The Harmonious Garden

Our church purchased an adjoining lot on the block this winter, and, after much talk, debate, and the usual dissention, a vote of the congregation gave the go ahead to create a contemplative garden on the new property. It is about 80×100 feet. The crumbling house on the lot was removed and the dirt compacted.

Husband and I were on the “Visioning Committee” that set up the parameters for the garden design with the help of an architectural firm that came up with a landscape plan that was approved by the church council.  It calls for a small worship space in the center of the garden. The worship space is located at the intersection of two, 8 feet wide concrete sidewalks that will form a cross.  There will be a meandering path around the perimeter of the lot, with a few round, concrete/paver  areas for benches scattered along the path.  There also will be raised beds for growing vegetable for the food pantry.

The lot looks atrocious now.

There are several stumps,  trees, and shrubs that need to be removed.  The ground needs to be prepared for the concrete work and grass areas.  The retaining wall around the edges needs to be fixed, and a handicapped ramp will be installed.

Our pastor asked me and Husband to be on the landscaping committee and choose the plants.  We agreed, especially since the other two members of the committee are guys who, in former lives, were professional landscapers.  They speak a language I don’t know, all about irrigation and how many yards of mulch we will need and how much crushed rock we will need for the meandering path, and the types and lengths of edgings. They want us to choose the plants and where the plants will go.

We need to find plants, trees, flowers,  and shrubs that are low maintainance, that will grow to the proper heights we need, provide color for as much of the summer as possible, and make it possible to walk the meandering path and feel a sense of peace and tranquility. Every time I look at the size of the lot I start to panic.  I have been reading a book called  The Harmonious Garden, by Catherine Ziegler which shows lovely examples of gardens all over the US, with different color and texture combinations.  Forget the New Testament. This book is my bible now!

How would you go about planning such a garden?

32 thoughts on “The Harmonious Garden”

  1. like eating an elephant
    one bite at a time

    start with groups of pictures you steal from

    do the overhead with numbers inside the circles and see ho the heights colors bloom periods jive
    then assign someone to do it

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  2. Oh… how I’d love to be on your committee! I’ve landscaped every home we owned (9)….including committee when we lived in a downtown historic brownstone in Denver. I’ve always loved researching plants native to the areas and in the case of the brownstone….old plants which would have been typical of the era/history of the building.

    Living here my task was a fun challenge. I worked with the natural….removed the ‘planted’ grass to expose more rock and planted native shrubs & trees in the reclaimed areas of shoreline which were rocked to protect from further erosion. (We trucked in many large boulders, rock & dirt on the ice of winter as it is the only way to access that area.of this property…an exciting time!) I pulled plants for certain areas to enhance the wildflowers, ferns and natural grasses. The only ‘non native’ planting i did was adding ‘donsted’ Hosta in some wooded areas to border paths…..and the Hosta has THRIVED despite my attempts at thinning…it has even transplanted itself!
    i’d not been able to tend the woods and rock areas for a couple of years during which to my delight certain wildflower took over as did some of the beautiful tall grasses so the landscaping has evolved to where our maintenance is ‘ ‘weed whacking’ the coupe of grass pathways and pushmowing the little area I finally agreed for husband to have his ‘tee box’. (He hits into the cove and later retrieves-dives for the golf balls)
    My pride is the Yellow Lady slipper just now blooming…it is ‘fenced’ with logs & branches for protection…and just this year A Nodding Trillium appeared. I believe many of my surprises have been planted by the numerous birds we feed. I have enjoyed letting nature take over as I watch…I do pull noxious thistled plants(weeds to me) to ensure the growth of those wildflowers & grasses that give me such joy.

    Well…I haven’t answered your question at all…just rambled on about my gardening esperience! Tim stated what I’d advise & have done in past years…noting size, color and bloom time of flowers & determing shrubs and or trees which enhance the areas you are planting. I do hope you will share your plans and photos when your garden is underway and completed! Enjoy!

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    1. I love triiium and lady slippers. Too dry for them out here, though. I am thinking we will have lots of hydrangeas . Ligularia for any shady spots.

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      1. i hate hydrangeas. no reason for it. they just are the opposite of appealing to me. to me they go with the wall paper of the 1940’s

        i love lupines but have never been able to plant them. they need terrible soil to thrive. sandy stuff nothing else lives in form my experience.

        two more thoughts… the 25 year plan. what is it going to look like in 25 years. it would be nice to have the architects do that sketch. in an
        80 x 100 foot space the entrance and exit should determine the flow of the garden. there could be and would be in my garden a couple of trees and maybe a boulder or two it the fits the geography

        if the cross is the pathway then figure out how to put inri on the path too and maybe the spots for nails and the footrest from an overhead view.

        i would also ask if it is visible in the winter. half the year is winter and it may be worth having a planting of evergreen and red branched dogwood to give you a winter garden as well as a summer one.

        enjoy the project. it sounds like a good one but put the 25 year plan in so the people who follow after you retire and leave will have a motivation to leave it and see the vision through rather than tear it out and plant a rose garden just like their mother had,

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        1. You just upload the photo to any of thefree photo sharing sties, like flickr, then post a link on the blog and it will embed the photo.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Quite the blank canvas. Everything you do will, of course, be wrong with some one.
    How about a reading nook–some high plants to give shade and privacy.
    Fire pit? Dog walk? Biblical plants possible, like weed and mustard? There cannot, of course, be any sculpture, Graven images, you know. Just kidding. Bird feeding be a part of it? Kids garden. Have first communion students plant wheat to make into bread for communion. (Our church does that.)
    On top of the bluff in Rhame I saw some beautiful native flowers. I will email you pictures if I can find them.

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        1. Also, things like creeping charlie that overtake a space and sometimes choke out the things you want more than the weed. Several years ago, I planted some morning glory seeds that turned into beautiful flowers. Year after year, they reseeded themselves, twining among other plants and choking them out. They really were beautiful but they tried to take over my entire yard, and I wanted a few other things besides morning glories in my yard. I thought of those as weeds and had to be ruthless with them in order to get a little control. Even now, years later, I find the little plants growing here and there. I pull them out before they can get to be a nuisance again.

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    1. I like your ideas NorthShore! Especially having the youngster/young adults getting involved in some way….making it ‘theirs’ too by way of participation.

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  4. Morning all. I’m really the wrong person to ask about this as my gardening has only had one long-term plan for over a decade which is “more flowers, less grass”. I’m actually making good Headway. By accident this year I put out some Mulch and rocks right where I need to bring the lawn mower up to the top of the front yard. So now I had to put out a couple more hostas and lilies and a lot more mulch in the top of the yard because I can’t get the lawnmower up there anymore.

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    1. That came out wrong. I didn’t put out the mulch and rocks by accident I just wasn’t paying attention to the fact that I would not be able to get the lawnmower up there anymore.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. If I were assigned this task, I would enlist LOTS of help. Though I’m good at planning indoor stuff, I’ve discovered that I’m not a good planner outside – I put things too close to each other, I forget about taking height into consideration, and have whole months where nothing is in bloom. I’d definitely delegate.

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    1. I’m always planting things too close together. I find it hard to imagine how tall and wide the plants will be when mature. (Just like life, I find it hard to plan for the future.) And there’s always the plants that, at least some years, grow much bigger than any book says they will be.

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  6. I’m not qualified to give many suggestions as to what specifically to plant other than to encourage you to favor plantings that require minimal maintenance. Native plants, for example, are proven hardy but they also tend to be invasive because that’s their job.
    My experience as a board member on the local community garden showed me that it’s difficult, beyond a core of “usual suspects” to get people to follow through on the work they’ve promised to do.
    In the case of the community garden, it was up to the board to arrange work assignments. As part of gaining a plot (for which there was a waiting list of over 100) plot holders agreed to about 6 hours of work on the common areas per season. Failure to meet that obligation could result in forfiture of the plot. Invariably, about half of the plot holders would contact us in mid-September, not having contributed any hours all summer, looking for something they could do to achieve their quota. By then, of course, the gardens were winding down and much of what was available was make work.

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    1. I absolutely agree about minimal maintenance. Everything I plant except in the hanging baskets, is a perennial and hardy and used to Minnesota climate. I have a friend who worries a lot and has special sheets set aside for putting out on her plants when there might be frost but in my world if the plants can’t live through what Mother Nature dishes out then they can’t be in my yard.

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  7. I do like Clyde’s reading nook idea – I would put in a pergola of some kind, something vining for shade over a couple of comfy chairs. And little brick pathways between things… Did someone already say bird feeders and baths? And whatever the flowers, lots of variety of color.

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  8. I am listing red currants, hazelnuts, ornamental grasses, lupines, and Morden roses. They are hardy roses from Morden, Manitoba. Also bearded Iris, and delphiniums, day lilies, and, goats beard and ostrich ferns.

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    1. Some monarda would be a good choice for bees and butterflies. I once planted a border that turned out very well with monarda in three different heights and colors, tallest at the back. A single clump in a gallon pot grows into a substantial clump within a couple of years and crowds out weeds.

      Another thing I would think about is the mulch. I’d try to find a lawn service that would be willing to come by with grass clippings and spread a thin layer between plants while they are getting established.

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      1. just have everyone bring their clippings on sunday and dump them in there. set up a table with lemonade and coffee for the post service social at the new boomgarten

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