story by claire c. schuchman StepS toA GreAt GArden Last of a three part series n the last two installments in this series, we looked at two elements of a great garden. The first is employing the use of the five elements of design. The second is healthy plant material. The third and final element is being able to live, or joyfully experience, your garden. How does one achieve such a thing? I learned this important lesson when we moved to our current home. The former owner and builder of our home, designed this garden in the 1940s in such a way that enhanced livability. The house sits gracefully on the land, with picture windows that take in the grand view of the back yard. The owner took full advantage of the surroundings and built beautiful brick paths set in the woodland, leading from the dining room door, past the wooden deck, through a stand of mature rhododen- drons, to several lovely patios. Large oaks provide shade for this area, allowing ferns and mayapples to thrive. The path curves around the top of a pond, originally built as a basin for a natu- ral spring and allowing a beautiful view from above. The rail- ing circling it was built as much for safety as it was for stop- ping and gazing at this secluded urban woodland gem. Genius. Moving deeper into the yard, the stone patio with a fire pit and Adirondack chairs nestled in shade, comes into view. Continuing on past one of the oaks, the path leads to the brick patio with the sound of gurgling water from the fountain in the pond. Finally, moving onward, curved stone steps emerge, outlined with leafy green hostas, beneath the shaded canopy of several hemlocks. One arrives on the driveway with the sense of having just been in a different world. An enchanted garden or heaven, per- haps. Much like a home with a nice floor plan leading grace- fully from one space to another, this garden allows the visitor to traverse from beauty to beauty. A truly great garden is spectacular in every season of the year. In my garden, summer warmth beckons me to come, sit and watch the honeybees gather on our stone fountain, drinking from the water saturated rocks. The long blooming shrubs and perennials give a succession of color and many sport colorful berries at the end of the season. In the cool air of autumn a hot crackling fire allows me a few more days outside before the weather closes in for winter. I love to watch as the leaves turn fiery shades of orange, red and gold. I have carefully added structural evergreens to this part of the garden because I noticed in years gone by that this wooded area lacked interest when the foliage was gone. A gardener will know if he has done his job well when win- ter arrives. Are the shrub borders still alive with color? I love to venture out in winter, into the tantalizing hush of newly fallen snow. The red twigs of the shrubby dogwood glow in the late afternoon sun, highlighted now by snow that accen- tuates the contrast with the smooth evergreen leaves of the rhododendron. The snow outlines the brick work in the patio by the pond. Perfect. The naked limbs of a delicately trimmed Japanese Maple, its horizontal structure so carefully developed, is picture perfect. This tree, a star in the garden, is as beautiful now as it was when in full foliage. I breathe deeply, I am lucky to be alive. Spring will come soon, brimming with fresh green growth and filled with all the potential of a great gardening season. March will tease me with its warm days and April isn’t much better, but the daffodils will bloom soon and I have the 42 mtl • june 2011 _________________________ __________________________________________ Step Three __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________ L“ivingin a Garden”