The Covert Garden

The clean up work in the area next to Shades of Lavender is going rather well. I can't believe I cleared out seven bags of debris! Since this is not an official garden I decided to refer to it as The Covert Garden. Not too creative I will admit but for now it will do.

After tonight’s last bit of clean up it will be time to add a little garden to this spot of earth. I was flipping through ideas for plants in my head, coming up with a few good ones but I felt like I was falling a bit short. I don’t know about you, but I always fall back on favorites. Not too silly of an idea for I know the plants will do well. However, I do not want to get into a gardening rut. To ignite a bit of creativity, I turned to some garden experts.

When I am not in the gardens, or at my 8-5 desk job, I am blogging for Horticulture Magazine's web site as Adventures of a Landless Gardener. Everyone knows Horticulture readers are the most creative and talented gardeners, ever. So I presented The Covert Garden to them as a Design Challenge. And have they responded! I received some great ideas via the web site and on Face Book.

I have not settled on plants yet, I will work on a few ideas this weekend. What I do know is that I don’t want this bed to overshadow Shades of Lavender. This is a sunny spot and I will have to hand water the plants. I also did not need height for the view beyond the wall in the winter is very nice so I don't want to block it. Rather, I want to draw visitors to a view they may have easily missed. A short backdrop may be nice, such as box woods which are also planted in Shades of Lavender. So much to plan!!


A Supporting Garden

A forgotten area that just called out to me.
This is before I started weeding.
There are a few odd areas around the Adopt-a-Plots. They are not official gardens but are in the heart of the area or adjacent to a garden. The gardens have been around since about 1980 so I am certain that over the years gardens have come and gone. Areas that were once maintained by local garden groups have been let go; perhaps the club dissolved or members refocused their efforts elsewhere. Plots that were once defined have been lost to mature shrubs, lush ground cover or misplaced signs and maps that once marked the spot of a garden.

After a bit of weeding this area is starting to look much better! I do not want to distract from the neighboring garden but just add a few plants so the area looks alive and tended to, not forgotten.
That is how I came to this little nook. It is not really a garden but it shares the same opening as Shades of Lavender, an official Adopt-a-Plot garden. It is a prominent spot at the top of the stairs leading to the gardens. I started to poke around the area last week when I was pulling out ivy and grapevines. As it is now, it looks a bit like a dead end. The mulch path leads to a wall and then nothing. With Shades of Lavender adjacent to the walkway, visitors are always peaking around this corner. So, I decided to spruce it up a bit. The plan is to create a simple garden that complements Shades of Lavender, allows for access to the arbor garden for park workers and creates a nice vignette.  
Shades of Lavender, an official Adopt-a-Plot garden sits at the top of the stairs. It is such a pretty little garden and one of the first gardens visitors will see when they enter this area of the park. I do not want to draw attention away from this garden. Rather, I want to complement the garden.
This is not an Adopt-a-Plot garden, so it doesn’t warrant a sign post. Besides, I think I have my name on enough gardens as it is! But I still need a name for this spot so I don’t have to call it 'the area next to Shades of Lavender'… how does The Covert Garden sound? I think that will do.


Some Edgy Business

I am on a mission to eradicate the English Ivy around my garden, A Few of My Favorite Things. The ivy is encroaching on the gardens, climbing up the Magnolias and infiltrating the Loriope.  As you can see in the picture the beds are defined by yews which also make smaller garden spots around the Magnolias. To my knowledge none of the gardeners work on these areas- they are like a garden no-man’s-land. Not sure why. I cleaned the ones by A Few of My Favorite Things out as best I could (not the Poison Ivy ick, itch, scratch, scratch). I love the idea of Loriope, especially the variegated variety. Yes, it will spread, but in these small areas it is easy to control and there is no threat of it inching into a lawn. And best of all, it doesn’t climb!
Resources do no allow me to fill in the blank spots with my first choice, Loriope, so for now I will use Impatiens. Who doesn’t like these happy little plants?  Maybe, Scrooge and the Grinch.  The downside, I have deer. Sometimes they sit and watch me work, and I swear one time they were impatiently tapping their hooves, waiting for me to leave so they could get their graze on. As you can surmise, I spray for, or shall I say against, deer. I will also see if the stores still have Milorganite on hand. In my past gardens, that worked rather well and it is a great fertilizer.


Perspective is Everything

The layout of the adopt-a-plot area is such that there is a center lawn, with gardens plots along both sides and at each end. The lawn and gardens are separated by a primary walkway. A secondary sidewalk wraps around the perimeter of the area on the backside of the gardens. When the park is crowded, as it often is, the secondary walks are used. Travelers on the second walkway may not have the best view of the plots which are all designed to be viewed from the front (with the exception of the focal garden) but they do offer a few vignettes that guests on the main walk may miss, such as the view in this photo. From this perspective, the gardens have a lush, dense feel. One would not know that there is a generous lawn just a few yards away.


Dinner at the Park

I had dinner in the park with one of my favorite people, my sister.  It was so nice to sit and enjoy the park without getting dirty! Elizabeth is a very smart, funny lady who is full of life and creativity. It makes me happy just being around her. She has a kind soul and is very positive. She is just the person you would want to spend some time with at the park. 

Speaking of getting dirty, today is the day I invited the other gardeners to come out and work on our plots. I have a flat of annuals and three large Pulminarias to plant. There are a few new areas I hope to get to work on after I plant then weed and mulch the Medieval gardens.  So many fun gardens plans, so little time!  First I need to clean up! Ran a 4 mile race this morning. Did pretty good, just lost my pace and energy. I hope I didn't hold my dad back too much. Darryl did great on his first race, very cool!


Raising the Bar, Garden Style

A very pretty little hosta garden with a stone bench.
I spent some time with the head of our adopt-a-plot group reviewing the gardens and taking note of who needs to weed, tend to the ivy or simply complete their plantings. With the Fourth of July fast approaching it is time for all the gardens to be in top form.  A few days ago I sent out a call to gardeners to come and work on our plots this coming Saturday. I wanted to meet everyone and I hoped the invite would rekindle some of the enthusiasm that seems to be lacking with just a few.

Even though there are many of us, I seldom see another gardener when I am working on my gardens. It is my hope that if we have a few regular work days, we can inject a bit of camaraderie and a social feel to the Adopt-a-Plots.

I feel an urgency to maintain the garden plots to their fullest potential. With budget cuts, the park is already short handed. Virginia Creeper, English Ivy, Grape Vines; they are starting to encroach everywhere you look. Their rigorous growth is also spurred on by our very wet, warm season thus far.

Putting Down Roots II, my shade garden
I feel a strong maternal, or shall I say, protective feeling towards the gardens. It is my third year at the park and I no longer feel like a guest in the gardens I adopted but a bonified owner, and this feeling of ownership is sweeping across the entire park. I want to see the gardens  thrive and I want to protect them. That is why I have become a bit of a garden task master. It mostly comes down to my desire to see the gardens as works of excellence. Let's raise the garden bar...... Now, I must get to the park and tweak my gardens!!


Woefully Underdressed, Again

I have been a bit consumed with the adopt-a-plots at Ault Park lately. The gardens look wonderful and I want them to stay their best. If I had my way, all the adopt-a-plot gardeners would be at the park, each day, tending the plots. ...

I glanced down at my once pink garden gloves and for a moment felt like the ugly step-sister left to dig in the dirt while her beautiful sister married the prince.  More


A Garden with Style and Design

The Japanese Garden is a foliage garden with a defined style. It is one of the few adopt-a-plot gardens that has a structured design. Many of the gardens are arranged like a bouquet of flowers, with the gardener selecting and arranging plants that work well together and have a variety of shapes, textures and heights.  The Japanese Garden is different in that the individuality of the plants disappears and what is left is a fluid picture, as if a painter took Loriope, Hostas and moss instead of green paint to create swaths of color in a painting. My gardens at the park sit in a vase on the table and The Japanese Garden is the painting above the table; a work of art.

The Japanese Garden is also, by far, one of the favorite gardens of park visitors, at least of those that stop and talk to me.


More than gardens at the park.

By now you must think that Ault Park is one big garden. To me it is. However, we do have more to offer than plants. Wednesday night is bike night. It is pretty fun to watch the bikes fly by. I do not know a lot about bikes, but even I can tell by looking at them that these are some pretty cool rides!


Taking a Moment to Look Closely

When you spend a lot of time at the same garden you start to notice the small details.  That is one reason why I am so in love with gardens and gardening. Even if I have been away from the park for just a day or so, our adopt-a-plot gardens look transformed. There are new flowers in bloom, seed heads where there was once flowers marking a shift in the season and the filling out of gardens. And then there are the small details. Once you start to notice the small details of plants you begin to appreciate them in an entirely different way.


A Star is Born - From Adventures of a Landless Gardener

 Don’t talk too fast, don’t talk too fast, don’t talk too fast… played in my mind as if on a loop as I sat on a wooden box and a producer from ThinkTV fed me questions. I wanted my enthusiasm for Ault Park to radiate not clobber viewers.  But how could I not get excited? The station was here to film a television show on Ault Park , one of my favorite places in the city and my garden away from home.  Read more.... at Horticulture magazine!
The crew sets up for a day if filming.