It all started with a bench . . . an arbor trellis with an attached bench, to be exact. Purchased at an end-of-the-season clearance sale in the fall of '09, the long box containing the pieces of the arbor bench was temporarily placed in the garage. For a year and a half, we walked over that box, tripped on it, and stubbed our toes on it, while I debated where to put the new arbor. Various sites were dismissed--too shady, poor soil, too many tree roots, or too far from a water source. Finally, as I was working in the then-new lily bed the following summer and wishing I had made it even bigger, I decided why not take advantage of the space behind the lily bed and create a bigger garden area there?
My back yard is not your typical rectangular yard bordered by a fence or property lines; instead it's a circular area bounded by a gravel drive that goes from the house to the barn and various sheds on the property. The old house where my husband grew up once stood here, and remnants of that homestead still exist, including part of a sidewalk, a well pit, and an old cistern. A small vegetable garden was created in the back "corner" (not visible here), and a year or two later, I planted the small butterfly garden between the well pit and the cistern. When I decided to add the arbor bed on the north side of this area, I began to dream of eventually turning most of this space into one big garden. It's an ambitious dream--and one that may require more negotiation with Mr. Procrastinator--but perhaps one day I'll see it fulfilled.
While the new garden was still just a dream, I had two special visitors that fall of 2010--Cheryl, who came all the way from England, and Lisa from Greenbow in southern Indiana. Both of them have a much better eye for design than I do, and as I explained my plans, they offered some valuable advice. Later, after she had returned home, Cheryl even sent me a drawing of what the new garden could look like.
|Any heavy object in sight was grabbed to weight down the paper until the compost was delivered.|
|By the end of the summer, the hyacinth bean vine completely covered one side of the arbor.|
Spring finally arrived, and the first order of business was putting together the arbor bench and situating it in just the right spot, the focal point of the garden. I enlisted the aide of Son #2, who is handy at such things and fortunately did not inherit the procrastination gene in our family. He and Husband put it together in short order, and after some careful measurements, I placed it in the center of the bare flowerbed. Spring rains kept me from planting yet, which was probably a good thing, because strong storm winds blew the bench over several times. I realized it needed a firm anchoring and purchased some rebar, pounded it into the ground, and then slipped the legs of the bench over the rebar. This held the bench firmly in place all summer, but as you can see in the earlier winter photo, in the past month the bench has now become the "Leaning Bench." Some adjustments will definitely have to be made this spring.
|Ignore the background, please:)|
Centered behind the arbor I planted a smoketree with two 'Morning Light' Miscanthus on either side of it. I'm hoping that in time they will grow tall enough so that this is what someone will notice when looking through the arbor. To the right (south) of this planting, is a small Viburnum 'Cardinal Candy.' I've wanted one of these ever since I saw it in a garden catalog covered in masses of bright red berries, but it didn't do very well during the summer's drought. I'm keeping my fingers crossed it makes it through the winter and puts on a growth spurt this year.
|Tarzan approved of the final color scheme.|
Deciding on a color scheme also took some thought. Inspired by a smaller but similar island bed I had seen in a local garden, I thought at first I would plant a white garden. But, as Cheryl said, a white garden needs some contrast to keep it from becoming monotonous, and frankly, I like color too much. A garden design book about color schemes stated that blues and purples were soothing colors and provided depth to a garden, which was exactly what I wanted, especially when the lily bed in front of this garden is filled with a kaleidoscope of hotter colors.
Shades of blue and purple with accents of pink complemented the white. Blue Delphinium added a true blue in the summer . . .
. . . and 'October Skies' asters picked up the color in autumn.
Agastache 'Heat Wave' wasn't the soft pink I intended,
but this was such an outstanding plant, I wasn't about to complain.
The blue/white/purple/pink color scheme definitely soothed me during the hot, dry summer.
But things don't always go according to plan in a garden: this red, white, and almost blue grouping was purely accidental when I planted some free red gomphrena seeds close to the beautyberry bush and some white nicotania.
The color scheme was also ignored when I was choosing vines for the trellis. I chose this 'Don Juan' climbing red rose for one side, because I had to have red roses. I'm considering planting a clematis to climb up the other side, but for the first year I opted for an annual vine instead. The purple hyacinth bean vine did so well that I will probably plant it again this year and wait to decide on a perennial replacement.
Another element I wanted to add to this garden was fragrance. Whenever possible, when I had a choice to make between different plants or cultivars, I tried to choose one that was noted for its fragrance. Oriental lilies like this 'Casablanca' above were planted in the back north side of the bed; although they didn't do very well this past year, I'm hoping for a better show this season. Small lavender seedlings, the phlox, a 'Ruby Spice' clethra, as well as the annual nicotania also helped to add some fragrance to the garden.
A garden, no matter how small, isn't created in a year. I knew as I drew up plans last winter, that what I envisioned in my mind might not look as good in reality. I didn't want to plant the whole area in perennials and shrubs that I might later regret; besides, the budget wouldn't allow that all in one year. So I intentionally left the front area of the garden for annuals.
|There was plenty of room behind the bench for an old favorite--tall pink cosmos 'Rose Bon Bon.'|
|A new favorite--shorter white cosmos, 'Knee High Sonata' was planted on the side border for all to see.|
|The garden on an early fall morning. One of my goals this year is to take better photos of it!|
|Side view of the garden, facing north, in early fall|
Was I happy with the results? Definitely. Is the garden "finished"? Of course not. There were disappointments, to be sure, like the Japanese anemones that never bloomed or the small Amsonia hubrichtii that didn't put on the expected fall show or the butterfly bush that mysteriously died. But they can be replaced this spring, if need be. And there is still some tweaking to be done as well as projects to finish, like adding some pavers in front of the bench as well as fixing the tilting bench itself. Many spring bulbs were planted this fall, but whether I planted enough remains to be seen when spring comes. I'm glad there is still work to be done here--otherwise, whatever would I do all summer??