Four Years Later

Six years ago I submitted landscape plans to a client with an island home.  Five years ago, they brought the property next door, and added on to their existing home. Four years ago, we installed a landscape per a second plan.  This property was 75 minutes away from us.  Despite the difficult logistics, we did install a landscape from start to finish.  In 2010, I attended a summer party given by the client-for all of the contractors that worked on their project, and their families.  That was my last visit-until earlier this week.

The original plan called for 3 curved steel planter boxes that would fit the curve of a blue stone terrace on the lakeside.  They decided earlier this year to go ahead and have them made.The delivery of the boxes was a chance to see how the landscape was settling in.  What a pleasure it was to see that the plants looked healthy and robust.

the south-side.jpgEvery square foot of the vegetable garden was being used.  The in ground beds had been planted with strawberries, asparagus, and herbs.  The raised beds were planted with all manner of vegetables.  Vegetable gardens are working gardens, the purpose of which is to grow food.  This sounds easy enough, but growing vegetables successfully is hard.  The plants themselves are not always so beautiful.  Roses and tomatoes are grown for the flowers and fruit, not for the beauty of the plant.  It seems like bugs and disease have a special affinity for vegetable plants.  This vegetable garden with raised beds is an orderly space, even if the vegetable plants themselves are not.
the-vegetable-garden.jpg This garden is enclosed, primarily to keep the wildlife at bay.  But the fencing adds much to the look of the garden.  The gate is an exact reproduction from a family vegetable garden in Italy.  The landscape is very much looking like it belongs to them.
vegetable garden
gate latch

lawn-plane.jpgWe look after the landscape during the course of installing a big project like this.  But the day comes when the installation is finished, and a client has to take over the care and maintenance.  The areas that require the most care are small-manageable. The landscape was designed for clients that like to use their outdoor spaces for entertaining.

firepit.jpgI vividly remember when this particular spot was a muddy and mucky mess.  Installing the fire pit in late November-challenging.  Today, this space gives no hint of that construction history.

lakeside-landscape.jpgview from the river

waters-edge.jpgThis dockside garden was planted after my work here.  It is simple, and has great texture and mass.

steps.jpgWe did do a lot of work grading here.  My clients did want a lawn area that was easier to navigate.  The long steel step risers are only 4 inches in height. This is a landscape feature that adds interest, and is very little maintenance.

This shady garden area was a major roadway for construction vehicles of all kinds, for almost 2 years. I was worried we would have a devil of a time getting anything to grow.  When we were finally ready to plant this side, the soil was just about impossible to dig.  We incorporated generous amounts of compost into the top 8 inches of soil-with pickaxes and the forks on our front end loader.  This picture was taken in November of 2009.

This picture was taken a few days ago.

It takes time for a landscape to begin to come into its own.  This one is well on its way.

Closer To The Finish

If you read this blog regularly, you may recall we started building a vegetable garden for a client about 6 weeks ago.  A lot has gone into that project, but finally the physical structure was at a stage where we could plant. 

The first to be planted was a collection of 5 espalier fruit trees.  A pair of double candelabra apple trees trained in the shape of an arch were planted on either side of the gate.  Centered on each side of the fence, a pair of quadruple cordon pear trees. 

 fenced vegetable garden

The idea is to allow the horizontal arms of the pears to grow the entire width of the fence.  Though this heavy wire mesh and cedar fence is handsome, I can imagine the entire front face of this garden covered in leaves-and hopefully, pears.  

wire fencing

Though the Gala apple arches had been trained in this arch shape for years, we built a simple steel rebar arbor onto which each branch could be tied.  Once the major branches put on sufficient caliper, this arch will no longer be necessary-nor will it be visible.  The trees had been trained to form an arch that was 4 feet wide.  I wanted the entrance to the garden at least as wide as the double gates.  The bald spot at the top of the arbor will be covered in just a few years.  The walkway into the garden, and all of the garden floor is compacted decomposed granite.

pear espaliers

Though the pear espaliers have 4 distinctively horizontal arms, the secondary branches could easily be allowed to grow out,  making a solid green wall.  The espaliers we buy are grown in giant containers, with the trunk at the back.  This makes it easy to plant the espalier close to the fence.    

tiered plant stand

This vegetable garden table was inspired by English auricula theatres.  Tiered stands that permit the staging of potted specialty plants, as in auricula primroses were very popular in England in the 19th century.  This steel three-tiered plant stand will be covered in clay pots, planted with herbs and small growing flowers.  The copper pipe through the center of the table is for irrigation.  At the east end of the garden, a spigot was installed for handwatering.  Though each box has drip irrigation, there is no substitute for the sure hand and good judgment of a gardener. 

raised beds for vegetables

Steve built a bamboo teepee for pole beans.  The beans are planted only on the north side of the box, so the orange bell peppers planted underneath will still have good light.  Some of the vegetables have been growing in containers in a greenhouse, waiting for the garden to be ready to plant.  Each group of plants is clearly marked as to variety on large wood markers.

By no means do I mean to imply I am a vegetable gardener.  I am a serviceable gardener.  My clients have to take ownership now, and grow with this garden.   This first year will provide an opportunity for them to decide what they really wish to grow.  Everyone’s taste in food is so individual.  This first planting has a little bit of a lot going on for them to try. 

There are leeks, onions, and salad onions.  A fresh crop of lettuces.  Bell peppers, pole and bush beans, and 4 types of tomatoes.  Eggplant, patty pan squash,  and four varieties of cucumbers.  There are loads of herbs-rosemary, Greek oregano, flat leaf parsley, three types of basil, and thyme.  Three types of mint, and lots of cilantro.  Steve laid this garden out from the plants and seeds that I bought, as he has lots of experience with this sort of thing.  The yellow marigolds-just for fun.  Early next week, we will plant the clay pots, plant perennials and roses outside of the garden, reconfigure the edge of the driveway, and plant some grass.