Many years ago, when I worked as an editor at Rodale Press Garden Books, part of my job was looking at pretty pictures of gardens. Lots of pictures. Many thousands of pictures. You see, each of us worked on the photo selections for the books we were individually responsible for, and we often pitched in to help each other on the biggest books. Our ever-patient photo editor presented us with towering stacks of folders and envelopes full of slide sheets, and we spent many hours leaning over a light table, peering at tiny transparencies in the hunt for the perfect pictures. Part of the task was selecting the types of images that suited the particular book project, whether that was close-up shots for plant IDs, combination shots, or wider-focus garden shots. But that was just the first step; then we had to winnow out those that were out of focus, misidentified, poorly lit, or otherwise unattractive or unacceptable.
Besides looking for visible plant labels, chewed leaves, obvious staking, and other no-no’s, one guideline we followed was to avoid choosing photos that looked “too British.” I think we each had our own ideas about what that meant, but for me, at least, one feature I always associated with British gardens was tall stone or brick walls. Not being a traveler, I’d never actually seen a British garden in person, so I can only attribute my bias to seeing other pictures of such gardens in the books and magazines I was reading at the time.
Now, many years later, I still have a mental association between British gardens and tall walls. I often wondered what it would be like to actually be inside of a walled garden, but I figured I’d never actually find out. However, thanks to one of my neighbors, I now know what it feels like, and it’s definitely as cool as I thought it would be. (Yeah, I know, other people get stuck with annoying neighbors with really ugly landscaping, and I get one that builds a walled garden. That kind of luck simply can’t be explained.)
The project started in late fall of 2006. The photo above shows the future site of the walled garden, with some remnants of the previous vegetable beds. Below is another view of the site, with the stakes marking the 60-foot-by-60-foot square for the foundation.
The cinder-block walls went up quickly, and by mid-January, they were textured to give the impression of real stone, and then covered with stucco. The photo below was taken from almost the same site as the one above; you can sort of tell that from the bit of tree on the left edge.
Progress slowed a bit after that, but by mid-spring, metal screens were being set into gaps left in the south wall to allow for ventilation, and three months later, the raised beds on the side side were framed in and already planted with vegetables and flowers, as shown in the April and July shots below.
On the north side of the walled garden, the fish pond was built by mid-spring, and a few months later, the beds were framed in and planted with cover crops. Below are April, July, and October shots of the north side.
There’s still a good bit of work to be done here, I’m told. My neighbor plans to install trelliage along this half of the interior, to give the north side more of a room-like feeling, and I’m sure he has countless other bits of detail to follow up on before he considers this area to be finished (as much as any garden can be finished). I look forward to seeing how this space evolves over the next few years, but even now, the ultimate sense of enclosure makes it feels like a truly special “secret garden,” right here in the Pennsylvania countryside.
I’ll finish this up with a reminder that this month’s topic for the Garden Bloggers’ Design Workshop is fences and walls, so if any of you have comments or posts about either fences or walls in your own gardens or gardens you like to visit, feel free to leave a comment below or on the original post. We’d love to hear your stories too.
And now, a completely gratutious picture of silly alpacas, in honor of the season. Happy holidays, everyone!