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Quote of the Day: Garden Structures

March 9th, 2014

Organizational structure is essential to the garden’s functional and aesthetic success. The paths, arbors, hedges, and other elements that create it are the garden’s bones. They hold the garden up, define it’s form, expand it’s possibilities and bring it to life. They are the framework on which the garden grows.

Linda Joan Smith (Smith & Hawken Garden Structures)

building_rock_pathways_in_the_garden 1
My previous garden waiting 6 years before pathways and hedges started to form a framework. I was hoping to get things going sooner here, but I’m still trying to figure out exactly where everything will be. This isn’t something you want to rush either since many of the features that add form to the garden are rather difficult and expensive to change.
boxwood hedge 1
Defining the form in a garden, it’s something I think about all winter as I look at the garden around me. Not only is it a good time to do it because there aren’t any plants to distract you, it’s also a good time because you have time.

What kind of framework do you have in your garden? Is it something you notice & appreciate in winter? Do you need to add features that add framework to your garden?

Structural Elements: Garden Edging

March 8th, 2011

Edging plays an important role of setting boundaries for specific parts of the garden. Not only does it provide a clear visual edge to different garden spaces, it keeps the lawn out of the flowerbeds and the peppermint out of the edible beds. Edging can be made of all sorts of things, from concrete and bricks, to metal or wood or a simple edge cut with a shovel. My mom’s neighbor uses cinder blocks for her raised beds in her edible garden.


I like edging my flowerbeds with stone. I have plenty of those in the garden and I think they help tidy up the edges. I have a few spots that I need to redo the edging because I want to expand the flower beds. Since our lot slopes fairly steeply towards the street, these work perfectly to keep the soil in the bed where it belongs. I like to cut a crisp in the grass in 3-4 inches in front of the stone edging because it looks nice and it makes mowing much easier.


This spring I need to add a row of large rocks along the lower side of my driveway. Since it slopes down towards the street and to one side, the gravel has a tendency to migrate into the flowerbed on the lower side. It’s quite annoying when I want to work in that flowerbed and have to spend half my time picking gravel out of the soil. It will also help with erosion control in the lower flowerbed as it will slow the water running off the driveway. I already have a pile of rocks that I’ve been collecting just for this purpose. Since it is the driveway, I’ll need to use larger rocks so they don’t get pushed out of the way easily. I should be able to collect enough large rocks from the various piles I’ve made around the gardens for this purpose.

If I didn’t have rocks all over my property I would consider using bricks as edging. I love the look of red brick like this beautiful edging around the kitchen garden at Ash Lawn Highland. I also love brick walkways as well, there’s something very classic about them.

I’ll stick with stone in my garden since it’s free and it looks really nice with my cottage gardens.

How do you edge your flowerbeds? What kind would you use in your dream garden?

Structural Elements in the Garden

March 7th, 2011

I’m currently reading Smith & Hawken Garden Structures by Linda Joan Smith and really enjoying it. This is the time of year in the north, structural elements are important in the garden. Since most plants have no leaves, there isn’t much left in the garden. If you don’t have shrubs, obelisks, fences or walls, you’re left with a flat expanse of snow.
Structural elements bring beauty and interest to the garden all year long, even when the plants are dormant. They can range from a simple path of native stone to grand fountains and everything in between.

Structural elements need not be hardscaping, they can be benches, obelisks, sculptures and even shrubs or trees. Potted plants can become structural elements in the garden if used properly and arranged in an artful manner. Of course these have to protected in cold northern climates and generally can’t be left in the garden during winter.



This is one area I really need to work on in the gardens at Chiot’s Run, my gardens are in need of more winter interest. I’ve been putting it off for a variety of reasons; time, lack of inspiration, the cost and I’ve been focusing on improving the soil above all other garden tasks. My goal this winter is to finalize a few plans for trellises, arbors, fences, walkways and other structural elements that I can incorporate over the next couple years.



If money was not an issue, I would have a big glass conservatory in my garden. A place to spend cold winter days, growing citrus trees and tropical plants. I may have a small greenhouse in my garden someday, but I’ll never have something as grand as what’s at Stan Hywet or Longwood Gardens. I’d also love to have tall stone walls surrounding a perennial garden with a reflecting pool, like this one at Stan Hywet.

If money weren’t an issue, what kind of structural element would you incorporate into your garden?

Chiot’s Run Labor Camp

April 13th, 2009

Well, that’s what Mr Chiot’s wanted me to name this post after spending the weekend gather rocks for some new garden beds and to line the driveway.
load-of-rocks
Mr Chiots spent some time each day this weekend gathering rocks for some hardscaping in our garden. We have tons of rocks everywhere, especially in the back woods. They threw all the rocks out there when the built the house, so there are piles of lovely big rocks that are beautifully aged with moss. The best part is that they’re FREE (just a little manual labor needed).
brian-gathering-rocks
These rocks sure come in handy when we want to define garden beds or terrace our sloping lot (see What to do With an Abundance of Rocks). Every year we add more and more of the to the garden.
pile-of-rocks
I love the look of the natural native stone in the garden, you just can’t beat the look. They blend right in and look like they’ve always been there. Especially when it’s got alyssum or thyme cascading over it, or is being overtaken with some sedum.
rock-wall
I much prefer it to the square retaining wall stones many people use, although I realize some people don’t have easy access to free rocks like we do.

Are you a rock wall lover? What do you use for hardscaping?

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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