The Cutting Garden: Design Evolution

When I started this blog, we already had our vegetable garden design well in hand and made only a few relatively minor changes to the berry beds. That design didn't just emerge fully formed, though, and I thought you might perhaps be interested to see how our garden designs evolve over time as we think about our needs for the space and the resources we have.

Because we have so much extra loam, I am getting those cutting beds for flowers. You can check out a photo of the space here if it's hard to get a feel for it in the drawings below. This is located on the northwest side of the screened in porch, adjacent to the berry beds. In the drawing, the berry beds are visible in the lower part — you can see the edges of those raised beds in the center and to the right. In the lower left-hand corner is the edge of brick path that runs across the back of the house. The border to the left is the porch foundation, across the top is a fence and gate opening, and to the right is more fence, which reveals the non-right-angle-ness of our property lines. 

So in this drawing is our first idea: add a basic 4 x 12 foot raised bed in line with the blueberry bed, and add border beds at ground level along the edges, all the way to the gate. This isn't very creative, but it gives the most planting room at over 200 square feet. The central bed takes advantage of the area with the most sun throughout the day as well--the edges are shadier depending on the time of day.

Somewhat more creative is drawing #2, which adds to the idea of the central bed by making it a cross. That takes some room away from the border beds, though, and they are cut back to be too narrow to be very useful. Also, the center of the cross is hard to reach to tend to it, and would have to be planted with something big and easy to maintain (like a peony, maybe). The border beds here have some more natural, curving lines — something we thought might be nice after all the angles of vegetable garden.

After some internet research and image searching, I tried a more traditional parterre arrangement. This echoes some of the geometry in the vegetable garden, but could be more formal for flowers. It doesn't leave much room for those flowers, though, because the paths take up a lot of the planting area.

Kirk said we should have something pointy — I think the word "boat-like" came up in that discussion. So here's that idea, and it's cool the way it kind of pulls you along to point down to the gate. (It is literally down, by the way — there is a sloping drop off in the last 6 feet or so before the fence, which is why most of the beds kind of stop to leave room for that. because we just might be too lazy for terracing.) I thought we could perhaps add some flagstones (we still have tons leftover from previous owners) and that old concrete bench in the top left corner, which is nice and shady, to kind of fill in that area. Oh, and to move the bench away from the compost pile and chicken coop, which really probably isn't as aromatic as a flower garden.

I saw a circular keyhole garden plan online, and thought that was also a good place to put a bench. To fit it in this space, this is how it ended up. Unfortunately, it still doesn't really fit, and the paths around the outer edges are just too narrow. Too bad, because it would be a great little destination to sit in the center of those flower beds.

I thought about throwing these up for online voting, but Kirk and I are a pretty solid design team of two. After spending a morning standing in that space and digging through our wood scraps, we ended up deciding to go kind of practical on this one. Since we obviously aren't all that great at knowing how much loam we'll need to fill raised beds, we decided on a step-by-step approach to this design. 

Step 1: The narrow bed along the fence (upper right). This will be raised, and terraced to handle the slope. We are making it in 4 sections, which allows us to use some medium and small pieces of wood leftover from the vegetable garden beds. The good news here is that this whole section is free because we are using materials we already have. This doesn't stretch as far back toward the raspberry beds as in earlier designs, because we decided that a nice, big space makes it less obvious that the fence isn't squared off with everything else. It also ends at a fence post, which just looks right. This bed will be for tall flowers (hollyhocks, foxglove, valerian) to soften and sort of hide the fence, making a much better view from the porch and dining room — something that we decided was a major goal once we were standing out there for a while.  

Step 2: The raised bed in the center is a standard, 4-foot wide raised bed. We're confident we'll have loam left over for this after the beds in Step 1, but we'll have to pick up some lumber for this one. This is the sunniest spot in the cutting garden, so sun needs will determine which perennials and annuals end up in here.

Step 3: After these things get built, we'll see how much dirt is left for anything else. It's likely that eventually there will be a line of bulbs along the porch foundation, and we'll probably put in those flagstones and the concrete bench in the corner, maybe with some hosta to fill in the shadiest parts. Step 3 is a way down the road, though, so I'll keep you posted as we see how it goes.


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