Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Mary-Ann Gives Garden As Gift

Outdoor spaces are always on my mind. I live and work in them and I try to help others do the same. For me, gardening is about creating an outdoor space that suits your own needs and lifestyle. It's not just making the house look pretty from the street, it's making the yard inviting and useful. A large yard can be a challenge to design, but if you select a small area and allow the space to guide you, you can create wonderful outdoor rooms that are low maintenance and suit your needs.

My closest friend, Renata, owns a home two doors down from mine. It's awesome. We share meals, TV watching and hanging out, and, my favorite, trading talents. As you know, I am a gardener, and pretty handy in general, and Renata is the best hairstylist in Savannah. Works for me. I cut her grass and rake her leaves and she does my hair.

This year I wanted to do something special for her for Christmas. She has an enormous back yard, and it's full of trees so very shady. Renata is not much of a gardener and she has a big dog named Chuck who loves to poop everywhere. So I sat down to try and figure out how to create a space for her outside that would be easy to maintain and Chuck friendly. I began with the site.

I chose a small area just outside the kitchen door between the house and the side fence. It's private and cozy with good views from inside and it's dominated by a beautiful old crepe myrtle. The tree became the centerpiece for the project, and I designed the space around it. A bit of luck created the next element. I found a pallet of tumbled Pennsylvania Bluestone at Earth & Stone for 75% off. What a deal and solution for a poop-free zone! I knew that I wanted to create beds around the perimeter of the space, so I allowed the natural shapes of the stone define my borders. It's sort of like putting together a puzzle, a very heavy puzzle.

Once the stones were in place, I went through and set them with topsoil. Each stone must be set so that it doesn't move when you step on it. Finally, I filled all the cracks with topsoil and packed it down, then watered the whole thing in to settle. I was careful to work around the protruding roots of the crepe myrtle. It's not perfectly flat, but once we get some moss going in the cracks it should create a really pretty naturalized patio that looks like it's been there for a long time.

When the hardscape was complete I chose my plants. I needed shade plants that are tough and easy, but I wanted the area to have a calm feel. Renata loves Confederate Jasmine, so that was a must. I then chose three nice Tea Olives for more sweet fragrance, and a Fatsia and Philodendron for evergreen tropical-looking foliage. A fresh layer of pine straw and some white lights to accent the tree and my job was done. I did it alone in two days, and it was hard work. That's okay, because the result is a whole new room for Renata. She loves it, and is already making plans for a barbecue.

Take a little time this month to think about your outdoor space and what it could do for you. Maybe you want to grow food or cutting flowers, create an outdoor entertainment area, or just find a secret spot to escape. Your new outdoor room is waiting.

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