Monday, July 3, 2017

In the Garden . . . Starting with a Rough Schematic

 Between our Canada Day (July 1st) long weekend, and the "bridge" weekend my readers across the border are making of their Independence Day tomorrow,  as well as whatever summer activities are taking the rest of you outside (pardon me if it's so difficult for me, at the moment, to imagine the winter activities of those of you in the Southern Hemisphere) . . . between all those factors, I'm not sure anyone's still popping in here.  And there's no denying I've been spending less time myself, wanting to get out in the sunshine while we still have it.
 But some of that time in the sunshine includes puttering and planning in the garden of container plants on our condo terrace, and since I can't seem to resist photographing the blooms and the foliage and the light. . . . and since I have to share those with someone. . . .

The top and the bottom photos are of the scarlet runner bean plants that are twining their way up toward the wisteria-covered frame above the doorway from our living area; we look through/past them to the fountain beyond, whose base you see doing a chiaroscuro thing in the early evening sunlight, above.

The photo just below is the "rough schematic" that Lisa asked for, back in this post, the one in which I began working towards an inventory of what we started with in the garden, with the idea of keeping a loose journal of our horticultural efforts here on an urban rooftop terrace.


I know that the lettering is difficult to read, but I'll follow up very soon with a post that "unpacks" what the schematic is illustrating. . . . (but didn't Pater do a good job of sketching out the pot placement? I'm very grateful, because I would probably never have got 'round to this myself -- have never done such a schematic before for other gardens, and I can see that this could be quite useful)
and there will be garden photos in that post. . . Oh yes, there will be photos. . .

I'm curious. Having gardened for decades already without ever making a schematic, and now flirting with the notion of being more organised, I'd love to know how my gardening readers plan, if you do. . . .Is it intuitive? Research-informed--and do you research online, in books, through your friends' gardens, by visiting public gardens? Do you keep a journal of what grows well where and what needs to be moved or shovel-pruned? Do you track blooms from season to season? Do you have a rough schematic or an elaborate professional one to remind you of what you have and what you need? Lots of other questions to ask you later, but for now, the planning aspect intrigues. Oh, and one last question -- have you ever planned out the transition from an established (or partly so) garden to your own, or have you been able to plan from bare ground?



46 comments:

  1. I started with months and months of research and schematics then adapted as nature
    let me now what would or would not work. I love hemlocks and redbuds. Alas- they do not love the wind that whips off Lake Erie. I love tulips- so do the native deer- they won. And so it goes.

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    1. It's true -- nature lets us know very quickly. . . Planning meets experience, both valuable in their own way, right?

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  2. Thank you! And even more meaningful now that I have seen the lushness in person. I have never never done a garden from the ground up all by myself. However, I did do a majority of the design and much of the labor on the butterfly garden in my side yard. And for that, I sketched out the border as I hoped it would look, in advance of planting, by drawing the plants I hoped to use in colored pencil. I posted it on the blog I believe.

    If I were to redo the back garden myself, I think I would want both, a schematic, from above, as you have, and some renderings of how the grown-in plants would look from where I sit most often. Otherwise I do not believe I could be efficient when buying things at the nursery!

    Your balcony garden is beautiful. And I can only imagine the tweaks you're going to make, and the ways it will become more beautiful still.

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    1. I remember that drawing! (and I've always loved that focus on a butterfly garden as an organising principle).
      I'm not sure I was ever efficient when buying things at the nursery, but there was so much room for error in our last garden. I think more focus will be necessary here. So thanks for the push toward our first garden schematic ever.... it may not be the last....

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  3. When we moved here forty years ago the garden was looking sad . The old couple before us had chopped down all the trees & shrubs leaving a large scrubby lawn , barely grass really . The sandy soil was starved of nourishment & the the fruit trees in the orchard were at the end of their life . On the plus side all the hedges were good & they must have loved roses at one time . Most of the roses we have now are their old fashioned scented shrub & climbing roses . Goodness knows how old they are now . The edge borders were thick with at least ten years weeds so before we moved in we used to visit & attack the weeds . First we cut out curved borders , laid curved York stone paths & a terrace area then we started compost heaps & enriched the soil . Over the years we've spent a fortune on plants , mainly rabbit food . We've gradually learnt what they don't eat & what needs wire protection in the early stages . After seven years the bulk of the weeds were eradicated & we could relax a little . As to planting , I'm very relaxed , if plants decide to move around & seed themselves that's fine . They usually know best . We have a cherry tree that was originally a stake for a rose & flourished . A couple of the trees are very big now . We may have to get in the professionals for the cedar but the oak is fine where it is ( originally an acorn from Chatsworth House ) . All the pots round the terrace are easy care sedum , sempervivums , ferns & hostas - I'm not mad about masses of bright colours. Yes , it is a lot of work but it keeps us fit & we love it . So do the birds & insects . You seem to have a lovely basic structure there to put your own stamp on . Exciting ! Sorry for the long post but it is a passion .
    Wendy in York

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    1. What a wonderful narrative, Wendy! I'm very envious of you having forty years caring for one garden (and inspired by the commitment, altho' it's too late for me to put that inspiration anywhere and hope to achieve 40 years!).
      No need to apologise for a long post about what is clearly a passion -- indeed, I quite like Patricia's suggestion about you sending a photo or two if you're ever so inclined. (if so, pop me an email fsproutATgmailDOTcom)

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    2. I would love to send some photos . I'm just waiting for the sun to come out - plus the grass needs a trim
      Wendy

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  4. I am planting the 3 parking lot gardens with perennials and will need some kind of a schematic for future years. There has been a problem with "tended gardens" with perennial plantings becoming "abandoned gardens" resulting in the loss of valuable plant stock. I think that your balcony will look lovely. I like your new blog look.

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    1. So interesting -- I've wondered about this, actually -- it's sad when some really great plants -- often I see pricey, well-established shrubs, even, in some of the Green Streets volunteer gardens -- get left behind because the volunteer gardener has moved away. Good idea to have a schematic ready for whomever follows after....

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  5. Absolutely love the new photo!

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    1. Thanks! Me too, actually, which is funny considering how I grumbled at it being taken ;-)

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  6. Your patio garden looks like an oasis of beauty.
    We have a basic plan when it comes to garden beds but have never drawn up anything quite as professional looking as Pater's schematic.
    The garden evolves as we experiment with plants and what thrives.

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    1. He'd chuckle at the notion of it being "professional looking" -- especially since your guy is an architect and could probably do a beautiful plan using software. . . .
      We've never tried putting our garden on paper before -- as a seaside cottage garden, it seemed to allow us much more freedom, but now it seems time to try a different approach. All evolving, as you say. . . ;-)

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  7. Yes, I love the new blog header too! Reading Wendy in York's comment - her garden sounds so wonderful! I wish she could add a photo to a comment some time. It sounds like you have lots of readers who can give you advice - unfortunately, I'm not one of them, but I still find it an interesting topic.

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    1. Isn't Wendy's a great comment? I've passed your suggestion along; now, we must just cross our fingers and wait!

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  8. Two things have occurred to me since I posted. 1) If I were in your shoes now I think I'd annotate the schematic with sunlight times 2) I too love that blog header photo.

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    1. Yes! That's a good idea -- we're really pleased to discover that there's much more sunlight than we might have thought (up until just after your visit -- sorry! -- we didn't get much chance to measure the sunlight.
      Thanks re the photo -- he's going to get such a swelled head ;-)

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  9. I started my garden from raw ground....new house. We had no plans for the garden, but raw ground is ugly. So I started...I'm fairly creative and have a lot of energy. I asked a lot of questions from different people and read a lot and experimented. It has been the most rewarding hobby. I just kept going until the garden is on three sides of the house. It has been fourteen years and I love it...

    Ali

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    1. It's addictive, isn't it?! And a hugely satisfying manifestation of creativity!

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  10. So, there goes the blue, romantic island photo. Instead of the contemplative mood of an evening by the sea we get the author herself, beautiful, poised, unsmiling and slightly mysterious. An invitation, yes, but also a challenge. Wonder what is going to happen next...
    As for gardens, both my gardens were taken over from other people. The lakeside garden was my mother's reign until she died. First my sister and I kept it up as a way of remebering her, then, slowly, we started changing it in small ways (planting different flowers etc.) But basically, it has always been the garden of a holiday cottage, able to look after itself for several weeks, if necessary. This may change now that I have more time. For a start, I am contemplating an elevated vegetable patch.
    My little backyard was a bit neglected when I moved in, but everything was there already: a flowerbed, a tiny lawn, a tree, a spot for a sandbox, a small terrace. I started a compost and have tried to improve the soil. I also planted some roses (a New Dawn next to the kitchen door and a Lavender Lassie by the fence) and several perennials which were given to me by a friend. This summer I have been very moved by the amount of flowers that have come up again after the almost complete destruction and enforced neglect of the last years.

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    1. Yes, it took me the full year to change that header photo (which was in place for ten years!!), but it's time to move on. . . .
      I know you're aware of your great good fortune in tending that lakeside garden that's been in your family for so long. The transition from caring for your mother's garden to altering it slowly makes for moving metaphors, doesn't it? (and, of course, I know you know that "moving metaphor" is somewhat tautological to anyone who knows a bit of Greek, please excuse).
      So glad your backyard in the city is coming back to itself . . .

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  11. Off topic, but I have to tell you that your cover picture is so beautiful. You look so relaxed and natural, I love it.

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  12. Your garden is an urban-dweller's dream come true. I have never gardened. House plants have not flourished under my care. My thumb is paisley I'm afraid. But should I get the opportunity again, I think I would enjoy it. I like your schematic.

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    1. Of course your thumb in paisley! ;-) Pucci or Gucci? ;-)

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  13. Yes, a lovely new cover look indeed.

    Re gardening - I am not an expert and am enthusiastic in fits and starts but somehow the garden keeps going with or without me. It just evolves although I do spend a lot of time staring out of the window and watching where the sun hits it (that's my excuse anyway) Otherwise it is fairly unplanned. My major attempt at theming occurred when my mother gave me a rose named for my daughter when she was a baby which set me off on a path towards a family bed. Sounded charming until I discovered that while Rosa 'Meg' is a delicately shaded apricot, Rosa 'Eddy's Jewel' (best I could do) is a screaming crimson, Kniphofia 'Tim' is a high vis yellow and orange combo and Fuchsia 'Ceri' comes in colours that only Barbie would love. Alas, the family has had to be split up - in the garden at least.

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    1. Thanks, CinB, the new cover is the result of fifteen minutes fiddling, and it's not what I'd use if I had a paid team of IT people, but it will do. . .
      As for the staring and watching as a method of garden planning, that's what I did for the island garden, and I think it worked really well -- as did, I think, a combination of patience and laziness, i.e. letting enough time lapse to get to know the site. I can't help chuckling at your attempt to build a family rose garden (I love your mother's gift idea, although best if that rose arrived with someone other than the new mom or dad to dig the hole and prepare soil to plant it).

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  14. Just taking a moment to comment on the new header which I love for several reasons: the change from the landscape left behind, the link from the island coast to the urban coast, and the wonderful image of the unpolished you in the natural world.

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    1. Thanks, Elle. I'm pretty pleased with it, overall, and it was time to let go of a bit more of the island identity and embrace the new more closely. I do like the link that's nonetheless here, that shows that even in the city, we aren't so very far away...

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  15. I love your new header; what a great photo of you! The schematic is a wonderful idea. I think you had mentioned that the apple tree was an addition made by you. You'll have fun tweaking and adding to your lovey space. I've just been hacking back my flower pots are they are getting overgrown and leggy. Now for a month of visitors, very welcome ones, too! Brenda

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    1. Thanks Brenda! And you're right, the apple tree is our addition (and the fig!). Enjoy your visitors (some are already with you, no? as seen on FB. . . )

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  16. I really need a garden sketch map of some kind to avoid being convinced that there is room for something large in a spot where there are already many other plants but no room for anything new. I've made several, of various beds, over time, but at the moment am just banning new plant acquisitions. And trying to weed and cut back what is here. Its a jungle.

    Love the new header!

    ceci

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    1. Yes, we could keep such a map in our bags, right next to the page listing the contents of our wardrobe -- you know, the one that stops us from buying another black skirt or navy blouse because we've forgotten we have two already. . . ;-)

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  17. I did two gardens from scratch, one faster than the other, and for both I had drawings to start with. They were more hopeful than realistic, although for the first garden, which took longer, I had also noted sunlight patterns.

    This garden is already established. It was established by a gardener, but the intervening homeowner was only interested in havig something look nice, so it has kind of coasted... I've been thinking about the need to document the seasons, both with photos and some kind of schematic, as I go. I don't think I'll have anything to strictly planned.

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    1. I'm really curious to see how you move into this garden. I'm imagining that you might let it "speak" to you for a year or two, with fairly minor changes, before you decide to begin making it your own. So much of a garden is about the story or stories it tells over time. . . .

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  18. Re winer activities down here in the Southern Hemisphere (or at least in my little corner in New Zealand)
    Picture this...grey skies and muddy gardens, dodging showers.. midwinter blues!
    And I agree- gorgeous photo of you!

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    1. Ha! The planet, of course, is rolling us 'round to that weather as we speak. . .

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  19. Echoing the 'love the header' comments made already. An enviably natural, happy photo.
    As for gardens, I've only had responsibility for one, over 25 years, and that has evolved rather than been planned. A small city garden, typical British suburbia small front garden and slightly larger back garden, including a challenging north facing patio. Shade in Scotland means cold and little sun rather than 'shelter from blistering sunshine'. My style, if I have one, seems to have settled at hardy, bee-friendly perennials and as much ground cover as possible to a) keep down weeds and b) provide less space for pesky neighbourhood cats to do their business. Shortly though I will have to take in hand my late father's garden at the house we will be moving to, further north in Scotland. My father was a keen and accomplished gardener, and my grandmother was in the Gertrude Jekyll style, with a large Edwardian country house garden to match. The garden we have inherited will need seriously taking in hand, and I will need a Plan. I have lots of ideas, but they need to be marshalled. Planting distances will need to be mapped out. Successional flowering will need to be thought of. First step is replacing a huge cotoneaster hedge with a varied native hedge which will give flowers and fruit and autumn colour, and encourage insects and birds.

    I love the variety of plants in your plan - quite a bit of successional flowering, plus bee-friendly plants. What's next - a bee hive? There's a bee-keeping club at the main halls of residence site at Edinburgh University, so you could join the 'urban honey' movement...

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    1. I'd love to have a bee hive, have hankered after one for ages, but only lazily so. . . There are a number of urban hives on various rooftops here -- and of course I've been following some of the Paris abeilles and their ruches for some time. . . ;-)

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  20. Oh, and you may have noticed from my 'nameless variety' posts on Instagram (another coming up soon) that I have been hopeless at keeping planting records. That must change. I intend to resume blogging and record our garden creation when we move, so that may help with knowing what's where!

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    1. And your project when you move back to your father's garden is a fascinating one -- I do hope you'll blog the process. I can't imagine that gardening is a particularly easy project that far north, but I have no doubt you'll manage it with aplomb and much creativity.

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  21. What a lovely change (although I loved the other photo,too)!
    This is an amazing photo,you look beautiful and so natural-bravo for Pater ,too!
    Nice sketch (although I can't decipher all letters) and a lovely terace garden,I'm looking forward new photos
    As you know,I'm not a gardener myself ,but I do make all the plans and sketches of our gardens-more ground-plans actually- (we've learned to make them in the school) together with my mother. We browse and read books,spot an interesting plant or a tree during walks or when I drive,visit the nurseries,even the agricultural faculty to get advices and soil tests,if needed
    After we plant,my mother enjoys to maintenance,and I,well....enjoy (and drive people who help with the maintenance)
    Even so,I've made a garden plan alone,from the scratch,after renovation of my grandma's house. I love grass and trees,so there are cedar,birch,hibiscus,prunus laurocenasus and Prunus cerasifera prussardii
    Sorry to come late to the party,I've red the post two days ago and will read the cooments,but it was a hectic week....
    Dottoressa

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    1. I must say that I think you can qualify as a gardener even if you "only" make the plans, do the research, visit the nurseries. If your mother enjoys the maintenance aspect, I can only say "Lucky You!" (and that work obviously keeps her in very good shape and looking very youthful!

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  22. Good morning, Frances. Love your new photo. Your hair looks gorgeous. Your garden planning question is of particular interest to me because I spent the 4th at a friend's 1948 Silicon Valley home near Google that has retained its large original yard from the days when Silicon Valley was farmland. My friend and her husband did a formal plan for their garden, a blown-up version of the black and white plan is on her pantry wall. She has an enclosed sunroom off her kitchen that opens to a flagstone patio with a table and chairs for alfresco dining. That patio is edged with an apricot color climbing rose growing in happy profusion over a beautiful curved metal arch. Past the arch are her raised vegetable beds, past that is her California native-plants garden edging a seating area surrounded by fruit trees. She has an herb bed with a large rosemary plant. She gave me rosemary stalks to take home because I'm enchanted by the fragrance. It's an unusual home surrounded by more typical suburban homes, and it feels magical to be there. Much of our meal came from the garden we could see in the distance while we were dining. Everything from the grilled vegetables to the fruit in the freshly made ice cream had ripened around us. Until you asked, I'd not really considered how I plan a garden. It's been a long time for me. Since I moved from my Palo Alto house to a San Francisco condo in 1998 I have not had a garden. My mom was a gardener and a member of the California Native Plant Society, so I grew up with gardens and plants as a daily part of my life. My 1930's Palo Alto house had a neglected overgrown garden, which had the advantage of gorgeous old trees, badly in need of pruning, but wonderful anchors for the yard. When I created my garden I did it mostly intuitively. I knew the pruning and clearing I wanted to do, and I knew the plants I loved and wanted including lavender for a border and a rose bed. The rose bed was the one things I planned, measured, and drew. I knew I wanted David Austin roses, with a couple of beloved tea roses added. I bought books about David Austin roses, went to my local nursery to look at roses and talk to the staff, and ordered my roses through the nursery. I don't enjoy the weekly upkeep work in a large garden, so I had a fabulous organic gardener come in to aid me. He helped me plant the roses, showed me how to best cut the blooms so the plant would flourish and grow in a pleasing shape, and taught me how to cut back the roses at the end of the season. I had masses of fragrant fully-double roses for my home, I adored that. As you know, I'm searching for an urban condo. Many in Portland and Seattle have decks, some quite large. San Francisco and Oakland have fewer decks. I'm not sure why this is the case. I would prefer not to have a deck. I had two beloved cats in my San Francisco condo, and would like to adopt two more when I move. Cats and decks don't really mix. But, sitting in my friend's Edenic garden on a beautiful summer day, and seeing your garden photographs, brings my love of gardening back to me. I realize it's the smell of earth I miss the most, which surprises me. When I live in a city condo, which I have done in Chicago and in San Francisco, I walk to public gardens to enjoy the smell of earth and vegetation; I buy vegetables, fruits, and flowers from the local farmer's market; I also buy flowers at florist stalls. I hope to do all that again. Maybe I'll fall in love with a condo with a deck. If I do, I'll give in to it if I can find a way to keep my cats inside, and me and my guests outside. Though, I'm skeptical that a self-respecting cat would allow that.

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    1. I've never had a cat....do they fall off decks? Just ignorant/curious....

      ceci

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    2. So many wonderful stories and images here, Katherine -- I love the idea of framing a blown-up version of a garden schematic (if the original were, unlike ours, worthy of such attention!). And the picture of you gathered with friends eating food that was grown right in front of you! And your wonderful roses, planted under the watchful eye of trees that had learned the place well, been there for decades.
      My daughter recently lived for a year or so on the fifth-floor of an apartment in Rome, and her cat loved to loll about on the railing of their small balcony, resting on its six inches, a sheer drop from the street below -- Aargh! my nerves!

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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