Despite lots of raking by both Mark and me, there are still plenty of leaves that need our attention — especially after our windy weekend. But I decided to grab the camera before I reached for the rake. The brown needles below are from the Dawn Redwood tree.
The design of our garden — especially the area behind the house — was heavily influenced by Japanese aesthetics. We loosely incorporated three styles of Japanese gardens into our design: Pond, Stroll and Tea Gardens. If you look at the map you can see the pond is the centerpiece of the garden and is of a size and location that we can see it from inside at all seasons. There are multiple paths that let us stroll around the pond to enjoy different views and Mark designed and build a stucco Tea House at the top of the slope next to the Header Pool.
Other than digging and shaping the pond and setting the largest stones, Mark did all the construction himself.
The view from the deck not long after we moved into the house in the autumn of 1994. It was the perfect blank canvas.
The same view in the Spring of 2012.
Looking towards the bright yellow house you can see two more of the major selling points: access at ground level and a window wall to let us enjoy the garden from indoors during the winter.
As I mentioned last week, we created many small, distinct gardens that all link together via a series of path into a unified whole; what we refer to as "the big idea." The TSUKUBAI GARDEN is right off the deck and is a Mid-westernized version of a traditional feature seen at the entrance to Tea Gardens. We often made mock-ups of features, including cardboard "rocks," to help us visualize the final product and give us a sense of the proper scale and proportion.
Here you see the path coming around from the West Gate to the Tsukubai with assorted stepping stones sitting where they will ultimately be set in place. Early plantings are in the ground and the water feature is operative. We replaced a traditional stone bowl with a ceramic pot made by a local artist and a metal pipe replaces the traditional bamboo flue.
A few years later the plants almost hide this feature and the house has been painted. The old pipe has been replaced with antique copper.
The pond took an entire summer to create. Mark worked on his own or with a young landscape architect who also drove the bobcat and hired the backhoe driver. The top of the stone retaining wall is ground level. The back yard strongly sloped upward which was helpful in creating a natural looking pond. We used some of the dirt that came out of the hole to create small hills. You can see the "shelves" that circle the pond which are used to hold the pots of water lilies under water.
The hills have sod to prevent erosion as it was an amazingly wet summer. The bottom of the pond is dirt with no rocks or rough spots, topped with sand and a layer of old carpet. The final layer is rubber. Note the sea of mud that goes across the width of the garden and stretches from the pond to the deck. It stayed that way for at least a few years.
The rubber liner is in place and large stones are being set inside the pond. Mark and our landscaper, Jon Adams-Kollitz, are standing on carpet to protect the liner as they wait for the rock to be swung into position. It is glued to a sheet of styrofoam with a cement collar and has not shifted in 20 years.
The gives you an aerial view from the roof of the house. I suggested we add a grass square to repeat the geometry of the deck but give it a twist as though it was under the deck and sticking out at the edges. We also added bluestone pavers to contrast with all the natural stepping stone. The triangle off the deck eventually was planted with a Ginkgo tree that my co-workers gave me when my Dad died. There are stone steps going up the hill to right where the Tea House will eventually be built.
If you look at the picture above you can see the long stone path and the front edge of the deck to orient yourself to the views below. The Tsukubai is off to the left and mostly hidden by foliage.
We decided we should have another gravel garden to relate to the Yin Yang garden out front and filled in this area. The view below is in the opposite direction from the image above with the Tsukubai on the right. The Spirea hedge never thrived and was replaced with a bamboo fence.
There's a pine needle path along the fence that goes behind the Tea House and meanders through the Sacred Grove at the top of the hill out of view to the left. You can also use the stone steps to get up to the Tea House, then turn left and cross the stream via stepping stones.
To the east of the pond we had a moss garden until we decided it required too much maintenance. We lost one of these apple trees and the remaining one is not in good shape so we are re-thinking this area in case we lose this tree. We started with a casual mulch path, then added a brick edge and then updated it again with gravel and a stone edge.
The front apple tree came down in 2015 but the area looks fairly similar today. The dry steam and bridge are between this mossy area and the deck. Note the path splits: go left around the the Turtle Mound and Katie's Crescent or go right to go behind the low hedge that edges the the Buddha Mound and along the Back Border where the gray gravel path continues over to the Sacred Grove.
When the neighbors whose yard adjoins ours announced they were going to have a baby, we announced that we were going to have a fence. Mark spent three years building this cedar fence. The support posts are pressure treated lumber and are sunk four feet deep to withstand frost heave. He created a design module so he could add more or fewer modules depending where the support posts were placed. He assumed he would hit rocks or tree roots which would force him to move the post and this was how he dealt with that problem while giving the fence a unified look.
The fence has a dramatic gate and the entire creation is topped with a cedar shake roof. The fence was designed to look the same from both sides. We're on our third set of neighbors since Mark built the fence and I think the presence of the gate has always made for good relations with each new family.
You can see from this image that we spent a lot of time thinking about hardscaping and evergreens, features that would make the garden interesting even in winter. The fence has turned out to be one of the best winter features of the garden.
If you look at the aerial photo you can see the stone steps that lead to the Hedder Pool and the Tea House. Turn left at the top of the steps as you cross the stream and you will see the Weeping Purple Beech that is the focal point above the yew curve.
As you cross the stream look right and you see The Sacred Grove.
I named this area The Sacred Grove right after we moved in. There was a huge old Crabapple tree, three Austrian pines, a big Juniper and some scrubby shrubs. It was woodsy and mysterious, the perfect spot for the Delphic Oracle to appear with a pronouncement. Alas, we've lost most of those trees including a couple of special ones that we planted over the years.
They turned my shady Grove into a much sunnier area and one that does not look that mysterious in early Spring. The Hedder Pool is between the big rocks and the Tea House.
Looking the other direction
The Sacred Grove in 2015.
We decided to create a lower maintenance area along the fence by planting Yew and Boxwood. We used cardboard circles to estimate mature size and how many shrubs we'd need to buy. The hose is marking the future path.
The view today with the Buddha Mound on the left. The arching tree trunks belong to an old Lilac. The tree in the back center is a Carolina Silverbell and marks the beginning of Katie's Crescent.
The Crescent was formed when we piled up all the grass that was removed to build the pond. Eventually it broke down into a beautiful planting bed which is home to Geranium 'Biokovo' and a weeping Katsura that we've trained to create a leafy tunnel.
We're having a computer problem that is keeping me from accessing our photo archive. So I don't have any photos to show the story of the Tea House. This link gives you a timeline and further links to construction details.
If you are a junkie for design construction details and step-by-step photos, you can follow the entire process under My Garden Odyssey in the categories list. As you know, posts are chronological so the last post is at the top of the list. The very first post on this topic ran on Nov. 26, 2008. Those little "You Might Like . . ." boxes that appear below link to related posts which is another way to follow this story if you start with the first post.
According to the dictionary the word panoply means "a splendid display." I think that's an apt description for the fall color in the garden this year. When we added trees to the garden I know we picked varieties that would give us multi-season interest including fall color. But sometimes when I look around the garden at this season I am amazed at how gorgeous it is. And I question how much of that beauty was planned and how much of it is an accident. I don't think Mark and I deserve all the credit.
Looking up toward the Moon Garden from the front door.
At the edge of the Moon Garden looking toward the street standing on the West Gate path that leads to the back garden. The orange leaves belong to a Pagoda Dogwood and the yellow to a native Witch Hazel.
The Witch Hazel is blooming with its leaves still on the tree. That hasn't happened for a few years and it makes it almost impossible to see the flowers. I guess that is one of the few downsides of our warm weather.
Our Burning Bush has never had better Fall color.
The back garden is a brilliant display of intensely red Korean and Japanese maples, along with a big yellow Ginkgo and striped-bark Maples.
The yellow foliage is a Korean maple.
Turn around and there's a peachy-colored Stewartia on its way to turning red.
The red and orange leaves belong to Korean maples (A. pseudosieboliana) and the yellow are striped-bark maples. In the foreground, a dwarf Ginkgo is about to drop its leaves.
A tiny Korean maple, caged to protect it from the rabbits.
Visitors to our garden always want to know the identity of this tree. It's a Honey Locust that is about 62 years old. It provides beautiful dappled light but in the fall sheds an amazing amount of tiny leaves and stems that clutter the ground and clog the gutters. I think many homeowners get annoyed with this part of its personality and cut it down long before it achieves this magnificent status. We're willing to put up with the leafy debris in exchange for the drama of its presence in the garden.
If you blow up this last photo you can see the size of the Locust's trunk at the right front edge of the deck. And you can see the ladder Mark uses to get up onto the roof to clean out the gutters and blow the leaves off the roof!
I planted this 'Tiger Eyes' Sumac a while ago, knowing that it would be about 10 feet tall in a mere 8 years. I am hoping it starts to shoot up a little more next summer so I can prune some low foliage. If you look at this photo from July you will notice that those long drooping leaves obscure what's growing next to the tree and completely hide what's growing underneath. This whole area seems too full and undefined and I really think it's the result of the Sumac currently functioning more like a shrub than the tree I imagined when I bought it.
As the leaves began to fall off I realized again how little is visible of the small Epimendiums and lovely Blue Bunny Carex planted under it.
There's actually room for more ground covers, so I am hoping I can make this area work a little better next summer. A friend who was visiting yesterday was surprised that my Sumac leaves were just about done as hers were barely coloring. Mine don't really color up much so I am not sad that they're gone!
We could not have enjoyed a more lovely fall day today. We've passed the midway mark in October without a killing frost in the city and a high temperature of 68 degrees F this afternoon. So many locust leaves have fallen that they've obscured the paths, the grass and the pond. It's all one golden landscape. I swept the leaves off the deck and set up a work station at the table. Cleaned all my garden tools and now just have to sharpen and oil them.
Went through the garden gate at the top of the steps and gabbed with our neighbors who were out working on their side of the fence. Then Mark grilled a steak to take advantage of the weather. These garden shots were taken through the windows after I'd come in around 5 p.m.
When I went around closing some of the windows, I couldn't resist the shadows the trees outside our our bedroom windows were casting on the curtains that were billowing in the breeze.
Hope you were lucky enough to enjoy a beautiful day as well.
Though most trees in the garden are still quite green, the big maple trees — Sugar and Silver — are among the first to turn color and drop their leaves. The Locust trees are dropping leaves so fast it looks like a snowstorm some days as they pour down. They cover the ground and obscure the outline of the garden until we have the time and energy to clean them up!
My favorite understory Maple trees are also turning color. Acer Tschonoskii is mostly yellow.
Acer mandschuricum is slowly moving towards red.
A day later and it has arrived at red!
This unknown Maple is a bright exclamation point in the driveway garden.
Monday's temperature was at 76 degrees F. in the early evening and we haven't had a killing frost in the city yet. So who knows how long we will have green trees in the garden this fall.