Virginia Garden Week has been taking place across the state this week, and yesterday my mom, sister and I took part in the Norfolk area “open garden” tours. The homes were absolutely lovely and the flower arrangements created by Garden Club members were phenomenal. A number of the volunteers on hand to discuss the various rooms were helpful in offering arrangement tips, and further inspiring my interest in the Garden Club. I’m more motivated than ever to add green new textures to my garden, with the goal of recreating some of the uniquely twisted knots and loops that graced many of the vases.
For my purposes, there was one garden in particular that proved particularly inspiring. Being that tours were in the historic Ghent section of Norfolk, gardening space was at a minimum. Yet one couple had turned their tiny backyard into an endless retreat through the use of meandering paths and natural screens around an incredible koi pond.
I liked the way nandina was used near the head of the curvy stream to create a screen that offered privacy while still allowing light to pass all the way through, and enticed the visitor to wander through the “secret” garden.
Nandinas create just enough shelter for privacy – and visually expand this small garden greatly.
Seating was placed throughout the path, which was lovely since every curve of the narrow path offered a fresh view. I also liked in the photo below how the low growing evergreens near the stream that texture and visual interest, without presumably too many leaves to clean out of the water.
Evergreens and mondo grass add interesting texture to the smooth stream surface and river rock.
You can see in the back of this photo how this couple covered their skimmer simply by placing a tree with low branches nearby, just enough of a distraction to hide the plastic without making clean-up a pain.
Low-growing trees add shade and security for the fish, and conveniently obscure the necessary skimmer.
And of course the entire pond was surrounded by shady protection from birds, making this a safe and delightful place for the numerous koi to swim.
Countless koi are calling this beautifully landscaped pond home.
Now that my own lily pads are turning green again – and the tadpoles are out in force – I’m excited to add some new landscaping to the edges of my water garden.
I have undertaken one small project since the start of spring. It was something I’ve been talking myself out of since last May when I went on the Hallowed Ground Tour in downtown Fredericksburg.
I dug out my one remaining boxwood from the leaf-covered mess that is the bed by my front door and in its place added five dwarf boxwoods in a semicircle. The boxwoods end on either side in a rosebush, each of which at one point served as table centerpieces. These roses (name long since forgotten) have delicate yellow blooms and, while hearty, won’t be taking over a bed anytime soon. I then went ahead and transplanted two of my pink Sweet Drift roses, at once widening the pathway in the bed from which they have been removed, and adding the promise of color and height over what will, in many, many, many years, be a low hedge bordering them in. In the far back you can see the daylilies coming up; they’ll be adding more height this summer behind the roses.
In the upcoming weeks I hope to add a nice row of white impatiens to the front of the boxwoods and a few bags of mulch to tie the whole thing together. The thought makes me giggle; not the mulch, but the impatiens. I’ve always thought of them as boring little standbys, but now I’m coming to realize how all of those standbys are essential tools of the gardener who wants to create a smooth, orderly look with a few knockout touches. Too many “touches” are what gave me such an unordered mess in the first place, and the reason I’ve been rearranging rather than adding to my living palette.
April at my house has been a jumbled lump of “laugh or else you’ll cry” moments. I guess it really started back in November when the new heat pumps came in. Remember that corner garden I put in last summer? When the HVAC contractors came in to install two massive new heat pumps (bye-bye gardening budget) they unceremoniously yanked out one of my three blueberry trees and squished at least one sage to make room. All that I learned about orderly gardening wasn’t enough to teach me about ordering proper boundaries for the routine maintenance (and then some) of HVAC units. Sigh. That disheartening event made me throw in my gloves, and ultimately abandon my unbundled blueberry root ball to several months of cold and snow. And you know what? I’ll be darned if it isn’t one of the few trees I had budding up at the beginning of February. Talk about tenacious. I have since given that little guy a new place of honor on the opposite side of my deck (although I suspect that still won’t be bribe enough to get any fruit out of him).
My bulbs did come in, sure. I watched as all the neighbors’ daffodils bloomed and then, right when mine started showing signs of life, some pure-evil punk squirrel started ripping off the buds and leaving them in the middle of my front walk. I assume it was a squirrel who, having watched The Godfather one too many times, was leaving me a warning about what squirrels do to gardeners who think they’re being smart about planting rodent-resistant bulbs around their precious tulips.
Split-personality pear tree.
Then there was the pear tree. You gotta love the beautiful white show of pear trees in bloom, and thank goodness my neighborhood and city at large is filled to bursting with them. Mine has a split trunk and, apparently, split personality. The southwest side bloomed while the northeast side stewed; this week they’ve progressed to half green and half white, at least. And don’t even get me started on my cherry tree’s four blooms. Yeesh.
If you look close enough, you can see my personal cherry tree festival.
That’s the thing about gardening. Nothing goes the way you planned it. It’s an especially good lesson for me now, though, because there’s another little seed I’ve been growing all fall and winter, one that has filled every cold and dreary day with the brightest sunshine. Nothing goes the way you plan it in gardening nor, I remind myself, in parenting. In the case of both, I’m excited to take the good with the bad and the hoped for with the gloriously unexpected surprises. It’s going to be a long, wonderful and exciting spring and summer.