My house has a tiny garden out front. about nine feet wide and four feet deep. we did some stuff to make it attractive when we moved in here. shoved in a Rhus tree, planted up stuf like bamboo and various flowering plants. trimmed the privet hedge down. grew ivy up both sides of the bay window. shoved a laburnam tree in.
it looked kinda nice. actually the only garden in the street. everyone else has a paved or concreted front. but i got bored of the plantings and the trees wer being wrecked by local kids who would swing on the branches. not to mention the rhus throwing up suckers and the roots threatening to undermine the house foundations. so we decided to start over. do something simpler and more low maintenance.
sitting down to plan this new garden we chatted about stuff we like and what plants don't need much care and what would go and stay of the current garden. at the same time my partner started clearing the space. the trees hve gone. the bamboo has been uprooted and put in temporary pots in the back yard. everything else has been removed and the ground levelled. last thing to go will be the privet hedge.
in the course of deciding how to create the fence we decidd to replace the hedge with we stumbled upon the idea of a wooden fram clad in bamboo as the cheapest option. the gaps betwen the bamboo will aloowthe strong wnds we get here to pass through and be broken so the plants only get hit by breezes. plus most other fence styles look twee or harsh or are made from materials that don't really gel with plants. bamboo was the most organic looking material and the softest look we felt we could achieve.
we then talked about how to arrange the plantings. we'd previously had borders around a gravel path. a bit too hard and old fashioned for me. not to mention that cats like to bury their poop in the gravel. instead we decided to go for odd shaped stone slabs in two patches. to act as stepping stones fro which to access the plants but also to provide a place to put seats in the summer when the sun hits the house front at full power. a place to chill and catch the rays. this will mean around the stone patches are irregular patches of ground. and this in turn suggested specimen planting as a style. what to plant though? the bamboo we had before will go back as a screen at the far side of the garden. another wind barrier. also as there's a bit of a pathway leading to the side gate there where kids like to congregate and hide it'll serve as a barrier to stop them peering in through the bay window.
Now it all sounds kinda tidy and simple. the ideas are good and we're keeping it uncluttered. but it was at that point in the thinking it dawned on me that we were actually creating something vaguely japanese in flavour. looking on the net what we had was on the way to being a japanese tea garden. so with that in mind the obvious thing to plant around the stones was japanese grasses. chief among these is the bamboo (sinarundinaria nitida) but to compliment that pampass grass seemed the only option. put in near the front gate. a bit of height and a nice soft swishy plant. for the main plantings clump forming forest grass hakonechloa macra 'aureola'), blood grass (imperata cylindrica) and although it's cheating, lilly turf (liriope muscari 'big blue'), feather reed grass (calamagrostis x acutiflora).
I wanted some more colour and would have liked cluster amarylis (spider lily) but the conditions here are wrong for it so i've opted for star of the east (crocosmia 'Lucifer') as it has grass like foliage and bright red flowers during late summer.
I would have loved a japanese maple tree (acer palmatum) but with such a small space it would have been too much and as we just took out trees it seemed stupid to put one back in. also the forest grass is a shade loving grass so we may have to substitute that for a carex or phlax. which are New Zealand natives if I'm not mistaken.
for the stone slabs we're debating about black mountain slate or a stone we saw today in a gold with red striations through it. this would take the form of flat stones for stepping/sitting on and odd shaped chunks dotted about in a seemingly chaotic manner but carefully placed.
we considered the bare ground around the stones and plantings and decided to put a heavy gravel over the soil. this in turn could be black or golden with red striations depending on what we choose for the slabs. the usual teahouse statue will be omitted from the scheme because some punk would likely walk off with it. knowing this area as I do. same with the water feature. which is a shame because that would have been really cool. but you can't have everything.
it's not a big garden and it doesn't sound like a big project. but strangely it's precisely because the space is so limited that it's more difficult. there's a couple of tons of stuff come out to clear the space and get it level. working in a tight space makes the job twice as hard. and my partner has done the digging because frankly, I'm crap at that sort of thing. he knows nothing about design or plants so that's my job. visualising the space as it will be. drawing plans, trawling around looking for the right materials. sourcing plants that aren't the standard fare of local tinpot garden supply centres. today i was looking wistfully at tree ferns. wishing britain was warmer. handling various grasses to see how they'd fared with our current crappy weather. it's a pitiful job but someone has to do it.
I'll update with progress reports as and when. possibly with pictures too.
In the meantime feel free to wonder why I start this thread and also chat about your own gardening.