Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The English Garden Story

This is the story of a garden.  Not really a garden at all, but a wasteland of neglect.  A natural space devoid of human attention but full of  overgrown ivy, rotting mulch, and abundant weeds.  The story of potential. 
Our story begins in a wooded backyard with a couple of dreamers.  And a spot.  That’s all a dreamer ever really needs: a dream and a spot. 
After we decided to buy this house, I spent hours poring over the photos of our new home, dreaming of this backyard terraced garden that would be my little spot.  My "English garden” as I like to call it.  (Don’t know what resemblance it bears to anything English, but just go with it.)  Dreaming of a tranquil pond with a rocky waterfall, flowers in abundance, a little slate patio with a bistro set, and maybe a hammock for two.
Sounds like a tall order for this particular spot.  Here is the “before” picture of my little neglected garden:


As in, WAY before.  Like two years ago before.  Before we moved in.  Because I’m pretty sure the first thing we my mother did as soon as we stepped off the moving truck was Operation Kill Ivy.  Well, I may be exaggerating that fact.  I’m pretty sure it was like the next day. :) 
Anyway, we declared war on the ivy and spent many back-breaking hours pulling, spraying, hacking, and cursing the dreadful green viney stuff.  As you can see it was eating the yard, almost.  Eating the trees, the fence, and the retaining wall (Maybe that’s why we didn’t know just how terrible that wall really was when we bought this place!  Note to self: Let the ivy grow back before resale.)
Once the ivy was declared under control (because it will never be truly eradicated from the property), we began Operation English Garden.  The original plan included a pond with solar pump fountain on the right where the tree now exists.  At some point I realized there was no sun for a solar pump and the leaves from the trees would clog the pond in a matter of days.  So I said goodbye to that dream.  Enter plan number two:

sarah's flower garden

While I haven’t achieved quite the flowering abundance of the above image and my boxwoods are still quite small, I am getting closer to that plan!
Here’s a rundown of the process:
We pulled up the black plastic landscape “cloth”, raked out the mulch to make it level, created a round planting bed for my little cherry tree, and marked a curved path between the entrances.


Then we got some hostas, liriope, and lily of the valley.

Next we added flagstones for the path and Anthony Waterer Spirea bushes.


Pink azaleas joined the party, plus a few boxwoods,  columbine, and daylilies.

Gravel dust filled in the pathway, while more liriope grass lined the edges.  A charming birdbath and planter boxes were added to anchor the space.

A few more plants, some mulch, and brick edger...

Then I needed seating for my garden visitors.  This bench was on clearance at Home Goods and as soon as I saw the red tag from the parking lot, I skipped across the curb and began jumping up and down in front of it, squealing all the while. 

I still need to paint it so it stands out in the brown wilderness, and maybe make some round cushions for the seat.  I love how two people can sit and enjoy different views of the garden at the same time!  That part looks like an English garden, right?  Right?!

This brings us to the stairs.  See those up there?  Yeah, seriously lacking several requirements of stairs.  So, my safety conscious parents eventually got fed up with climbing the rotting steps with no handrail and declared them CONDEMNED!  And for our second wedding anniversary last weekend, they decided to build us a brand new set of stairs!
Papa came on Saturday and we began the process:

Notice the lovely rotted top board of the retaining wall?  Yep, we replaced it.

Demo complete.


Bringing those retaining wall posts down to size.  With a reciprocating saw.  Powered with three extension cords plugged end to end.  Genuises, right?  Well, it was a long way from the nearest outlet!






Complete with a couple of new ferns on either side.



That brings you up to date in the garden.  Our future plans for this spot include more mulch, (can there ever be enough mulch?) a few forsythia to fill in behind the swing, finish the brick edger on the pathway, plus more plants because you know there are never enough of those!  Here’s one last look at our progress.

The English Garden.