Sunday, 5 January 2014

Garden Bones and Arteries

Garden Bones and Arteries

A Present for Takis

After our first year of working on the house when we returned to Australia I presented Takis with a rolled up scroll, tied with a ribbon, as a birthday present. It was a watercolour sketch I’d made of how we might lay out the garden - my first plan. To please him I’d made sure there would be no lawn as he suffers from hay fever. To please me there would be roses and jasmines and various paths leading off onto various garden adventures. To please us both the central area would be given over to vegetables.

Plan 1

The sketch took into consideration the basic requirements, such as the weather (Mediterranean), the givens of this site (flat and square), and what we had inherited from the past (certain trees and outbuildings). I had tried to take into consideration all the practical aspects of what we needed. And, a sucker for romance, I had also included a couple of wild garden spaces where we would let the wild flowers sown by Nature bloom in spring.

Picture of wild spring flowers

But it was still just a dream garden at this stage, for at the time the ‘empty football pitch’ had turned into a ‘builder’s yard’. There were piles of sand and gravel to be turned into cement, piles of old roof tiles and pavers that we hope to use somewhere, and rubbish waiting to be carted away. And, though I might get an area all tied up and think I could start, the workers would take over again and deconstruct the area again. However, slowly, something began to take shape.

I had a grand scheme nonetheless the scheme was often adjusted over the next year or two and compromises of many kinds were made. As with the work on the house the method used in garden development was also ‘organic’. Thus there had to be a plan 2 as we made more room to park cars, hang out washing, and I decided changed the layout of pathways in the hot garden which were too formal for my liking, and I worked out a way to limit the strict formality of the vegetable and herb gardens.

Plan 2

Paths – the arteries of the garden

To have a herb garden, a vegetable garden, a shady terrace and a hot garden I needed to plan for a number of garden ‘rooms’. But I didn’t want them to be boring so the paths were different to provide a distinct ‘feel’ to each room, the aim being to create a difference in the style of one’s travelling through each area. 

Herb garden before and after
In the herb garden you could smell the scents as you wandered around small formal paved walks.

Shade garden, before and after
In the shade garden you would want to walk alone or sit on a bench to look at a distant view. 

Hot garden before and after
In the hot garden you could perambulate around a gravel path. 

Vegetable garden before and after
In the vegetable garden the paths would need to be straight but wide enough to push a wheelbarrow.

Pergolas – the bones of the garden

Pergolas give internal structure, and by creating different levels they add variety. And covered with vines they give shade which adds a wonderfully romantic feature by sometimes screening part of the garden, or adding a mysterious, hidden, quality as you look through then to other parts of the garden.

Main walk before and after
Our pergolas cover the main walkway and the terrace close to the house. The main walkway leads from the car park to the terrace and it needed to be wide enough for two people to walk side by side. 

In England if pergolas are too near the house they only darken the house and wet and dripping areas on terraces, they are usually placed at a distance to give a view and added height for even more flowers than are in the flower-beds. In Greece they are close to the house to add extra, thick, shade in mid-summer. Most of the vines drop their leaves so that there is only filtered shade in winter.


‘Every garden is now wanting a pergola, that pleasant shape of covered way that we have borrowed from Italy.’ Gertrude Jekyll

‘I much enjoy the pergola at the end of the sunny path. It is pleasant while walking in full sunshine, and when that sunny place feels just a little too hot, to look into its cool depth, and to know that one has only to go a few steps farther to be in shade, and to enjoy that little air of wind that the summer clouds say is not far off, and is only unfelt just here because it is stopped by the wall.’ Gertrude Jekyll

Ongoing Structures

Having a structural design enabled us to enjoy my garden even before the plants filled it out. Of course as the plants grew we enjoyed the structures even more; all those lines of focus towards a tall tree, the variety of leaves and colours in garden beds beneath and on pergolas, the different textures as we walked or scrunched over the paths.

The paths are now laid, most of the trees are planted, and the worst digging done. And in my kitchen I am already benefiting from what was sown in the vegetable garden this year. However designs are still being discussed and erected. This year for instance we added another archway, leading from the shady walk to the vegetable garden. This was to replace the one that was nearly achieved from two cedars, but unfortunately died at the end of one very hot summer.

And Another Arch

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