Feb 242014
 

by Avis Licht

A curved path creates wonder and surprise. You can't see what's around the corner

A curved path creates expectation and surprise. You can’t see what’s around the corner.

When designing your garden, in addition to the obvious considerations of sun, soil and site, you want to make it beautiful  with harmonious color and form and movement . To this I want to add Expectation and Surprise.

I was happily reminded of this when a friend took me on a new hike. She said it was special.

We went to an ordinary looking trailhead and walked up the dirt road through the trees and across the hills.  At a certain point we came to a place in the road that had recently been worked on, with very large stones laid at the edge of the road. Two small seasonal creeks came together and went under the road through a culvert as is common here. Before going across the road my friend turned hard right down a trail.

“Where are you going?” “Just follow me,” she said. So I did.  After just a short walk down into the woods, we turned around, looking back to the road – excuse the phrase – Lo and Behold! we saw the most amazing stone egg sculpture set under the road and surrounded by a 360 degree circle of stones.  The sculpture was more than 6 feet tall.

The surprise was enormous and added to the joy of the vision in front of us. It was so out of the ordinary and so unexpected that we couldn’t stop exclaiming.

Andy Goldsworthy Egg

The Surprise in the Culvert

Although we cannot all present a surprise of an Andy Goldsworthy sculpture on our property, we can surprise our visitors with unexpected beauty and form. A fragrance, a place to sit, a view that is slightly hidden and then unfolds is a sweet gift.

Imagination and Surprise

Imagination and Surprise

 

Mar 232012
 
Deer fence with copper art

 

Deer fence with copper art

A beautiful open fence keeps out the deer and lets in the sunlight

by Avis Licht – Designing a front yard can be a little tricky. Designing it so that it is also a productive food garden makes it even more challenging. What makes an edible landscape work, is that not only does one get food from it, but it must also be lovely to look at in all seasons.  Using a few basic  design tenants and some good gardening sense will help you get started.

1. Always note your sun/shadow in all seasons.  This can change drastically between summer and winter. Be sure to place your shade plants in shady spots, and your sun loving plants where they will find the light. In the garden in these photos, the house casts a large shadow – almost completely in winter, but only partially in summer.

Since this was the only open area for my client’s vegetables, we noted the best sun areas during the main growing season between April and October.

Finding the sun/shadow line

Note your sun/shadow in the main growing season. This photo is the new garden. (click to enlarge)

The old garden fence and site.

This is what the front yard looked like before we renewed it. (click to enlarge)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t forget to look at my book on The Spring Garden Made Easy.

2.If you need a fence, be sure it looks good, lets the light into the garden and keeps the deer and other critters out. Wood fences can look good, but can also create shadows that prevent plants from getting enough light.

A simple post and wire fence that looks good

A good looking wire fence lets the light in and keeps the neighbor’s dogs out.

 

We removed the wood fence from this garden, as it cast a heavy shadow in winter when the sun was low in the sky.  Because this is California, there is a long growing season and we wanted to make good use of the little space available. Many neighbors stop by to admire the beautiful vegetables and flowers in the front yard.  Keeping this garden well tended all year makes it a neighborhood delight.  Everyone wants a fresh pea in spring and tomato in summer.There are plenty of flowers to keep it cheerful.

 

3.Create permanent beds and paths. Permanent beds create pattern and form in a garden even when the beds may be empty. The same is true for paths. They are cleaner, safer and create form in the garden.  Paths also keep people from walking on the beds. Here are a few different solutions.  Stone paths are more expensive, but last longer and are beautiful. Chipped paths look good and are inexpensive.  They also allow the water to seep into the soil for water retention.

raised stone bed

Permanent beds give form and interest even without all the plants. Chipped paths are easy to lay and inexpensive.

Stone paths are safe, beautiful, long lasting and also more expensive.  Choose a material appropriate for you and your budget.

Stone path

A winding path leads you through the garden to the front door.

4. Choose plants the grow well in your climate and in your site.  Choose appropriate sized plants. Meaning, if you have a small front yard, use dwarf or semi dwarf trees, or small shrubs. Fruit trees, blueberries, currants, strawberries mixed with flowering shrubs all make wonderful front yard plants.  They look good in most seasons.  Use perennials in your front yard and keep the annuals to a minimum. When growing vegetables in the front yard, keep them well tended if your yard is open to the neighborhood. It’s all part of being a good neighbor. The more you share the bounty, the  more your neighbors will want to imitate your garden.

Edible front yard

Summer in the edible front yard still looks great. (click to enlarge)

side view of the edible front yard

Herbs, flowers and a simple fence for the edible front yard. (click to enlarge)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These are a few ideas to help you plan your edible front yard. There will be more ideas to come. Sign up for my blog and you won’t miss anything.

Jan 022012
 
After sheet mulching - beauty and bounty

by Avis Licht

After sheet mulching - beauty and bounty

It’s possible to have a backyard that is both productive and good looking

Winter is a good time to think about designing, changing or tweaking your garden.

Instead of being knee deep in garden projects, you can sit back and take the time to consider changes to your garden. Your changes can be big or small, but make sure they fit into the grand scheme.

Curving path on steep hill

Using plants and curving path for hillside erosion control

Your parameters will be:

1. Your site: Whatever you do has to work within the givens of your site. These include your climate, soil, sun/shade, slope, existing plantings that you won’t change, buildings and hardscape: paths, stairs, retaining walls, driveways and fences.

Welcoming entry

A well laid, flagstone path, sturdy yet still informal

2. Your finances: New landscaping can be exceedingly  expensive or fantastically frugal – it depends on how much of the work you do yourself, and whether you use new, used or recycled materials.

Redwood Picket Gate

Gate and Arbor from recycled materials

3. Your desires: What you need and what you want may not always coincide, but at least you can consider them and prioritize them. Not everything needs to be done at once.  Have a plan, then build it over time as you can afford it.

4. The sustainability factor: So hold on here, I have a couple of different definitions of sustainable. Hear me out. On a personal level, your garden is only as sustainable as you can take care of it.  If it takes more work than you can keep up with, then it is NOT sustainable on a personal level.  If it takes more money than you can afford, that too is not sustainable. If you put in plants that require more water than you have available both from nature or from finances, that won’t work either. Your personal input has to coincide with what you can afford on an ongoing basis.

On a more global level, sustainability is about the energy and materials you use to build, maintain and grow your garden. Whether it means reusing the wood from your old fence to build a new one, or using permeable pavers instead of concrete for patios and paths, every time you make a decision on what you will use in your yard, be sure to consider the larger impacts.

Brick step with Wood Edge

Using recycled materials we built a brick step

These bricks were taken from an old job and used by me at my own home.  You don’t have to give up on beauty when you reuse or recycle materials.

Tomorrow I’ll talk about specific designs for edible landscapes for small yards.

 

Sep 282011
 
Fountain provides the sound of water

Fountain provides the sound of water

When designing  a garden, you want to consider all your senses.  In this  post on landscape design I talk about landscaping for all your senses:  sight, smell, hearing and taste.

The first sense is visual. What looks pleasing can vary widely between people.  Some people prefer clean, formal lines, some prefer the wild and wooly chaos of a natural setting.  And there’s everything in between. When designing your own yard, be sure to look at magazines and books with gardens.  You’ll find that certain styles will really appeal to you.  You’ll keep coming back to the same type of garden.  Take these design elements and work them into your  landscape.  You may live in Portland and love the Southwest desert look, and in that case you’ll have to make some real adjustments in plant choice. But you can still get the Feel of the southwest.

Paths leading you into the garden

An informal garden with paths leading you through the gate

Designing for smell let’s you consider plants  that have wonderful  fragrance.  Many vines such as jasmine, clematis and roses can transport you to another world as you walk under an arbor.  Bulbs such as narcissus can naturalize in informal areas and provide cut flowers.  Night scented plants such as Datura and Nicotiana will do their work after the sun has set, and while you’re sitting quietly on your deck.

A trellis planted with fragrant vines

A trellis planted with fragrant vines is wonderful to sit under

Shrubs such as Daphne odora, Mock Orange and Citrus can be reliable evergreen shrubs that look good all year long in the garden and when they bloom provide heavenly smells.

Be sure to find places in the yard for fragrance, but don’t put competing plants in the same place.  Some folks find too much odor overwhelming.

When thinking about the sense of hearing there are different kinds of sounds to consider. For some folks, sounds of cars, traffic, trains, trucks can be a problem and the challenge is to mask these sounds.  To do this you can create dense hedges, walls or build a fountain with moving water.  These methods can help, but not always completely hide your problems

The sounds we want to encourage are bird song, wind rustling throughsoft leaves and sometimes the sound of moving water. When planting, be sure to create habitat for your song birds with shrubs and trees that encourage them to feed and nest nearby.

Finally, we come to the sense of taste.  For the Edible Landscape that surely should rise right to the top of our list.  The other day one of my sons came home after a long time away and started eating his way through the garden, starting with an apple from the tree along the path, then in delight he looked down and saw some ripe strawberries. He headed further along and started right in on the heirloom tomatoes.  I mean it was really funny watching him load up before he ever got in the front door.

Strawberry

Who can resist a ripe strawberry?

Food in the garden doesn’t always mean going into the vegetable garden.  With beautiful edibles in the landscaped portion of your yard, folks slow down to look and taste what’s there.  It’s fun and excuse me for adding, healthy too!

A quick review reminds you that when designing your yard, put in plants that feed  ALL your senses, eyes, ears, nose and mouth.

 

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