Sometimes it’s time for a fresh start. And for this project, we knew it was that time. Our client, a member of the local garden club, was frustrated with the old, tired overgrown plants that were not contributing to the landscape and wanted to completely renovate her gardens. The area around the home had become overgrown, threatening to obscure its classic Royal Barry Willis lines.
So where did we start?
While some designers might favor a “blank slate” approach I prefer not to destroy material that is viable. Maybe it’s my frugal Yankee nature. If a plant doesn’t work where it is we can often move it and give it a second chance. After a thorough plant assessment, decisions are made as to what stays and what goes. When it comes to the “what goes” part all I can say is THANK GOD FOR A GREAT CREW.
Even on the few days when I have forgotten the donuts these guys work their tails off. They have worked with me long enough to know that I am a perfectionist and so they place plants with the best side facing out, they don’t rip plant tags from the branches but gently cut them out, they loosen the roots before planting….and they water the holes. They tease me, especially Roy – “Just do what the boss says,” he tells the guys but it is one of the few things I insist on. Before you put your plant in its new home water the hole. Even twice if the ground is very dry. Otherwise surrounding dirt will simply wick away the water you put right at the plant’s base.
This was such a large project that, together with the client, we decided to complete it in stages. The first stage was to tame the area right at the back door. The garden had become wild and was losing its battle with ivy.
The client was due to become a grandparent and envisioned a type of woodland garden where the new little one could play and explore nature. With our theme in mind, we started clearing out all the overgrown bushes and ivy.
I say “we” but once again it was my great crew that did all the heavy lifting…I just brought the donuts!
After the space was left bare for a few weeks it was apparent that there was a perfect spot for a small tree. We decided on a halesia, Carolina Silverbell with pink flowers. Small enough for the space, but it would make a big impact. Based on the tree’s location we created a meandering path; no need for straight lines here, this garden would encourage visitors to saunter and take their time.
For this woodland garden, we used lots of great shade plants with interesting foliage. The client especially liked the fall so we made sure to have material that would shine during that season. Fothergilla gardenii is a wonderful addition with its white bottle brush flowers and gray-green leaves. But it’s the fall colors of red, orange and yellow on one plant that pack the punch. Mukdenia is a great underused plant that really shines in autumn with large dissected leaves that turn a rich burgundy. Anemone ‘September Charm’ provides the woodland garden with some beautiful pink fall flowers.
We planted hosta ‘Sum and Substance’ to the right of the arbor; its large size and chartreuse color would draw attention to the entrance.
Once through the arbor, visitors were rewarded with the delicious fragrance of cimicifuga ‘Brunette’. Other dependable performers like heuchera, epimedium, geranium ‘Rozanne’ and ferns were used to fill in the garden. Keeping in mind that the garden was created to encourage exploration we planted a lindera benzoin, or spicebush. This beautiful deciduous shrub will attract the spicebush swallowtail caterpillar, which feeds on its leaves. And don’t kids love caterpillars? We expect the new grandchild will also love the yellow bells that dangle from the kirengeshoma we tucked into the garden.
As we planted we incorporated large amounts of compost to improve soil quality. Hefty stepping stones and a beautiful green bench provided the finishing touches on the new woodland garden.
This blog is getting long and my stomach is growling. I think it, like the garden might have to be completed in stages.