Oftentimes a large landscape is a collection of spaces with unique features and uses: swimming pool, lawn, edible garden, deck, dry creek bed and formal planting gardens. But what if your space is generous and designated exclusively for plants? How do you approach such a large design and installation and the ongoing care? Such is the case at our new office on Route 50. What was once an expansive lawn and generous beds of overgrown, out-dated shrubs is now a garden.
The first thing to note is even plant centric gardens are not solely dependent on plants: all gardens need the inclusion of other elements to be successful and interesting year-round. To start, we added hardscape elements in the form of walls: more for aesthetics than to hold up a steep grade. In fact, what was a rather gentle slope away from the building has been emphasized with walls composed of boulders and sheets of metal. The walls lend the garden new textures and colors while creating distinct levels within the landscape. This is a great way to accentuate plantings, transition from garden themes or add topographical interest to an otherwise flat landscape.
We continued the use of stone and metal in our paths (brassfield fines, when completed, edged with metal). The paths meander about the landscape adding visual interest and movement to the garden. And because they are curved (no straight lines here) they encourage visitors to slow down and enjoy the garden.
Now there is a decision to make: will the paths be used to denote distinct gardens within the landscape or will they pass through one cohesive garden?
We opted for the latter. Because the paths pass through the garden the experience is completely different: you are now in the garden, part of the landscape itself. If the paths acted as a border between distinct gardens, you would remain a bystander, observing and looking into the gardens. When planting a garden such as ours, care is taken to repeat plants on either side of a path and especially where a path forks. By placing the same plants on either side of the path, it emphasizes the feeling of being within the garden.
As for caring for such an extensive garden: plant thick. The thicker a garden is, the easier it is to maintain. This may be the most labor intensive year we will have with this new landscape. We are removing an old landscape, eliminating weeds released by simply working in the soil, adding paths and walls and of course planting. By next fall the garden will be quite lush and already doing its part to keep weeds at bay.