Trying to block unsightly views can be frustrating for the home gardener. Whether they are from nearby roads, neighbors, utility lines and boxes, or unkempt properties, it drives one to resort to all kinds of creativity, especially if you are unable to afford a tall row of evergreens or the installation of a fence. And sometimes the height restrictions of a 6’ tall fence won’t disguise the problem anyway. Calling attention away from the undesirable view with an interesting garden vignette is the quickest and most budget friendly way to solve this dilemma. It makes everything look better!
The past severe winter had taken its toll on many old structures. Our neighboring property has a few which have succumbed to the weight of the snow. Unfortunately, there was just enough support left to allow parts of the building to remain standing while in a state of collapse. Since the owners are not available to maintain the property or demolish the structure a plan that would disguise the temporary eyesore was needed. Fencing would not be tall enough and an evergreen hedge would take too long to grow, so a garden design trick was used. The photo below shows the area without leaf cover. Even though the leaves would provide a partial block, there would still be a fallen roof line seen from the main path. In order to block out the view of this fallen structure when entering the garden from near the pergola, attention was called away from it by giving the eye something more interesting to focus on.
An old tree trunk that had fallen 4 years ago and remained in our brush pile along the entrance road to the gardens was the start of a new vignette along this neighboring property line. It was relocated to the corner of both properties and the Tree Trunk Garden was established. Actually, this new garden gave thought and momentum to a much larger project as you will learn about later. In adversity there is definitely opportunity!
The trunk was sited in between existing shrubs on a slight angle at the end of the Hedgerow border. A forsythia (Forsythia intermedia) to the left marked the corner of the property line, Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) and a young lilac (Syringa spp.) stood to the rear. Two spireas remained in the foreground of the border (Spirea japonica) at right and (Spiraea x bumalda ‘Goldflame’) in front. Both produce pink flowers. These shrubs were previously planted close together in order to create a hedgerow and visual block from this property. Wildlife does considerable damage yearly and it is a slow growth process for these shrubs. Thankfully they still manage to survive each year.
After the trunk was nestled in place, cardboard was laid over the grasses and weeds then newspaper laid over any open seams or holes in the cardboard. This technique is called “sheet mulching”. You will hear about it constantly because it is the basis of all of our gardens. Everything was covered with straw from 2 bales which began to rot from the previous fall because they were left outdoors for this purpose. The color of the rotting straw is dark brown so it appears as if it is mulch. A mix of compost, garden soil and bits of potting soil from last years containers were added to the furrow in the trunk.
The trunk is in full sun and in a deer-abundant area. Most of the plants chosen are usually unpalatable to them. We can only hope they will keep moving without tasting. The trunk is now filled with a mix of mostly pink, purple and blue blooming perennials like bulge weed (ajuga reptans), deadnettle (Lamium ‘Pink Nancy’), variegated catchfly (Silene dioica ‘Clifford Moor’), Mountain bluet (Centaurea montana ‘Amethyst in Snow’), larkspur (Delphinium ‘Desante Blue’), double-flowered soapwort (Saponaria officinalis ‘Flore Pleno’), violets (Viola odorata), Johnny Jump-ups (Viola tricolor) and coral bells (Heuchera ‘Key Lime Pie’) with a dose of white from sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum), false baby’s breath (Galium mollugo), camomile (Matricaria chamomilla) and the beautiful green and white variegated bishop’s weed (Aegopodium podagraria ‘Variegatum’). A few annual honesty (Lunaria annua) plants and wood forget-me-nots (Myosotis sylvatica) were added for quick color. Mainly perennials were chosen to see if they can overwinter inside the trunk.
To further call attention to the area, three colorful glazed pots were strategically placed near the trunk and the plantings were coordinated with the pot colors and perennials in the trunk. The blue pot to the left front is filled with ribbon grass (Phalaris arundinacea ‘Picta’ ) (green and white variegated), sundrops (Oenothera fruticosa) (yellow) and Johnny Jump-up (Viola tricolor) (purple), the yellow pot to the right has bugleweed (Ajuga reptans) (blue) and feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) (white) in it and the black one to the right rear bears the earliest blooming daylily (Hemerocallis durmortieri) (yellow).
Plans are to continue working through the Hedgerow border with a series of vignettes meant to catch the attention of visitors yet still provide the privacy and view-blocking that is desired. Our endeavors will need to be carefully planned out taking into consideration that this is an area frequented by deer, rabbits, ground hogs and other animals. Even though it is a border, it must be maintained with a bit of wildness due to the proximity to the unmaintained property adjoining it. There is just no way of keeping out so many weeds. When the cardboard and straw decay enough to plant in, a very aggressive ground cover like the variegated bishop’s weed (which will keep other less desirable bigger weeds at bay) will be planted so the area doesn’t need continuous mulching (a low-maintenance tip!).
Stay tuned for the progression of this area as it will be completed in manageable sections just as the Tree Trunk garden was developed, one day at a time.