A Pic of my Garden

dougald_gwFebruary 23, 2013

In Erin's recent thread I was asked for a pic of my shade garden so here is an overall view.

Thirty eight years ago when I first acquired this property, a riding ring was located where this garden stands today. The first year I was here as part of a reforestation effort, I planted about 1000 white pine seedlings on a couple of acres including this part of the property. Voila, today stands a forest. Ten years ago, I cleared a few trees to open some space and began the process of amending the soil, clearing brush and building gardens including those "famous" flagstone walkways.

One goal was to nake a quiet haven where I could enjoy a cool stroll on a summers day ... a second goal was to create an interpretation of infinity. The pic was taken in June 2011 and showed a view of the length of the garden some 150 feet from where I stood to the property line.


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A tranquil pathway with endless spots to stop, reflect and take in the peaceful surroundings. Beautiful accomplishment Doug, Congrats!

    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 4:38PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5



    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 6:41PM
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hosta_freak(z6 NC)

Nice garden! I wish I had that much flat ground to build my garden. Phil

    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 7:20PM
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irawon(5a Ottawa)

Well done, Doug. That's a beautiful view!

    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 7:47PM
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Jon 6a SE MA

Spectacular, Doug. You achieved your goal of a quiet haven in dramatic fashion.


    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 9:27PM
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Very beautiful. Such a garden doesn't happen overnight nor without a plan. You aced the whole thing!

    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 10:20PM
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Thank you for all the comments.

Gardening generally is so wonderfully relaxing and growing hostas particularly rewarding. I have neither the patience or energy to grow special varieties but I greatly admire those who diligently work to bring us new and spectacular apperaing cultivars. Similarly, I have had zero success overwintering any plants in containers, let alone hostas, but I am envious of those who magically do so. My primary interest is in the overall view and enjoyment of the garden.

In that context, each year I add perhaps a dozen or more new hostas (as well as complementary ground covers and other plants especially ferns and heuchera). I choose new plants primarily based on size and foliage colour without regard for collecting. And to get a plug in for local suppliers here in Canada's Ottawa Valley, I am very fortunate to have Budd's Gardens ( http://buddgardens.com/plants.html ) about an hours drive away as well as Rideau Woodlot Ramble Nursery ( http://www.rideauwoodlandramble.com/ ) quite close by. Both are hosta and shade plant specialists.


    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 7:40AM
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ahhhhhhhhhhhh tanks!

If you ever come across a 'before' picture, please share!, If it's before 'digital' daze, I or someone will undoubtedly be glad to scan it for ya.



    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 9:12PM
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hostaholic2 z 4, MN

Beautiful! It's a good thing I don't have that in my yard, I'd NEVER go in my house.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 9:56PM
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Absolutely wonderful. I love it.

Don B.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 10:20PM
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Before pics ... I didn't have the presence of mind to really document from the start BUT ... in two posts because I can't make photobucket work any more ...

This is a very poor scan of a fuzzy pic taken in Fall 1974. I am standing with my back to the river and looking toward the road. The horse stable in the picture was removed shortly after but the riding ring about 180 feet by 100 feet enclosed with a white fence was just to the left of the stable in that picture.

The owner had passed away in 1971 and the rough gravel he had used to build the riding ring was just starting to show some green weeds. The rest of the 5 acres was as you see, cleared and covered with fairly high prairie type grasses.

In spring 1975, with visions of a wooded area on the property, I planted Eastern White Pine seedlings as part of the provincial reforestation program (one cent each seedling but I had to plant them!)

    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 8:08AM
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Skipping ahead from 1974 in the previous very poor photo to august 2004. In the intervening 30 years, those seedling grew many of them reaching upwards of 50 feet tall. Given the benign neglact, a few were destroyed by critters and a few more were crowded out by weeds, a few maples and elms and ash self seeded and grew amongst them.

In summer 2002 and 03, I removed a few trees to let more light filter in and began the process of removing brush and cutting high weeds. The soil which was essentially rough gravel back in 1974 had become very rich but also extremely acidic replenished with a thick bed of falling needles each year. During these two years I developed a rough plan for my shade garden which would feature hostas.

In summer 2004, work began, the first loads of topsoil were spread, a few hostas planted and I set the first three boulders in place. The pic taken from about the same place as the original pic to start this thread shows the area that I was working with.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 8:22AM
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harryshoe zone6 eastern Pennsylvania

Thanks for posting that beautiful picture of your garden. Its true art that will last for many years.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 11:22AM
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bkay2000(8a TX)



    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 7:43PM
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What a marvelous project!

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 6:55AM
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bernd ny zone5

It fits here what Hannibal Smith of the A-Team said :
'I love it when a plan comes together.'

Here is a link that might be useful: I love it when a garden comes together !

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 7:31AM
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MadPlanter1 zone 5

Love those paths. They must make walking around the garden a joy - no mud, no mulch getting in your socks. Those boulders and benches are nice, too, exactly what my garden needs to break things up and add some interest. I cleaned out an area in the woods a couple years ago, laid out mulch paths, and put my one-of-each hostas there. It needs something to tie it all together, and your garden has inspired me. It may take years, but at least I've got an idea where things should go.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 7:46AM
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Again thanks for all the nice comments.

Most gardeners in North America are influenced by the gardening philosophies developed in Europe over the last few centuries. Generally gardens are divided into "rooms" and visitors can wander at will passing from room to room (please excuse my over generalization of the theory). Many many beautiful gardens have been created this way.

I have been a student of oriental gardens, especially Chinese classical gardens, for most of my adult life. In this philosophy, visitors are "forced" to follow paths or walkways to control their views and the garden unfolds as a series of vignettes each giving a different interpretation of the overall theme. Stone forms the backbone to the garden and typically an enclosure keeps out the rest of the world.

In my case with a relatively small space - yes I appreciate those in the city have much tighter spaces - my overall theme was infinity and the garden represented my attempt to interpret that feeling. The vertical lines of the existing trees with the dappled sunlight were combined with a base of hostas all worked amongst the stones. Views were controlled by the green slate walkways and an enclosure of evergreens.

I have enjoyed the planning ... I also enjoyed the construction (well maybe not moving heavy stones!) ... and I continue to enjoy adding new plantings to the base that is there. Although I have been 10 years into this project, my knowledge of hostas barely scratches the surface - this forum has been incredibly helpful in furthering the little that I already had learned.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 8:30AM
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Dougald, I quite appreciate your adoption of the elements of a Chinese garden.

A couple of things I could take to heart myself were forced perspective, achieved in a couple of ways.....meaning adding the illusion of more depth to the length of a walkway by slightly narrowing it as it went away from the point of view. And, if there was a structure off in that distance, bringing down the size of it to make it look further away. If you are in the middle of a road looking at power poles, they are all the same size, but those further away look shorter/smaller, the road narrower. To make your path look longer, FORCE that perspective.

There is another way you can do this too, and that is with the planting of large leafed shrubbery closer to the spot where you stop to view the garden......and gradually change the shrubbery to smaller leafed plants closer to the point of infinity for that particular view. It will fool the eye into thinking the smaller leaves are caused by distance and not by leaf size. I think that is a great way to choose the fine-leafed Japanese maple for the distance, and the larger leafed camellias for up close to the spot where you stand to take in the view.

I'd really recommend a garden here in Mobile for your viewing, should you (or any other forum traveler head this way). It is a huge space, on a river, and has used such concepts in its design. I like to go there when it is almost empty of visitors, definitely NOT at Easter or Mother's Day when it is crowded, because I like to see the empty vistas. Oh. Forgot to put in its name: Bellingrath Gardens. Don't think they have a single hosta though. :)

Things like the forced perspective can be achieved, for instance, when you have a garden statue on a plinth, and fix the niche for it to look deeper than it is, using strips of lathing at angles etc. Or, using archways "enfillade" (in file/row) to force your view down through them to an attractive end point. It will draw you onward. I know a nursery owned by a friend had such a row of archways/arbors beginning out her building doorway, straight to the far end of her tables filled with sale plants, and at the far end she had an urn on a plinth filled with a grass emulating a fountain, moving in the breeze like water. If you had only a short space, decreasing the sizes of the arbors/archways would be a good idea too, and always cover them with vines of decreasing leaf size.

I think this same concept would be good for a narrow garden space, such as the one shown by Don in Colorado, since it is a totally controlled long and narrow space. Larger leaf sizes closer to the view point, smaller ones further away. Is that counter intuitive?

Here is a link that might be useful: Bellingrath Gardens

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 6:35PM
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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

Very nice, Doug. Looks like you went from "Little House on the Prairie" to hosta haven.


    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 7:51PM
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Doug, do you have any other pictures to share? Folks are in the mindset for ideas about now.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2013 at 5:24PM
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OMG, your garden looks exactly like a city botanical garden. I only wish I could afford such a large lot in order to have so much tranquil space to play with and to adorn with plants. I do the best with what I have, which is the space in front of and around the 3 obligatory "apartment bushes" such as every apartment building comes equipped with. I very sneakily expanded my garden to include the bare space under the tree in the yard (and enlarged that on the sly, but no complaints from anyone) in order to have a hosta garden. This year, I will ask my non-gardening neighbor if she minds if I put a few perennials in front of her "apartment bushes". I am content that everyone who passes by compliments my garden, but imagine what compliments YOUR garden would garner!

    Bookmark   March 10, 2013 at 10:40PM
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Thank you for your kind words.

One advantage to being well out of the city is that a larger lot is normally available. I have 5 acres in all but only about a half acre is devoted to the shade hosta garden. The rest is used for more traditional flower gardens plus a long sweep of lawn.

A second advantage (or disadvantage depending on your viewpoint) is that there is a degree of anonymity and privacy as there are really few neighbours or passers by. I gladly take that even if it means no compliments!

After studying Chinese Classical Gardens for many years, I am convinced that quality gardens can be created in most any space. And that in a cooler climate (yes I know that down south some are able to successfully grow hostas!), hostas make an excellent subject as well. I am sure that you derive considerable pleasure from beautifully greening the space you have to work with.


    Bookmark   March 11, 2013 at 9:26AM
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bernd ny zone5

When you have a large lot like that in Mocassin's attachment around your house, then you can follow gardening philosophies. I have a 2-story house, patio, deck and driveway sitting on only 0.45 acres. My gardens developed naturally, with lawn left over because a nine-year old grand-kid and friends need some lawn. So I have 60 different dwarf type conifers in the front arranged in borders. In the back I have 4 large white pines and 3 maples which came with the house in 1987 and which develop just enough shade for 300 or so hostas arranged in borders. It would be really nice to have several acres with all its opportunities, including some water works.
Thanks for the pictures!

    Bookmark   March 11, 2013 at 6:42PM
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Oh wow! Serene. Please share more photos!

    Bookmark   March 12, 2013 at 3:27PM
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