One of my favorite gardens of the year is the little front garden of a charming bungalow in Albany. It wasn’t a complicated or large project – in fact it’s mostly planting. But it combined three elements that make me love my job so much: though the project was small in scope, the budget was realistic for the vision; my clients are fantastic people who were extremely fun to work with; and the house is just as cute as a button.
When I first met with my clients, they had already cleared the weeds from their otherwise barren front garden, and covered it in thick black plastic. This is a non-toxic method called solarization that basically increases soil temperature to levels that kill simultaneously kills weed seeds (any kind of seed, really), plants and pathogens. Another benefit is that heating the soil helps organic material break down faster and release nutrients that are valuable to new garden plants. Another benefit is that the demo was done – which made way for more exciting budget choices.
The design consisted of drystack rock garden walls to address the gentle slope from the house to the sidewalk, simple gravel path (mostly for the letter carrier) that we jazzed up with tumbled beach glass, and plants that played with the color pallet of that charming bungalow. An iron rail is soon to follow.
My client had a lot of input about the general direction she wanted the garden to take, but trusted me to understand her vision and create the planting plan. I selected plants that can take the relatively harsh conditions of sun and wind, while still providing color and order. A forest pansy was a must-have in the garden. The beautiful stained-glass quality of the heart-shaped burgundy leaves combined with the colors of the house and painted concrete walkway drove the colors in the garden to pinks and yellows and chartreuse. Succulents and Mediterranean shrubs and perennials are massed throughout.
I have to say the solarization was a tremendous success – particularly in plant growth. It’s hard to believe the rapid growth rate of the plants in a short period of time. Though weeds are attempting a comeback, I have rarely seen such weed-pulling diligence as what the homeowners exhibit. The little postage-stamp garden is a stunner.
I don’t want to only credit the solarization in the success of the garden. I firmly believe that lovely, generous people generate abundance and life all around them – so it goes that it would evidence itself in my clients’ bungalow garden.
Ok – there is a fourth and very important reason I loved this job. One of my awesome clients is a professional baker. Two words: almond torte. Not just any almond torte – a perfectly chewy, light where it should be, dense where it should be, almondy all the way almond torte. They were gifts to my crew and I for working on the project, and I will remember it always.