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Garden Design The First Garden Room

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In my previous article, Garden Design Basics, I outlined some basic design principles I used in my 5 year garden design scheme. The end result might take 7 years, but better slow than suffer a slipped disc. This is how the first of the five garden rooms is progressing.

Preparing the Ground

The location is directly before my front porch. It was the first area only because a new well had to be drilled a year after we moved in, and this was the only accessible spot for the drilling rig on our sloped property. When all the well work finished, the former patch of lawn was an irregular hump of tough grey clay, rocks and weeds. Instead of Welcome, this sight by the front door screamed Go Away!

Three weeks with a pickaxe, spade and trailer and I finally cleared out much of the worst clay and rocks, and all the weeds and grass. To ensure plant longevity, I spaded over the entire area, finding still more rocks and clay cannonballs. Only then did I add many bags of triple mix, peat moss and composted manures, all of which got rototilled in.

Garden Paths

Paths were cleared of good soil and edged with strong polythene. It wasn't until later that I thought to pin weed barrier with the edging, which I've now mostly re-done. And the west end of the bed had to be built up slightly with stone leftover from the retaining walls for appearance consistency.

Checking the Layout

Design in hand, I then set out all the plants still in their pots. And stepped back to determine the result. Planning on paper is good, butĀ fine tuning is always needed. Moving potted plants is easier than digging them up again. And some didĀ move. A few labels indicated different heights than expected, and two plants simply clashed. While setting them out, I constantly checked that each plant's leaf shape and colour contrasted with others around it, and that short plants didn't somehow get lost. All the talls before the porch were organized to give a roller coaster effect along their line. I used all flower colours but somehow the purples were all clumped together, so they had to be spread out. Considering I set in over a hundred different plants, I didn't change all that many.

The last steps, which I'm doing this summer, is first adding 3" of pea gravel to the paths. It's a nice textural effect as well as sound, something we forget when planning. Then I'll add mulch to all the beds to conserve water and protect the permanently placed soaker hoses. Finally come two decorative trellises at the long ends.

How the Design Turned Out

How did it turn out? It's a mini-oasis that has visitors stopping to look and smell. Now that everything has a full year to settle in, it needs just a bit of tweaking. The protruding wellhead needs more liatris to hide it's back.

The dwarf roses were liars and will be moved to the back. Same with Artemesia Powis Castle, a fragrant, textural beauty which is a monster. The hardy dwarf rhododendron is unhappy and will move before it dies completely. Two ferns and some groundcovers didn't survive the winter. But all the rest are thriving. Some so well that next year I must do some dividing - and use them in the next garden room currently in progress.

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