Monday, December 14, 2009

Where garden projects come to life

With 10” or so of snow blanketing the garden, thoughts have turned toward projects for next year. Looking back on pictures of the backyard (like the one below)- it seems impossible that the garden will look like that again. I do enjoy the different seasons, and despite and smaller color palette, I like all the seasons in the garden. A lot of the reason I enjoy our garden so much outside the somewhat lush spring is because of all the structure and structural elements. There is always something to look at, and even poking up through the snow. Many of these structural elements are natural like the standing or fallen snags, the brush piles, hills, and even seed heads. All this structure is critical for wildlife and adds visual interest year round.

However, a lot of the structure in the garden are projects I have built, for function (like the raised beds, or greenhouse), to define space (like the clothesline screen, arbors and trellises), to benches and chairs to better enjoy the garden or nest boxes for birds to roost in the cold winters and raise their young in the spring.

Though typically in the background of many pictures, my shop (shown above, perhaps the last time it was clean!) is where I spend a lot of time building and planning things for the garden. The shop itself is a prominent element in our backyard, and it carries its share of the native plant and wildlife garden. Affixed to the south side is a red bat house, on the east side is the black capped chickadee house, and covering the north, west and east sides are trellises for climbing native western white clematis (Clematis ligusticifolia).
On the north side of the shop (not pictured) is an arbor that surrounds the overhead door, which a clematis has devoured. This dense thicket is where song sparrows and dark eyed juncos roost in the winters. The roof of the shop supplies water to the rain barrels that provide irrigation to vegetables in the raised beds in front of the shop. The south wall of the garden super-heats the raised bed in front of it where our tomatoes grow.

The shop also creates shade, and even some micro-climates in our native plant landscape. Because of the shade on the east side, we can plant a greater diversity of plants than would otherwise be possible, since we do not water any of our landscape. Some plants that are more water loving, like orange honey suckle (Lonicera ciliosa), side flowered miterwort (Mitella breweri), shrubby penstemon (Penstemon fruiticosa), violets (Viola canadensis), wild lily of the valley (Smilacina stellata) or fern species (I have no idea what species we have) thrive in the shade- a surrogate for water.
Susan, the Bike Gardener inspired me to post some pictures of my shop after seeing her beautiful woodworking shop, and our ensuing discussion on shop heating (you can see the heater aglow, below).This is where most of my gardening takes place this time of the year, and watching the wildlife using our garden from its windows.


  1. Are we related? I'm pretty sure we're related...

    An excellent small shop. I can tell I'd feel right at home. I think our set ups are pretty similar. Your space looks much neater than mine does right now, though.

    Wish you could have seen my dad's shop. My brother got some of his big machines (eg Delta Unisaw), but I was already pretty well outfitted in that department, so I just didn't need any of them. I did bring back a lot of his old hand tools, though. I still get a little choked up whenever I use them.

    BTW--went down to the hardware store over the weekend and bought a kerosene heater. The fact that you can keep your shop warm in a Montana winter convinced me.

  2. Hi Susan,
    It's funny you mention whether we are related- when my wife reads your blog she says you are like the female version of me.
    I hope the heater works out well for you- I suspect you will have a hard time finding a cool enough setting.