Front yard / corner lot needs help for British pocket garden

Fresno, CA(Zone 9b)

FINALLY!!! Wahoo!! Four years coming. The summer following treatment for breast cancer 4 1/2+ years ago I began preparing the front yard of my home of 30+ years by killing the bermuda grass. My neighbors have had to live with the bare or dry weed-filled landscape since then. I have simply not had the physical energy to engage in the physical labor needed to do the work. And while I am still "puny" relative to my pre-treatment state, I will, I will, I will start the layout and early plantings this week. I must do it a bit at a time, but at least I'll be doing the work.

Bear with me here . . . I have wanted to lay out an urban British pocket garden since my trip to England, specifically The Cotswolds (Cirencester), in the fall of 2003 with my then-85YO mother. Her father, my GF, was born and raised there and I just fell in love with England. The town harkens to Roman times and is built largely of stone, something I am unable to replicate. But I've some ideas I'd like to share and ask my gardening brothers and sisters to help me with the planning.

So I'll start by posting the few images I have of the area, describing the layout briefly, and then tell you of my overall plan.

I hope you're game.

So . . . here's the first image, facing northwest corner, concrete block fence to the north (surrounding the patio I nearly single-handedly designed and built in 2000), white single story 1940's stucco house with two 40++YO Fruitless Mulberries standing guard against the summer heat. They're going NOWHERE! That's non-negotiable, folks!

You'll note that I've laid out stakes and yellow tape which hopefully protects my liability insurance against injuries in the recently-dug (little Bobcat tractor with 10-inch-diameter drill bits was just awesome to watch work) holes for fence posts. This ground is solid hardpan (clay) across the 70X40 foot yard. So I had Aardvark Bobcat drill holes for both the stakes and any major plants I will put out. So see the fence move from the concrete block fence, heading south and then due-east across the entire front of the yard.

Do you see the clay pavers stacked against the fence?

Thumbnail by Twincol
Fresno, CA(Zone 9b)

Here's the southwest corner, facing east. You see why the Fruitless Mulberries are non-negotiable? I NEED those trees in the summer.

Follow the yellow tape and stakes headed south and then east. The stakes are placed in each "posthole," next to which there is another holed in which to plant a vine of some sort. The vine is a yet-to-be identified plant. As much as a dense visual barrier is desirable, I'm wondering if household security suggests a less dense plant so that you could actually see movement behind it, perhaps a motion detector light mounted in such a way as to light it up in the case of an intruder . . . just thinking aloud.

Ummm, how about a pink Star Jasmine, which has a tendency to be thin out at the lower end of the vine, leaving a billowy top with sweeping branches bouncing around in the breeze. Thin the top out annually as winter or spring approaches? They can die off here in the winters if it gets too cold, tho.

This message was edited Sep 3, 2008 8:31 PM

Thumbnail by Twincol
Fresno, CA(Zone 9b)

OK, here's the same corner from the corner directly across the street on the south.

Note the tape/stakes moving straight across the yard, crossing the walkway to the front door. Same fence . . . oh, about 4 feet tall, metal for vines to creep around on, perhaps hog fencing like I used in the back yard, or a roll of metal animal wire pulled tight. No need to use wrought iron, as it will just be covered up.

Note the holes in the street parking strip. Those are for some type of low maintenance, short/wide shrub, walk-on bark.

This message was edited Sep 3, 2008 8:36 PM

Thumbnail by Twincol
Fresno, CA(Zone 9b)

And this is the same side of the street and facing due north.

Oooops, this is the walk toward the front door facing due north. You probably won't be able to spot it, but note that there's a "break" in the concrete about midway up the path. It's clean, straight across at a seam. I've placed the holes for the fence right here in order to take advantage of the plan to provide a step made of the pavers. I mean . . . how clever can one be??!!!!

This message was edited Sep 3, 2008 8:08 PM

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Fresno, CA(Zone 9b)

Ooops, a duplicate. I'll send the other "due north" pic at the end.

And here's the walk moving toward the front door.

This message was edited Sep 3, 2008 8:11 PM

Thumbnail by Twincol
Fresno, CA(Zone 9b)

Facing south from the front door down the walk toward the street.

Remember . . . thinking about a British pocket garden here . . . formal . . . how about little mini roses? mini tree roses? straight lines up each side of the walk?

The crack in the walk? My plan is to lay them atop the walk beginning at the fence/crack, run 'em up to the wall. Then . . . place a layer atop each of the two steps, adding a decorative layer to the top of the concrete landing at the door, which is cracked and such, kinda like having wrinkles from age . . . like me .

Then . . . THEN . . . and here's a likely controversial part of my plan, folks . . . using all of those pavers to cover the much of the ground behind the fence between the fence and the house.

I'd leave the beds next to the house intact, encircling the trunks of the two pom pom'd Wax Leaf Privets (trimmed of their lower pom) with British-style wood "planter" boxes -- soooo coooool! Not sure what else to put in there with the privets, but with your help it will come to me.

And a little perhaps-contemporary knot garden using the pavers and low lying plants (ummm ajuga? two different colors??).

Potted plants. Rose bushes which can be moved as the sun moves throughout the summer, perhaps? I have two large basketweave concrete pots . . . outside the fence at the entry to the pocket garden where the step-up pavers start?

This message was edited Sep 3, 2008 9:25 PM

Thumbnail by Twincol
Fresno, CA(Zone 9b)

Here's a view at the sidewalk facing due west.

Thumbnail by Twincol
Fresno, CA(Zone 9b)

And here's mid-center facing due west.

THIS is the area I am really struggling with. Layered, short little shrubs in front of the vines and a ground cover? My creativity fails me totally with this section of the yard which faces the street on both sides in front of the fence .

I don't want to use a lot of pavers here, although a walk-through across the parking strip makes sense, leading to the walk up to the door. And perhaps a "square" curve alongside the entry walk on each side between the sidewalk and the concrete pots standing guard at the step-up? Square curve? huh? What's that, you ask? Don't know how to describe that except ummm perhaps rather than laying a curve, cutting those delicate pavers (and breaking many of them in the process), laying them out two at the top, then three, then four, then five . . . got that?

This message was edited Sep 3, 2008 9:39 PM

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Long Beach, CA(Zone 10a)

Wow ! Kudos to you for your determination and stamina. You've definitely been through a lot and this new project will bring you much joy.

While I completely understand the need to keep the Friutless Mulberries, given the heat in Fresno summers, they do have extremely invasive root systems which may or may not present problems for you as far as being water "robbers" for your new plantings. They seem to be worse with heavy clay soil as far as their surface rooting tendency.

You didn't mention any specific plants you want to grow, so are you interested in the "traditional" English garden (flowering) plants? If so, your summer temperatures may limit your choices...but you could still achieve a similar effect with more heat tolerant choices.

Hard to tell from the pics. how much direct sun those areas get, which will determine what you can or can't successfully grow.

Are you planning to ammend the heavy clay where you want to plant or do you want to stick with more "native" type plants ?

Also, are you going to incorporate a watering system?

This will be an interesting project to watch evolve. Keep us posted with photos of the progress.

Fresno, CA(Zone 9b)

And the southeast corner from the same spot, facing northwest.

Note a second stack of clay pavers, the second of three stacks. The third stack is probably twice this size and hiding in the driveway behind the concrete block fence. I have approximately 600 square feet of these pavers. The maker of the pavers, Hans Sumpf, closed just a couple of years ago after nearly 60 years making them. If I recall correctly, he and his young'ns were the last business to be making clay pavers in California. It seems to me that they can only be found today as far away as Texas now.

The earliest pavers were not "fixed," in the sense that they would melt and in fact several houses near the nearby canal did melt many many MANY years ago during a flood. My parents, BTW, had a patio made of these unfixed pavers and over the years they did melt down, revealing the concrete set higher than the pavers . During occasional heavy rains hereabouts I used to tease my father (the house was also made of unfixed clay bricks) about his house "melting" . . . oh, I'll spare you the rest.

They are actually quite valuable, pricey, and a local woman GAVE them to me! Can you even imagine such generosity?! I'll lay out the plan for you in a bit.

Thumbnail by Twincol
Fresno, CA(Zone 9b)

And finally . . . the pic of the larger yard from across the street to the south facing north.

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Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

I'd recommend holding off on planting until the rain starts--temperatures will be cooler and once it's rained once or twice you'll find that soil a million times easier to dig holes in! I have clay soil that's probably pretty similar to yours, it's practically impossible to dig in without a jackhammer in the summer if it's dried out, but as soon as we get a good rain or two it becomes super easy to work with. I know it's hard to wait, but you and the plants will be happier in the end!

Fresno, CA(Zone 9b)

Aaahhh, ecrane 3, but that it were only clay soil. Hardpan as I understand it is rather a phenomenon of either mechanical or chemical compaction of soil, most typically clay, leaving it impenetrable by ordinary gardening methods. I have spent days soaking and pounding repeatedly in attempts to dig my way through our community's widespread ribbons of hardpan. You can soak it forever and still get no further down with a shovel. You should have seen me dig out my sprinkler system path, which lies only 4-6" below the surface.

I remember one desperate attempt to get a hole deep enough to plant a small tree in a hole I'd managed to locate in a spot where the ribbon was further down than the more often shallow ribbons around my house. After filling the hole 2 or 3 times (overnight in each case) and digging out an upper level of clay soil I filled the hole one last time, a hole probably 2 feet deep, and it took two full days for the water to soak in. I'd awaken each morning to find the water still sitting in that stupid hole as if it were simple a pot without holes. Now, mind you, it didn't soak in vertically, but apparently horizontally, as I never did get any deeper. The soil surrounding the "dig" was waterlogged, soupy, and the bottom of the hole . . . still impenetrable.

You can often plant garden plants, nevertheless, expecting that the moisture will wick horizontally and your plant doing well. But if your rootball is large enuf to require a deeper hole you either "forget it," or plant it hoping that its roots survive under such circumstances. Doubtless many of my rose bushes live in such shallow holes and roses hate wet toes .

But your point is well taken and at the rate I'm going it WILL be cooler as I finish this early stage of my landscape . Thanks for the suggestion.


Fresno, CA(Zone 9b)

Perhaps not obvious, but visible in the photo of the message posted at 7:40, is that the fence doesn't end in a true 180 degree angle corner and that I've cut the corner off at an angle at each end of the south-facing fence. The Bobcat drilled huge 30" wide hole for me in order to plant a multi-trunk pink Crepe Myrtle tree outside the fence at the east end.

I haven't figured out what to plant in a similar hole at the west end, although a shrub rose appeals to me . . . thinking of perhaps a white. I like the growth pattern of the J&P Simplicity rose. How about a mini rose shrub which is self-cleaning of its blossoms and is allowed to grow wild into a round shrubby shape? ack . . . too small short/wide! Or perhaps a white Crepe Myrtle shrub, altho I've never learned how to prune these so as to keep their growth under control, resulting in a desirable shape. Do you suppose I could learn? ;) Both such plants in these corners would lose their winter visual barrier foliage, thus leaving the perpendicular nature of the formal layout intact? I suspect this would be a desirable goal, keeping in mind, again, our formal British garden plan.

And, as the west end of this fence is only 8 feet from the curb on that corner, the shrub will have to be low to secure the traffic visibility around the corner, as well as to keep the outside corner "open" rather than "closed," which the taller tree at the east end will do visually.

Is my design thinking on track with this attempt to control the seasonal changes and sizes as they affect my planting design decisions.

Linda, awake at 4 a.m. and facing an 8-hr workday

Fresno, CA(Zone 9b)

OK, JasperDale, you got my juices going here. ďEnglishĒ and plants? Iím satisfied with using more climate suitable plants which provide the same effect. And as an urban British garden Iím thinking that the degree of ďfloweringĒ needed is potentially less than a more cottagey style from the country. Perhaps one of our British members can help me out here. Certainly what I saw in ďold Cirencester,Ē in town center, was absent the heavy flowering in the front yards and more in the backyards, which my whole-house design incorporates with all the plants with which Iíve already filled the back.

Plants? Relatively low maintenance, on the whole. Thereís plenty of maintenance required at the back side of my house. And, as a leading-edge Babyboomer, I doubt Iíll be spending the kind of time on maintenance in 5 years that I have heretofore. Evergreen shrubs in the layering effort on the street side of the fence, perennials in the knot garden and in front of the fence in layers. The purple flowering plants in my neighborís yard on the east? Wrong color, but right lifecycle. Hmm, Star Jasmine at the very front of the fence as the lowest growing plant. Need to plant something between StJ and the green vine on the fence. Something to provide some visual depth of field?

Geez, so much to think of. There is no way I can do this without enthusiastic input!


Fresno, CA(Zone 9b)

Aahhh, yes, JasperDale, I've fought those roots for years. They are UNBELIEVABLE!!! But let me tell you what I did about that.

Fifteen or more years ago I hired an arborist to come over and consult about managing these trees with regards to pruning (so-o-o many people around town prune them back to sticks each fall) them so as to take best advantage of their heat protective qualities in the summer and sun-exposing qualities in winter, as well as their watering needs (there was grass underneath at one time--ha!). And I've always HATED seeing them pruned back to nubs . . . YUK! She advised me that these guys'n girls (there are two, one each covering the roof and the patio) were both living in the aquifer below us. HUH, I asked? Yep, she said. And so it seems she was right.

You see? In 2000 I took the 20 X 30ish backyard immediately behind the house and covered it in concrete . . . yes . . . really! My goal? Don't encourage those guys to extend their roots under the concrete block fence any further than they did at the time. Nothing was growing under either because of the water-depleting qualities of those stingy roots, not to mention the shade for the first 10-or-so feet behind the fence. So I covered them up with concrete and use, mostly, potted plants back here. It's my mini version of a little British backyard before I'd ever seen one in person. There is a 10 X 10 concrete pad for a patio. That pad is surrounded on 3 sides by pavers . . . you know? the ones you make out of that plastic form and fill with concrete, laying out paths and such? Heaven knows Iíd not be able to do that kind of work today, only 8 years later. Age certainly increases oneís limitations. Anyway, my point is that Iíve tried to encourage the trees to benefit from the aquifer water and the trees donít seem at all to be suffering from that effort. Iíll try to find a pic to show you tonight.


Fresno, CA(Zone 9b)

Sun? Oh my, there are the Mulberries on the west end of the house. And the large tree in the parking strip is a City tree, a Modesto Ash, diseased yet still vigorous, but likely to fail before the end of another 10 years. All three trees are 40-50ish years old, tall and wide. Between the mulberry and the ash the yard is probably in full sun, alternately, 6 hours daily. So there's enuf sun for roses. The shade from the two trees doesn't overlap. And from spring to late summer, the sun pretty much moves across the entire yard, north to south. But there's enuf sun to eliminate the possibility of shade-loving plants except for the area directly under the canopy of the house/mulberry. And if they'll tolerate the water limitations, azaleas would fit nicely in the bed against the west wall of the house. I've no experience with azaleas. Ummm, gardenias? camelias? Again, only in this west-most area.

Keep the questions coming . . . . Linda

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

OK, if you really have hardpan then that is more of a challenge. I've seen people sometimes call things hardpan that really weren't, so I thought you might have just been calling it that because of how impossible it is to dig through when it's dry. You might consider building yourself some raised beds, that could make your life a lot easier, you won't have to work as hard to dig holes plus it'll open up a wider range of plants that you can grow, heavy clay is not the favorite soil type for most plants to do well! Although you need to be careful in the areas where there are tree roots, some trees do not do well if you pile up soil over their root zones. I'm not sure if mulberries are picky about that or not.

I'm not sure about azaleas, gardenias, and camellias--they all need acid soil and typically when you have hardpan the soil tends to be pretty alkaline, so unless you've got the energy to be constantly monitoring the pH and amending when it starts to creep up I'd probably go with something else. I've also had trouble with gardenias here, they do not seem to enjoy really hot dry weather. Do you have some pictures of the style you're going for (either your own photos, or post links to some websites)? That would help coming up with plant suggestions.

Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

Hi twincal, May I also wish you a speedy recovery from all the trouble and strife you have met with thus far, you need to know that what you have been through, your body will take longer than your brain to manage such a big task you are about to take on, however, I know that working on this project is a great healer also, just dont go at it like you need it done tomorrow or you will end up with a pile of plants and not the energy to attend to them, been there, done that and got the T shirt.
Are you talking about the type of British Garden where the whole garden is laid out into square box shapes , triangles etc, where narrow pathways made from clay pavers meander around each section, these sections being planted with flowering shrubs / flowers and herbs etc, or am I way off the mark here.
The traditional British / English gardens long ago were in fact filled with flowers /roses, Honeysuckles and herbs of all kinds for medicinal purposes, Hollyhocks etc, then when WWar 2 came, we all had to dig up these gardens and grow food plants to feed ourselves, men were off fighting and the women were left to grow any food they could,
Fashions changed after this and pollution arrived with the motor cars etc, so the front gardens were left with more tolerant growing plants that pollution would not effect, so the back gardens became the areas where you could grow all your pretty flowering plants etc.
but there is a great demand now to return to the cottage gardens and styles of old, Fortunately I began gardening with my dad when we still had the old fashioned cottage gardens, veg plats in beside the flowers and the layout of these gardens are still the norm here for a lot of people who live in the more rural areas where we dont have pollution etc to worry about.
I will be able to help you with your layout and planting schemes but first I think you should go along to your book stores / library or wherever to get a couple of books on OLD ENGLISH gardens as the American version of this style is not really close to the English style, but never the less, you will be able to grow a lot of the plants required, it is the layout of the garden you will need to look into books for to give you a better understanding of this style and it should make it easier for you to understand better what it is you really want to take from the design, you need to listen to Ecranes advice though about planting this new garden inn the heat of the summer and perhaps concentrate on the layout till the cooler weather comes before planting it all out to save you cost and plant wastage, I promise you, there is no way will you be bale to lay this garden out in a week, especially the type of soil you have, the plants would die overnight probably. get back it you think the style I am talking about is the one you are trying to achieve. good luck. WeeNel.

Fresno, CA(Zone 9b)

WHEW, WeeNel!! You are taking my breath away. What an amazing bit of history youíve outlined. And, of course, given the proximity of England to the war, what youíve outlined makes sense. Thanks for this awesome overview.

Hmmm, I must go look at the history of Cirencester to see how it fits. I seem to recall that there were some Army camps nearby and Cirencester was something of a center for such intrusive presence into the country in WWII. The house I am thinking of was, in fact, a business as well in the 19th Century. So the family home filled a portion of the building and the business was at another side of the building. It was, BTW, a woolstapling business and the business side of the building included a second floor where the wool was taken in, sorted, and then dropped down into a cart for movement for sale. This, of course, was prior to the falling out of the wool business in England as Italy began to fill the need internationally.

And, BTW, there were a number of businesses run out of similar homes on the same street, as well as others in Cirencester. Itís a decidedly different style of living than we presently live in. As a matter of fact, in US cities as a rule, neighborhoods full of houses, do not permit running a business out of the home in this manner.

So, ok, what do I want? Those gardens are built behind a stone wall between the wall and the building. Itís an entry garden. The ground is covered with tiles similar to what I have stacked up around my house. The contents are laid out in a formal fashion in that there are identical trees in the ground with a painted wood ďsurround,Ē looking as if they are in pots, if this makes sense. I canít think how to describe this better. Doubtless these are a specific named product in the UK, as they were common. I thought Iíd take the lower pom off the wax leaf privets now overgrown on each side of my entry in those pics, making them into trees. Make sense? The point is that there was a pair of them, one on each side of the walk up to the front door. Iíll try to find my pics of these.

And, as Iím not going to put a stone wall up Iíll use the 4-foot high fence to grow vines . . . a short architectural barrier. I like the idea of pink jasmine, which grows into a billowy cloud at the top of its standard. Star Jasmine is another plant which appeals to me. Ivy, I suppose, would work, but I've never been much of an ivy fan. It needs to be an evergreen, tho.

I thought also that Iíd include a miniature knot garden, filled with ground cover plants, or perennials, or? How about a tiny box hedge around the knot garden? or at another critical design location?

And perhaps a small bistro table and chairs. Weíll see if they disappear [chuckling].

Small pots of miniature roses and perhaps some flowering perennials. Iíve had several azaleas growing in the dark under the tree at the west side of the house, never any sun, never. How sad is that? But they are still alive and have leaves despite the neglect theyíve suffered. So the soil must be adequate for them and the roots from the mullberry arenít stealing enough water from them to kill them. Pretty amazing, in fact.

I actually have several books from the UK speaking to entry gardens. Youíre right, they are different than the US version of those same gardens. Iíll cruise through them again. Actually, I AM working on the design layout and hardscape now rather than the plantings, as Ecranes recommends. I must plant the fence vines and the plants at the outer parking strip in order to protect the condition of the soil content of those holes. Otherwise the winter rains will turn them into hardpan plugs once the water gets down to the dust of the hardpan Aardvark dug up for me. I have to fill them with soil and plant. Otherwise Iím perfectly happy to work slowly. Layout and plant in a WEEK? A WEEK??? Nah, that isnít going to happen. Iíve been contemplating this for a year or more already and anticipate it will be fully another 12 months before itís all together. Both you and Ecrane are right, of course, and it has never been my plan to try to get this done in just a month or so. I obviously didn't articulate that clearly [chuckling].

You are very kind to offer to help with the design/layout. As best I am able in between full time employment and treatment-recovery chronic fatigue leaving me with limited energy in the evenings I WILL get this done. I appreciate your offer. Thanks, WeeNel

Fresno, CA(Zone 9b)

Ecrane, yes, it is hardpan and our local nurseries are always reminding us of this when we contemplate purchasing trees. I hadn't thought about the alkaline soil of hardpan, and of course you're right. Hmmm, as I noted above, the azaleas resting within just 10 feet of the mulberry you see in the first pic have survived unbelievable neglect in the soil. I did, however, spend years mulching and amending that bed. Perhaps that paid off.

I'm going to try to find my pics to send up.

Keep the questions coming. They help me think about this little project.


Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

Hi Linda, you re beginning to make more sense now that you have mentioned that you want tackle this project and be done in a few months. I am glad that you have pencil in hand and paper as this is the best way to do a garden from scratch and it saves you planting one year and having to dig the plants up and transplant them the next, it becomes disheartening to do all that.
To get the feel of the garden you plan, put your thoughts and ideas down on paper. like plant names, colours etc, it is surprising how quick you forget where you saw this or the name, keep paper/pen in the car and as you pass things you like, jot it dow
For now though, take a picture or your home (at the area you plan to landscape), get it enlarged, pin it to a board and then overlay this pic and whole board with white tracing paper (from art shop) then rough draw the outline of the garden from outer edge to the walls of the house, mark in all the important stuff like utilities, windows / doors and seating porches, shrubs / trees etc that are to stay etc so you know on your plan these must be taken care of.
Next stage make paper shapes like squares, triangles, oblongs etc cut to scale if you can, then start to place these on the tracing paper so you get an idea of the scale, the plan / size etc and where pathways have to go in between these shaped boxes/beds, once you are happy, trace around them onto your board /house picture so that you then end up with the hard landscaping plan along with the beds paths etc (none of these pathways ever came to a dead end unless they were at the end of your bounder) so every shaped bed you make, the pathway leads to the next bed either around it or along it then turning onto the next bed, when your happy with the layout, then start to make the shapes inside the beds /box shaped etc, in the days of long ago, each bed had only one colour inside the box edged beds, either ping shrub roses or colour you like and the next bed corresponded in colour like maybe lilac coloured or purple, but today, most people have a mixture of colours in the same beds.
Remember each bed needed a bit of height so they added either a standard rose, say in 2 of the opposite beds, then maybe an obelisk shape in the center of the next 2 opp beds and would grow maybe a honeysuckle etc or another coloured climbing rose up those to eventually fill the shape of the obelisk, but these were home made of thick wood, maybe 2X2 inch and would have a ball shape on top ot a pyramid, it is really taste for that detail., normally painted green or brown. depending on the shapes you choose, if oblong, you would add 2 of the higher plants spaced out and under plantings would be spring wallflowers, tulips, Daffi's etc, and summer either roses, herbs or other plants of that size etc, some of today's beds have Delphiniums, dahlias, etc that are all the same colour within the same beds or even mixed but the nixed beds never seem to work the same unless you choose the colours carefully.
the beds were edged with either box hedging, (the low growing type like BOX SIMPERVERIEN) or LAVENDER so that as you walk down the narrow paths, you got the smell of lilac perfume as you went by brushing against it, both of these edging plants only require trimming back for shape and thickening out, once every year, the box edging was only allowed to grow to about 12 1/2 inches and definitely no more than 2 feet or this would hide the plants inside, I can give you a plant list later if this is helping you any.
Around your door, the 2 wooden planters you want to fill would be either a standard box, a standard or Holly or even bay used for cooking, all grown to look like a lollipop shape, OR a ball shaped with the same plants, inside the square wooden planters you have in mind (there is a proper name for them but right now cant remember) please be careful what paint you use for wood as some things will kill the plant roots, for the wooden planters you should line them with heavey polythene to protect the inside from water damage.
The pathways were about 2 feet wide or narrower, but less will make it difficult to maneuver about with today's tools and any cables etc for cutting hedges, wheel barrows etc. the beds against the houses were smothered with climbing plants like roses around the doors for perfume, walls too and in front was normally kept for the taller plants like hollyhawks, Delphiniums etc.
Where veg was grown inside these beds, they were laid out in patterns like rows, honeycomb shaped lines etc, all for appearance and kitchen use, fruit trees were also used as height centerpieces for spring blossom and kitchen use, so you would have 2 cherry trees (for pollination) or 2 apple or two pears etc, etc, everything was laid out simple but with beauty in mind also. most veg was grown in succession as these beds were smaller, it was made to be picked young and tender then the empty soil was then replanted with the next veg for the next harvest time, like spring veg and salad crops first, then summer veg and in beside the salad crops you started the winter veg as these took longer to mature and as the salad was picked this made room for the winter veg to grow bigger and root spread was not interrupted.
This is why I suggested you try get hold of a book from the library, book stores will have the modern versions but the library should have ones more on the history of the OLD ENGLISH Par tier garden etc, KNOT gardens were never for growing inside the beds, the beauty from those was the sheer design of the box hedge shapes growing into the shapes of knots, crosses and intertwining shapes, each area had a shape of their own like in Scotland the Celtic cross was a shape recognised all over that are.
Don't be misled by the gardens you saw in the Cotswalds, this was a design grown all over the British Isles for centuries and the reason was space, you could cram flowers, veg and herbs for medicinal reasons in a small space therefore it had to look attractive, the only difference from one area to the next would be the type of stone available for walls and buildings, roof materials etc as these are a plenty in some areas and not in others, the style of cottage or homes differed too, but the gardening was a much alike through needs. the veg likes and dislikes and cost of the seeds etc.
hope this gives you some ideas.
This correspondence can be rather long so maybe for the sake of others you could send me an email via Dave's if you feel I can help you further as not everyone will be interested in such lengthy chats about cottage gardens form long ago, but I dont mind either way. best of luck. look after yourself and take it easy. WeeNel.

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

I don't see any reason you can't keep talking here--I don't think a lot of people here know much about English gardens so I know I'm finding it interesting and I'm sure there are others who are enjoying too. And since it's Linda's thread, as long as it's info that she finds helpful there's no reason not to keep going here. Nothing wrong with taking it private on dmail either, but don't feel that you have to for the sake of other people.

cedar rapids, IA(Zone 5a)

oh, please give all this information and knowledge to all of us...we want to hear to!~

Fresno, CA(Zone 9b)

Hey, I don't mind keeping the dialogue open to all, if you wish. Moreover, if you have questions or ideas, please feel free to get involved. I may not catch something I need to ask and you'll save me some potential grief if you ask it for me.

And I'll not be posting daily, which offers you that opportunity without my verbose input. Having homework from WeeNel, I'll have to do some studying between posts .

So, bring it on, folks! I'm happy to share the wealth.


Fresno, CA(Zone 9b)

WeeNel, please . . . . you are so full of wonderful information. I'm already working on graph paper hanging from a wall in my dining area so as to work with it whenever I have a moment or a special idea. I haven't thought about doing a diagram from a photo. It feels like I don't have the artistic skills to manage such a task. But that fear is likely just an excuse to not try. So I'll try to put a photo together this week.

The rest of the information? Give me a chance to digest the remainder of your information.

Thanks and warmest regards,
Linda in sunny Central California where temps remain at 100+ degrees

Long Beach, CA(Zone 10a)

I don't know if it's still being published, but there used to be a magazine called The English Garden. I last saw it at the big book stores' magazine section.

Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

I am more than happy to continue to offer help or advice about the English gardens of old and how, why and what was used for this, in fact it is now becoming fashionable to redo these gardens and many are being brought back from the brink when they were take apart for more trendy ideas as we all do with fashion, homes and colours etc, so there is a revival.
The reason I felt we could be occupying too much space was a comment made earlier this week that some peoples summarizations (mine) were too long, but glad this is not the case with everyone and would love to join in with everyone else interested in this project that is both a love of mine and a practice I use here at home in a small area of garden. So let the show continue, we are all in for a wonderment of gardening. Hope other UK gardeners can help out too. Happy gardening, WeeNel.

Livermore, CA(Zone 9b)

Jasper, The English Garden is still published ..... I'm a magazine girl, so many rainy days in Oregon I needed something to look at to get me through to Spring. lol I think it's a lovely pub.

website is beautiful as well

Fresno, CA(Zone 9b)

So, OK!!! I just ordered a poster-size photo from SnapFish of a pic I took today. It should arrive by the end of the week. It's 20 X 30 inches!!! It will fit perfectly under my easel pad hanging on the wall. I will make little shapes out of sticky notes to move around.

And . . . I just uploaded all the pics above, as well as photos of the England property I mention above to SnapFish. The problem is that I can't figure out how to invite you to see them without having to join. I may have to move them to another site. In the meantime I'll try to upload two of them in a Dave's journal page. That will give you an idea about what started all of this for me.

And . . . the subcontractor I've worked with before finally wandered by just a couple of hours ago and he will plant the fence posts and run the wire fencing for me, probably (?? you know subcontractors!!) this week! Then after a couple of paychecks I'll have him empty the nearby plant-holes and fill them with amended soil.

That's all that is going to get done for a while. When it starts raining, I suppose, I can have him level the surrounding ground for the pavers to be laid out. And that will require my architectural plan drawing having been completed.

I've included a copy of the entry to the Cirencester front entry with this message. Note the blue boxes in which there are two pompom-like trees resting. Those trees are, in fact, growing in the ground and the box is just a "surround" around the lower trunk. I thought I'd make a couple of those for my two waxleaf privets on each side of the walk-up. The Cirencester photo illustrates the perpendicular formal layout of the area, which I love. I have other photos, like I mentioned, and I'll try to put 'em somewhere where you can go look at them. It's an amazing space.

WeeNel . . . obviously you're not the only one with a tendency toward long summarizations. If the "body" prefers we take this elsewhere we can do that, but as there are some people interested in the project I'm perfectly willing to continue in this venue.


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Fresno, CA(Zone 9b)

Oh, I couldn't stop myself . . . here's a pic of that tree with the "surround" around it. You can see that it's not planted in a wooden box but growing out of the ground. Aaaah, phooey, it looks like the upload cropped the bottom off. We'll see how it looks when we click on it.


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Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

WeeNel--I wouldn't worry about what someone said about the length of your posts, as long as what you're saying is "on topic" and the person whose thread it is appreciates your info anyone else who doesn't want to read a long post is free to scroll past it. Some things can be easily explained in a sentence or two but some things can't!

Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

Thank you Ecrane, as always, you manage to see everything from all sides, I will always try my best to be informative with the thoughts that this is for beginners.

Twincol, I know everyone is finding thing expensive and priorities prevail, but maybe try to get the subscription to Dave's as a gift for a birthday or even a get well recovery gift, you will be able access a lot of info from this site AND get to know some truly lovely caring gardeners who will offer encouragement and knowledge for lots of topics and have a few laughs in between.

The pictures you sent are lovely, they show the style you are trying to create just right even though we can only see a very small part of the garden, the bones of it are there to see, the colours of the paintwork are right, most of the cottages or dwellings had either blue, white or green paintwork and any ironwork (and there was an abundance of it) was painted black or white, this was to enhance the foliage, the flower colours and to add light into the schemes, it was also colours easy available at the time.
You may have noticed the roses tumbling from walls and arbors were the Rambling type as then, they were not into the speices we now know as climbers, and special bread shrubs etc, remember these gardens were made by poor people who shared seeds, gathered edible plant seeds from year to year for resewing, and most ornamental additions to these gardens were hand made from scraps, so you would often see things growing on old sinks (kitchen) old barrels cut in half and old chimney pots taken from derelict buildings (I have 2 chimney pots about 90 years old at each side of my front entry and each season I just change the inner pots filled with either bulbs, summer bedding or evergreens for winter and it looks good) all the troughs and window boxes we are so in love with now-a-days are taken from this era and are just made with modern materials,
A rose arch or a Yew hedge grown into an arch at the entry Gate would be for wind protection but the Yew hedge or arch was grown in those time as a plant that was supposed to ward of any bad spirits, but even if the property was edged by a wall, there was always an arch of some type to define the entry from the mass of planting /paths etc. Roses, honeysuckle etc were trained on the arch, remember smells were not easy to hide then, so perfumed plants were the norm as a way of helping hide the smell of the chicken, pigs etc that helped feed the families. so what you find is that though this type of garden is a thing of wonder today, every plant that was grown had to earn it's keep either for food, medication, cleaning or perfume. Lavender or Rosemary was both herb for cooking, medicinal and for fragrance and moth / insect prevention, Pot-puree was invented by these people, spread on the stone floors or inside bedding or hung up to dry to keep flies/insect away.

The beds you are planning were not wide like ours today, they should be of the size that when you work weeding, planting etc, you should be able to reach the center of each bed with your hand, fork or rake so that you dont have to stand on the soil after you have prepared the beds edged with lavender, box or whatever you decide, it was not considered good husbandry to compact the newly tilled soil be trampling it, after the food crop or whatever was growing was harvested, they just lightly forked over the top (spit, fork deapth) and added a pile of composted animal manures or kitchen waste and let the worms take this down, buy the time spring came/ winter frost had broken up the soil, the manure had rotted and this was then the new seed bed/soil. every one of those gardens had a composting regime, called a midden, straw animal bedding was flung on it, as was all other matter mentionable, remember there was no such thing as plastic or chemicals then to worry about the reaction, even ashes from the fires were used as pathway footings or added to the soil.
You are the only person who will be able to decide the planting selection but it was simple, mostly pastel with maybe darker blues and deep pinks from things like Roses, lavenders etc, but I would think that once you have your plans made of the shapes and sizes of your beds and this layout, then you will probable have a better idea of what will sit naturally in each section / room, remember these were not huge gardens per household, so every inch mattered which is why they used walls, central beds for growing fruit trees etc, so the growth was up off the precious earth used for other stuff. The best way to go is to work on the layout and foundation / bones of this style, it will all fall into place, I have a few Old gardening books I picked up at secondhand book stores and once I dig them out I will try give you the titles and authors where you may be able to find them in your own library or they may be able to order them for you. These books will also remind me of the plants grown for this era and maybe the reasons, I do believe they were much cleaver-er than us modern gardeners in so many ways, because they nurtured there soil and could tell the temp for planting just by touching the soil or going outside to breath in or out to find if the frost was going to affect the seedlings that was life or starvation for the family.
Thankfully My Dad gardened by using a lot of these methods and he taught me a lot of those skills and ways that I still use today with success, aided by some of our more modern ways.
Enough for now, you will be bamboozles by all this, but just hoped you would understand the reasons for this style of garden as they were never for the beauty, more necessity and had to look eye catching as they were a matter of pride also. very best of luck with your plans. WeeNel.

Fresno, CA(Zone 9b)

{{gasp}} such history; wonderful. OK, it does help to understand the history behind a style, doesn't it? You're the greatest!! I'll digest all that you've sent this weekend and then continue my "paper-play."

The attached pic is of the backyard showing one side of the house and a fence. The fence has a clay of some sort made into a sheep (remember, this was a woolstapler's home and the house lives in the Cotswolds--sheep country) statue. Awesome, huh?

Oh, and I DO have a Dave's membership. What do you want me to have that I am not using?

Warm hugs,
Linda aka Twincol

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Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

Hi twincol, I misunderstood and thought you said you were not a member of Dave's, so sorry about the mistake Dah !!!!
look forward to hearing about your weekends play on your design board.

If you get the chance AND energy, go along to your Library to look for books on the history of the English Gardens or they may even suggest an author for you to try look it up elsewhere and you will probably get a good bit of info from reading about them, I am only able to give you what I know and do and if you want true authenticity, then there must be something around somewhere, but I will try continue in the way I can to help you understand the layouts and plantings and what they were used for, so when your ready you can ask away, good luck and dont overdo things, stay healthy. WeeNel.

Fresno, CA(Zone 9b)

What a difference a week makes. I awoke to my subcontractor emptying Aardvark's holes yesterday. Today he was to begin to fill them again. This is what I awoke to today as I stepped out to pick up my newspaper.

I just can't believe it's happening . . . at last!

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Fresno, CA(Zone 9b)

8 am facing east. Compare to facing east in the earliest pics at 5ish pm.

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Fresno, CA(Zone 9b)

Can you begin to see it? Can you, can you??? I am SO excited. LOOK at it. A straight line, east to west, with the cattywampus {chuckling} corner which will provide the backdrop for my multi-trunk Crepe Myrtle connecting with the final north/south end of the lot.

Oh my, oh my, I can see it starting to happen, can you?

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Fresno, CA(Zone 9b)

Facing northwest toward the southwest corner of the house and property. Note the walk with the crack on the way to the front door. This is where I thought I'd opportunistically exploit a hardscape failure by using it as the beginning of pavers . . . a step up as it were, laying a paver on top of the concrete and hiding the crack.

Pavers will continue to line the walk to the stairs and be the foundation of my pocket garden hardscape, inviting paths and tiny knot garden and potted plants resting atop the coveted Hans Sumpf pavers no longer being made, as the family business closed just a couple of years ago after 50-or-so years making clay goods in California.

BTW, I have two very large concrete pots I am thinking I might place a rose in at the outside of the fence/vines on either side of the walkway, inviting guests off the sidewalk toward the door. I'm not sure how vulnerable such a piece is to theft and contemplate that in the decision. I thought they would provide a good visual transition between the concrete walk and the step up to clay pavement.

I am getting so excited!

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Fresno, CA(Zone 9b)

Lastly, this is a photo of the west side of the house and property. See the two Fruitless Mulberries? They bless me! I don't even want to contemplate my power bills in our 95-100+ degree summers without them.

The fence is cut up and over the root midway up the fence. It allows me the opportunity to take advantage of the concrete block fence line as a continuous line-of-sight boundary to my property. In fact, if I am not mistaken, the property line actually rests a single foot outside my fence, with the remainder of the surface belonging to the city. Hmmm, I wonder if they'll send someone out to mow the grass at the north end?

I can already see my little box hedge running parallel to the concrete border on the right . . . to the left of it.

The stack of stuff you see there, is part of 3 years worth of leaves from those trees. Mulch. I've been purposefully saving all of that for this project.

SO!!! Here we are!! The result in terms of my at least temporary sense of hope for the appearance of my property has been tremendously gratifying. And all I've done is lay out the metalware. Aaaahhh, if only all of life's difficulties were so handily moved a step toward resolution, huh?? WHAT FUN!!! I wanna go out and work on it. But it's only 4 a.m. and I think I'll take a nap before work.

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