In last week’s post I explained Challenge 1: the view of our garden from my bedroom window is weird. This challenge is primarily a design challenge that I’ll keep in mind as I make design decisions along the way. Here are the main solutions I have come up with:
- Be patient and wait for my garden to grow up. Based on last week’s post, you might be forgiven for thinking that I have a well-developed and established garden that I am trying to come to terms with, but actually it is less than a year old. Before we moved here over a year ago, the entire garden was covered in “chuckie stanes” (landscaping gravel). Any plant that is in our back garden, aside from the rogue sorrel, hasn’t been there longer than 8 months. Also, we are planting and laying things out slowly (this blog is called “Slow Growing”, remember?), so the garden is not even close to being completely laid out or planted. My frustration at how it looks is perhaps in part just run-of-the-mill gardener’s frustration–aren’t we all just nostalgic for how things were or looking forward to how they will be? Once I have filled most of the holes in the garden and the plants have had some time to meld together as they grow, the edges and transitions will be gentler and I will see less bare soil and more of the intended effect.
- Accept that there are two views: one of the garden, and one of the landscape and sea beyond. I only really stand at the window to look down at the garden. It is not a spot that I am normally at for other purposes. I don’t think the view-from-the-window rule has to apply if you actually have to go out of your way to look at your garden. The long distance view, however (one that is both beautiful and very much out of my control in terms of its cultivation), I glance at many times throughout the day. It’s what I see when I open the curtains in the morning and it is what immediately catches my eye as I walk past the bedroom when the door is open. I love this view and it’s a big reason why we were attracted to this home in the first place.
- Use a strong layout by planting in drifts. Another design rule that fits very well with the design for the view from your home rule, is plant in drifts or groups and avoid planting one-off plants (unless the plant is large and creates a kind of drift of its own). A whole garden of one-off plants can be confusing to look at, and can make the garden seem smaller or like chaos bound by a property line. Planting in drifts, on the other hand, will gently guide the eye around the garden and draw attention to its features. Sometimes you do want to plant one-offs to appreciate that singular plant, but when you think about the garden as a whole, planting in drifts (and repeating drifts) will pull it all together and enhance the one-off plants. There are many ways to do this, many styles to draw on, and of course a bajillion kinds of plants you can use, so this not a rule that will leave you with a garden that looks like all the others that follow this rule too.
- Use some vertical elements. This one is especially appropriate for a garden viewed from above but can work for all kinds of views. Stong vertical elements (think trees, topiaries, arches, screens, hedges) can all prevent the eye from glancing over the top of the garden and down to the next thing (in my case, the drying green just beyond our garden, the telephone pole in the picture above, or the sea beyond that). It is almost like a full-stop that gives the eye a chance to rest before going on to look further. In my case, we will wait for the trees to grow a little more (although they are both on very dwarfing root stocks) and put in an arch with climbing roses over the path where the brown screen is.
- Use paths and unplanted areas strategically. You can see in the above picture that we did NOT do this (although, all is not lost! Keep reading…). This is indeed the view from our bedroom window. You will see that we have a marvellous direct view of a rather uninteresting gravel path. A sightline like this should be exploited. It would probably have been better to have planted a tree or a big patch of something gorgeous on this axis. In future, we may adjust the path, or remove it altogether, but in the meantime, Idea 1 applies–be patient and wait for the garden to grow up. The edges of the path will become less defined as plants grow, and in the raised bed at the end of the path we will eventually plant vegetables that will become a feature highlighted by the path.
Do you have any other ideas to add to the mix? I’d love to hear them. The next two challenges, which I will post over the next few weeks, are not design challenges like this one, but are also fundamental to my garden-growing process.