Letters from Stonewell: Garden Design

Spring Flower border

The exuberance of Spring.

Speaking personally, the creative work of making paintings,or creating gardens ,or designing  interiors (even writing about them), emerges from the same place; a passion for beauty, harmony,grace, clarity,colorfulness and, perhaps most importantly, a sense of playfulness.  I share a professional commonality with painters, landscape designers, landscape architects, interior designers, architects, sculptors, and, yes, farmers and gardeners. My interest in horticulture, and the studies I’ve pursued in this field, are similar to those that I pursued in painting; knowing my materials and tools, knowing the history of the craft and the art. Pigments, paints and techniques are supplanted by plants; trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals, and their behaviour and how they contribution to a landscape, and yet, I still garden like a painter. I see the big picture and focus on the overall effect, not the details of particular plants and their attributes.

Andrew’s vision comes from a different place. Born, raised and having lived most of his life in a designated protected area in England, the Yorkshire Dales National Park, his point of reference is farmland; sweeping vistas of sheep and heather clad hills and dales, into which are nestled villages, into which are further nestled, like Russian dolls, cottage gardens nestled within those villages. He knows those personal, private gardens. They create luxurious floral displays and fecund kitchen potagers in cozy settings that suggest homeiness, intimacy and respite. Andrew’s horticultural qualifications, through the Royal Horticultural Society, have provided him with the training and education to objectify and analyze the workings of  gardens and landscapes. He’s good at it, and, as a stone artisan, he understands the importance of hardscaping and structure in a landscape.

We share a dialogue about gardens and garden design. Perhaps not always verbal, but usually visual; we move plants around, we place shrubs and perennials in different locations, we shift ourselves and the plants to various places until we find an arrangement that we feel can,and will, in time, become settled,rich, beautiful, exuberant. Only then do we commit to a garden plan, and when that happens there’s a sense of great satisfaction we share because we know that our individual strengths have come together, in a way that could not have been articulated through language or pen and paper, but through a shared sense of beauty.

I don’t remember who it was who said that creativity is ” 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration”, but whoever it was, he/she wasn’t far off the mark.

I’d like to think and write more about the process of creating a lifestyle along with a landscape into a more self-sufficient and aesthetically satisfying environement.  With this is mind, I took the plunge and registered ‘lettersfromstonewell’ as its own domain. The new location is ‘Lettersfromstonewell.com’ I hope you’ll visit often.

The Garden Enclosure; Part I: Building a rustic fence, this time, to last!

Deerproofing the Kitchen Garden with Rustic Cedar Fencing

rustic garden fence built out of cedar

cedar garden fence in a rustic style

Here we go again. We performed ‘extreme unction’ on the old kitchen garden fence, built with hardwood saplings, after the hurricane took it down. Few tears were shed. Building a fence with hardwood saplings is a fool’s errand and, when we built it, 5 years ago, we knew it and did it anyway. Why? Gardening season was upon us, we needed a rustic garden fence and we needed it fast. We used what we had on hand, a surfeit of saplings,an embarrassment of enthusiasm, and the inspirational drive to create an enclosure that would do the job of keeping undesirable creatures (deer, chickens, ducks, raccoons, etc…) out of the garden and, at the same time, enhance the rustic and humble landscape in which our home and garden sits.

The new rustic garden fence is being built with cedar, preferred by traditionalists for its durability and performance as a rot resistant fencing material. We had a supply. Challenged with ‘cedar apple rust’, a fungal disease hosted by cedars, that  afflicts apple trees and was threatening the health of both our established orchard and our newly planted apple espaliers, we made the difficult decision to cut down the 15 mature cedars (30′+ high) that served to screen the front of the property in an effiort to eliminate disease and improve the health of our fruit trees. Mindful and task-driven, we harvested the cedars trees with care and deliberation, cutting the timbers to sizes, lengths and dimensions that would suit our future rustic fence designs. We stored them and seasoned them for a year to bring us to the place where we now find ourselves; creating anew, our kitchen garden enclosure.