Monday, January 30, 2012

Naturalized City Garden

This garden already had the foundation of lush plantings that just needed balancing and supplementing. We added some evergreen Camellia spring blooming shrubs, relocated some of the existing plants and added a number of shade loving, flowering perennials. However the garden was dominated by its very linear brick path bordered by linear timbers. Since the garden naturally tended towards the naturalized woodland garden style due to its dominant trees on both sides, we needed to bring a balance to the linear pathway. We selected weathered flagstones and formed a serpentine pathway that crossed the brick pathway as well as some fieldstone boulders set on the right side around the tree. This quickly brought the best out of the garden space and defined a theme for the garden (naturalized urban woodland).
Later in the fall, we returned to rebuild the fences on the left and rear sides of the garden. The old pine picket privacy fence and gate was removed and we constructed a custom made cedar fence with horizontal boards. The design was made more appealing by using thinner boards with wider gaps at the top of the fence, allowing greater light through the fence and lessening the enclosed feeling of a fence. The home's cat was very pleased with the new fence that provided a perfect sunbathing and lookout spot!
The gate mimicked the style of the fence, and was completed with a deadbolt lock rather than a latch. Both sides of the fence were "finished" making it equally appealing from the inside or outside. Finally the fence and gate were stained a walnut color semitransparent stain that allowed the grain of the cedar wood to show through but darkened and protected the wood.
Below the fence (still unstained) radically changes the appearance of the garden as vertical pickets were replaced with horizontal lines. This also served to de-emphasize again the dominant linear brick path.
On the left side of the garden the fence continued with the same design but included a single step down to take into account the change in grade. The new side fence replaced an old wire fence that had been completely covered with ivy. While ivy is a very effective ground cover, it is very invasive and can come to completely dominate a garden. In this case the ivy was removed which further transformed the garden.
Finally a new house number was required for the back fence. Using the numbers provided by the homeowners, we created a unique plaque for the numbers using a section of Osage Orange board. Osage Orange is a local native tree (also known as monkey brains) which has a stunning yellow wood. This yellow wood provided a highly visible back ground for the dark numbers. Osage orange is a very hard wood, very resistant to decay and it has a long history of use in fences, living fences and was used by the Osage Indigenous People for Bows due to its strength. In many ways it is a perfect wood to create plaques for numbers, signs or fence art. We left the bark on the board to add to the natural appeal and uniqueness of the number plaque, which also hints at the naturalized woodland garden behind the fence!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Hedgerow for Diverse Purposes

Hedgerows can be planted for many reasons, and before planting a hedgerow it is important to define what the primary objectives are for the hedgerow.

Possible objectives for a hedgerow can include:

Windbreak (perhaps on the north side of a home or to provide a sheltered area of the garden).
Privacy (best to select mostly evergreen species)
To provide habitat for birds, butterflies, bees and small animals
To beautify a garden
To define a space within a garden
To create a boundary
As a place to plant native species for ecological reasons
To provide edible nuts and berries for people
Fragrant Blossoms

When I am asked by a homeowner to create a design for a hedgerow I first determine what the primary objectives are and then tailor the design to fill these objectives. Perhaps the simplest and most over planted hedgerow is the typical row of giant arborvitae that create a full privacy screen and boundary. While this hedgerow certainly has its place and function, it is not always the best choice for a homeowner. A more diverse planting can be much more attractive, interesting and useful in the home setting.

In this particular situation the homeowners wanted the hedgerow to define a boundary and offer some privacy without being the typical set of evergreens planted in a dull row. We arrived at a suitable design that combined a number of wonderful native species of trees and shrubs with some non-natives that held special appeal. This hedgerow offers 4 season interest with blooms at various times of the year and various bark textures and colors that come into their true glory during winter.

Creating a hedgerow in an area that has been lawn is a process of removing the sod, tilling and enhancing the topsoil as needed (leaf compost being a great choice), planting the new trees and shrubs and mulching generously. This hedgerow is designed to have a non-linear shape even though it is defining a linear boundary between the homeowner and neighbor. The gentle curve suits the diverse planting well. Over time this hedgerow will fill out and attract many birds and beneficial insects. We also selected varieties that offer scented blooms.

Varieties here included:

Juniper (evergreen)

Kousa Dogwood (chinese, more disease resistant)

Redbud (native flowering)

Japanese Stewartia (flowering, winter interest)

Serviceberry (native, flowering)


Inkberry (evergreen native)

Skip laurel (evergreen)

Red Twig Dogwood (native, winter interest)

Dwarf Fothergilla (native fragrant flowering spring)

Summersweet (fragrant flowering summer)

Viburnum (fragrant flowering spring)

Witch Hazel (native fragrant flowering autumn)

Note that there is a mixture of evergreens and deciduous, natives and non-natives. This is a flexible design that takes into consideration the diverse purposes for this hedgerow. As a garden designer who also installs the design, I strive to meet the needs of the homeowner while also contributing to a positive ecology and supporting the planting of native species. There are many beautiful native species that are entirely appropriate for the home garden, however I am not a purist in the sense of only promoting native species. The sharing of species between regions and continents has been going on for thousands of years. However, I do avoid planting invasive species as I know first hand how difficult they are to remove, however we can all enjoy the many exotic species that have become readily available in our local nurseries.