2015.08.02 Plans for changing the garden 1

As my regular readers will know I have decided to change the design of the area in front of the terrace.  The loss of the box at the corners of the beds means that, for me, the integrity of the design has been lost.  This is the first of what I’m sure will be numerous posts discussing my idea, wishes and what the possibilities are for this area.

Here is the way this part of the garden has looked since 2008

This is before even the gravel was laid for paths

This is before even the gravel was laid for paths


Above in 2013, looking out from the terrace. Middle left of centre.

Even before the loss of the box I had decided that I would remove half the planting of Perovskia and replace them with something that would give more structure in winter, probably this would have been spheres of Teucrium.

I have decided to remove all the lavender and all the Perovskia although I will be taking cuttings so I can use more of these on the slope and possibly in other areas of the garden so that the entire garden can become drought tolerant.

How big is the space?

The width of the terrace is 17.5 metres divided into 5 sections by pillars.

The depth of the area is 18.5 metres to the edge of the path that separates the formal beds from the Back border.  The path is 1 metre wide and the back border is 3 metres deep.

To the left the bay hedge is 5 metres from the edge of the terrace.  The left hand border is separated from the formal lavender hedge by a gravel path, the border is approximately 5 metres deep and I intend lining the border with the edge of the terrace to create a long view.

A priority is to create some void space.  The formal beds were planted before the design of the terrace had been completed so the lavender hedges are in the middle of the spaces between the two outer pillars meaning that there is not a long view from either.  The only long view is from the middle, and the main door from the house into the garden.

As you can see in the view looking out from the terrace there is a feeling of enclosure that I want to change.

Here are some of the ideas I have been thinking about;

    1. Making a void semi circle that begins and ends 3 metres from the terrace, from the 2nd to the 4th pillar, thereby creating the possibility of long views from the ends, where we have tables and a restful space in the middle where we have loungers and often sit under the shade of the wisteria to read and relax. The semi-circle forms the basis of all of the designs so far.
    Idea 1

    Idea 1

    While I was away I used the iPad to make some very,very rough sketches of my ideas.
    The left side is the terrace with the pillars marked.  Then a 3 metre path of gravel (this is what exists now and gives access around the garden with a wheel barrow).  Around the semi-circle is planting with a central path, possibly with arches dividing the space from a second area.  The semi-circle itself could be just gravel or include very low growing plants such as sempervirens, thyme etc.

    The area beyond the arches could be a new cuttings garden; you all know how much I have been enjoying the beds I have in the vegetable areas, leaving the back border as it is.  There could be various layouts for the beds and even a paved area for a table.

    The negative aspect of this idea is that it would be very high maintenance and would require irrigation.

      1. The area behind the semi-circle could have more trees added to create much-needed shade in the garden

      This shows a layout including the back border into the design for beyond the semi-circle (not shown)

      This shows a layout including the back border into the design for beyond the semi-circle (not shown)

    1. The area beyond the semi-circle could be divided in two, with pergola running across the garden giving different views of the garden and look back to the house. The woodland path effect could be created beyond that with deciduous and evergreen tree in conjunction with the existing mulberry and two walnuts. The existing path would be incorporated into this and would most likely change from the existing straight path to something more meandering.


    2nd layout with a cuttings garden

    2nd layout with a cuttings garden

    3rd layout with a cuttings garden, although shown in green here the semi-circle would not be grass!

    3rd layout with a cuttings garden, although shown in green here the semi-circle would not be grass!

    I will explore each idea in more detail in future posts, but do please let me know your impressions and thoughts about these ideas.

41 thoughts on “2015.08.02 Plans for changing the garden 1

  1. Gosh that’s rather a huge challenge but good to start getting ideas down on the ipad. I think I’d start with a list of favourite plants that would survive your climate. Then with that list I’d think about good plant associations. I’d try to visualise the beds in Winter and what would hold those beds together in terms of form and foliage. Am I right that the perovskia and the lavender thrived in strong temperatures and draught with little help from you?

    • Yes, the Perovskia and lavender both did well, but the lavender already needs replacing because it is so large and woody despite having been pruned twice or even three times some years. I prefer to decide on the layout and then choose the plants that give the ‘function’ or ‘look’ I want. Although of course I have already been thinking about plants, I’ll include some images of what I might want to achieve in the next post.

    • Thank you, I’d love to hear your ideas for a xeric style that would suit my conditions, which aren’t truly Mediterranean because our winters can be quite cold ( it has been minus 12 C for a week or so, once since I’ve been here).

  2. It’s been a beautiful garden–I always thought of it as very Monet-esque (minus the lilies, I suppose 🙂 ) I agree that more trees is always a good thing–for you and shade and for your wildlife. Are you planning things which bloom? Or more along the lines of grasses? This will surely keep you occupied for a while–maybe a long while. Oh, but what fun!

    • For the shady area I’d like some drought tolerant deciduous trees under-planted with drought tolerant foliage plants a mix including ferns, grasses and large leafed plants including more Acanthus and Fatsia japonica which is surprisingly drought tolerant once its established.

  3. I like a change of pace. A formal, and changing with the seasons area. Then a quieter, shady under the trees section. It’s also an invitation to explore, to walk out into the garden. This, planning stage, is the fun bit. Landscaping is grunt work. And the eventual planting and watching your ideas come to life is fun again.

    • I love the thinking and planning stage and will have some help with the landscaping stage, luckily there isn’t lots of earth to move around. I do agree that the very best part is seeing the ideas grow into being.

  4. This is very exciting! I do like the idea of adding trees to the space: once established, in addition to shade they will help raise the humidity in the garden to help cope with the dry spells in summer. There are a number of evergreen oak trees that cope really well with Mediterranean (Quercus ilex, Q. Suber, Q. agrifolia) which will still give you structure in winter. Whichever way you go, it will be tremendous fun watching the outcome!

    • Thanks for your thoughts Matt, I’ve already selected a Quercus ilex and Q. Suber as I do want to emphasise the fact that I’m nearly in a Mediterranean climate (not quite because of our colder winters but these suggestions will cope with the cold).

  5. I really like the idea of adding the trees. I’ve come to the conclusion that shade is critical in intense sunlight gardens, and they may help raise the humidity beneath them as well. Depending on how strong your light is, you might be able to use “normally” full- or part-sun plants underneath. Like everyone else, I will miss your formal design with the lavender and box, but gardening is full of going on to the next thing 🙂

    • You are absolutely right that the light is so intense here that plants that in other climates require full sun often need shade here. Good point about raising the humidity beneath the trees; I really hadn’t considered how important humidity was until I visited N. Carolina and Georgia this year.

  6. Given the heat you’ve been experiencing, adding more trees sounds like an excellent plan. I love woodland gardens in concept but they’re nearly impossible to create in my climate – would you face similar challenges there?

    • Yes, Kris, there are very few trees that are truly drought tolerant; evergreens do best but they create a heavy dense shade that might be difficult to plant under.

  7. I admire how you can so easily paint a picture of the entire garden area, I always get bogged down on individual beds and never manage to re-think the whole area.
    I absolutely agree with your idea of void space. The masses of perovskia are great but in your photo I see what you mean about enclosing, and when you’re already under the shelter of the terrace you don’t really need more enclosure.
    I’m not so keen on adding many trees, I like the openness and even adding a pergola in the center might work against this. Maybe you could move it all the way to the back, kind of as an entry to your spring border walk?
    Have you considered a water feature? It might be nice in your semi-circle area for viewing from the terrace. You would think a water feature is a waste of water but once filled they really don’t require much upkeep or additional water.

    • Thanks for your input, Frank. There are already some trees in the back border including a huge mulberry and two walnuts with a block of Bay right in the middle; if I add some deciduous trees close to them even possibly in the existing path I don’t think it will close the area in too much especially as trees here never seem to have a full canopy as they would in the UK for example where they’d have more water. I like the idea of a water feature but I’m worried about encouraging mosquitoes, I get bitten enough as it is without there being a lot more of them; but I will add the idea to the equation as the sound of water is very restful.

  8. What an exciting project, raising some key issues for us all. I think you’re right to step back to reconsider the various axis across the garden, and how using a pleasing semi-circular void will enhance a long view from the terrace.

    You have such a good eye for design, I’m sure your new garden will have great ‘bone structure’!

    • Thanks Kate; it was difficult when I initially planted the formal layout because not knowing exactly where the pillars etc. would be I didn’t plant well enough to establish good long views. I may even want to emphasise some of them even more with arches or if I do put a pergola structure across the garden I would extend it over the paths of the long views, even possibly into the left hand bed.

      • I’ve had a similar experience here, it can be hard to determine these lines … Wonderful that you’ve got the chance to redress the issue with the benefit of hindsight. Adding height with pergolas etc sounds interesting, would it add some gentle shade too?
        Must say, your box – lavender planting is gorgeous though! It had me enthralled from the outset.

  9. Your drawings are engaging in and of themselves. I can see how all this planning results in the fabulous gardens you come up with. I am such a “seat of the pants” gardener and plant collector that I have trouble committing to a plan.

    • I admire gardens of plant collectors and I love seeing all your lovely choices but for my own garden I really prefer mass planting season of what works best. I love planning – all kinds of planning, the garden, of course, but also room layouts, new kitchens, holidays, anything. It us my nature. I find the continuing nurturing harder!

  10. As much as I love your lavender – I have never grown tired of seeing photos of it, and personally I would just dig up the old, tired lavender and replace with new – I can see your vision. It will be wonderful. I love the idea of the trees, and the semi-circle will very nice also. The cutting garden does sound high maintenance but should give you joy and endless inspiration for your vases.

    • One part of the inspiration to have more trees is from your garden Debbie, I love you woodland maybe even more than you love my lavender. Don’t worry there will still be lavender in the garden but in future not as a hedge and I will have more varieties so there will be flowers for longer.

  11. What an interesting post, Christina your thought processes and that of others. Seeing beyond a two dimensional drawing to the three dimensional real thing is not easy for most of us but once you have worked out what features you definitely want hopefully it will come together. I like the idea of more trees, and would an area of dense shade be a bad thing? I wonder what could grow beneath the trees in your conditions. An ’empty’ semi circle sounds possible, with the option of grasses perhaps growing through in parts, and maybe some feature pots… I know you will definitely go for more cutting beds, even with the higher maintenance!

    • Actually I’m not t all sure about including a cuttings garden in this space, even though it is an attractive idea. The high levels of light and the fact that most deciduous trees don’t form such dense canopies here, I don’t think I could achieve dark shade! If you look at the walnuts in the second post you’ll see what I mean, branches and some sky are always visible. Evergreen trees do give deeper shade but there seem to be fewer than I would have thought that are suitable.

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