Two years ago Pat started to transform a grassy meadow near the barn into a forest garden. I couldn't explain it at the time, but I was struggling with our altering the natural environment. (Turns out, it would be the first of many projects that have altered the natural environment at Spring Bird). I was afraid of losing something or somehow wrongfully altering the landscape in some way, but as Pat it explained, it was one of the few places here that had some sun. So, this meadow, that had sported the horseshoe stakes and burn pit, had to become a garden.
Pat began with surrounding the garden on three sides with a dead hedge composed of honeysuckle branches and old logs.
The depth and height of the hedge would discourage deer from jumping over it, since they'd be unsure of where they could land. He planted some gooseberries, a pair of pawpaws, strawberries, onions, comfrey, roses, willow, and raspberries. Last year, he created beds using the lasagna mulching method layering organic matter on top of cardboard.
This year we are planting in those beds along with attempting to establish borders and paths using what's on hand- more honeysuckle branches and tree slices. While the main purpose of a forest garden is to grow perennial, edible plants for consumption, we are also using part of it for dye plants, and because the deer eat everything everywhere else, I weaseled a flower garden into the space, as well.
So, we have planted a flower bed with foxgloves, lupine, sunflowers, hollyhocks, weld (for dyeing), canna lilies, iris, phlox and gooseberries. One bed is a devoted herb garden with lavender, oregano, sage, thyme, pots of rosemary, peony (from Penelope's birth), lemon balm, and yarrow. There's a small rose patch, a rhubarb patch, a squash patch, a ramp patch, and a zinnia patch for dyeing. The kids took on a fairy garden with pole beans, nasturtium, pie pumpkins, and parsley. And if that weren't enough, we've ordered angelica, false aster, wild geranium, hairy beardtongue, and obedient plant.
Aside from planting, I hope to transform the garden by adding three Aldo Leopold Benches, willow arches, a bird bath, and some weaving on the fence.
I should also mention that there are some woodland perennials that have found a safe place to grow in the shady areas. Red trillium and Jack and the Pulpit have taken root. There is also a prolific mulberry in one corner, and a good third of the garden hasn't been touched since the ducks have been grazing on it this Spring. Once they are moved to another meadow, we will continue constructing paths and beds on that side.
Sigh! It is an immense amount of work, and I can see the decades ahead of working this one bit of land and still not arriving at any sort of completion. That said, as meager and basic as it is at this moment, it already feels more inviting than before. I'm hoping that it can become a useful place for walking, gazing, and meditating for future guests to Spring Bird. It's a start!
PS This is the first in three projects at Spring Bird. We hope to plant around the watering hole, that we made last summer from the run-off water. Also, we are going to transform the pool into a pond with a screen porch at one end for sitting bug free. The work never ceases, but it will be so worth it when it is all complete for us and guests to enjoy!(And for the plants and animals! Our cats love rolling on our herbs! :()
Anna Lentz, artist and writer, blogs about making a creative life connected with nature at Spring Bird.