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Desperate Times Require Desperate Measures: Good Garden Design Solutions Power-Up Sustainable Spaces

 

Spring gardens have always been revered as a time of renewal and rebirth; but I had a space that sorely needed more than an awakening.  

I was staring down a full-on Olmstead! A complete makeover.  

Here’s how we “crushed” a new, native and sustainable, low/no maintenance  garden design.



 

You could say there was something in the air. 

That it was time for a change of scenery.

While I think it’s safe to say that we all know gardens change with the seasons and over time, here I’m talking about designing for something more dramatic to accommodate the very real changes we’ve been experiencing in our climate over the last few years, especially and/or increasingly. Depending on your perspective.

In addition to our lifestyle change ~ meaning Bill and I have been working hard to mitigate or reduce the amount of outdoor garden tasks we need to do that we don’t particularly enjoy, leaving time for those that we do.  

Sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it? 

But it isn’t.  

You may remember last year I changed over two of our home gardens to create more easy-care garden beds and that worked just swell.

Encouraged, this year, I took on the project of making something of the space left behind when we truncated the size or our Farmette last year, in addition to forfeiting our mini orchard of all trees except the male apple to our female espalier on our brick wall near the front door. We said a sad farewell to the apricot, peach, and cherry trees…

Before


To kickstart this design, is a terrific purchase we made at the Philadelphia Flower Show, (PHS) ~ the Vegepod ~ a kind of free-standing, mini-greenhouse.  

Medium Raised Garden Bed with Garden Cover (photo: Vegepod)

Bill got the Vegepod assembled in the garage and started the seedlings there as we do every year, usually under the grow lights.  

What with the valuable accessories provided by the good folks at Vegepod and their “show special,” we were able to move the unit outside as soon as the weather permitted because the company gave us a plastic cover-top ~ just like a glass house.  

It was also a warmer winter than “normal.”  No snow, either, in our parts.

In addition, the Vegepod we purchased has a misting, overhead watering system.

We seeded the Vegepod with edibles that the critters like just as much as we do! This way the plants will be safe from the night raiders.  

The seeds we started with are: microgreens, carrots (Atlas ~ those short cutie-carrots), beets, radishes, and more.

 

The Makeover

While we cut the size of our Farmette by about two-thirds last year, it remained up in the air as to what to do with the space that was outside that delineated, fenced-in edible garden area. 

I’ll spare you the considered choices…

What I was certain of was, given the very real consequences I’d experienced in the last several years at my garden design clients and in our own gardens, that of  severe drought, with water rationed for yards, extreme storms, and more invasive critters and plants, to name a few challenges, was that a major change to flexibly accommodate the future of extreme weather was needed.

I wanted a low-maintenance garden space that was also pollinator-friendly, using plants that can thrive with little water.  I went with native and some Mediterranean varieties.  

And overall, few of them. It’s the zen of garden design…

First, we laid in the corton steel border for what I started off calling the “Gravel Garden.”  

Yet, during the dress rehearsal stage(s), I determined the top layer would be Crushed sea shells!  

Just like the walkways I spec’d in for a client twenty years ago that shares our bayside, beachy geography. 

I’ve always loved using shells ~ they dazzle in the sunlight and shine in the moonlight.       

https://img.rawpixel.com/s3fs-private/rawpixel_images/website_content/frheart_mussels_harmony_love-image-kybdh5tb.jpg?w=800&dpr=1&fit=default&crop=default&q=65&vib=3&con=3&usm=15&bg=F4F4F3&ixlib=js-2.2.1&s=826b58fc9e84d6dc77db6424e4767a2a

The Layers

The bottom layer of the garden room space was tamped out soil, then we laid in * * Landscape Fabric

* ⅜” Delaware stone 

* Decomposed Granite (DG) and then the 

* Seashells.  

I placed the plants to get the idea of where I wanted them but actually planted them in after the seashells were laid in. 

I had already relocated two hydrangeas (I know, I know, but I had them for a while and I do love them).  The move allowed for more egress near the Compost Cabana and a better fit for them near the (more watered) edible Farmette.  

Hope they take the move with grace…

 Here you can see the move from circle side left front to far upper right

I also moved an Asian Lantern statuary that had become hidden behind the front bed’s camellias to under the asparagus ferns that border the back of the new Shell Garden.  The feathery fronds suit it much better.

    Landscape Fabric is the bottom layer.

Topped by the stones.

And finally, the pretty, glistening sea shells. I see whites, purple, pink in the shells! This will harmonize with the plants so nicely. 

The planting is lean but glorious.  

  • Pennisetum Piglet   Pennisetum alopecuroides 'Piglet' PPAF | Piglet Fountain Grass – Maple Leaf  Home Gardens

  • Festuca Elijah Blue Elijah Blue Fescue - Festuca glauca 'Elijah Blue' - PNW Plants

  • Liatris microcephala Liatris microcephala - Emory Knoll Farms Emory Knoll Farms

  • Allium lusitanicum summer beauty Persian Blue  Product Viewer - Allium Summer Beauty

And just outside the border: 

  • Asclepia incarnata ~ vanilla scented, rose-pink flowers  Asclepias Incarnata/Swamp Milkweed (1 quart) | GG MAIN

Inside and outside are:

  • Lavender Phenomenal® a French hybrid  Lavandula x. Phenomenal

Remember how much bees and butterflies are attracted to the color and scent of these plants! 

Especially the lavender (elevated levels of essential oils, and added bonus, you can use in dried arrangements, sachets and more.

The native Asclepia, or Butterfly Weed including ‘Cinderella’ Swamp Milkweed, are essential/critical for the Monarch butterfly life cycle. Their relationship includes more than just swapping nectar for pollination. Caterpillars exclusively feed on their leaves, which are filled with cardenolides.

We are in the Butterfly path so growing nourishing, native plants is good for a sustainable environment.  And so pretty, too. They are already blooming ~ see on the left side?  And so are the Alliums.  Good karma, I hope.  

All in all, it’s nice and neat. Our high-value edibles are up and away from predators, the elevated Vegepod is easier to maintain for Bill and moi; and the pollinator-friendly, fragrant plants are just right. 

Ahhhh..

From Orchard to Bocce

I hope you’ll forgive me for lamenting the loss of our mini orchard. I did love it. But as has been written, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose…” 

Except for the male apple, the time was up for the peach and cherry and apricot trees (for various reasons).

Now, a no maintenance Bocce Ball Court is king of the space.  

I measured off the court, Bill built the borders using wood painted black, we took out the “turf” and we then layered in the same as the Shell Garden except the top layer is oyster sand.

 

   

The landscape fabric was laid in:

  Topped by the stones, then the DG, then the Oyster Sand.

 

I purchased some nice solar lights to hang in the apple tree, got a gray cushion for the chair, moved the circular bench down from the upper lawn level; printed out bocce score cards and voila! 

A no-mow, fun space that I hope will add to summer festivities. 

Night and Day…

Night Moves: gardens twinkle at nite

With both makeovers, we were able to DIY most of it ourselves. 

We repurposed plants and added new ones where needed.  

Both spaces are intended to not only give pleasure and beauty but allow for less watering and take into account the anticipated, heated climate conditions. 

I believe that with thoughtful, good garden design, change can be glamorous at the same time. 

I think we all need to reconsider our garden spaces and adapt. 

Just like plants do.

Remember, what a former boss at the Botanic Garden was fond of saying, “The plants made it through the last ice age. The dinosaurs didn’t…” 

Cheers to adaptation.  And glamorous gardens.


2 Comments

  • Anonymous

    ❤️ looking forward to martinis and bocce

  • Anonymous

    It all looks so beautiful and inviting. You both did a wonderful job with plants and a pleasurable looking space. Good experience with your veggies.

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"Love of beauty is taste. The creation of beauty is art."
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 I adore plants. Plants are my muse ~ they are my paramour… I’m a garden artist; a nature lover, & horticulturist. I’m an author & writer. My passion for culture & beauty, along with my trait curiosity, brings you an authentic celebration of life. I’m a storyteller ~ weaving the artful gifts of horticulture, garden design, tablescape decor, floral design, cocktail culture, garden-to-glass recipes & their glamorous garnishes, homegrown edibles, food & drink; & cooking, to bring you my flair & what I’ve been told is an avid elan ~ as well as the stories from those who inspire me ~ to pursue an elegant, enduring, & joyful, entertaining lifestyle. It’s an honor & a privilege to do what you love.

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