Showing posts from December, 2007

Arbors: Style and Placement

This is Dan’s first arbor, an earlier version of the one pictured in the previous post. While I’m not crazy about the use of twinkle lights in the garden, here they lent an ethereal air to the forest and served a practical purpose, as well: A night light for the doggy relief area during those late nocturnal and early morning runs. Choosing an arbor that is in harmony with the architectural style of the house and the landscape style of the garden, and siting it appropriately, are crucial to having it integrate well into its surroundings. While budget is an issue for many gardeners, as is not having a live-in arbor-artist, there are still many choices available ready made, or with only “some assembly required.” Smooth, unfussy surfaces and sleek styling go well with contemporary, modern, or mid-century homes; ornate curlicues and botanical themes with cottages, farmhouses, and Victorians. Unpeeled logs or rough-sawn boards are good choices for a rustic look. If you are fortunate

Arbors as Garden Doors

Guest Blog by Dan Freed People are always curious about Dan’s garden structures (left), so I’ve asked him to write about them. You can see more photos of the construction of the great Arts and Crafts rose arbor at (The inspirational twig arbor shown there is from the garden of Inta Krombolz.) What is it about a door that takes you from one place to another? As you pass through, it promises the excitement of a new experience, a mystical quest of stepping into the unknown, making a new friend, or gaining a new perspective. Every garden deserves a proper door, creating a distinct transition from the crush of a relentless world. It’s a boundary, a magical opening that only I know exists. Here there is a freedom, a peace, a point of view, a unity with something quite extraordinary. It leads to a place where the sun shines, the rain falls, and there is an energy that I cannot begin to understand, but only feel

Winter Rituals

Some people complain about the avalanche of plant catalogs that begins to arrive this time of the year, but I look forward to them. While winter has its own charms, color is not one of them and I miss it. Aside from the visual stimulation, though, the catalogs also sound the starting gun of an annual winter ritual at our place --- planning the next phase of the garden. Like any other ritual, it holds the elements of celebrating a particular occasion, focusing on a single subject, sustained concentration, the dreaminess of entering another world (of imagination), the consultation of sacred manuscripts (garden books and catalogs), and locking myself away from the world in my retreat house (snowed-in at the top of the hill). Dan, the financier, hole-digger, and hardscape constructor, participates as acolyte. Towards the end of the ceremonies, I speak the hallowed liturgical phrases that have been handed down from time immemorial by women gardeners: “Honey, can you please just do this o

To Lawn or Not to Lawn

If you are on the fence about whether to convert part or all of your lawn into a cottage-type garden, do give it a try. I was astonished to learn, at a talk by Leslie Jones Sauer (to see my earlier blog on forest restoration click here ) , that grass is nearly as impervious as asphalt! This is because of the nature of turf grass plants. That greensward effect is the result of lawn grass’s ability to quickly establish an underground net of interwoven roots. That’s what holds pieces of sod together. That root system is only a few inches beneath the surface and, in a “good” lawn, so dense that very little rainwater penetrates beyond it. So, non-lawn gardens actually help the environment. How do you decide how much, if any, of the lawn to keep? At our place, I’m very generous about what I consider to be the lawn. If it stays green after I cut it with the mower, it’s the lawn. We have about 8,000 square feet of it --- not quite 5% of our total property. About 90% of the landscape is woo

Papyrus Prolonged

Last spring I bought a 10-inch pot of Papyrus, not quite knowing what I would do with it. I already knew it wouldn’t survive in the shade where we have our fountain. How silly would THAT have looked, anyway? I had kept an umbrella Cyperus ( C. alternifolius ) in my sunny apartment when I was still in college. It was easy to care for (just add water) and was unusual enough for me to want to include it in my collection of 150 (really!) houseplants. The Papyrus ( C. papyrus ) was quite a bit more weird-looking, but I had always wanted one. I also knew that it was zone 9 or 10 and would not survive the winter outdoors. Oh well, it was a great bargain at just 10 bucks! I’m never sure what Dan’s reaction is going to be when I bring home a new plant. “Oh wow,” he said, “it looks like something from outer space. I love it!” When I explained the plant’s cultural needs and why it couldn’t go in the spot where we actually HAD water, his recommendation was to set it next to “those other a