THAT IS THE QUESTION uppermost in my landscaping mind right now. Last year my thinking was anti-lawn, pro-groundcover and other plantings. I’ve tried to minimize turfgrass up to now (I don’t own a mower, or want to), but found that, in many cases, sprinkling grass seed was the cheapest, quickest way to get green. But now, the second of two garden-professional friends (one a writer/editor, one a designer) has nixed the notion of an island bed in the middle of the yard. They’re both in favor of a continuous greensward with plantings around it.
A wider view of the yard as it looked in mid-April. The existing free-form island bed is an accidental central feature. The other brownish areas are where I’ve sprinkled wood chips to hold weeds down while I decide what else to do.
True, the existing island bed has virtually nothing growing in it at the moment. The spot is not as sunny as I originally thought and I haven’t focused on planting there. And design-wise, it never did make much sense. The free-form island bed in the center of my ‘shy’ half-acre is there only because previous occupants of my house, a cottage in Springs, Long Island, which I bought in May ’09, had created a huge compost heap in the middle of the yard for reasons known only to themselves.
That first fall, it seemed easier to re-shape it and re-conceive it as a flower bed than to move it entirely. The raised bed also served the purpose of concealing a concrete octagon about 3 feet wide — the cap over my septic tank — which is several inches above ground level.
This concrete octagon, which covers the opening to the septic tank, is now buried under a few inches of soil in the existing island bed.
My garden-designer friend suggested re-grading the property, so that the level of the entire lawn would match the level of the septic tank cover, which as it stands is not a desirable design feature. That would involve a truck with some cubic yards of topsoil, men with rakes and perhaps power tools, a proper re-seeding of the area, and money. It’s not a bad solution; I just wasn’t thinking of doing any significant earth-moving back there this season.
Then my neighbor from across the road, who has lived in this arty, woodsy hamlet full-time for 30+ years, came by and, as we sipped tea on the back deck, gave me her take on the re-grading idea. “That’s very south of the highway,” she said, the big, high-maintenance lawn being a feature of prime Hamptons real estate, which this is not.
I told her I had realized I could shovel and/or rake out the soil in the existing bed and deposit it along the western property line, above, an open, sunny area in which nothing is presently growing except some mullein, below. I could plant herbs there, and flowers (deer-resistant, of course). Maybe even tomatoes. But that leaves the problem of the concrete cap.
Perhaps the cap could be re-set to sit on level with the present lawn? If not, said my across-the-road, neighbor, how about using it as a pedestal for a birdbath, or a tub of annuals. That, she pointed out, would be “very Springs.”
I like the freeform island — it looks ideal for planting perennials and so forth. I don’t know why your experts are against it.
Thanks Robert, I kinda liked it too, but having read a lot of garden design books, I see their point. It’s bitsy-piecey — breaks up the vista. Matter of personal preference, I suppose. If I do plantings there, they would have to be all shade- and deer-tolerant, which is very limiting. Anyway, appreciate your weighing in.
I don’t know. I always favor OTHER people working hard on their yards. I prefer no-maintenance Terry-turf on ours. I think you can get professional help with your continuous greensward issues. My mom wouldn’t let me talk like that.
My thought would be some beautiful large stones of different shapes and sizes and a feature, bird bath or sculpture…you probably don’t need to move the cap often…and the island planting thing always ends up to be alot of maintenance…keeping grass from crawling in..etc..
For what’s worth…
Professional help is what I’m afraid of, Terry. Yes, Cherie, I know what you mean about the creeping grass!
Regrading? That sounds very other Hamptons! I like the island personally but if you are going to nix it, the idea of a tub or bird bath seems a fine solution for the septic tank.