One of my favorite things to do in the cold winter months is to curl up with some books and notebooks and pens and just chew on some garden ideas. Research some things, sketch out ideas, throw them away, start over, bat ideas back and forth with Rich, and keep working ideas over until something feels right. Settled.
It is cold here. Bitter and damp, but with just a wisp of the snow we should have- half of it is ice. I’m trying not to be nervous as we head into a ten day stretch with overnight lows in the -12 to -18 range. Oh my poor un-insulated plants! Rather, I’m trying to focus on the planning and daydreaming of what strange plans could become reality. Much more fun and much lower stakes!
The biggest question mark on our landscape is the wide but shallow strip of land between the main garden and the orchard.
Once a proper path bisects this space, I think the difference in topography almost necessitates that one treats each half as separate. Though that would look too stark and disjointed without something larger visually dividing the space.
Right now, I’m leaning towards an arbor arcade of sorts. I’ll be something sturdy and will visually break up the space. Plus I can use it for grapes or wisteria. Or both! Something like this:
This would leave the flat East half and the West half with its River Birch and swale. The flat half can be anything- the row of pines will give me a bit of shade to bring in some more plant variety and will be a stunning backdrop to almost anything. The West half, well, that swale is a pain in my ass.
I’ve talked about this space before, and I do still intend to make a garden inspired by Princess Eugenie’s wedding floral displays. Its still a spectacular display and I’m still in love with it, but I think it will be better suited the the East half of this space.
This area, The Dip as I shall henceforth call it, is just dippy enough to be awkward, but does serve as a conduit for moving water downhill. With our sandy soil it isn’t usually a major issue, but it isn’t a space that could or should be leveled off or built up. I’m going to have to work with it, not against it. My brain went to a terraced sort of space, with all of the annoying logistics that go along with terraces, but no clear vision of what that terraced space would look like or how we would want to use it. Not a good sign.
After running out of my own ideas and books/Pinterest/Google not helping me at all, I asked Rich what he would do with the space. He said a wildlife pond. Huh. Alright then!
A pond would in fact lean into the natural shape of the space. It would also serve to utilize any watershed to refill the basin and provide water loving plants to deal with any excess. Plus it would give the space a focal point, be a haven to wildlife (and the dog), and merge well with the existing wattle fence and River Birch. It’s a pretty great solution and I’m sorta miffed I didn’t come up with it myself.
Well, to be fair I’ve thought of dry riverbeds and proper ponds with pumps and water features. But those would either look artificial or need electric run to it which is a no-go. It was the “wildlife” part that made this suggestion different and doable. No pumps. No electric. And not a river that comes from nowhere and goes nowhere. Perfect.
I was reminded of Gardener’s World a few years back (2015 I think) when Monty put in a second pond at Longmeadow- a wildlife pond. It was fascinating to watch it be built and to watch it grow and evolve in the ensuing years. I also came across one that I think is the general gist of what we’ll be able to accomplish (albeit in a different configuration).
Here’s the initial (very rough) mock-up I have for the site:
I apologize for the quality (or distinct lack thereof) but this should help you visualize the area. I would like to sink in a small set of sleeper stairs into the slope and plant either side of the slope with grasses (well behaved ones) like Little Bluestem and a smattering of pollinator friendly plants. Breezy and a bit wild. Then the pond itself will be deepest in the middle and consist of shallow benches leading to what is in effect a beach. This will all be surrounded by a gravel overflow/washout area that will deal with excess water but prevent runoff from entering the pond. A row of low but showy shrubs will line the wattle fence and the remaining areas will be planted with (hopefully) mostly native plants. There may be a few pavers to hold a bench and provide a place to stand/sit, but the showcase will be the pond and the nature that comes to live in it.
So, now I’m dying to hear what you all think. What harebrained ideas have you come up with in the depths of winter? Do you have a pond or have you had one? What lessons do you want to pass on before we tackle this project?