Monday, March 30, 2009

Knox Hill Project: The Victorian Sunken Garden Restoration

We decided to work Saturday on the yard. We had to start somewhere and we decided on the “Victorian Sunken Garden” area of the home. Sunken gardens were a Victorian era design feature found mostly in the great estates of England, however they were not confined to “Grand Manors”, many gardeners were taken with the idea of being surrounded by flowers and created smaller ‘sunken gardens of their own. The principal behind the sunken garden was that by bringing the viewer “down” into the garden area and having elevated sides one could view the plantings at eye level and appreciate them more. Sunken gardens were often home to “Tea parties”, and tables were brought into the sunken garden and tea was served. The Sunken Garden has a second Renaissance in the 1920’s as well in America.

Such is the case we believe of our home. Off to the side in the side yard was a series of two limestone sidewalks that go out about 4 feet out into the yard from the side street city sidewalk and from our main sidewalk that runs by the side of the house. Suddenly the elevation takes a drop of about a foot and the sidewalk ‘ends’. There is a triangular shaped area about 15 feet that is definitely lower than the surrounding area. Over the years, as trees matured, leaves fell and decomposed, and has filled this area in somewhat, but, this is the site of what was once a sunken garden.

We removed a Honeysuckle that was on its last legs on the western end of the area and began a new bed of what will eventually be our “Lily Garden” area, a semi circular area that will be filled with bulbs that will bloom throughout the spring and summer as this was a sunny spot in the garden area. My instincts were right about this area as we dug deeper I began to find old bulbs and tubers. We brought in some Heirloom Lilies from our garden in Indianapolis some double bloom day lilies and some Resurrection Lilies (Lycoris squamigera) as well as Iris bulbs and Gladiolas. These will no doubt be late bloomers (if at all) their first year planted here so the plan is this year to supplement with some annuals to fill in, until this part of the garden can take hold..

Digging down another 12-14 plus inches in the ‘sunken area’ of the garden we found the bottom. Of course over the years many roots have grown into this area and to effectively clear this area out we will no doubt rent a rototiller and remove this a few inches at a time as I am sure we will need to install a dry well to contain excess water collection. The sides of the Garden will be lined in stone and we are mounding up the area to the north, which will house a water feature pond with a waterfall. This garden will be partially screened from the street with some pine trees and the change in elevation. The change in elevation and the sound of the waterfall will buffer traffic band street noise as well as create a focal point.

There will be a raised bed garden to the south that will have a trellis that will help separate this garden from the more formal brick courtyard on the other side.

The garden restoration and overall creation of formal gardens site wide will be one of the largest landscape projects we have done in a while but combined with the house restoration should create a project that will be focal point of the neighborhood. This will be a dramatically different project from our last home , a 1915 Craftsman home. Which had a much less formal feel, pictures of those gardens are here:

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