The Planning Process
We started our garden in 1999. The front yard prairie went in first, because as excited new homeowners we wanted the front of our house to express our vision right away. Curvilinear-edged perennial and shrub beds along the margins of the backyard gave definition to the landscape and harkened of changes to come. The backyard evolved into several distinct rooms to take advantage of local microenvironments (sun, shade, etc…).
Outdoor rooms provide a way to enhance the small yard, and create intrigue and mystery with each room. Most of our garden rooms are not visible from the next- thereby the entire garden is not revealed at once. Shrubs, trees, and other structures like fences and arbors form walls between rooms, each of which is used a little differently. We have a dining room, a vegetable garden, a laundry room, hammock room, entry room (or foyer), cooking room, and perhaps most importantly, a work area devoting to potting and growing plants. By designating different rooms, the sense of space is heightened and as a result, we receive many comments about the “vastness” of our little yard.
In planning the yard, the relationship between public and private spaces was critical. Living in town, our front area is quite public, with a city sidewalk separating an 8’ wide boulevard area from the rest of our front yard. We encourage the public to feel comfortable lingering in and investigating our garden by incorporating signs, garden markers, trails, and a garden bench.
The backyard is our private area, separated from the neighbors by a 6’ cedar fence on 3 sides (we still have one side to finish), and a 4’ cedar fence on the other. In the backyard, the rooms are successively more private and intimate. Beyond the side gate is the entry into the least private foyer, leading to a living room/ cooking area, into the vegetable garden or the dining room and finally to the most secluded room- the hammock arbor (our newest room).
We placed wildlife features throughout the garden. We have 3 different birdhouses (designed specifically for northern flickers, chickadees or nuthatches, and wrens), a bat house, multiple seed feeders, suet feeders, and hummingbird feeders, and we rarely deadhead the wildflowers, preferring to provide autumn seeds for our feathered visitors. We chose native shrubs to offer both cover and berries for birds and, not surprisingly, these are seasonally our best feeders. Birdbaths, brush piles, and a standing snag (which we installed) round out our wildlife offerings. We found the snag on while on a rock hounding expedition along the Blackfoot River (we have many large rocks and small boulders throughout the garden) after a day of fishing. The snag was on the ground and not too far from the road, but alas the snag was several times too long (30’) to fit in the back of our truck. Fortunately, David had a small multi-tool in his pocket, and after scoring the trunk at the right distance from the top, and few minutes of strategically applied pressure, the 14’ snag was ours to take home.
We have many structures throughout the garden, all built by us and many constructed from recycled fence boards as we replaced sections of our fence. The structures (including arbors, trellises, privacy screen, benches, and tables) not only add visual interest and provide definition to the rooms but also make the areas more functional to sit back in and enjoy the space- they help to simply linger.