Tweaking The Garden, One Step At A Time
Making the most out of whatever I have to work with is what I 'm all about, and by that I mean the plants, site or whatever design I've inherited. Just about every garden that I ever worked on - including my own, has had problems that needed to be solved. Things like the existing plants-often a weird assortment of stuff that's overgrown or planted in the wrong spot can make me want to pull my hair out. And then there's the site... it might be poor soil and relentless sun, shade and big tree roots, or steep slopes and invasive weeds - well,you get the picture.
There's usually plenty of good things around too, but sometimes it takes awhile to see it. Often the problems turn out to be gifts in disguise.
What am I talking about?
I'll start with my own garden.
Twelve years ago my husband and I purchased a little cottage in a lakefront community in upstate New York. It was cute, cozy, needed no work (ha!) and was only 100 steps to the shoreline of Lake Ontario, I liked the fact that most of the windows and doors opened out into what would be our future garden. Here it is in its early stages....
I couldn’t wait to get started. We inherited a few trees, some oddly pruned shrubs, and a motley mess of perennials. Most of our money was going into fixing up the house, so we decided to work on the garden in stages. I knew I was in trouble when I started digging- after the first inch of topsoil my shovel hit sand, pebbles and rocks. Yikes! This was a gardeners nightmare - beating down western sun, soil that wouldn’t hold moisture and relentless winter winds that damaged and killed my plants.
I spent a lot of backbreaking days wheel-barrowing in compost and manure to amend the soil. Even so, it remained dry and lean, and the plants required constant watering.
In addition to all this, there were a bunch of eyesores in our front yard – an ugly cement sidewalk, the boat in our neighbors yard, and a glaring street lamp that blinded us when we wanted to sit outside in the evening.
Even though maintaining and designing gardens has been my career for most of my adult life, this little quarter acre plot has truly humbled me. My relationship with it has spanned emotions that run from despair to delight, and I’ve had to learn to roll with what I’ve got.
This is what it looks like now, and it's still a work in progress that has taught me a lot about plants, less than perfect conditions and how to make the most of what I have. I hope you'll follow my ongoing adventures with it, along with a few others I've designed and some that just inspire me.