Thursday, December 09, 2010

Pocket Doors and Pocket Gardens

Thursday, December 8, 2010

Already 8 AM here on the mountain but the thermometer has not budged since 5:15 when I booted up. It's still 5.3° and that makes it the coldest night so far. The drop in temperature, thick frost and snowflakes yesterday afternoon make everything a dull white this morning as if someone took a bakery shaker and shook confectioners sugar everywhere. It's nice but I'm sure the critters and birds would like to see some sunshine. Apparently Karl the Wonder Dog has a built-in barometer as he refuses to budge too!

When fall clean up is finished, my daily activity turns to working in our 70 acre forest. It's too big a piece of land to set one-man goals to get it all spruced up but I work away at maintaining woods roads and cutting firewood for subsequent years. Just when I think I am making progress, a big storm comes along and downed trees make me redo previous accomplishments. Last week's record winds made me take several steps back but actually the winds brought down some dead trees that needed to fall but might well have been dangerous to approach and cut.

With winter, Gail and I can read more, and catch up on needed correspondence. We also watch television shows on what else--gardening-- and garden design--but also on home renovation and restoration. When you have grown up in New England and have an appreciation for anything old, you know a lot of unusual things including what a pocket door is. A recent show discussed single and double pocket doors which slide from inside the adjacent wall(s) providing privacy when needed. No traditional door knobs on pocket doors but interesting pulls and locks. They can be opened without taking up floor space when "free and open" is the desire. The show reminded me of efficiency of space and that led to thoughts of smaller garden spaces--pocket gardens.

The world of gardening continues to change as society influences what is "in" and what people have time, finances and space for. Everything seems to go full cycle and the gardens of my youth which were acres large and provided food for the next year, have shrunk to lot sized gardens, some under 100 square feet in total, next door to a condominium entrance door. As scale diminishes, creativity prevails.

I like to meet gardeners who have downsized their available space but still want to have an eye catcher of a garden. My friend Marie from Barre, Vermont moved to a condo and immediately missed her gardens at her previous house. She worked through the condo administration and gained permission to landscape the woodlands adjacent to her property and her gardening happiness continues, challenged but undaunted. I'm really proud of her persistence and what her efforts lent to her neighborhood. She is an excellent gardener with great color, texture and contrast skills.

So my thought for today is that the throes of winter is a good time to plan pocket gardens when you have or must downsize. I suggest that what you might already have started is a good place to rethink and continue on. Here's an example from one of our old gardens.

Years ago I began a shade garden off Peacham Pond Road. Before we began our new nursery, that garden drew thousands of visitors per year and offered some good ideas for gardeners and landscapers. This picture is a small segment of that garden which I suggest could be the start of a pocket garden where space is limited. Center image are three hostas beginning with Just So at the bottom, June in the middle and On the Marc at the top. To the right are some big leaves of a mature Hosta Fortunei Hyacinthina. The hostas are surrounded by tall native ferns which allow the hostas to be the attention receiving accents.

If this was your pocket garden, there are lots of possibilities. Any of the dark actaeas, Hillside Black Beauty, Pink Spike, James Compton or Brunette, each maturing at about 4.5 feet, planted towards the back, would provide some vertical to the design. More towards the middle or side, a painted fern or a maidenhair fern (both pictured just below) could replace one of the natives to provide varying color and texture. A few Japanese primroses could be planted next to a stone accent and then a couple different trollius could be added to draw out the hosta coloration from June through most of July here.

Obviously these suggestions are geared to zone 4 Vermont. The example I want to convey is that a pocket garden, as small as it may be, can offer the gardener and her visitors a fun assortment of plants in a small space. With real winter almost here, and while were talking pocket doors and pocket gardens, become a "garden idea pick pocket" and while you are reading gardening magazines and perusing seed catalogs, scratch out some ideas on paper and see how nice a collection you can put together. I'll bet you will be surprised!

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where only chickadees and a single nuthatch keep me and a cup of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters hazelnut company this morning.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm
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