Permanent Structures

Most landscapes have basic structures, as in driveways and walkways.  This under construction landscape project features site specific architectural elements that address certain needs. The lower portion of this steel fence will soon be hidden by a row of yews matching the lakeside planting.  This fence and gates enclose a dog run, and were specifically designed to keep a local population of coyotes out. The horizontal vineyard bar in the top portion of the fence repeats the branch motif of the privacy fencing on the lot line.  The plan for the garden includes drifts of shade tolerant perennials, and lots of groundcover.  A single pot that splits up the gravel path through the garden is tall enough to keep the dog from rummaging through it.  A tall planting will be visible from outside the the run.    

cane bolt handle

Though the fence has a specific purpose, that does not mean it can’t be designed for some visual interest.  A cane bolt is a long piece of steel that goes down into the ground.  This keep one of the two gates in a fixed position.  The bolt needs to be lifted up to release the gate.  The handle on this bolt is not only easy to grasp, but it is friendly to the eye. The curves echo the circular staircase which connects the lower level terrace to a second story terrace. There are lots of structural elements in this one area of the garden-not the least of which is a covered porch with stone-clad columns.  I like iron and steel as a material in the landscape, as it can be very light and airy looking, as well as strong and stury.   

steel fence

The top of the fence culminates in an iron shelf.  I have never designed a fence with this feature before, but I have never designed with coyotes in mind either.  The shelf will hold rectangular wire baskets, with summer plantings.  Apparently coyotes do not grip and climb-they leap over fences.  The hedge of flowers 6 feet in the air will be much tougher to leap over that a fence.  The double hedge of yews is 6 feet wide.  Any coyote hoping to get in here will have to get up a full head of steam, and leap 8 feet in the air, and sail a considerable distance before they land.  I am by no means sure this will work, but it’s my best effort and securing the space.  Not to mention that I think flowers on top of the fence will look great.

garden pergola
Landscaping a lakefront property poses challenges relating to the view of the water.  Most people who live on lakes prize their views of the water-that seems only natural.  The placement of trees are restricted in some communities, so no neigfhboring views are compromised.  This pergola will be planted with roses and clematis, and perennials in the gravel.  The steel structure will not only be softened by the plantings, but it will eventually provide shade underneath from a source alternate to a tree.  Even when the plantings mature, they will never obstruct the upstairs views of the water.   They will frame specific views from the terrace and library.  Between the pergola, and the neighbors iron fence, a hedge of small growing trees will screen the lot line.   

wood arbor

Hard structures in the landscape can take many different forms, and are built for all kinds of reasons.  Some structures are built whose primary utility is a personal expression about beauty.  I enjoy this part of gardening as much as I do the plants, as I value seeing the evidence of the human hand, and the hand of nature, in concert.   

cast iron fountain

English cast iron fountain

garden dining

decomposed granite terrace

antique French iron gloriette

garden gates

steel garden gatesfaux bois arbor

concrete faux bois birch log arbor

alfresco dining

garden dining table and chairs

fountain pot

fountain and antique Doulton face pot overlooking the lake

antique faux bois

antique faux bois bird cage

stucco wall

stucco wall with integral shelves

stained concrete pots

acid stained concrete pots

garden furniture

garden furniture

bluestone terrace

dining terrace

stone walls, pergolas, fountain and terraces under construction

antique faux bois

antique French faux bois garden bench

wood pergola

wood pergola

Valders stone

This fountain is one of my favorite things about my own garden.  I built it with money my Mom left me 10 years ago.  It reminds me of her, as she was an avid gardener who also encouraged me to take some time off now and then-you know, maybe go to the beach.   It provides me with a place to unwind, and take a little time off.  In addition to the history behind it, I like the look and the sound.  I like to get in it when it’s hot.  This is a big structure in my small garden that gives me a lot of pleasure.

A Garden Room

It has been four years anyway since I made my first visit to this property-and I know I did in the past discuss some of the landscape issues involved that prompted my client to call.  She is a busy executive with little time to fuss when she gets home, but she loves everything about relaxing outdoors after a long day.  The terrace was small, and the landscape not so satisfying. The landscape company which keeps up with her commercial properties came in on occasion to spruce things up.  The biggest eyesore was a gravel and rock area that made a big visual discussion of a drainage area. 

We greatly enlarged the terrace, curving the front edge out into the yard. After the installation of the terrace, we regraded the ground around it in a graceful way. The poor drainage we dealt with-underground.  We got rid of the rock edging, and painted the garden furniture a dark bittersweet chocolate color.  She bought some containers for her terrace.  These are just a few sentences that describe a big chunk of work.

We added a fountain, and perennial gardens off the terrace-views to something from inside and out.  But one problem yet remained.  The terrace is in full sun all day long.  This sun is not so condusive to relaxing, reading, or entertaining.  We began to talk about a pergola.  A pergola not only encloses a space, and provides structure, it can provide some welcome shade. A pergola can transform an outdoor space into a garden room.  They can provide a framework upon which to grow plants.  Big vines, such as wisteria or grapes need very sturdy structures.  Friendly vines such as clematis, Dutchman’s Pipe, honeysuckle and the like are just greatful for the support.  Tall lax growing plants such as climbing roses are lazy and sprawling-a pergola can introduce some order.  But my client was interested in shelter-some shade for the space that would make it more comfortable.  

I designed a very large pergola, some 15 feet deep, and 20 feet long.  It covered the better part of the terrace.  The design is simple; the detail repeats the X detail of her upstairs balcony terrace. It took Buck quite some time to design how to build it such that it would be perfectly rigid and sturdy. It took even longer to build; the main 20 foot long truss was built as a single piece, for strength.  This volume of steel is incredibly heavy; he has a bridge crane that will lift 5 tons.  He straps the steel pieces to a giant hook; the crane moves the pieces into position so he is able to weld.     

Outside of the main truss, the rest of the pergola was built in sections, so it could be transported relatively easily, and assembled on site. GP Enterprises, with the help of a miniature loader, enabled the assembly to be done safely.  One machine to lift pieces aloft-lots of people to guide, steady and bolt.  I so regret not being there to watch the assembly-I am sure it was quite an operation. The entire installation took 5 hours start to finish. 

Her spring pots still look great, but I am sure we will plant them differently now that she has a garden room.  This pot could easily be a home for a morning glory, or hyacinth bean vine.  Malabar spinach would run wild over this roof.

We plan to plant perennial vines, but that will take some time.  I made the suggestion that a fabric roof panel might provide some instant shade while the planted roof is growing in. 

It will take some time for this very big object to be assimilated into the space.  Every gardener knows a garden is a work in progress, and that spaces evolve.  When I first met her, I do not believe she spent much time outdoors.  Some years later, I think she is very excited by the prospect of outdoor living.  From the first picture to the last-there have been a lot of changes made here-all of them for the better, I think.

Furnishing the Sunken Garden

Willoughby0003Yesterday’s essay spoke to the issue of creating privacy in small urban gardens.  An addition to this existing home had all but eliminated good access to the rear yard.   I took my clients by surprise-suggesting that French doors into the garden from the rear wall of the garage would readily solve that problem.  So solve the problem we did. 

Willoughby0018The last issue regarding views was specific to the addition.  A master bedroom suite had been built over the garage-complete with views from three windows to neighboring yards.  As is would be some time before the perimeter plantings would screen second story windows, a pergola outside the new doors from the garage seemed like a good idea; the roof of the pergola, and its wisteria, would provide the room upstairs with a view.

As my client is an architect with great skill and even better taste, all I needed to do was make the suggestion.  He provided the design.  This outdoor space with a roof overhead would become the dominant feature of the landscape. He had no problem understanding that even small spaces need a big ideas.  A large dominant element in a small space does not necessarily overwhelm the space.  It can in fact have the opposite effect. Small elements can easily read visually as disconnected elements.  It is simply easier to relate small gestures to a big gesture.  All the smaller elements will have this big relationship in common.willoughbyBased on a grid, the pillars and roof of the pergola have great visual appeal. A decomposed granite terrace provided a hard surface that would work for a soaking tub, a table and chairs for dining or reading.  They would decide how to furnish the space, once it was finished.   

willoughby (3)
We were able to continue with the installation of the plants out of the range of the pergola construction.  As my clients favor informal plantings, I selected plants with an eye to informal habit, and contrasting textures.  Some evergreen elements would help the appearance of the garden in the winter.  The waterfall and weeping hemlock would be front and center to the view from the inside out.

July14 107The garden has grown considerably in the past eight years.  A wisteria now covers the roof of the pergola; at some point, a good pruning will be in order.  Maintaining a dappled shade under its roof makes this spot a fine place to be on a hot sunny summer day. All the plants, from a great specimen of Magnolia “Elizabeth”, to a collection of hostas, are thriving.

July14 102The lindens have grown considerably, and provide a great deal of privacy to the garden. Pots of annuals and furniture warm up and greatly personalize the space.  As a guest at a birthday party here this past June, I was so pleased that the landscape provided space for people to sit, talk, and interact. Over fifty people moved from inside to outdoors and back with ease.  No one’s eye was directed to or interested in what was next door.  Having dinner at this very table, I felt this very small space worked, and worked in a lively way.

The cars that are usually parked in the garage spent the evening on the street; imagine taking your guests through your garage to a party!  I can report that it not only worked, but guests seemed to find it great fun.  I did not realize how these unexpected doors would create a happy mood before anyone set foot in the garden.  My job has rewards; I was there, and I saw this happen.