Monday, March 26, 2012

Cancer Survivor’s Garden – Design

When I was designing my garden I didn't ask myself what it would look like when it had been neglected for three or more years.  I’d read books on design.  I’d been to lectures at the Northwest Garden and Flower Show.  I can follow instructions.

I designed most of my pathways wide enough for the garden cart.  The joke at the garden show was to design the pathways wide enough for the staff.  I didn’t need a staff—then.  I did design my pathways wide enough for the garden cart, in most places.  The wider paths will allow us to mow them with the riding mower.  They are not a problem.

I intended for my paths to be gravel.  I put down landscape fabric and four inches or more of gravel.  In some places I saw no need for my gravel paths to be wide enough for my widest garden cart.  These are the places where I will have to completely redo the beds.

The gravel paths were great for about the first three years then grass and dandelions began to creep in.  I fought bravely, then I couldn’t fight.  The grass and dandelions completely occupied my pathways.  The narrower paths were wide enough for the push mower but not the riding lawnmower.  They harbored the crab grass that invaded my raised beds.  They bred the dandelions that went to seed and grew in my nice loose fertile planting beds.

About twice a year, we hired the workers from the local garden store to come and clean the gravel paths.  This was expensive and did not last long.  Within a month the crab grass and dandelions were back.

My garden is a great testimony to the importance of good garden design.  Where I designed well, the structure and design have kept those areas looking respectable.  When the garden workers come, they can make those places look fantastic. 

Those parts of the garden that were never constructed as they ought to have been are a mess.  They take hours and hours to clean up.  In some places the best that can be done is to hire help.  It will be expensive to clean up and rebuild the mess created from neglect and poor design. 

I can promise you that as I rebuild all pathways will be wide enough for the riding mower.  The beds that create my labyrinth will need to be completely redone.  I will raise them higher.  I will eliminate small paths between the beds by running some beds together and relocating some beds to make the pathways wider.

When I say I will do all this heavy work, I really mean the very expensive workers from the garden store will do the heavy work.  It would have been so much cheaper to do the job right the first time.


  1. What a great parable your garden is for life in general. One of our friends created a memorial garden for his wife who died from breast cancer and every spring we all gather there to remember her. Love your blog!