Saturday, 8 March 2008

Behind The Scenes

I've just finished a garden for a young family, that wanted to make full use of the garden around them. The area was initially 2 seperate gardens that had the dividing fence taken down and made into a single large garden with a pool and play area for the children.

One side had already been planted-up quite well, using almost entirely indigenous plants, while the other side consisted of a flat grassy area, and a steep bank which flanked the house, spotted with a hodge-podge of plants.

When looking at the garden as a whole, I realised that the steep bank was probably the biggest area in the garden. It was almost un-usable because of its steepness - apart from the kids using it as a bit of a natural slide.

The soil was poor and sandy, and as a result the grass was only just covering the bank. Over the last decade or so the topsoil was slowly washing down the bank. The effects of which could be seen by the soil level on the side of the house which had slowly risen up to the tops of the drains.

My brief was simple: to landscape the garden and especially the bank, keeping the children in mind.

My first steps were...well...steps. After climbing the bank, I realised that the top of the bank was a really great place to look down on the rest of the garden and surrounds (in the shade of a wild banana). Getting to the top was less than appealing though!

To make use of the view and bank, I would have to make it easier to get to the top. Straight steps would have been the simplest to construct, but wouldn't have been very enticing, and may also cause erosion issues. I decided a gentle meandering pathway would also be the least strenuous and would create a more interesting journey on the way up.

(I know I'm making this mole-hill sound like a mountain, but people by nature need to have things made as simple, easy and attractive as possible for them to make regular use of them)

After chatting with my client we decided to plant the sunniest part of the bank with wild grasses that would hold-up well with children running up and sliding down them. (I'm also trying to use as much wild grasses as possible - they are beautiful all year round, as well as bringing birds and other animals into the garden as well!)

Work began quickly, with the majority of the plants and grass on the bank dug out and removed or just cut back. We cut back some plants to ground level, on the steepest part of the bank so that the roots would still hold the bank in any heavy rain.

As it turns out, it was a good thing too. After getting the levels right, saturating the soil with copious amounts of compost, we had the first of several December deluges. The rains ran straight down the bank, only to form a small dam against the compost pile, which then proceeded to wash into the now muddy new pool.

The next step was to retain the sides of the pathway, using timber posts sunk, and concreted into the ground. The bank on either side of the pathway was planted up with fast-growing groundcovers and grasses. These would in the shortest possible time, hold the soil in place and look beautiful all year round.

While the planting was progressing I began to see the potential for a tree house in the young Fig on the far side of the bank. The fig itself was too small still for a proper tree-house, but a deck that was built up to, or supported by the fig would be a real inviting place for kids or adults on a hot summer day. I made the suggestion to my clients, who loved the idea, and construction began a short while after.

The 'final' garden is now complete. It will be a while before the garden looks at its best, but it has already begun to blossom. It may need a bit of tweaking in a few months time, with a plant added here or there, but as the saying goes 'a garden is never finished'.

A planting plan of the garden can be found here.
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