Sunday, 21 November 2010

Gardening ~ more about contours and rocks

Described below...
In earlier articles I've outlined principles of garden design that I've found useful, showing examples of how I've applied these in relatively small gardens.  In this one I share an example of how these same ideas can work in a more substantial setting with some photographs taken yesterday.  I've numbered the principles so that you can easily see what I mean.

Earlier in the spring Rachel and I discussed problems she was having with her lawn.  Most of it needed to be cleared and resown which was a big job, and, given the problems of the past, was not guaranteed to be a success. 

First: form should follow function:
I asked her what she wanted from that part of the garden.  The family like to be able to sit there from time to time and to have their lunch out of doors.  The lawn slopes fairly steeply and was never going to be suitable for garden furniture, and anything else had always been a matter of balancing cups and trays while lounging on a rug.  This is all very well in its way but maybe it was time for a change.  

It's fun to play with ideas.  If the lawn was likely to struggle, why bother with it?  I suggested cutting a terrace into the lawn where they could enjoy sitting and replacing the lawn above it with a simple garden filled with easy-care native grasses and so on. 

Ideas are free.  We went outside to pace it out.  Where did they sit, I asked.  They liked to sit just above a small garden situated in the middle of the lawn.  I have a great fondness for what might be called sit-upon rocks, which invite you to sit on them.  How about a terrace edged with these sort of rocks, nothing too rigid in shape or style?  These can look great and garden furniture is then optional.

I could visualise the effect clearly although I wasn't certain about details.  We seemed to have enough to go on - nothing venture, nothing win!  We decided to put our best efforts together and have a go.  
Second: getting the paths right:
At the top of the existing lawn the family walk to and fro to another part of the garden along a barely formed track.  A proper path was needed there and that's where we started our work.  This path marked the edge of the new garden.  A carefully laid hose was helpful with getting the curves even as was the pick end of the grubber.  

Third and fourth: defining edges and beginning to develop contours
The next thing we did was to excavate directly into the lawn to form the edge of the new terrace.  Gradually the rest of what was necessary started to became clear.  We went on to incorporate the existing circular garden into the scheme and began to work out the placement and height of some comfy stones.  These stones were placed in the exact best spots in relation to each other and the view.  Once more that useful hose helped us see the best curves and get them right.   

After this big burst of work the garden sat there waiting for some weeks while we were both busy with other things.  

Then yesterday we decided to have another go at it.  Here it is when we were starting our labours:

Fifth: preparing the soil:
By this stage quite a bit of new topsoil and manure had been added to the upper garden and we were evening it out and getting the mounding effect we wanted.  You can see the path running behind it.  

Sixth: those wonderful rocks!
Getting the remaining stones placed just where we both wanted them took several hours and some tact!  At the time I remembered that just earlier in the week I had written that lugging earth and rocks around soothed my soul, and thinking what a gross exaggeration that was!  We both got some nasty bruises from handling the rocks, and were mighty glad to go in for a hot meal.  But what a happy result.  At that point my sometimes savage soul relaxed and opened like a new rose.  It is satisfying:

Seventh: settling those contours and mounds:
Above the right hand end where the rocks diminish in height we've pushed the earth back and scuffed a fairly level area before mounding the earth back in a bank.  There are likely to be a few more rocks placed on that slope in a separate group.  The little circle garden, dismantled for the time being, will need to be reassembled in a new arrangement.  So there is a lot more work to be done, but for the present the bare shape is dramatic and pleasing.  

It looks good from all angles, which is my measure of structures that are successful.  

The bed at the top is ready for short term planting.  It will be filled with easy, no-fuss plants which give it immediate cover.

More substantial planting can be done in the autumn when manure has rotted down and the time is right for more substantial planting and transplanting. 

Ninth:  VoilĂ !
Time to get out the tea tray, load it up with all manner of goodies and begin to enjoy it!

The next day planting began:
Rachel set to work getting a selection of plants in to provide some basic cover.  The spiky, grass-like plants are Libertia, a charming native which has small white flowers. 

Further refinements can now be carried out at leisure. 

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