A giant hosta dominates the view through my sliding patio doors. Recently, I realized how pretty it looks on a hot summer afternoon when the wind blows the upper branches of the plane tree that overlooks the patio and causes shafts of sunlight to move over the bluish green leaves of the hosta. The effect makes me feel as though I've been transported to a glade deep in some forest.
But this little scene is surrounded by the larger scene of an overgrown patio, swamped by mud and moss after years of heavy rain and badly planned or unplanned drainage beyond the patio fence. The old patio pavers, where you can see them, are the brick red oblong type mottled with whitish chips, brittle but very attractive in appearance. Somebody many years ago laid them expertly to form a flat, even surface, but now violets, English ivy, Virginia creeper, wild grape and wild strawberry are thriving in the cracks and helping the mud and moss to bury the old patio. Sometimes this arrangement actually looks appealing in its own way, but some of it must go. I've acquired a distaste for ubiquitous English ivy, but the Virginia creeper and its native companions could be managed into elements of a planned shade garden.
After a couple of years of eyeing this area and wondering what to do with it (while working on my front patio container garden), I began a real attack on it this week. Until last year, the concrete slab right outside the patio sliders had several wooden, slatted pallet-like platforms on it to provide a dry surface when rain flooded the patio. I wanted to get rid of these as soon as I moved in a few years ago, and discovering that they were harboring a small snake last fall finally gave me the prompt I needed, and I gradually broke them up and put them in the garbage. Today, I washed the slab with a hose and discovered that not only did it go out a little further than I thought, but it had an extension formed by more of the brick red pavers. That giant hosta actually overshadows one corner of this paver arrangement, and one can see that many years ago this was a beautiful shade garden already.
Isn't finding elements of an older garden as you develop your new garden a grand occasion? Gardens take so long to develop, and you never really finish them, so I'm not inclined to uproot completely the work of the previous gardener or gardeners. Well, I've been told by a neighbor and original resident of the complex that the first owners of my unit back in the early 1980s were two men in designing professions who had a real creative bent when it came to laying out the first garden here. I'm not sure how many of the touches I'm finding in different parts of the garden are theirs, but I know some of them are. The pavers are staying, but most of them will be dug up, cleaned and moved around. In place of the pallets, I'm trying some of the pavers on top of the concrete slab for the much-needed elevated surface. Others will form a new smaller patio area or a path. The giant hosta will continue to be one of this garden's crown jewels -- its circular mass of leaves looks so dramatic when viewed from above through an upper storey window. And then on to developing my own plantings, and I think now that it will be mainly a fern garden in this shade, with a foundation of violets, Virginia creeper, wild strawberry and even some moss.
May 4, Brighton Dam Azalea Gardens
2 weeks ago