Tuesday, April 12, 2011

On Landscaping....

At last spring is descending on southern New England and it is time to turn my attention to our "gardens". David and I have developed a different approach to landscaping and gardening and, because I plan to be sharing experiences, I think you'd benefit for an explanation of this approach.

We have lived on Ashbee Hill since 1978 and in those 33 years we have learned the following:

  • I do not have a green thumb.
  • Grass will never grown on our heavily shaded front yard. (We have replanted more times than I care to remember.)
  • Ninety-five precent of all purchased plants, shrubs, etc. will be viewed as candy by our local deer herd and demolished.
  • Vegetables are for the wildlife, not people.
  • We love watching things grow.

Our landscaping efforts are based on that which will thrive in heavy shade, poor soil, and regular deer attention. We have been transplanting things we find in our surrounding forest. And as we do so, we think about all seasons.

April around here generally means gray woods, brown lawns, the tips of daffodils popping up and happily the first blossoms. In other words, except for those very welcomed early daffodils, there is little color. I rely on shapes and texture to add interest to our front garden.

Our front garden used to be our front lawn but we had to replace the septic tank a couple years back. Instead of replacing the lawn with more grass that dies we decided to turn the entire area into a garden of paths, ferns, sculptures, and experiments. We hiked through the woods examining rocks and used them to create sculptures as focal points. They are the spring center pieces because all else is flat. These two (above and below photos) combined the rugged rock of Connecticut woodland with the smooth stones of the Rhode Island shore. Both have stood the test of time and seasons. They add to the garden when surrounded by ferns, blanketed in snow or being the spring focal point. Right now they visually anchor the barren garden.

As a side note -  creating rock sculptures is a great date.  My husband and I work together, find the rocks on our walks, devise engineering schemes to lift, move and place them. And then have an afternoon of rearranging and positioning until we agree on the right solution. We have wonderful time, end up with garden sculpture and the price is right.

We have also planted some ornamental grasses.  We purchased these at Garden in the Woods, a wonderful and inspiring resource located in Framingham, MA. It is worth a day trip if you live in southern New England. During the off season they provide visual interest as mounds styled with punk hair cuts.

And the staple of our landscape is Pachysandra. It is a very durable ground cover that the deer will nibble on during a very bad winter but generally it doesn't interest them. David and I have been transplanting pachysandra for 30 years now and we have thick, lush patches to set off the stone walls and walk ways. It stays green year round so helps usher in the spring as we wait for other buds to start adding color.

The gardening season has begun here on Ashbee Hill. We raked out the leaf and winter debris last weekend, and started discussing what additions and changes we'll make this season, as we wonder which of last year's experiments will return and grow again.

I also started working on my stone wall in the woods again - more to follow.

©2011 Ashbee Design, Marji Roy


  1. Fantastic Post, i love working with stone, it gives such a natural finish to the landscape and always ties in nicely with the surrounding plantings

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  2. Creativity is crucial. Thank you for sharing your photos :-)

  3. This work of yours is really artistic. Thanks for sharing it.

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