Sunday, October 11, 2009

Exterior Decorating

The concept of decorating outside spaces intrigues me. Just to think about carving out "rooms" in our yards gets my creative juices going. At our riverside home, we had lots of space to work with in a long, narrow yard shielded by trees and huge shrubs. A perfect palette! We put in hundreds of perennials, shaped wildlife habitat (such as a small pond and a quail hideout), and planned many vistas, like the one in the picture above. This view from the deck of the chimnea, aspen grove (with its hidden basalt throne), cliff edge and eastern end of the valley was one of my favorites, a picture I took frequently. My best shot was one of a rainbow in the east, ending on the treasure that was my husband as he gardened.

Now in my small urban place, the same kind of brushstrokes are being made. I carted 15 small trees, 7 shrubs, and a handful of perennials with me when I moved here. They've really helped turn a tiny yard into a number of "rooms." More tree, shrub and perennial plantings have helped create an aspen grove (with a log seat); an outdoor breakfast nook with wrought iron bistro set surrounded by walls of climbing roses; a long bank of native plants to lure hummingbirds; and two raised bed gardens that serve as cold frames when the snow hits. Out front, a berm stands guard between the house and street. Deep pinks and intense blues dance out from the magnolia, rose of sharon, butterfly bush, willow, dogwood, penstemon, larkspur, and hundreds of tulips and Japanese iris. It's a sweet moat of petal and leaf.

My latest scheme is to carve a winding path in back from the sunroom to the breakfast nook. I designed it to be narrower at the far end to "trick" the eye. Along most of it, I'm building a berm: blooms will serve as sentries along this trail. The pivot of one curve is a willow standard: a fluffy shrub grafted to a tall, slim trunk. It should provide long whisps of delicate green, breeze dancers to entice folks to wander out on the path.

As much as I love the aesthetics of outdoor decorating, I don't savor all the physical tasks. Shoulders ache this morning from shovel-work and glutes are sore from kneeling for hours. I really liked the time I hired a landscaper. I just told him what I wanted (a winding rock path, a berm with Japanese maple, and hundreds of summer-long blooms) and voila! it was done. All I had to do was write a check.

That's not always possible, though, so I'm going to head back out to my embryonic path and shovel some more. While out there, the images of vistas to come will waltz through my head, over and over, round and round.

1 comment:

  1. So much work! And yet, I find it astounding that so many people have such flat, featureless yards, given the wonderful possibilities. Our yard is currently in a state of in-progress pathways, huge pile of mulch which is being whittled away at and a berm in the making that currently looks like a pile of sod (because it is) but I see the finished product in my mind's eye and that keeps us moving. Wish you had a guy like Ray to do more of the heavy lifting and digging--it does make it easier!