Loving gardens does not make me a gardener. Donning gloves to pull weeds, digging holes, removing dead foliage – tasks associated with planting and maintaining a landscape are NOT how I choose to spend my free time – I’d definitely rather be working in my studio.
Never having studied about gardens or plants, my horticultural style tends toward the “dig and plop” school – I dig a hole and plop the plant in – it if thrives, fabulous, if it doesn’t – I pull it out and plop in another type of plant.
When we down-sized from our 1918 Arts & Crafts home to a brand new townhouse, the yard was a blank mess. Two totally inappropriate columnar hornbeams (generally regarded as windbreaks or driveway trees), a sodded lawn and several small shrubs were the only growing things.
The compacted grass sod (laid on top of the notorious “Ballard” hard pan – a clay layer made worse by construction) refused to allow any water to permeate its surface, resulting in numerous, small muddy lakes. Every time our dog Rose ventured into the yard 20 minutes were then devoted to cleaning her sodden fur and dirty paws.
Spending a year looking at this soggy space spurred us into action. Ripping up sod (that was attached to plastic webbing), digging 30 feet of a 3-feet deep trench and inserting a bamboo barrier (our back-fence neighbor has a bumper crop) and amending clay soil (chock full of rocks and construction waste) occupied a good portion of our second summer in the house.
The increasingly tall hornbeams were traded for several lovely Japanese maples and more trees were purchased (we have 14 in all – some in pots, most in the ground). 1000+ pounds of pea gravel, hauled in one bag at a time, replaced the grass and assisted in soaking up some of Seattle’s ever-present rain.
Gardens are always works in progress and ours continues to evolve and change. While I still do hate weeding, I now know that creating a calm, beautiful growing space is just another way of making art and well worth my time.