Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Circle Garden

Or so I've been calling it.  It's a circle right now but the final shape will likely change.

In spring we rented a sod cutter and in a random move dug out a circle in the front yard.  What for?  We had no idea.

Hey, let's put a circle here!
At first I thought it would be full of perennials.  Maybe those extra lilac shrubs I was hoarding.  As I viewed the scene though another thought rose.

Circle accomplished - now what?
I stepped back.  All the way back.  Back to the road and viewed what that circle would look like against the shed, the house, the driveway.  What I realized is - it needs to be much bigger.

Step back and it's not a very large circle
That circle is awful small when viewed against the size of the house and the mature trees surrounding it.  And what about those trees?  There's a large white birch directly behind it, some aspen to the right.  If I could combine that circle with the trees already in that area I could create a break between the front and back yards.  A line of trees would hide the driveway and provide a backdrop for any future beds in the front yard.

I felt like I had hit on the right idea and that solved the issue of what to plant.  More trees.  Conifers would provide a backdrop for other plants and provide a year round screen.  I also liked the idea that they would require far less work than a perennial bed.

The result is somewhat sparse looking.

It includes a 'Neon Blue' blue spruce, dwarf Alberta spruce, 'Mint Julep' juniper and two serviceberry bushes.  Several 'Chocolate Chip' ajuga were added as ground cover.  Given that the blue spruce alone will eventually reach a height of 30 feet and width of 17 feet I didn't want to crowd anyone.

I did however start planting outside the circle with the idea of creating a proper screen.  Several Eastern Larch and a Yellow Birch are on either side.  A Diablo Ninebark was also planted but perished for unknown reasons.  I like the contrast of the purple leaves with the evergreens so much though that I think I'll buy another one next year and try again.

It will take a few years for this spot to really start showing much growth but I'm quite happy with how this spontaneous bed turned out.  One of the hardest aspects of landscaping to me is coming up with an idea to start a project.  Sometimes I'm overwhelmed by all the empty space but sticking a shovel in the ground and digging without worrying about how it will all work can inspire ideas that I didn't know I had.


  1. I love "island" beds, so much better than lawn. And going with instinct works for me! Those trees will be awesome, and with water they will grow quickly. You have a huge area to garden! I like the house too.

  2. Marguerite though you say in your previous post areas of neglect there are also areas of progress as shown here, the screen of trees will look lovely and provide wind break as well as back drops for other plants, I love your large silver birch, I've been looking for a blue conifer that will grow large as I too have the space but the shop in town only seems to get dwarf and slow growing varieties and buying by post/mail is very expensive, I love that your line of trees won't be a straight line but has this bed along it to break it up and add more interest, I think we have to live with our gardens for a while to get a feel for what would work best for both us and the garden, Frances

  3. Your circle bed gave that corner just what it needed. In time your spruce will balance out the birch behind and add texture and color. Nice job.

  4. It looks like you live in a bit of heaven... love your wide open spaces. Let your imagination soar as you dream up ways to garden this beautiful land. Love your circle garden... designed, planted, now patience. :)

  5. I think you are right about the scale required for the context, and a belt of varied trees sounds perfect, creating privacy, shelter and year-round interest. I think you are on to a winner Marguerite, and I like your philosophy about just getting stuck in and seeing what evolves, beats getting frozen into indecision any day!

  6. I know what you mean about being overwhelmed by empty space and no idea what design elements to try. But you are so definitely on the right track with bigger beds, linked beds, and using conifers, trees, and shrubs. Those are the bones. The perennials come after as accents and fillers to tie things together.

    I love that you started by cutting a random circle in the front yard! It's a great design starter, as you discovered.

  7. Hi Marguerite, I absolutely think you are on the right track. If I were you I would have started with the same larger elements too.

  8. I think trees are the perfect solution. Don't worry about how small they are. All the trees on your property were once seeds! :o)

  9. With the first few photos, I was thinking crop circle---alien mind control impelled her to dig a circle. However, I think the finished product will be beautiful. Sometimes you just have to dig in.

  10. I agree, landscaping huge spaces is hard. I think you made the right decision about your circle bed. The contrast in foliage is going to be lovely. Your place is enormous how much acreage do you have?

  11. I'm so glad you like my frog pond! The total cost was about $175. It could have been around $100 but I fell in love with some beautiful rocks at our local but overpriced garden center. I used carpet squares for insulation but other gardeners with ponds also recommended just layers of old carpet or rugs. Give it a try!! :o)

  12. I was looking at your little circle thingie and I kept thinking of a kidney or warped peanut shape. I'm quite useless, really, in the garden. I've never really applied myself and hubs warns me to stay away unless it's just for pulling obvious weeds. I don't know WHY he feels that way.

  13. Marguerite girl I love circles .. maybe that was what the whole crop circle thing was about ? hehehe
    Yes .. larger elements take a lot of patience on our part waiting for them to fill in .. are you going to stick some Spring bulbs in there for good measure ? : )
    If you like dark and light elements playing off each other, consider Royal Purple and Golden Spirit smokebush .. now that is a show stopper !
    Joy : )

  14. Linnie - we definitely need more beds and lots less lawn! three hours a week to mow on a ride on mower, it's ridiculous. I would love to turn it all into garden. You can see I'm terribly impatient :)

    Frances - I agree that it takes time to live in a space and make decisions about what changes you would like. I've found the same thing with our house. Only now after two years am I really coming up with ideas on how to change it to better fit our lives. The garden is much the same.

    Thanks Donna, balance is a good way to put it. Small plants would have looked odd in the space.

    Carolyn - it is a bit of heaven here. Lots of space to garden, plenty of sun. I've been dreaming about this garden for years. We're very fortunate to find ourselves here.

  15. Janet - I've had quite a bit of indecision in other parts of the garden, it was nice to have this piece come together more easily.

    Laurrie - I think the size of this lawn is overwhelming at times. Just cutting out some grass was a way to get over the mind block.

    Jennifer - it was a bit of an accident that I decided to put trees in here but looking back I'm so glad I did.

    Tammy - that frog pond is just so great and once I have more beds and areas sorted I'm sure I will find a spot to install one. Thanks for the wonderful idea.

    Carolyn - LOL, mind control! not sure anyone was directing my actions on this one but once I'd gone and made a mess of the lawn it seemed easier to contemplate making some changes.

  16. Melanie - oddly our property isn't that huge (for rural). Just under 3 acres but because it's almost completely lawn it looks much larger. We also have an empty field directly behind our house that makes it look bigger but the field doesn't belong to us.

    Michelle - that will be the next post! I also dug out a kidney shaped bed right at the entrance (or The Amoeba as Jody likes to call it). When we first moved here I was worried to pull any weeds, they were different from those on the west coast and I couldn't tell what was a weed and what wasn't.

    Joy - you read my mind. I thought about putting bulbs in there but my planning is terrible. I weeded planted and weeded again then heavily mulched this bed. Then I thought about bulbs. I suppose I could have moved the mulch aside to dig but by that point I was exhausted with this spot. Bulbs will have to wait another year but I'm imagining some lovely snowdrops here.

  17. Funny how projects seem big until you step back and see it in relation to the rest of the garden. Sorry to hear about your Diablo, I love Ninebarks. I have one Coppertina and two Lemon Candy. Great shrubs.

  18. Janet - I'm not sure what happened with the ninebarks as I purchased 3 last summer and two of those have died. The third is in miserable condition and I'm not sure it will survive the winter. From what I've read these shrubs aren't normally bothered with pests so I'm unsure what the issue might be.