Last Saturday, cohousing members and friends had a guided tour through John Thomas's gardens. We began on the street-side of the house, where oval arrangements of perennial flowers and trees invited us to pause and enjoy.
Moving into the back yard, we listened to John explain his motivation for placement of ornamentals, herbs, vegetables, walls and trees. Here are some of the points we remember, hoping to put them to use on Prairie Hill:
- Combine flowers and ornamentals with herbs and vegetables, all in the same bed.
- A small herb garden at the back door makes quick harvesting for a meal easy.
- Provide places for people to sit throughout the garden and orchard: large stones, benches, or low walls. This is especially appropriate on a hilly site like ours at Prairie Hill.
- Use curves instead of always planting in straight lines.
- Make islands of plantings in the midst of mowed lawn.
- Make use of prairie plants; they are well adapted to this climate and soil.
- Repeat the same plants in different areas, creating a unifying theme throughout.
- Be aware of how different plants respond to wind, and consider choosing plants that sway in the breezes.
- Emphasize easy access with mowed paths, and places to stop and rest,
- Realize that at Prairie Hill, we will have plantings around the buildings on the lower site that hold to a more groomed and highly maintained standard; and that the vegetable gardens on our upper site may be held to more casual standards.
After spending an hour in John's home gardens, we moved south to North Market Square, a neighborhood park three blocks away. John and other neighbors have created a space there that integrates play areas, beautiful plantings, a gathering area, and the elegant shelter pictured above where we ate a picnic dinner. We experienced how plantings welcomed us into the park, and watched neighbors use the sidewalk encircling the whole area for walking or riding bicycles. The view from the picnic shelter was peaceful and colorful, and we marveled at our luck at having perfect weather for this outing, not too hot, too cold, or too windy. We carried away with us not only full bellies, but imaginations full of possibilities as we prepare to create our own landscape around and above our new homes.