Good morning, fellow dirtboxers! Today, I’m going to take a break from the “Five Tips for a Great Garden in June” series, to bring something that I hope to be a little more engaging, inspiring and original to the blog. Tips and tricks are great and all, but that kind of thing can be found in any dime a dozen garden book. Going forward, I think I’m going to focus a little more on happenings in my own dirtbox, so that hopefully you, as readers, will leave filled with ideas about what you like, don’t like, and most importantly, feeling like you want to get outside and get digging!
Finally found the place where the sidewalk ends...
So, without further ado, today I’m going to take you on a virtual vacation to the place where the sidewalk ends. I found tons of design inspiration from nature, here, and hopefully you will too! On a whim, I went to Saugerties, NY, a historical mill town at the mouth of the Esopus Creek, somewhere on the west banks of the Hudson River between Kingston and Albany.
I loved this sidewalk for its rambling look and abrupt end, because it reminded me that perfection is not always the greatest attribute in design. Although the path is straight and narrow, it has less of a sterile look than a poured concrete walkway, making me feel less like I was part of an institution and more like I was on a walk to find some great, hidden treasures. I’ve been slowly applying this idea to my own garden, digging up large slabs of slate from my backyard (I live on the crest of a hill) and lining the outside of my garden with them. I had considered ordering stone, but this is turning out to be a much more cost effective and original design concept. (Not to discount, though, the back-breaking labor of digging up long buried slate, but its well worth it to me)
"Hey, you - get off my beach!"
The path where the sidewalk ends eventually brought me down a long, sloping hill filled with tidy, tightly spaced frame houses with neatly tended flower gardens. The tinkle of wind chimes hung in the air on the cloudy late afternoon. I noticed a prominent lack of vegetable gardens, but couldn’t tell what was going on in backyards. The prevailing themes seemed to include window boxes and raised beds, filled with decorative shade-loving grasses and tulips. (Since it was a few weeks ago that I went, the tulips were just coming into full bloom) There to greet me at the creek cutting through the basin of the hillside was this great (swan?) — I’m not entirely sure what kind of bird that is. Nevertheless, with his broad and graceful body, he followed me down the beach, chattering all the while in hopes, no doubt, of the possibility of bread crumbs or other treats.
An alleyway, since converted to decorative garden and sitting area.
Next, I hiked back up the hill into the center of town, flanked on my right by views of the Esopus Creek waterfall and the high gorge walls on its south banks. Looking for a place to eat, I noticed that a local restaurant had turned an alley into a beautiful sitting area and garden. (Forgive the crooked picture) With beautiful trellis work and lush green ivy, I felt transported back to another world, where garbage cans and grime would be the last things you’d expect to find in an alley. (There are actually several groups out there working to beautify alleys, like the Alley Gardens Project.) Further back into the alley is a small sitting area, allowing patrons a comfortable and beautiful place to regroup and relax.
Path to the Saugerties Lighthouse
After lunch, which was at the wonderfully authentic Fez (71 Partition Street), I went down to the river to check out the Saugerties Lighthouse and the tidal walk, which takes travelers from the mainland out to the lighthouse on a short trail, which becomes submerged and impassible at high tide. This archway, made entirely from logs, is just as beautiful, but the polar opposite in feel to the previous one I found in town. Personally, I love the natural look and am considering building something similar at the entrance to my raised beds. I have one lonely little grapevine, but this archway would be the perfect place to plant more.
Finally at the lighthouse (and still dry, remarkably), I had the chance to look at the beautiful grass at the end of the trail. Although I believe grasses like these are usually confined to coastal areas, I’ve seen many people integrate them into their landscape design. There’s a small marsh across the street from me where cattails grow, and I wish I could convince them to grow up the hill a little bit onto my property, where I could use them for their decorative properties, but also as an on-property edible. Nearly all of the cattail plant is edible to humans!
Filled with ideas and inspiration, I left for home, ready to get to work on my garden. I picked up a lot of ideas from the trip to Saugerties, most importantly the concept of working to integrate a more relaxed and natural feeling into my neatly planted rows of corn and tomatoes.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this narrative and experiment away from the more conventional “How-To” feeling of this blog. As both my garden and I mature, I’m beginning to realize that sometimes the best garden is not the one that sticks to all the rules, but the one that isn’t afraid to break them every now and again, and takes inspiration from unlikely sources. What do you use to get garden inspiration (books, other gardens, the outdoors)? I’d love to hear about it in the comments section!
Read Full Post »