Thursday, 7 September 2017

My hillside garden ~ what I could have done with it

~ This is one of a series of articles about landscape design ~

This is the second article about my hillside garden.  You can find the first one here:
To recapitulate what I have said previously, this hillside property was pretty much bare when we took up the tenancy, the garden neglected and almost entirely in lawn.  As soon as we decided to move in I began reflecting on what I might do with it.  These reflections continued throughout my time there and even after I left; I always believed there was much more than could be achieved with it, but the transient nature of the tenancy imposed its own limits and I had to be realistic.  Within these limits I did establish a pleasant garden which was very much my own.

Here I relate the story of its further untapped potential.  I share these two stories to encourage others as well as to complete the circle of my thoughts about it. 

In the previous article I've used photographs extensively to show how things went.  In this one I reuse some of those photos and introduce two diagrams which show composites of the layout of the property.  The first is of the place as it was initially plus my improvements, and the second shows what I imagined for it. 

The house was on a long narrow section.  There was little room in front of the house and hardly any room at either side.  The main area of garden was behind the house on a fairly steep slope.  The area at the back of the house is the greater part of what I discuss here.

In this back garden there were two pre-existing terraces which divided that area into three.  Besides the lawns there was one tree on the property, a large lemonwood, pittosporum eugenioides, at the top, and two shrubs to its right.  That was pretty much it.

In the first diagram I show these terraces and the garden beds I put in, the access ways and the position of the clothesline.  The all-important garden furniture can be seen at the top left.  I haven't attempted to diagramize all the plants I put in, as you can see them in photographs in the other article.

Although the garden I put in was good there were underlying structural problems that I would have liked to have rectified but which would have been a lot more work that was beyond the scope of the tenancy.  However, these changes would have made much better use of the land and provided much greater privacy.

In the second diagram I show how these changes could be made: 
Briefly, my plan for alteration would involve:
  • Improving access to the front door by extending the path on that side up to the corner of the house so that it could double back much less steeply
  • Extending that pathway around the back of the house and installing a patio there
  • Pulling out both terrace walls and removing the partially bricked path at the right, which would allow re-contouring as well as opening up access up the centre of the garden by way of a zigzag path
  • Putting in the zigzag path
  • Shifting the clothesline further up.  
  • Topsoil from the patio area and lower terrace could be used to re-contour that useless main lawn into garden.
All this would make it so much more attractive and inviting, and if handled propery needn't incease maintenance.  Difficulties with the old layout, which prevent planting along the side boundaries for privacy, are overcome in the suggested configuration.  Increased trees and shrubs would reduce ground maintenance, and there would still be adequate room for vegetables and flowers.  I describe my six point plan in more detail below the diagram.

Dashes or broken lines show where structures have been removed:

The layout shown is the result of six basic changes here described in more detail:

(1)  Improve pathways giving access to and around the back of the house: 
Access to both entrances was poor: the pathways all needed to be relaid.  In doing this it would have been helpful for the one going to the front door to have been much wider and extended to the back corner of the house enabling shallower steps or a ramp to double back to the front door.  Wheelchair access to the house via the existing steps was impossible without the assistance of three muscular adults.  I know - I've done it.  It would be worth doing as lots of people need such access.

Change this...

... like this:

(2)  Install a patio around the back of the house:
The back of the house got full afternoon sun and would have been an ideal place for it.  The path leading the front door could be extended around the back of the house and lead to the patio.  The bed I put in right against the house where my irises did so well was a compromise which looked nice but which for drainage reasons would have been better on the other side of the suggested path and patio.  The patio would need a shelter wall adjacent to the boundary as the afternoon sea breeze coming along the side of the house can be chilly and neighbours on that side already have a patio which would overlook it.  Earth dug out for the installation of the path and patio could be used to recontour the main lawn into garden.

Change this...

... like this:

(3)  Remove the wall of the lower terrace:
This view up the garden is not inviting at all: there is no obvious way up other than straight up, which is too steep to be comfortable, and the high terrace wall is a visual road block.  The main lawn area was, as I have said before, neither use nor ornament and a pain to mow.  Much of the earth from the high, right hand end of the terrace could be pulled onto the right hand side of the main lawn where it could form the basis of a handsome mounded garden.  This would correct the sideways tip of the lie of the land towards that side and absorb any excess storm water run-off on that side of the property.  It would also enable greater privacy and, being so sunny, would a great place for fruit trees and berry bushes.

(4)  Put in a zigzag path up the garden and remove the partially bricked path at the right:

The natural place for access up the garden is diagonal beginning from the right hand side and going to a little beyond the middle of the main lawn, and then turning in a further diagonal in the opposite direction.  I know this from having walked up and down that lawn countless times.  Such a route would takes the suggested path through the middle of the existing terrace wall.  If that wall were pulled out the pathway up would be obvious and easy to shape.  The partially bricked pathway at the right could be removed and trees planted along that boundary, which would be a great improvement.

Change these areas like this:

(5)  Move the clothesline further up the garden:
In its existing position it was a hazard as the slope it was on meant that its heavy metal arms rotated  at head level right across the path: it was very easy to hit the side of ones face or head and I did so a number of times, after which I mounted rubber balls on each corner.

The clothesline could to be placed further up the section where it could rotate freely and be a danger to no one.  It also a needs a flat and fully paved area underneath at least one full side of it as in wet weather, of which there is plenty in this part of the world, trampling on wet grass is no good for indoor shoes or for any grassed area.  Once it was moved the upper stretch of the concrete path which led to its old position could be taken out and that ground opened up for planting.

Change like this:

(6)  Remove the wall of the upper terrace:
There is little to change in the top terrace.  My preference would be to pull out the boarding of the terrace and barrow earth against the exposed embankment.  I like slopes and gentle contours, which are more natural and usually of more practical use.   The difference that this would make would be to the middle terrace rather than the top one.

Here is the full second diagram again:

That would be so much better!  And so the circle of my imagining is complete.  I hope you enjoyed sharing it with me.

Other articles about this garden can be found via the links below:

The story of the garden I had before this one in the semi-detached state house is here:

My other articles about gardening are listed on this page:

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