Monday, August 10, 2009

Old Concept for a New Age: The Well Mixed Garden

In doing some research on mixed gardening plans for our (as yet undetermined) Southern home, I came across the above diagram of a triumphantly mixed garden. This plan, developed for a London Villa Garden was published in Gardening Illustrated on November 22, 1879 and is for a large space, about 500 x 250.

While the concept might be very big, and this plan for a space larger than many of ours, this garden would be easily and beautifully scaled to smaller spaces maintaining the all important concepts for this new and difficult economic age of ours.

For example, economy and organics: The top left and right are devoted to apples, raspberries, asparagus, sea kale, peaches, salad, pears, bush fruit, and green crops. Not huge spaces, but enough certainly, for the average family.

Renew and reuse: The very tip of the garden is occupied with a small greenhouse, vinery, and compost. Here, one can sustain and restart the garden each year, also make wine and have any number of decorative or burning uses for the vines.

While the lower two thirds of the plan seems devoted to greenery, it is actually a fine mix of uses: Nut trees interspersed for a food source, peony and subtropical beds, and a cutting garden corner mixed with long lived tree staples: Cedars of Lebanon, oak, birch. A fountain and bench space at the lower left create a place for reflection.

The green borders are evergreen; Christmas trees! Or, at the very least, to be decorated with white lights for the holiday season.

While it may have initially seemed an exercise for a large lot or Martha Stewart's home, in fact, some smaller version of this plan could be achieved in any space: When we lived in Boston, just beyond our courtyard was a tiny space that had been covered with black landscaping cover and abandoned. It was, at best 8x20 and hung literally off a cliff into the courtyard of the town home on the street behind. Josh pulled away the tarp and turned the space over for me. In two weeks, we had four beautiful bush roses for cutting, and a patch of vegetables large enough to generate huge amounts of food, most of which were canned or frozen for winter or given away in sheer overabundance. I planted herbs in the window boxes and dried pounds of the stuff we are (I know, I know) still using. I composted because my Mother always did and that is what I knew to do. It was a mixed garden full of things I just loved but it would serve me well in these times.

What old concepts have new life in your world today?

Resource: The Well-Designed Mixed Garden, Tracy DiSabato-Aust


the NEO-traditionalist said...

This garden plan is so simple and lovely I would frame it as a print on my wall! The details of the transformation of your little Boston plot were wonderful and inspiring. To think that out of such little space came such abundance! What is old can certainly be reused and made new : )
xx Kate

Southern Aspirations said...

THIS is an amazing find. I must search out old garden plans. These "old" plants are great!

My Notting Hill said...

Really interesting! In our front yard, off to the side, we have a large patch of black raspberry bushes that we purchase in NY. Here in VA they fruit about a month earlier than NY. Love the story of your plot in Boston.