Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Dream Garden Come True

Gardeners embrace change like a caterpillar morphing from homely worm into beautiful butterfly. Next year’s garden will be bigger, better, more beautiful, and more bountiful. Instead of planting one row of peas, two rows will be even better. Add a bed here, a new garden there. Dig out what doesn’t work and try a new variety. Nature continuously changes and gardeners follow suit. I was no different. My simple garden might have needed sprucing up, but I needed something totally new. I spent another winter researching, designing, pouring over books and garden magazines until my dream garden became a reality.

After a winter of dreaming, I came up with a list of must haves:

  • Beds for herbs in a logical order: the Medicinal garden, a garden of fragrance, a culinary garden, and a garden of delight.
  • A knot garden
  • A fairy garden
  • A picket fence
  • Room for every flower and herb I’ve ever wanted to grow.
In my dreaming garden scheme, I would add an arbor with a seat at some point and a running fountain, and so much more.

My garden began in the middle of the side yard where the sun shone all day. One corner would hit just below the branches of a flowering crab apple tree. Here I could grow semi-shade plants.

Knot Garden Focal
The goal was to start in the center and work our way outward. The beds were landscaping timbers with slightly rounding sides, set one on top of the other. The first bed laid out was a square that would become the garden’s focal point. I purchased a beautiful wood dovecote from a builder in Bryan. It was set on a tall post in the center of the square bed. Germander and gray santolina planted in a chain pattern edged the central bed. Germander, also created an X growing from each corner to the post. Future plans included making the knot more complex.

The next set of beds were L-shaped creating a larger square around the little knot garden in the center. Keep in mind; I called each bed a little garden.

Culinary Garden
An edging of chives surrounded borage, different varieties of sage, several thymes, basil, that self-sowed much to my delight, and whatever captured my fancy at the time. Lovage with its celery flavor and the vibrant color and peppery taste of nasturtiums added textures and pattern. Umbrellas of dill dropped their seeds in fall placing new plants in odd places.

I like to stuff beds full and tend to crowd plants to create a lush look faster. I also follow the design concept of odd numbers. I nearly always plant one variety in a clump of three’s, five’s, or seven’s.

Medicinal Garden
I have never been a follower of natural remedies and first aid, but the historical uses of herbs, besides culinary, was primarily to heal or soothe the human body. Research enough and you’ll discover a medicinal use for almost every plant. I grew plants that people would recognize and enjoy, but that had a firm background in early medicine. Yarrow was said to staunch the flow of blood and stood proud in the medicinal bed. Lamb’s ears, an ancient type of band-aid lent softness to the garden with velvety leaves. Mint, buried in tile and chamomile soothed stomachaches. An ancient herb, hyssop was considered a fumigant and strewn about floors. A well-loved plant with blue-green foliage, rue, completed the medicinal garden.

Fragrance Garden
The truth is the whole garden was fragrant, but I wanted a bed just for the most fragrant of my favorite herbs. Lavender dominated the fragrance bed with spikes of deep purple, pink, and blue. The flowering spikes became tied bundles or lavender wands. I grew mignonette after reading about it in Rosetta E. Clarkson’s book, Green Enchantment, published in 1940. Lemon balm, lemon thyme, a pot of lemon verbena, pineapple sage, violets, and monarda or bee balm made the bed the most fragrant spot in the garden. Scented geraniums, especially the rose scented ones were placed in pots about the bed.

Garden of Delight
This bed was reserved for the plants and herbs that enchanted me in some way. An edging of ornamental strawberries, called ‘Pink Panda’ produced a plethora of pink blossoms that made me smile. Marjoram, summer savory, tansy, calendula, marigolds, and artemisias filled the bed. The plantings changed from year to year with various annuals.

Those four beds surrounded the square bed in the center. The paths were covered with black plastic and pea gravel brought in to line the paths. Tons of topsoil was purchased to fill the beds and I used cocoa bean mulch exclusively within my dream garden.

Watching my brother, Bill and his wife Judy, build their new garden has brought back so many memories. I miss my garden and can’t wait until I can plant a bit of earth to call my own, until then it’s container gardening and big dreams.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you how the garden grew into an English cottage garden.

Now get out there and get dirt beneath your fingernails!

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