Monday, October 13, 2008

Diary November 2005 - Outdoor Rooms

November 2005
Lots of books and magazine articles give tips on making a small garden seem bigger. Well, I’m spoiled - presently I have a third of an acre. I don’t want a retirement garden that’s small but looks big. I want a garden that IS big (not just looks big) regardless of how much work and effort it will require. But can a large garden have a cozy feel to it? Can it have intimate corners that invite admiration and relaxation? How can I achieve that?
I think “The Daily Muse”
says it accurately: “…I want to shape the backyard so that visitors will feel compelled to explore each of the very distinct spaces along the garden path. There will be no one single destination, but rather, a series of them, all interconnected; one will lead to another, yet each will have its own identity.” Another article by Lindsey Bond Totten says: “Even experienced gardeners struggle with the concept of garden ‘rooms’ perhaps because it has less to do with growing plants than it does with their special relationships to each other.”
So what destinations or rooms could I create? Well, I have always admired wrap-around porches, so maybe I could have one at the front of the house.

I envision it with a polished wood floor, a rattan area rug, wicker furniture with big, fat striped cushions, hurricane candle-lamps on the floor beside white railings and columns and for a final touch – baskets of flowers and some hanging plants!
I’ve always enjoyed a deck or patio in the back of the house, off the kitchen or family room. The retirement garden should have one cozy enough for an intimate dinner party or big enough for a celebratory family gathering. My husband has always preferred wooden decks but I long for a flagstone patio. (We’ll have to negotiate on that one). Really nice comfy chairs, a big table with a sun umbrella surrounded by pots of colourful flowers and more hanging baskets.
Wouldn’t it be fun to have a small private patio off the master bedroom (because of course, I want a ground floor Master Bedroom, just like every other aging Boomer!)
Maybe a small area with enough space for 2 oomphy chairs, an end table for cups of coffee or glasses of wine, all surrounded by plants and flowers. This would be an ideal spot for tiny beauties that are best viewed close up: Viola labradorica, with its purplish-green leaves; Sempervivum ‘Purple Beauty’; Sedum ‘Silver Moon’; Coreopsis ‘Moonbeam’ and ‘Limerock Ruby’; Primula veris (English cowslip)which has fragrant, nodding light yellow blooms; Knautia macedonia “Mars Midget’, which is a sturdier, only 16” high version of the super-tall species; many lovely types of aquilegia and of course Epimedium x rubrum or x youngianum. I would surround this delicious private area with French Hybrid Lilacs (Syringa vulgaris ‘alba’ ‘Madame LeMoine’.) The double white flowers would smell so lovely in June!
I’d like to repeat one area that I have in my present garden: a wooden trellis which invites a short walk along a flagstone pathway past shrubs and perennials. When my husband was building the wooden arch, I asked my oldest son how he liked it. He said it looked like “a vortex to another dimension!!” We’ve called it the Vortex ever since!
If the new area incorporated a few large, sturdy trees, maybe I could set up a hammock for aforementioned hard-working hubby! In the Perfect Garden maybe some dependable climbing roses could go up and over: the continuous blooming ‘Blaze Improved’ with its dark red flowers and also ‘Blush Noisette’, a light pink and white blend that has repeat blooms and smells like – baby powder!! Other interesting border specimens could include: Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’ with carmine petals; Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’; early blooming peony ‘Festiva Maxima’ with its fragrant, large, white double flowers with crimson flecks, strong, tall stems and dark green foliage; an early blooming daylily like 30” high, rich, deep velvet red ‘Ed Murray’ and a mid-season tetraploid one, perhaps ‘Strawberry Candy’. Add a few clumps of Shasta daisies, a very vertical grass like Feather Reed grass ‘Karl Foerster’; some deep green prostrate junipers and a few lovely shrubs like Viburnum plicatum ‘Mariesii’ for bone structure.
Lastly, maybe hidden farther into a corner of the property (maybe near a pond or creek??) a screened-in cedar Gazebo, with bench seating, flowered cushions, candles and lanterns, surrounded by dark green Emerald cedars and a few large shade trees like Pin Oak or Sugar Maple. Clematis could climb up the lattice sides of the structure, maybe 3 different types: an early one C. Montana ‘Tetrarose’, then a June-August bloomer C. lanuginose candida and finally sweet autumn Virgin’s Bower C. dioscoreifolia. A variety of wonderful plants could surround the gazebo: Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ (burgundy leaves in spring, dainty white flowers in June); pale yellow and dark purple Siberian Iris, fragrant ‘Casa Blanca’ and ‘Black Beauty’ Lilies; Scabiosa ‘Fama’ (pincushion flower) and a dramatic combo of golden ‘On Stage’ Hosta with Heuchera ‘Velvet Night’ (as suggested by John Valleau, Corporate Horticulturist for Valleybrook Gardens).
Wow!! That’s pretty greedy, all that stuff! I think I may have gotten a little carried away there, but hopefully it gives both you and me LOTS of ‘outdoor room’ suggestions to think about!

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