The Village Garden in a Modern Style. A Narrow Plot, A Slope, And Red Clay…
Hello, friends! It’s been a while since I wrote about our subscribers’ gardens. I know many of you enjoy these articles, virtually strolling along garden paths, exploring interesting plants, and reading about their cultivation experiences.
Today, I want to share a story about “A Countryside Garden in a Modern Style.” That’s how our subscriber Svetlana from the Istra District in the Moscow Region named her garden.
Svetlana and her husband started developing their dacha plot ten years ago. Previously, it was a military training ground, and all the plots allocated to people were overgrown with trees and shrubs. There were also many spruce trees affected by bark beetles.
Together, Svetlana and her husband cleared their plot. They would come on weekends, remove diseased trees and wild growth, and level the soil. They also started construction simultaneously!
As it often happens in such cases, Svetlana went through the whole process of being a novice and a self-taught gardener. She bought everything without discrimination because she wanted to plant everything at once!
One of the main challenges was the clay soil on the plot. When the stove builder placed a barbecue on Svetlana’s plot, he happily took clay right from the site, saying that such clay was even better than the store-bought refractory clay!
That’s when Svetlana began studying the “clay cultivation” technique and concluded that it was necessary not to bury the roots of the seedlings in damp pits but, on the contrary, plant them in raised beds. Finally, Svetlana started seeing her first successes! Her plants began growing rapidly.
However, there was one problem—the construction work was ongoing, and they couldn’t beautify the area around the future house just yet. But waiting for the “end of construction” was not in Svetlana’s nature. She began making tall beds out of unwanted planks. The size of these beds was solely dictated by the size of the available planks.
On one of their visits, Svetlana’s husband brought her a plot plan that designated a specific area for fruit-bearing plants and a pathway leading to the “parade” zone, the sunniest area Svetlana had envisioned.
Torn between the desire to have various decorative shrubs, flowers, and fruit-bearing plants and the idea of a modern garden, Svetlana named her garden “A Countryside Garden in a Modern Style.”
Svetlana humorously approaches the concept of a low-maintenance garden, especially when someone refers to their garden as low-maintenance while showcasing luxuriously blooming shrubs and flowers.
The modern part of the garden lies in the so-called “parade” zone. The only edible elements there are pine cones and slightly edible berries of the Mahonia plant, which blooms in spring, resembling Mimosa.
Among the decorative shrubs that have thrived and grown well in Svetlana’s garden are Dream Lilac (with 35mm diameter flowers), Forsythia, Mahonia, several evergreen and deciduous rhododendrons, yellow bush honeysuckle, Golden Princess Japanese spirea, gray spirea, two types of Japanese barberry, Ottawa barberry, pink and white tree hydrangeas, over 20 panicled hydrangeas, several bigleaf hydrangeas, Weigela, Tatarian honeysuckle, white dogwood, and bladder nut.
Last summer, Svetlana planted a Catalpa tree, but it’s still very small. “They promised fast growth,” Svetlana shares, “but I haven’t noticed it yet. For now, it’s following the ‘temporary schedule’ in the raised bed.”
Svetlana also had some unsuccessful experiences with growing Fothergilla, Japanese Kerria, Barberry, and Japanese Maples. All these plants suffered from freezing during winter, so she had to part with them.
Every year, Svetlana develops a passion for a particular type of plant. One summer, she was charmed by giant Hostas. Now those Hostas have become enormous plants, so she had to replace them with mini Hostas.
The layout of the plot didn’t come together immediately or as desired, based on the experience gained so far. The plot is not that big—16 acres—but it’s narrow and long, measuring 22 by 75 meters.
Designing such a plot is challenging, and it requires careful thought and planning. Moreover, the plot has an approximately one-meter slope. The right solution came eventually—they divided the plot into zones and incorporated retaining walls to handle the slope.
They used arches as transitions between the zones. In the photos below, you can see the transitions to the vegetable and fruit-growing zone and the barbecue zone.
The only regret is that over time, the plants have grown and covered part of the beautiful retaining wall. “We should have made it taller!” Svetlana laments slightly.
The initial plantings along the paths included rhododendrons, peonies, and tulips. By summer, Hostas, colorful geums, and sedums would bloom, but the only summer-blooming plants were delphiniums and sedums. However, the combination wasn’t successful as delphiniums are beautiful but suffer greatly from rain, so the mixed borders lacked vibrant colors in the summer.