Formally, Informal English Garden (edible)

wbonesteel(7)June 2, 2013

I wonder if our edible front garden fits, here...

List of current plantings:
Fruit trees:
Granny Smith Apple.
Red Delicious Apple.
Montmorency Cherry.
Bing Cherry.
Elberta Peach.
Tam-o-Pan persimmon.

Vegetables and Fruits:
(Caution: Succession planting at work.)

Snow peas.
Baby Sweet watermelons.
Buttercrunch lettuce.
Butternut squash.
Garlic. Variety unknown.
Great Lakes lettuce.
Green beans.
Heirloom watermelons.
Sugar Baby watermelons.
Jumbo garlic.
White and yellow onions.
Sweet potatoes.
Mustard greens.
Collard greens.
Beefsteak and Roma tomatoes.
Five types of potatoes.
Early season strawberries.
Purple Passion asparagus.
Mary Washington asparagus.


Broad leaf sage.


Blazing Star.
One climbing rose.
Surprise lilies.
Three tea roses.
Plus, a very few shade tolerant wildflowers.

There will always be a few gaps in the design, but succession planting helps to fill those gaps rather quickly. The only time it looks kind of blah is when it is all dormant.

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CactusCharlie(USDA 9, Sunset 14)


What an amazing garden! Your garden belongs in this forum! That must be great to drive up to everyday.

More pictures please!

    Bookmark   June 2, 2013 at 6:22PM
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That's two years of hard work on a shoestring budget...using only hand tools.

It finally started to come together this spring and began to resemble the original vision for it.

I think one of the most amazing pics I've taken was of a poppy in the driveway bed...

But, let's look at some food...

This is one of my favorite scenes from the garden, taken while sitting under the cedar tree, drinking a cold glass of iced tea.

The snow peas and most of the lettuce from the front raised beds are gone, now (keeping some of them for seed saving), but the green beans are taking up the space a bit, with the sweet potatoes ready to take over when the beans come out. The carrots in those two will have to hold the fort by themselves for a couple of weeks.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2013 at 9:38PM
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A side view of the garden reveals layer after layer of color and texture. (facing north from the driveway.)

    Bookmark   June 2, 2013 at 9:43PM
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Then, there are all of those crazy little vignettes, that if you frame them, just so...

(taken with an old M580 Kodak digital, on 'auto)

    Bookmark   June 2, 2013 at 9:48PM
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Here, the sun was peering through the clouds just after a storm. The effect was magical. The camera -barely- captured a glimpse of the reality,

    Bookmark   June 2, 2013 at 9:50PM
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...and finally, a few terse paragraphs about the design and the thinking behind it. (I hadda write it up because an acquaintance insisted that I enter it in a garden contest, even though we're only half finished with the garden.)

Before the design process began we examined many types of traditional designs, including French box gardens, English cottage gardens and Renaissance gardens from around the world. We have incorporated many aspects of these traditional ideas into our edible landscape. In our opinion we have successfully captured the feel of meditation gardens, as well. When fully mature, the plantings in our landscape will be 'bio-intensive', as is often seen in traditional European and English cottage gardens. Our primary goal is to transform every square inch of the front yard into an edible landscape. In time, the sod will be replaced with edible ground covers. Other than concerns for soil compatibility and allowances for available sunlight, we are planting annual herbs and vegetables in concert with all of the edible perennials. The nutrients provided by each edible plant have been taken into consideration in the planning of this project. As a result of the design and installation, the result will be as maintenance free as is possible while remaining within our budgetary constraints.

The overall design includes a labyrinth, which is more complex than it might seem at first glance. We have also incorporated a simplified rectangular mandala. A Celtic Cross, or Solar Cross, can be also be seen in the layout of the pathway. Some have asked why we chose persimmons as the centerpiece instead of the more traditional water feature. Persimmons are known as the 'food of the gods'. This concept fits with the imagery of the solar and Celtic cross(es) and reflects the overall themes and histories of labyrinths and mandalas. The longest part of the pathway lines up almost directly east/west, and conjoins with the autumnal equinox. That was a matter of happenstance, rather than planning, but it is incorporated into the design. These concepts were part of the original design and remained a part of every consideration during the process.

Philosophically? (Offered as questions, of course.) Why do the green-ways in the garden narrow around the tree beds? Why did we bother with all of the straight lines, when the garden will be so 'bio-intensive' at maturity? Many of the mature plants will -eventually- constrain the walk through the garden, making it necessary to dodge branches and step around plantings as you 'dance the labyrinth' of this project. Why did we design it that way? How will the rise and fall (remember the grade and level mentioned above) of your path through the garden also reveal your path through life?

In the design of this landscape, the ground is neither flat nor level. The four outer edges of the garden do allow enough grade to maintain the original drainage on the property. Each of the four 'rooms' of the garden tilts towards the center. This aspect of the design will hold and retain water and prevent excessive run-off during the region's normal rain showers. The plans include eight raised beds which provide five hundred square feet of space for 'square foot' vegetable gardening. The boxes around the raised beds will be leveled and plumbed. The shorter raised beds (fourteen feet in length) are each on the same level. The four beds that are twenty-two feet in length will sit approximately three inches lower than the shorter beds. In this fashion, by using straight lines and manipulating the grade and level, the space has become a three dimensional geometric sculpture. We kept the traditional circular tree beds in order to provide relief from (and contrast with) the straight lines.

The major plantings will add contrast and beauty to that geometric sculpture with their naturally occurring 'fractal' growth habits. Although the fruit trees will be pruned and shaped, they, too, will form a component of this fractal contrast and beauty. We are pruning our young fruit trees using a combination of vase shape and espalier techniques. The exception will be the persimmon trees which will be maintained in a semi-open shape. We have double planted our fruit trees in order to provide a greater variety of fruits, vitamins and minerals in our diet. Double planting ensures cross pollination and offers more and better fruit than might otherwise be found in such a small space. The competition for resources will help to further reduce the size of the trees when they reach maturity.

Budget and other considerations:

This particular design is not a project for a novice gardener. We recommend that a novice utilize the services of a professional gardener and/or a landscape designer to achieve an edible landscape of this complexity. Thus far, we've invested $2,300 over two years. With our current budget and schedule, we plan to spend an additional $1,500 to $2,000 over the next two years. Costs include soil amendments, compost, peat moss, edging, stakes, sand, mulch, plants and seeds. In keeping with the idea of not breaking too many shoestrings, we provided our own labor and we used nothing but hand tools to implement this project.

Most of the one thousand flower bulbs installed in the beds around the property lines were gifts. We saved money on the gravel for the walkways by re-grading and leveling the driveway, which was considerably above grade when we bought this property. We've used two tons of homemade compost in our beds, saving even more on our installation. ROI? Last year we filled two freezers with fresh fruits and vegetables and had dozens of meals of fresh produce from our garden. In short, over the last year and a half, the garden has returned our current investment. In addition, in a few short years, this garden will be valued at several tens of thousands of dollars. Increasing the equity in our homes seemed like a good idea when we began to plan and install our Formally, Informal English Garden. In view of the quick return on our investment, it seems like an even better idea, today.


Oh, I call this series "fractals vs geometry."

    Bookmark   June 2, 2013 at 9:57PM
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Thanks for posting! Its interesting to hear the ideas behind your garden design. Mine is roughly based on a gothic cathedral floor plant, with the idea of sacred space in mind.

I hope you continue to post as the year progresses. I was really struck by the different colored mulches in that first photo. What a great way to add color and pattern before the plants have grown up enough to do that for you.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2013 at 7:49AM
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Thanks for the compliment.

We need to buy approx fifty bags of colored mulch to finish things off - black and cypress, mostly. that will make the outter beds look like those in the front. With our budget, that probably isn't happening until later this fall, mebbe even not until next spring. We'll see how things work. If we can only buy a few bags at a time, that's what we'll do.

We also want to buy a few more of the permanent plantings this fall and winter, if we can. Plus, we still need two paw-paws, a belle of georgia peach and an American persimmon or a Meader American persimmon.

We still need to build the boxes around the eight raised beds in the middle, too. That project should begin next spring...mebbe this fall...mebbe.I figgered the costs at between sixty and eighty bucks a bed.

In a few years, we'll start replacing the sod with edible groundcovers. The sooner I get tired of mowing it, the sooner it gets done.

Here's a pic of the planting diagram:

    Bookmark   June 3, 2013 at 9:44AM
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Here's the layout for the beds.

I think the biggest mistake I've made so far is to plant purple passion asparagus in two of the tree beds. I had no idea it'd get that tall... I'm going to move it to the back yard this fall and replace it with more of the Mary Washington.

The other thing was the challenge in taking on such a complex project by myself. It was a lot of work. I kept having to re-do things time after time after time, because we were only able to do the installation a little at a time. ...and keeping the bermuda outta the raised beds has, at times, been a real pain. I've lost track of how many times I've had to re-set and re-install that cheap edging, too... otoh, it's all now beginning to jell. Things should become much easier from here on out.

But, it all looks wonderful, now, and it's feeding us, too.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2013 at 9:54AM
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I can relate to the "re-doing" and the amazing amount of time this can take. I started much smaller and have been enlarging some every year. I am in the back of my house, which allows me to have it be a bit of a mess from time to time (actually most of the time for the past two years) as I work. I think I would feel like it had to constantly be tidy and together if it was in the front. I am not as good about planning everything out as you seem to be. So while I have had the basic architecture of the garden in mind from the 2nd years expansion, the actual plantings have just been evolving as I go.

I have used some of that cheap plastic edging in other garden beds - its a pain to work with. I am using red brick for low edging in my kitchen garden, which I am much happier with, but it can turn into a slug hotel.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2013 at 7:01AM
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At the moment, the two biggest time sinks w our garden are keeping things watered and keeping the bermuda mowed and trimmed and looking neat.

As for watering, over time, we'll install sprinkler and soaker hoses and drip lines and such. Eventually, the bermuda will be removed and replaced with edible ground covers.

otoh, most of the really hard work is finished. The rest can be done a little, here, a little there.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2013 at 10:42AM
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I saw so much bare soil or bare mulch. I think adding annual or perennial flowers that are also pollinators would be prettier and wiser. Vigorous ones are best to out-compete weeds. Catmint is very low, very pretty, and attracts a lot of bees. The seeds are cheap and you can easily collect seeds from many types to replant in other places. I'd think creeping rosemary would be awesome, too. it is evergreen, blooms nicely if you get the right variety, and is edible....and VERY high in antioxidants. Nasturiums would be quick, pretty , and edible. Ornamental kales and collards are edible and add color and texture.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2015 at 9:36AM
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nancyjane_gardener(Zone 8ish North of San Francisco in the "real" wine country)

Boy! I wish the photos were still available!

    Bookmark   February 23, 2015 at 5:49PM
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Interesting. You can google 'wbonesteel formally informal english garden' and see a few of the pics.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2015 at 6:32AM
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