Planning a new sun garden (and completely intimidated)

lil_brown_batMay 25, 2010

Greets, all,

I've got a country house with a fairly small lot that includes a big vegetable garden, several small flower gardens or borders, and a herb garden. I have an area in my lawn where I'd like to put in a small ornamental garden, to include some seating or have some seating around it. The area is at the edge of a small hill, gets lots of sun and has a south view of a river and the hills beyond.

Simple enough, I thought -- I've reclaimed plenty of lawn for garden before, I know how to rip the stuff up and rich up the soil and transplant like a mad thing. The only problem is, I'm finding myself completely intimidated by the idea of design. At first I thought I'd rip up a small rectangle and make a garden like that, but then I thought...boring! A circle maybe? BORING! See, it's in the middle of a lawn...there are no structural elements around it now, the major landscape feature is the edge of the hill and the view beyond. My other gardens are circles or rectangles, but they're fitting with something, around a tree or in a corner. Just dropping down a simple circle or a rectangle is starting to seem like it would be too cookie-cutter.

Can anyone help restore my confidence? I'm not against the idea of a circle or a rectangle, I've just sort of lost my vision.


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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

The area is at the edge of a small hill.

Perhaps if I saw a photo, I wouldn't interpret your words this way, but ...

How about a crescent (with rounded ends) or kidney shape that curves around the hill? It doesn't need to touch the edge of the hill -- probably better not to -- though I'd have it follow the curve of the base of the hill. (It doesn't have to be symmetrical.)

You're already doing this: My other gardens are circles or rectangles, but they're fitting with something, around a tree or in a corner.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2010 at 2:48PM
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Agh, sorry, bad description: the location is on a flat spot of lawn at the top of the hill. It's not a very rounded hill -- the edge is fairly well defined, a straight line, that slopes away to the south towards the river. Placing the garden right AT the edge would be challenging, because it does start to slope some.

I should also say, I do have some ideas for plants that would do well. Since it is a very sunny area I am thinking of going for a somewhat Mediterranean feel, using things like mother of thyme and lavendar, and for taller stuff, things like yarrow that have that kind of spare look -- it wouldn't be a tulip-y garden or a marigold-y garden, but one where everything is a little more spare. I love the look of Mediterranean-style rock gardens that are primarily rock, with small pockets of soil where those kind of plants grow...but this is in the middle of a flat lawn. Again, I'm no designer, but I think those gardens work well where the rock is a natural element. In the middle of a green lawn, I think it would stick out like a sore thumb.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2010 at 3:02PM
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It'll help if you can figure out how to provide pictures. Else, lots of details. Somehow in order to make suggestions we, like you, have to begin to struggle with the relationships of things.

You've told us that you have a "country house with a fairly small lot that includes a big vegetable garden, several small flower gardens or borders, and a herb garden."

You've also got lawn. That's what you're wanting to cut this new ornamental-Mediterranean-"sun garden"-seating area out of. I'll come back to that briefly in a minute. You also describe a flat area, a hill edge, and a view of a river.

But I don't know where I'd be coming from to sit out by the lavander, thyme, etc. and gaze over the scene. Would I wander a path around the side of your house? Would I come out on a patio and walk across the lawn? Would I be coming from the vegie garden with some fresh picked peas and stopping for a moment to visit with someone before going to the house?

That's what I don't know, and it's making those connections functional and beautiful that may have you stuck.

What will make this new bed look and feel like a destination?

How far from the house or other significant "starting point" will this ornamental bed be? Ten feet from back door? Or, more like 50 feet?

As I hinted, the lawn may be part of the problem. Do a search on "negative space" on this forum and it might help your vision of this project.

Trust me, I'm throwing out popcorn ideas here. Figuring out the shape of this bed might be as simple as playing around with a hose for the bed shape and getting some furniture out to play with your ideas.

Or, it might mean finding a combination of both obvious (things like paths) and subtle techniques to suggest that this space is supposed to be where it is and shaped just this way.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2010 at 10:29PM
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holleygarden Zone 8, East Texas

A circle in the middle of a hill is not a design. It's just a circle in the middle of a hill. In order to complete your vision, you need an entrance. How will you get there? Along a walkway of lavender, rosemary and rose covered arbors?

If you don't want a specific pathway, you still need an 'entrance'. Perhaps some stone steps leading up to the circle with large terra cotta pots filled with agave flanking the steps?

There is no reason to go to the circle. No pathway that pulls you toward it. No entrance that signals, 'come here'. Hope that helps.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2010 at 3:35PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

One of our resident experts here, Laag, has said recently that the bed shape (at least in some cases, if I understand correctly) can or should be driven by the plants in the bed. So this might be that situation where you think plants first, and bed shape after.

Also, and perhaps alternatively, maybe you could move your planned bed to the slope, and use the slope as an excuse to put in a rock wall. I think you're right that the garden you envision would look illogical in the middle of a green lawn. Then perhaps you could isolate the other sides of the bed with a pathway and/or seating area, done in some arid material, to separate it further from the lawn, which, since it is water-loving and the plants are water-sparing, does look incongruous with a mediterranean garden.


    Bookmark   May 29, 2010 at 12:28PM
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