot of avid gardeners on this street and the one behind us. Gardening is the local competitive sport! :-)

    Bookmark   July 26, 2009 at 11:16AM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Woody, I'd missed this thread's continuation when I took a hiatus from the forum, so I'm glad you've updated it. That's a really neat little bed you've added, and the whole idea of transforming a lawn into a pathway is quite captivating.

I'm glad to hear the edging is making life easier, and I have to say again that for me it also just pulls the whole garden together beautifully.

That's a great photo of you gardening... a shame they don't publish photos like that in gardening mags and books more often, rather than just the end result. I think fewer people would presume that it is a simple process. That photo really says "commitment!" And if gardening is a competitive sport - as it is here too, but a friendly one of course - that's got to be a winning approach.


    Bookmark   July 27, 2009 at 1:18PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

You're probably sick of seeing this thread appear again... I thought some of you might be interested in seeing this bird's eye view DH took today while trying out a wide angle lens for his camera. I thought it showed a good overview of the front - sort of a real-life 'plan view'. Not much green/color in the garden yet and the internal paths need a refresher coat of mulch so they don't stand out very well in the picture. But the grass path certainly stands out in whatever view of the garden now.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2010 at 3:44PM
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I enjoyed seeing your garden progress. Thank you for taking the time to share the photos--seeing it in different stages has been very helpful. :)

    Bookmark   May 13, 2012 at 10:47PM
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