I have mixed feelings about going back. One would like to think that a landscape would grow and go on once planted, but that is rarely the case. I side with Henry Mitchell on this. He says there are no beautiful old landscapes. Beautiful landscapes are a result of the intensive care of the present. Landscapes that fare well are well looked after. Even so, 20 years is a long time. Though I planted this landscape 20 years ago, I was not so worried. The client is a gardening person with a sincere appreciation for nature. I am sure he got this from his Mom-who is a quite the gardener. They had to replace a second story deck that had rotted. The landscape in that area would need to be redone.
I did have the chance to see how the landscape had weathered the years. This triple trunked acer campestre was barely 8 feet tall when I planted it. The placement in the lawn made it look lonely years ago. Small but so good looking, it was a tree worth waiting for. It is a chunk of a tree that has grown on to considerable size. Even the bare branches are an effective screen from the neighboring property. I would bet it is lovely in full leaf.
A second garage needed some softening. The bed in front was very narrow-what would thrive there? A pair of 2 gallon hydrangea petiolaris did not make much difference when they were planted, but now that garage has a cottagy look that is appealing.
A 10 foot tall London Plane tree planted 20 years ago has grown considerably. The euonymus hedge behind is probably 15 feet tall. But for one thin spot directly behind the London Plane, everything seems happy.
The view to the lake from the side yard is framed in a variety of evergreens. I like the informal tunnel look. Best of all, all of the plants seem healthy. They’ve been looked after.
A pair of redbuds on the lakeside did what redbuds do in open settings. The have that typically windswept look that comes with age, dieback and weather damage. The center of the left hand tree sustained some damage, but the side branches on the edges seem to be growing fine.
With the new deck in place, the attending landscape will need to be redone. In some ways, this can be a blessing. A construction project sweeps away the bad as well as the good. Though I cannot remember what I did with my reading glasses 5 minutes ago, I do remember what the landscape looked like here. I have a chance to make it better.
Certain features I still like. This bluestone terrace was designed in 3 sections-with a space for plants. It helps to visually break up a large terrace space. What was planted here, I cannot remember. There is no doubt that my plant vocabulary is better now than it was 20 years ago. Even if what was here was good, there is a chance to do it better.
It is difficult to tell from this picture, but the stone wall here is 8 feet tall. It is a retaining wall for a private upper level terrace. The entire property is steeply and irregularly sloped from the street to the lake. The wall was all but obscured by a hedge of 6′ tall Magnolia Jane. Who knew Jane would grow this tall? This spot is in need of a new idea at ground level.
The house is very tall out of the ground, and of course the views of the water are paramount. A columnar gingko does not obstruct any views, and is now as tall as the roof of the house. Gingkos are taprooted, so they can be a good choice for planting in close quarters. They are also very tolerant of urban pollution, making them a good city tree.
The upper level terrace is completely private now. I am sure there are plenty of glimpses of the water from here.
A picea abies cupressina, a columnar spruce, has adapted well, considering how close it is planted to the house. A large open area would have been an ideal place to plant, but ideal places do not always exist. Difficult places always seem to abound-funny this.
The lakeside stone terraces were planted intermittently with the white rugosa rose, Blanc Double de Coubert. Not all of them have declined to this extent, but they all should be replanted. A lot of plants have been lost. Bare soil is an invitation to the weeds.
Some plants thrive, others never take hold. Lifespan, damaging weather, neglect, illness, an errant basketball-there are always lots of chances for things to go awry. But sometimes what goes awry can inspire a better design, or a more useful one. Some places in my garden decline because they don’t interest me anymore. If a spot doesn’t interest me enough to take care of it, then perhaps a little change is in order.
Given enough freeze and thaw cycles, even this huge slab of stone will break down. Just like the wood in the deck finally rotted beyond repair. What happens next might well be very exciting.