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Main Garden The built environment: garden structures

The built environment: garden structures

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Written by Lucy Hardiman   
Tuesday, November 01, 2011

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2012DecJan_Garden01

This gazebo at Oakwood Gardens, the home of Julie and Mike Safley in Hillsboro, creates a focal point for the garden and its shape is perfect for its space, simple yet compelling. It beckons to all who meander through the woodlands.

// Photo by Joshua McCullough

Mother Nature is responsible for the great cherry tree debacle that forever altered the design of our back garden. In one fell swoop, the sickly 45-foot tree slumped to the ground, obliterating everything in its wake — three fully formed small trees, shrubs, perennials, objets d’art, pathways and the arbor reduced to rubble. Heartbroken by the loss of our sheltering arboreal canopy and lush shade garden, I allowed myself some time to wallow in the mud of self-pity. But seeds of optimism lurked in the mountains of debris that we carted away to be recycled.

Ideas began to percolate as my husband, Fred, and I considered our options for recreating the garden. I relished the opportunity to be my own client — maybe an oxymoronic idea but one that intrigued me. Time to assess what worked and didn't work in the garden we were grieving. Mitigating the loss of scale, privacy and shade was the starting point for the new design. Looking at what was left was heartening as some of the original structural elements were intact and would be the backbone of the new garden.

Gardens are places of shelter and repose. Structural elements that create shade, screen us from the street, provide refuge from the rain, separate us from our neighbors, and define garden rooms provide human scale and help us organize our outdoor spaces.

Fences are key components of garden design. Cars, traffic, the neighbors’ heat pump and unsightly garage wall are banished from view by a well-placed fence or screen. Select materials that relate to the architectural vernacular of your home and personal style. A split rail fence conveys rusticity while a white picket fence is romantic. For years we had chain link fences. Ugly, yes, but good at preventing kids and dogs from escaping and perfect for supporting climbing plants. Fred worked for a fencing company in his youth and rolls of chain link were his dowry; free is a good price. Some years ago we replaced the chain link with recycled wrought iron, which plays well to our Victorian/Craftsman vibe and wasn’t damaged by falling trees.