Duck, duck, go


Garden design suggests curved paths and other techniques for slowing movement through the garden to enhance its enjoyment. While I make no claim that any part of this garden is well designed, I have accidently discovered another method of slowing the pace. Narrow or curving paths, or irregularly spaced pavers are no match for low bridges, branches that hang low enough that I must stoop to go under. This is not necessarily comfortable, so I cannot recommend it, but unquestionably it slows the pace.

The outer edge of the summerhouse ceiling is lined on two sides by the questionably, overly vigorous fleece vine (Fallopia baldschuanica ‘Lemon Lace’, above). The green leafed version was ruled as a potential menace and out of the question, but the yellow leafed vine must be somewhat slower, I figured, though it requires regular management from late spring through autumn. With infrequent visitors, I easily slip into acceptance of minor nuisances, with the dangling stems of the fleece vine often hanging so that I must duck to enter the patio area beside the koi pond. Today, I can weave between stems, but after several days of rain the vine is likely to grow another foot overnight.

I am most apt to get the message that pruning is necessary when the vine is wet, as rainwater drips down the back of my shirt, but I’m also reminded by the low hanging but pendulous canopy of the weeping form of European hornbeam (Carpinus betulus ‘Pendula’, above and below). The tree has become a huge umbrella of sorts, with the foliage easily deflecting light rainfall, but with branches hanging several inches lower when wet to further slow the walk beneath.

The abundant, dangling seeds easily distinguish both European and American hornbeams.

With several of the older Japanese maples now shaded, lower branches are more scarce, and how could I prune a branch that arches low over the stone path when there are so few leaves to be enjoyed close up? One of the red leafed linearilobum maples (Acer palmatum ‘Atrolineare’, below) partially obstructs the path that parallels the stream, but as I lean to avoid wet leaves I might catch a glimpse of one of the small colony of rattlesnake plantain orchids in flower. In the jumble of mixed foliage these could be easily missed.

Paths in the garden are often obstructed by arching fronds of ferns, or branches of azaleas and leucothoe. I am not completely clueless, though. Barbed foliage of mahonias has been kept a safe distance away, but while my wife was once a stickler for removing any offending branch that strayed over a path, now she rarely ventures out with pruners in hand. On occasion she’ll snip a stray Ostrich fern frond, but I think she’s given up hope and left this to me. So, the trip through the garden will be a slow one.

One Comment Add yours

  1. tonytomeo says:

    Oh, why adhere to rules in your own garden? I do what I want to, and I do not care if it is inappropriate. There are many acres of garden here, so it takes a while to get through, even if in a straight line. As a nurseryman who grew up with orchards, I prefer straight lines and grid patterns. It is not easy in mountainous terrain, but I make it work.

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