A Garden in the Woods

In a small town near Cincinnati is a garden tucked on a hillside. Half in the woods and half on a sunny plateau, the garden is a brilliant blend of garden design and woodland sensibility.

To protect the privacy of the owners I have not included photos of the home and stone barn. Nonetheless, what I do share with you shows how the owner of the garden uses generous plantings to give weight and presence to the garden- critical to its success. A garden with modest plant collections and plantings would have been lost in this grand, natural setting.

As I toured the garden it was immediately evident that the designer had the garden visitor in mind. Statues, water features, a pond and garden structures provide focal points in the garden- important in any garden, but critical in this setting. Without them, with such an abundance of beauty, my mind would not have known where to rest. Do I look at the mature trees, the deep ravine planted with azaleas and hostas, the azalea beds or the stand of irises? The added focal points create a pleasant pause in the landscape, allowing the viewer to take in a vignette before moving onto more of the garden.

Visitors descend from the gravel drive via massive stone steps leading to a space created with large stone slabs. The size of the stones is in proportion to the surrounds. A small patio area with smaller pavers would have felt weak- leaving visitors feeling small and vulnerable in such a grand setting, These stones have a solid presence equal to that of the surrounding landscape.

When a garden is designed in a setting that is magnificent on its own, it is important to draw the eye into the garden. However, a total disregard of the garden's setting would be disastrous.  A successful garden takes queues from the natural landscape, especially in transitional areas. Doing so creates a fluid movement from woods to gardens.  

When designing in shade, include white flowers and variegated foliage. The white flowers of the azaleas really pop in this shady setting and the fountain provides not only a focal point but a touch of human influence as we transition from woodland setting to the grassy, open plateau.
A stone wall accentuates the curve of the drive that winds up a hill through a dense woods. The plantings on the wall give a glimpse of what is to come.

Woods meets garden. Why this works - The log and bark mulch ties the woods to the garden. Pavers would have been out of place and jarring to the senses. Ferns and azaleas are equally at home in the woods or gardenscape and the impatiens hint that this is the beginning of gardenscape.

Details, details. A Japanese Maple's fine textured leaves add detail to the garden. This tree was planted close to a path, making it easy for garden visitors to see their fine detail.

A hillside planted with Rhododendrons, Azaleas and hostas.

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