The hardscape and solid elements in the garden create an anchor for the plants and space. In the public garden I worked at, the original gardener had used stone extensively. She had a stone staircase, rock gardens with 20 and 40 tons respectively and a gully wall that was created out of stone. All were made from granite from the Cascade Mountains, the local mountain range. This brought the mountain, literally, right into the garden. When we decided to add a terrace and an alpine staircase, we searched for the same type of stone to make it look natural.
When I started to build the garden at Old Goat Farm I took into account the soil, glacier till. To call it soil is a misnomer, it is rock. When we dig we don’t use a shovel, we start with a pick-axe. Most of the rock is between the size of a potato and a watermelon. It seems like every time we dig a 2 foot hole we end up with a 4 foot pile of rock. We end up adding soil and compost to plant but we also end up with very heavy piles of rock. Did I mention we are both in our 60’s and not fit 20 somethings. Because of the rocky soil we do have great drainage once we can get something in the ground, which is something most plants really like. That still leaves piles of rock.
You all know the old adage, ‘When you have lemons make lemonade’, well we have rock so we made bed-liners to hold back the 50 yards of soil we brought in to create planting beds. We also made a few other things that were a little more artistic like fern tables, columns, benches and water features. Not only did these features anchor everything in the garden, but since they all looked similar they tied the garden together. They all look like they belong here. That’s because they do. The rocks probably didn’t travel more than 10 to 20 feet from where they were unearthed. I told you, we are in our 60’s and don’t want to move things any further than necessary.
Now that might sound like a lot of work but it’s nothing compared to some friends that live about 15 miles south of us. They also have glacier till but their rock is between the size of a watermelon and a small cow. Seems like a good analogy since they raise cattle. When they built the house on this site they took a similar approach and came up with ideas to use what was there without moving it too far. They built rock walls, ponds, a long berm of stone which turned into a lavender bed and a Fred Flinstone Fire-pit.
At first I thought is was a curse to have all this rocky soil but it turned out to add character to the garden. Many people pay a fortune to have rock brought in and all we have to do is dig a hole. A big hole.