The Big Picture: An Overview of My Garden
During the garden season, when I’m working in, thinking about and writing about my Maine garden, I tend to focus on one area at a time. But during the winter, when I am working on the garden of the imagination, I find that it helps to step back and look at the big picture.
As you can see in the aerial view (from Google Earth), my house (on the upper far right) is one of a cluster of houses on a dirt road in a rural neighborhood that, like most of the state of Maine, is heavily wooded. Except for the cleared area immediately around the house, most of my 1.5 acres of property is covered with trees.
A Virtual Tour: The Garden of the Present
|If you approach on the dirt road in July, you will be greeted by the cheerful yellows, reds and oranges of a row of daylilies growing at the front of the property.|
When the daylilies are not in bloom, the focus of attention as you approach my house is the circular bed that marks the turn from the dirt road into my driveway. More than any other part of the garden, this flower bed changes moods as the season progresses,
|… from soft pastels in June,|
|to strong contrasts in July,|
|to a predominance of yellow and white in August.|
As you proceed up the driveway, there are old-fashioned orange daylilies (Hemerocallis fulva) and Coreopsis verticillata (tickseed) naturalized at the edge of the woods to your right.
The large open area to the left of the driveway (the “front yard”), which slopes upwards toward the house, is largely undefined. It has a row of scraggly, unhappy lilacs (Syringa vulgaris) directly behind the row of daylilies, a Forsythia that glows with bright yellow flowers in spring, a mock orange (Philadelphus) that blooms outside my bedroom window,
|and yellow hawkweed (Hieracium pilosella) that carpets the ground in summer.|
As you reach the top of the driveway, you have two choices. You can climb a flight of stairs to your left up a fairly steep slope to the main entrances to the house, or you can proceed up a shorter set of stairs straight ahead that lead into the back garden.
If you go up the longer flight of stairs, the main garden interest is the back slope to your right. This garden area is dominated by a large rhododendron at the top that spills pink blossoms down the slope in late spring and by wild strawberries (Fragaria virginiana) that have been encouraged to naturalize on the bottom half of the slope. Surrounding and interplanted with the rhododendron and strawberries are a pleasing jumble of hosta, Tradescantia virginiana, Siberian irises (Iris sibirica), Coreopsis verticillata, daylilies (Hemerocallis), balloon flower (Platycodon), oregano, and chives.
If you follow the pathway around to the left at the top of the stairs, you come to two unremarkable flower beds at the front of the house. The iris bed shines in early June when it blooms with two different varieties of old-fashioned blue and violet Siberian irises and Tradescantia virginiana ‘Zwannenburg Blue.’ The bedroom border is an unsatisfying hodge-podge that I am slowly dismantling as I move plants from this area to other parts of the garden.
Without doubt, the best part of my garden is the back garden, which you enter by taking the short flight of stairs at the end of the driveway and following the paver and gravel walkway. The back garden is currently made up of three flower beds: the deck border, which runs along the full length of the walkway between it and the house, the blue and yellow border, which sits opposite the deck border along most of the walkway, and the fence border, which runs perpendicular to the walkway.
The deck border is in the shade of the house for part of the day, so it is planted with shade-tolerant plants like hosta, astilbe, heuchera, and hardy geranium, as well as with Siberian irises, daylilies, goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus) and a mass of Spirea japonica ‘Magic Carpet’ above the retaining wall at the sunny end of the border. The predominant colors of this flower bed are pink and lavender. It’s appearance is soft and peaceful, and foliage is a major presence.
The blue and yellow border, across the walkway from the deck border, gets more sun and has more emphasis on flowers. Here, the blues of Iris sibirica, Tradescantia virginiana, hardy geranium, perennial flax (Linum perenne), Delphinium, and Platycodon grandiflorus (balloon flower) combine with the several large groupings of yellow daylilies, with the yellows of Coreopsis verticillata, Heliopsis helianthoides (false sunflower), Rudbeckia ‘Herbstsonne’ and native goldenrod (Solidago), and with the chartreuse blooms of Alchemilla mollis (lady’s mantle).
The fence border is the newest flower bed in the back garden, having just been completed in summer 2010. It is a smaller flower bed than the others, but serves a number of important functions, including screening the clothesline from the deck, creating a sense of enclosure in this part of the garden, and tying together the deck border and the blue and yellow border by repeating colors and plants from both. The fence also provides a place to grow climbing plants, including clematis and morning glories. The fence border still had a gawky, adolescent look in 2010, and I’m looking forward to seeing it mature.
Future Projects: The Garden of the Imagination
Like all gardens, mine is always growing and changing, and I always have more garden project ideas than I can possibly carry out in the foreseeable future.
You may have noticed that the garden diagram at the top of this post included a notation for another area, the serenity garden, beyond the current back garden. This serene woodland retreat is part of the garden of the imagination. Right now, it exists only as a few stakes in the ground to mark its boundaries, a series of photographs showing patterns of light and shade, a growing list of plant possibilities, and some wonderful images in my mind’s eye. My major garden project for this winter is to transform those ingredients into a plan on paper, and I expect to begin digging and planting this new garden area in summer 2011. This project, which will probably take 2-3 years to complete, will also involve creating a sense of seclusion for this part of the garden by adding some plants and garden structures to separate it from the clothesline area and the the driveway beyond (see My Not-So-Secret Garden).
While this project is being completed, I also expect to put an addition on the front of my house, and this will create both the necessity and the opportunity for a complete re-landscaping and new garden design at the front of the house. The row of scraggly lilacs will go, as will the bedroom border, and both the forsythia and the mock orange will have to be moved. The circular bed will stay, and I hope that the new front garden will include revised versions of the iris bed and the row of daylilies at the front of the property.
As I look at the big picture of my garden, I can see enough garden projects in the garden of my imagination to keep me going for at least another decade!