Since 2012 (and admittedly before) I’ve been slowly mapping, planting and transplanting Gravel Gardens. At first I was over zealous. Impatient, wanting a beautiful low maintenance garden; I ordered hundreds of perennial flowers and planted them right away. Few actually survived.
My vision was for veggies, berries, chickens, compost and beautiful effortless seasonal displays for the least amount of money possible. Harvesting seeds from each season (as my great grandmother did). Recognizing my garden maintenance limits; I needed to devise a way to keep tasks at a minimum. I can do an hour or so then I wanted to be able to stop and enjoy it. Converting a majority of the property to no mow areas has helped.
Creating a space to dreamily sip tea, look at at romantic flowers, watch chickens do their work of eating ticks and working the soil, then go pick fresh fruit and vegetables for the next meal. A garden with a glut of flowers to have cut flowers for my house and have enough to share as gifts to friends and family without leaving the garden bare. Sounds nice. Hasn’t happened yet, but it’s still the dream.
Years were spent cutting back the overgrowth and moving plants around the property. One neighbor used to call the backyard Shangri-La because the neighborhood cats liked to lay under the overgrown forsythia next the our other neighbor’s beautiful tree peony.
It's taken almost a decade to figure out a more developed plan; one that has me resigning with pleasure and transplanting flowers around the yard again. The whole garden is made of flowers that were in the yard when we bought the place, sourced from generous peoples gardens, traded for at community flower exchanges, or bought as discounted items. I have managed to successfully harvest the zinnia, marigold, sunflower and squash seeds every year from those first packets. Discarded materials, that were hanging around friends and parent’s properties, were gathered in trucks and trunks with delight. Truck fulls of gravel were delivered. New plans made year after year, each one honing the master plan for a garden to suits our personal needs.
My husband and I call it Gravel Gardens: firstly it’s a lot of gravel, secondly it’s a play on Grey Gardens. It’s a bit silly, but every-time we say the it, it makes us smile. That’s what gardens can do, make you smile.
This area of the yard has been the bane of the garden (and our intended point of interest) for years. Originally we thought it would to be our dining and seating area that would be surrounded with seasonal flowers and vegetables but it has shown itself to be too hot for a place of rest. It’s only comfortable in the extremely early summer mornings, cool spring days, or fall late afternoons; it seems best suited for the veggies and not much else.
When we created the triangles, I wanted them to be a full of perennial seasonal flowers, but the tall flowers made the space feel cramped. They were moved to the Wisteria Wall border garden and replaced with veggies, annual herbs and marigolds, edged with wild violets. The center points of the triangles still have a few perennial flower bulbs: snowdrops, daffodils, allium and tulips which echoes what is now part of The Back.
Growing edibles is a always a big experiment for me. After trying a few times to sow seeds indoors, I have never successfully gotten them to grow enough to pot on or go to the beds. I’ve had I have better luck with started plants and direct sow veggie seeds.
Part of the 2022 revamp is defining a path and new triangle slated to grow herbs like rosemary, dill, parsley, sage and Sweet Bay. A floral point follows suit of the other triangles, housing daffodils, pink phlox, a yellow tulip and yellow irises.
The Correta Scott roses and a small pink tea rose were bought in our second year at the house. Originally in the center of the triangles, they’ve been moved in 2022 to along the raised bed next to the house with the mint and lavender.
This area is where we mow. A small lawn for playing and working in pockets of seating. It’s also the fruit and nut area: cherry, almond, blueberries, grapes, and espaliered golden delicious apple.
This composting wall of sticks and branches is woven among honeysuckle, wisteria and old lilacs that boarder the property. Created in the late winter of 2022, it’s proving to be a bird playground and one of the hens has enjoyed laying her egg one of the nooks in the wall. Making many days feel like I’m on an Easter egg hunt. The leaning old white lilac is under planted with yellow irises, orange day lilies, small pockets of Autumn Sedum and pink phlox. Then my seemingly never attempt to grow wildflowers, which is often botched by a surprise cold snap after planting. By the giant holly tree next Wisteria Wall is a row of transplanted pale pink peonies and orange day lilies.
This is where the garden really started. By incorporating chickens into out waste management efforts; our humble mini flock has served us well as members of the grounds crew. It's taken a few flocks to find the flow, some kinks have been worked out and we’re clucking right along. The outside of the run is dotted with blueberry bushes, the acts as the wall for the espaliered golden delicious apple, and is trellis for the rambling white grapes.
Carved out in 2020, two small rows of transplanted blackberries, red raspberries and wineberries (a relative of the raspberry) are a the tail end of the property. The original mulched rows are now is a buzzing bed of purple deadnettle for happy pollinators. At the end of a row is a beautiful young almond tree which graces us with has lovely pink spring flowers and started to produce nuts.