Woodland shade gardening with a purpose – pleasure, creativity, rainwater collection!
Prior to a redesign this spring, the east entrance to The North Trail just faded off into a composting and rainwater retention area. It was often swampy and inaccessible following heavy rains. It was not a visually attractive composting area, but was good for plants that might need a little extra water and plenty of rich humus.
I installed clay berm dams, about 12 inches inside the fence, because this corner is the absolute lowest spot on our property. Before the berms were in place, the rainwater rushed to this low corner, then exited to the creek along the back of our property, carrying topsoil from our yard and gardens. So much good soil was lost over the years, before we realized this detrimental process was happening.
While digging out clumps of vinca to open up rainwater routing channels into the interior of other garden beds, I decided to use the large, well-rooted clumps of vinca to define the edge of what I envisioned as the new and improved east entrance. This vinca edging was necessary, due to the existence of a remaining, old-path-interrupting stump from a recently removed diseased and dying maple. The vinca edging was placed to include the location of the slightly protruding stump, directing the strolling gardener away from danger of tripping.
This spring, after jonquils in some of the garden beds had completed their colorful display, I dug and transplanted a LOT of jonquil bulbs along the immediate outer side of the vinca edging, and covered them with rich humus that had been composting. There should be quite a show here next spring when these bulbs produce their assorted blossoms.
The east entrance leads from The North Trail into an open space we call The Park – our largest rainwater retention area. In addition to holding excess rainwater, The Park is useful in the fall when I am chipping and storing leaves for a few weeks. Mountains of chipped leaves can be stored in The Park until all the leaves have finished falling, and have been chipped, at which time I begin to use these to mulch the garden beds.
A small opening in the vinca edging allows standing rainwater in The Park to drain slowly into The Compost Corner. I don’t use an official compost bin, but prefer to stack organic debris on the ground in this low corner and cover the debris with chipped leaves. Here, the rainwater is held by the clay berm dam, and can stand as long as it will, keeping the nearby garden beds from being swampy during rainy weather. The extra rainwater, sitting in place and slowly soaking into the soil, keeps the compost wet longer, helping it decompose more quickly. The height of this flat-topped compost pile collapses as it decomposes, so there is always room for more debris to be added. Will it finally become too full someday, leaving me to need to designate another area for this composting process? Definitely not, because I like to harvest decomposed, rich humus from here to improve other soil.
The pool of standing rainwater in The Compost Corner is often too wet for the roots of most plants, so I have planted evergreen shrubs around the perimeter, where the ground is higher by a few inches. This officially makes this a rain garden! Rain gardens are a good way to improve the ecology of the planet, beginning with this action in your gardens at home. Research this wonderful concept, if you will. What I have here is actually a rain garden with composting taking place in its center.
The look of an entrance is not very strong at this time, but in the future the liriope, vinca, and the small spirea to the right will become a stronger indication of direction while strolling. Also, the evergreen sarcococca to the left of the entrance will mature to a nice rounded 3’x3′. So, in my mind’s eye (also known as dreams) I can see the beginning of a nice presentation that will mature and draw the eye to this entrance.
The final frontier of my garden design – The North Trail – is addressed now. I will send you another peek at this trail and the entrances next year, when the spring bulbs and perennials are in bloom, and the maturing shrubs may have grown enough to show you the intended design a bit more clearly. I hope seeing the many transitions in this corner of my gardens, through the past years, will assure you of one thing – you can always change a design. Often Mother Nature directs you, and changes need to be implemented accordingly. Most importantly – just ENJOY THE PROCESS!
The End – of The North Trail series!
Woodland shade gardening with a purpose - pleasure, creativity, rainwater collection!
THE JOY OF GARDENING IN THE SHADOWS
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