September 16, 2012

The Bluestone Walk

The walkway that runs from our driveway to the back of the house is an area that I never think of as a garden.

It is utilitarian -- a way to get you from the front to the backyard. It was never meant to be a garden space.

But as I pass by the grasses and shrubs planted along the walk, I realize I am in a special place. It is green and cool, a quiet passage as I go back and forth busily between gardens.

Even though I know exactly what is around the bend in the walk, I love the perspective as it opens up at the curve.

This first shot is going from the garage toward the backyard.

I put in grasses and dwarf Alberta spruces to hide the A/C units. Not very imaginative, I just wanted to hide things.

Then one day I realized that the utilitarian screening was a beautiful mix of green textures and forms. I think this looks like a garden, intentional and designed, even though it was never planned as one:

I am no big fan of dwarf Alberta spruces, at least not the way they are used in most landscapes. They are too symmetrical, and look funereal, like they were made only to flank headstones in a graveyard. But you can't get a better dense evergreen screen for a very small area, and so I planted them around the utilities against the side of the house.

And they look wonderful now, mixed in among arching miscanthus and a couple dwarf fothergillas:

There was so much to hide at first. I just wanted to get from one end to the other without having to look at anything along the way. In the beginning, this is what I had to work with. This was six years ago:

And now, looking in the same direction toward the driveway and the house across the street, I am in no hurry to pass by. I stop and look around.

And in case you think it is my camera angles that disguise the A/C units, this shot shows that you can no longer see any utilities along the side of the house*:

In a few weeks the plants in this narrow strip will turn vivid colors as the fothergillas turn kaleidescope shades of orange. The hydrangeas will temper that with their soft rosy brown panicles. There's a blackhaw viburnum in the middle that becomes wine red.

I'll post pictures when that happens. Because, you know, this walkway is a real garden, worthy of a lingering stroll, deserving of some pictures, and just a nice way to get from here to there.




* the air-conditioning repair technician is not happy with this.
 

36 comments:

  1. I was wondering what the utilities guys must think of this! It is a beautiful garden, and the fact that you didn't 'plan' it shows what good basic instincts you have. I am impressed with your dwarf alberta spruces and how well they have grown! I would never associate them with tombstones. Here, most of us are limited to plastic flowers in little urns approved by the cemetery.

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    1. Deborah, Thanks so much. I just can't warm up to Alberta spruces, but they look good here and fulfill a purpose and I like it as a whole. Just goes to show what can be accomplished without a plan!

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  2. I *love* your garden. It also seems to hide the neighbor's house, when you compare the before picture to the after. It doesn't even look like the same area. The a/c guy can just get over it. It's great.

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    1. Crafty Cristy, you are so kind... thanks! I did say pffft to the A/C guy, but he was not amused, and a $300 bill this summer is making me rethink the dense plantings. But . . . I like them. So there.

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  3. Wow, wow, wow, what a transformation over the years. Just beautiful. Love all the varying textures, forms, and heights. Be sure to take some pics in the fall when the colors change -- I'd love to see it. How wonderful to have such wide side yards.

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    1. Toni, thanks for admiring! I will take fall pictures in just a few weeks, and post them. The change to autumn color is really dramatic along this walkway.

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  4. This path looks beautiful and is so inviting. No wonder you enjoy your walk from front to back and forth. I bet your neighbors like it too.

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    1. Lisa, it does surprise me how I like to make the trip back and forth along this path. I do it all day long, too, as my potting bench is in the back and my supplies are in the front in the garage!

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  5. AHHHH! SO stunning!!! How do you like the blackhaw viburnum? I just added 3 for privacy on my side yard. It is amazing to see how far your garden has come and the combinations of textures from the shrubs and grasses is amazing! I planted some purple moor grass in front of my unit but I like how you used the dwarf Alberta spruces with the grasses. Do you have to trim them to keep them off the unit??? I was a bit nervous about planting too close to the unit. Any advice you can give me would be appreciated...this area has been frustrating for me and yours is inspiring!

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    1. Garden Diaries, I do love the blackhaw viburnum (V. prunifolium), but it's not elegant. It is densely twiggy and the branches go every which way giving it a coarse, wild look, which I like. I have two, and am training the stems into just two or three thick stems, to be more upright and tree like. Your privacy screen of blackhaws will be great and their twigginess will work as a screen!

      I do not prune the Alberta spruces or grasses at all. Advice --- don't plant anything so close to the A/C. It has caused problems for us, as the units do not get enough circulation. $300 for repairs this summer. If you have the room, put plants a good three feet out from the units. MIne are too close.

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    2. Thanks Laurrie! I am using the blackhaw viburnums in a shady area and am excited to see their progress in the next few years. I started with the mohawk viburnum but it was not dense enough. As for the units I am going to do my best to keep things further away...space is an issue and it is so tempting to go a little closer. My space is more narrow than yours so I think I am going to have to stick with grasses and small flowering shrubs and perennials. Just love your bed! Outstanding!

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  6. An amazing transformation! You've created a wonderful space.

    Over what period of time did you put in the plants?

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    1. Sweetbay, thanks! I planted most of this strip in 2007 (the Alberta spruces, panicle hydrangea, fothergillas, grasses, blackhaw viburnum), then added lower things later (the hakonechloa fountain grasses, some groundcover sedums).

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  7. I love your walkway. It looks like it is leading to a secret garden further ahead.

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    1. Stiletto, I like the sense that there is something secret ahead too, even though I know the space so well... thanks so much!

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  8. A wonderful walk way! I like the spruces as they can add an architectural component in a space needing a line or some definition.

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    1. Jayne, Welcome! I'm glad to have another Connecticut gardener here. The spruces do add architecture, they are almost like furniture with their density and bulk!

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  9. Personally, I like Alberta Spruces and you have used them beautifully in your un-designed utility coverage. The before/after pics are amazing!

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    1. Zoey, thanks. I like to look at before and after shots, and love to come across them on other blogs. It's always inspiring. A little time in the garden creates wonders : )

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  10. Your unintentional garden turned into a lovely walk. Sometimes the best gardens are created by chance, but in this case the gardener certainly played an important role.

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    1. Joene, thank you! Chance gardens can be wonderful -- this was a little chance and a little intention combined.

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  11. I sometimes think that the best parts of my garden are the ones that weren't planned and that I can't entirely take credit for. I have a similar (in spirit) passageway to the back garden. It is very shaded and I often sigh with relief when I open the gate and move out of the blazing sun and heat of the driveway. Your walkway looks wonderful now that it has filled in. It is amazing to see the transformation from the "before" image.

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    1. Jennifer, I know that feeling of passing into a shady spot, coming in out of the sun, and that is what our walkways provide. It's such a nice experience.

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  12. Laurrie, you have a knack for creating beautifully textured gardens using primarily green plants. Walkways make the best gardens I think-especially when they are so frequently used. I'm looking forward to the fall series!

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    1. Sue, I don't have much hardscape in my half acre, so this bluestone walk is one of the few areas where plants, greenery and stone combine. Thanks -- I do love walking back and forth! Fall pictures to come.

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  13. Really beautiful Laurrie! Love the fothergillas tucked in there-this is the greatest shrub, one of my absolute favorites and I am very excited to see the upcoming fall photos! Love the hakonechloa. This is a plant I do not own as of yet but have been eyeing it for awhile now-waiting to find a good place for it to be. How much sun does this area receive?

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    1. Diane, this area faces directly west, and the broad side of the house is clad in light colored vinyl, which reflects. But from dawn to about noon it is in deep shade from the shadow of the house, then gets blasted with west sun all afternoon. A problem exposure, but the fothergillas don't mind and all the plants are doing well.

      The hakonechloa gets relief in the afternoon because it is low, and plants on one side of the walk shade the very lowest layer of plants on the other side, so it's ok. Hakonechloa will want shade, but can take some sun if they have to. I hope you plant it, you will not be disappointed!

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  14. This is indeed a beautiful garden, Laurrie! I like the Alberta spruces--I've seen them used alone, like a row of sentinels around a house, and I agree they're nothing special then. But combined with the grasses and shrubs in your side garden, they really add a nice vertical accent.

    Ha, ha, I bet the A/C guy isn't quite as appreciative of your garden:)

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    1. Rose, Thanks so much. I do think the key to using Alberta spruces is to make them a layer in the garden with other plants, and not have them stand alone. The A/C guy was indeed a little disturbed when he saw how dense the plantings were around the units.

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  15. That is such a great Idea. I have my gas, and air condition along one side of the house. I couldn't block the gas since it needs to be change periodicity but the air conditioners - I certainly could! Thanks for the inspiration!

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    1. Ruth, I'm glad you found this an inspiration. Just be sure to keep enough room around the units. My plantings are too close to the A/C and really need to be further away!

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    2. I know. If I don't the air condition sucks them in :-)

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  16. I think this area is really beautiful!! I love all the different textures, especially the grasses against the evergreen. I had no idea you had a/c units in there! Does all the foliage cause air flow problems with the air conditioners? Also, what do the red doors near the ground lead to? Is that a storm shelter?

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    1. Tammy, thanks. The plants are in fact too densely planted around the A/C units and we do have airflow problems. I would recommend to others to keep plants further away. The red doors are the entrance to our basement stairs. We figured we couldn't hide those very well, so we highlighted them in a bright red paint!

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    2. I've always wondered what lay behind little doors like those. I always thought all basements could be entered through the house because that's been my experience. It would probably make a great root cellar. :o)

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  17. What a wonderful place that bluestone walkway has led to!

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