When I bought a property to build a home, I was inspired by the natural beauty of the 3-acre site heavily forested in oak, pine, and hemlock. I had recently seen the fine homes built among the old redwood forests in Sausalito, CA, and I resolved to build the house with minimum impact upon its woods. Countless sub-contractors told me that they had a chainsaw in the truck and could easily make some more room to move around.
Most New Englanders build their house and then call in the biggest machine they can afford to clear the adjacent land for the lawn, install a foundation planting, add water, and grow. For several years I knew that this was not what I wanted; what did I want?
In 1981 we were visiting the Buchert Gardens in Victoria, B.C. and we stumbled upon the oriental gardens there; we immediately realized that this was what we wanted. We studied oriental gardens up and down the West Coast, from San Francisco to Seattle and then into British Columbia, in the company of a very talented designer, Rick Reding of Seattle's Greenlife Landscaping Co. Then in the 80's era Mr Reding would come to Magnolia and build a quarter-acre garden 'room' every other year.
The garden has many fine granite boulders deposited by a recent glacier, and these have been featured in the design. Matching granite cobblestones were provided by the 'Big Dig' construction project in Boston, which took out many of tho old Boston streets. Every night I would dig through the construction rubble and collect up the old cobblestones; I could only carry 55 per night, distributed on the front and rear seats and the trunk of my car according to the engineered design of the VW rabbit. Every night the car springs would bottom out at two road bumps on my route home. The cobblestones all have a rounded face marking the side that faced upward and was ground smooth by the iron wagon wheels.
Because we have 5 weeks of winter in Boston, the garden was designed to have all-season interest, with many features in Karensansui style, with dry rock water features embellished in textured evergreen rhodedendron, holley, pieris, and azalea. The garden also incorporates feng shui princilpes and accordingly the house is set exactly facing south, with a view to a crimson rising phoenix. The east side is dominated by its roadway, and the west by the brook. On the north is a giant sleeping turtle.
Below the cave on the west side is the child's monster garden, built for my 5-year-old grandson Alex Jersey who definitely knows where his monsters are. As we enter this dark garden I tell his mom 'Hang onto Alex tightly, it's really creepy down here. The dog doesn't go down here at night, and we hear wild noises coming from the woods after dark'. A variety of creepy sculptures punctuate this naturalistic woodland. See for yourself if you dare!
The local Gloucester Civic and Garden Council is so enthusiastic about this approach to landscaping thet they instituted a new annual award and made me the honarary first recipient. This Naturalistic Landscaping Award is for the garden that best "utilizes rocks and native flora in landscape design enhancing the natural land."
I saw the need for a garden shed as a design opportunity, and had a custom structure built by a shed-maker with small windows tucked up right under the roof, and with big overhanging eaves. This is sited next to my turtle sculpture, and surrounded by its pond and contemplation rock grouping. A photograph shows how charming it can be even in winter.
The street view of the garden is so much liked by the community that when my next door neighbors was doing some building their friends would ask them "You arent going to disturb that beautiful garden, are you?" Here I show it blooming merrily with daffodils in the spring, to be followed by daylillies later in the season.
Here the gardener is surrounded by his springtime harvest of flowering rhodedendrons and azaleas. I am so luckey that these shrubs that grow so well in coastal New England all bloom in the springtime, when I most enjoy the new garden year.
A final photograph shows the view down my driveway as I leave for work in the morning. This puts me in a zestful mood as I go my way. I find that maintaining the naturalistic garden turns up the gain on my entire life; the garden enhances that first snowfall of winter, the intense colors of autumn, and that prescient first day of spring when budding foliage creates a magic chartreuse texture everywhere.
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