Sunday, December 30, 2012

Terraces become Garden "Rooms": Using the garden's "natural resources"!

Seven Winds designed and installed a master plan for this garden using the existing stone walls that graced this hillside home.  These stone walls had been built by a prior homeowner who evidently loved stone and utilized some reclaimed stone to have all these walls built.  The walls create two terraces above the ground level where the house sits.  The homeowner wanted to have the garden feel like different rooms, each area having its own unique qualities.  She also wanted a large deck to extend the living area of the home and to create a wonderful area for garden parties.


Upper Terrace
Middle Terrace

The Upper Terrace
This terrace included a cedar shed in board and batten style, a garden filled with trees, shrubs and perennials, a clover lawn and some perennials to accentuate the gorgeous Japanese maple tree which provided filtered shade to the terrace below.  
Clover is a great choice for a lawn that does not get a lot of foot traffic.  It is an ecological option as a legume, fixing nitrogen from the air into the soil and thereby improving soil fertility.  It grows well in light or dappled shade, and only needs to be mown once a year.  Its flowers attract beneficial insects to the garden including the honey bee.
Shade gardens not only allow us to plant the usual shade favorites such as coral bells, bleeding heart, bergenia, hellebores, ferns etc, but also give us the opportunity to plant some of our special woodland natives such as black cohosh, wild ginger, trilliums, solomans seal and even some of our rare and precious natives such as bloodroot, goldenseal and ginseng!
The benefit of having a master plan for the garden is that while the expense of various installations can be spread out over a number of years if necessary, the result will be a garden that is in harmony with itself.  This also eliminates having to pull out plants or doing extensive transplanting due to not planning ahead.  In this garden the house, deck and shed are all cedar, tying the whole home and garden together.

The existing stone steps just needed to be tied together with some flagstone walkways.  The walkway on the upper terrace leads to the shed and back gate and is made from slate that was already in the garden.  Seven Winds values the creative and tasteful reuse of materials whenever possible and the accentuating those elements that the garden already contains.  This garden had the walls and a beautiful huge maple on the ground level, and the Japanese maple on the top terrace.  The end of the middle terrace had some espaliered fruit trees, which provided a nice semi-private (seasonal) screen as well as fruits which were at least appreciated by the wildlife!

We selected this exressive weeping Spruce for the top terrace, along with a crab apple and Juniper.  They will spread and grow and eventually create more privacy and of course a wind block for the top terrace.  They also beautified the neighborhood as a walking path runs behind this property and this garden is visible from the walking path.  

The Middle Terrace
The middle terrace consisted of a quartzite patio which can be used for this small table and chairs or for a hammock.  The patio is surrounded by plantings which will spread to provide a lush abundance of perennials.  Beyond the patio is a small clover lawn and behind that a bed of meadow perennials such as Rudbeckia, Echinacea, Lavender and behind that the espaliered fruit trees.

The view from the neighbor's yard shows both the top and middle terraces dominated by this beautiful Japanese Maple.

The Ground Level

On the lowest level we build a large cedar deck which stretched from the walls to the house and to the large maple tree.  There was an old fireplace built into the walls and we built the deck around this so that it could continue to be used.  The deck raised the level of the yard up about 18" which brought the three terraces closer together in terms of visual connectedness.  Now someone in the ground level garden could more easily see and fell part of the rest of the garden.
Some of this decks best features come from the fact that it is surrounded on two sides by these beautiful stone walls which give it a sheltered feel, balancing its large size.  The large maple also gives it quite a bit of shade, without totally blocking the sun.  Pots of herbs, perennials, annuals or even vegetables could easily be grown on the deck.
This garden project was a wonderful project, as the garden had such a strong foundation with its trees and walls.  It was an honor to be the designer and installer to bring a renewed vibrancy and life to this garden.  

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Naturalized City Garden: The Magic is in the Details! (Update)

A couple blog posts ago we spoke about a naturalized city garden.  These photos show some details a year later which are truly charming and really bring the garden together.  In the photo above, flowering Crape Mrytle complements flowering native honey suckle and the honey suckle flows over the fence bringing charm to the unusual osage orange number plate. The combination is stunning.
The homeowner had bought some garden sculptures and together we found the perfect locations for them.  The sculpture above completed a path that had previously led just to the fence.  With the placing of the sculpture the path now leads to the sculpture as if it had been made exclusively for that.  Below a figure in a prayerful or meditative pose sits below the holly tree among some field boulders and among the hostas.  These carefully selected pieces complete this garden nicely.  Details like these bring magic to the garden!

A Woodland Garden in a City

In this 2011-2012  project Seven Winds designed and planted a garden influenced by some principles of Japanese garden design.  The garden included the fencing, new timbers lining the pathway, a stone walkway through the garden and all the plants.  The principles of Japanese garden design utilized in this garden are creating a design that mimics nature in a simplified very specific way.  It is like creating an idealized natural environment.  We also utilized symmetry and a touch of formality on the right side of the garden using seven Nandinas.
This project was truly a "from scratch" project as only the soil in the raised beds and the concrete slab remained.  Previously a large black locust tree and ivy had dominated this garden.  Surprisingly we discovered that this entire garden sits on top of a concrete slab. This is an inspiration for those city gardens which consist of a concrete slab, and do not appear to have much potential for a woodland oasis in the city!
The Fences Seven Winds designed and installed are cedar and gave the garden an Asia feel, as well as changed the feeling of the garden space.  It gave a sense of enclosure, yet not a sense of feeling boxed in.  
The walnut semi-transparent stain darkened the fence, yet still allowed the grain and knots of the cedar to be seen.  The next step was to install the stepping stone pathway through the larger raised be.  The stones used were field stones with their weathered jagged expression.

We chose the plants to give a range of flowers throughout the year, and to give contrasting textures and colors.   The tree selected is a Japanese Stewartia with Spring flowers and appealing bark for winter interest.  
Japanese painted ferns are a nice selection for woodland gardens.

The picture above and below show the first year growth in this garden.  It rapidly became a lush expression of various colors and textures.
The homeowner's frog took up its position on the stump of the old locust tree among the yucca.
The pathway invites one to step up into the garden...
The homeowner had particularly requested some bamboo, so we planted this golden clumping bamboo in the corner.  Clumping bamboo does not send runners all over the garden, so it is a good choice for those who want bamboo but who do not want the bamboo to run out of control.
The seven Nandinas are a sharp contrast to the abundance of the opposite raised bed, yet still complement the overall design with their airy foliage, and winter red berries.  They compliment the fence very nicely.
One of the most interesting points of this garden is that it is all built on top of a concrete slab.  This concrete slab was probably installed many years ago, and the fact that the small garage door is the only access from the alley to this garden, made it very difficult for the concrete to removed once installed.  At some point a prior homeowner had dealt with this issue by creating raised beds with railroad ties.  By the time we got to it, the railroad ties were disintegrating, however a huge locust tree had been able to grow on top of this slab.  Ideally the concrete slab would have been removed to create garden beds, however in cases like this one where logistics or budget prohibited removal, raised beds can be created with great success without removing the concrete.

There are many urban yards in Baltimore in particular which consist of a solid slab which really is not being used at all.  These gardens can easily be turned into green spaces which are obviously good for the homeowners, good for the birds, bees and butterflies, and good for the air!  This was a wonderful project that we truly enjoyed installing.