This autumn, crescendo - the garden is unwinding beautifully. Goodbye for this season, brave chlorophyll.
Miscanthus 'Morning Light'
|Agastache foeniculum 'White Spike'|
|Cimicifuga simplex 'Brunette'|
|Phlox paniculata 'David'|
Cimicifuga simplex 'Brunette'
Rhus typhina ‘Laciniata'
Calamagrostis 'Karl Foerster'
Believe it or not, as well as being an obsessive home gardener indulging in loose naturalism in relative privacy - as you can plainly see all over this increasingly unambitious, personal blog - I'm also a working garden designer. Somehow it's come to this. One thing has led to another and, in short, people pay me to drum up elaborate ideas for their gardens. Speculative gardening, I like to call it. For long hours I sit hunched over paper and computer deep in the recesses of my home almost entirely absorbed by the mind's eye.
Lately, I've been experimenting with making 3D models of the spaces in question and the tool has proven very useful. It's inherently limited, sure - describing the plants accurately here in computer land is just not possible short of hiring a team of digital illustrators - but it makes conveying the look and placement of hardscape elements much much easier than overhead drawings and photo examples.
For your pleasure, here's an example of a hardscape proposal I've done recently, for a small back garden in an old section of Dartmouth...
First things first - a view from the back room. One sees a square pond (made of heavy hemlock timbers) reflecting bits of sky and the surrounding trees, and a low cedar-clad bench gently calling out to you, calling you out.
Next - a God’s eye view and (below) another view that a tall person lurking in the back might experience. The slope has been terraced in increments of 10” - 3 levels of playful L shapes and rectangles using heavy hemlock timber that’s been “ebonized” or made to looked weathered prematurely using a vinegar/steel solution. The walking paths are lined with pea stone and the brown areas are unplanted plant beds.
The bicycle slash firewood storage structure slash home for an existing climbing rose...with a sliding barn-style door on the left, wood storage in the middle and a cozy seating area on the right. The image below is what someone sitting in said seat might see. The narrow raised bed on the right is meant for a climber, as is the larger structure at the back (for an existing clematis).
The pond is square - 12 feet by 12 feet - and only 10 inches deep. A natural/safe pond dye could be used to obscure the depth and make the surface more reflective. The pond liner is hidden with a grey brick edging around the inside top. Incidentally, the rectangle framing the bench is a golden mean rectangle and the pond and this rectangle make a larger golden mean rectangle. No kidding.
A view to the west side of the house from behind the pond (as seen by the hypothetical tall person) and a closer shot of the seating area under the kitchen window - a place for serious, intimate conversation and/or inward meditation. The existing concrete pavers that would be displaced in the back will be used as a walking surface here, with creeping ground cover plants filling in around them.
Flash forward eight years and the wacky dream is almost entirely forgotten, waved off in waking hours as ridiculous. Egomaniacal, unethical, dangerous, messy, etc. But...the maple in question has passed on. For no reason that I can discern. It simply didn't wake up this season. And an opportunity to look at this handsome skeletal frame in a new way has presented itself. It's been handed to me, as it were.
Drowning here in Summer's Cauldron
Under mats of flower lava
Please don't pull me out this is how I would want to go
Breathing in the boiling butter
Fruit of sweating golden inca
Please don't heed my shout I'm relaxed in the undertow
Andy Partridge (1987)
Time has had its way with us again! Somehow this home garden seems to be maturing - in sections. Years have passed since we settled here, I suppose. Sure enough. Some of these recent images will seem familiar to anyone who's been following things here (bless you) - with the shifting subtle differences that come with time and the gardener's intervention.
This 4D organic sculpture plant world I've cultivated is in constant flux, however. Obviously. Old news, old news. Matter of fact, you say. Duh. Nonetheless, this is a key aspect of gardening that pulls along the obsessive. We're drawn into a constant cycle of wanting (aesthetic anticipation/fantasy) and fleeting reward.
And it has to be fleeting or it will become meaningless, unfortunately. Apparently.
This sisyphean life lived in the thick of a naturalistic perennial border (as the British would've called this kind of gardening not that long ago) has its ups and downs, clearly. Like yours where you are, naturalistic border or not. Life is life, dramatic and bleeding mundane. There are times when the effort necessary behind these scenes can feel overwhelming.
But I can tell you this with complete confidence and much direct experience: these planted places, where nature and self/struggle/consciousness meet (gardens) are somehow inherently uplifting. This is another cliche we've heard a thousand times but it really shouldn't be underestimated.
You'd be hard pressed to find an angry gnarled human with any manner of plant interest (or lack thereof) who wouldn't feel some sort of shift up in feeling should they be made to lurk about amongst these fellows.
The plants in their composed plant worlds. Highlighting the light, playing.