During the winter I thought about the possibility of more paths in our gardens.
Some of our garden beds float separately from each other. Whole garden areas like the Cherokee Trail of Tears garden seem to float within the property with no apparent relationship to other gardens. The Arbor garden and the Rose garden exist ten feet apart but have no sense of connection to each other. Paths connecting these gardens offered one way to create a greater expression of unity and oneness and make the experience of moving through the gardens a bit more organized.
Winter is a good time to think about changes like more paths. I read what I could about the topic of paths in order to get ready to make changes this spring. Rosemary Verey, a British gardener, refers to paths as the skeleton of a garden. She suggests they frame the beds, but also form the structure of how a garden is experienced as well as how it is composed.
The paths at the farm are mostly unplanned. They happened as a response to people and dogs moving around the property. There is the path to the compost heap. There is the path around the Venus Garden into the barn, made by all of us going to the barn for supplies. There is a wheelbarrow path up from the mulch pile. There is the path created by the dogs from the front porch to the back door. Why they need to run from one door to the other with such frequency is beyond me, but they do. Perhaps because they have a full staff of door people at every portal, they want to make sure we are ever at our posts. There are some short, almost invisible paths within the Arbor Garden that indicated how to get in and out of the garden, but not much more.
A few of these paths have that magic quality of a good path. They beckoned us to follow them and see where they go. The path to our neighbor’s house is one of these paths. It cuts a green swath through the rough yellow grasses of our meadow then disappears into a cool woods of black cherry and wild apples. As you enter the inviting copse of trees, a small cairn of stones sits on a chunk of exposed mossy ledge, marking the fact that a journey has begun.
In one of my most favorite gardening book, The Inward Garden by Julie Moir Messervy she suggests that gardens are best when they express timeless archetypal experiences. Our first landscape is our mother. From there, we explore increasingly bigger outer landscapes that echo this first landscape.
A landscape that builds on the archetype of the sea reminds us of our watery experience within our mothers before we were born as well as our nonverbal experience of oneness before language separated us into this and that.
The archetype of the cave references our experience of safety and enclosure before birth as well as right after birth when we are safe in a parent’s cradling arms.
The archetype of the harbor is like our early experiences of sitting on someone’s lap. Contained in a grown-up’s lap we are safe but also able to look out at the world around us for the first time.
The archetype of the promontory is that territory of our first experience of independent movement. It’s a landscape where we have have wandered to places out away from our mothers, but still close enough to run back to safety. The sense of freedom is matched by a comforting sense of having our mother’s at our back. A promontory feels its connection to the mainland even as it sits at the edge of new territory.
The island archetype gives us that experience of solitude, otherness, separation, and independence. With maturity we sometimes seek this kind of separate experience and so can identify with this quality of islandness when we see it in nature or in a garden.
The archetype of the mountain reflects how our journey beyond our first experiences of independence leads us on a bigger quest for self realization. The mountain archetype represents the spiritual journey born from our own efforts.
The archetype of the sky reminds us of the wonder at the whole wide open cosmos, the glory of its bigness and its beyondness.
Messervy suggests that the journey through any garden can be a journey of experiencing these archetypal in the landscape. Thee archetypes can be communicated in tiny spaces as well as estate gardens. When we create these archetypal places in our gardens we make a walk through these gardens a journey both exhilarating and profound.
The Arbor garden is a good example of the cave archetype. The way the farm is set on a hill yet encircled by higher mountains is the harbor archetype at work. The circular pool at the entrance into the buildings speaks of the sea archetype. There are archtypal references all over the place, but the lack of paths means that these moments have not been brought together into a unified journey.
it was time to begin to translate winter musings into action. So, this weekend we began to articulate the paths we have more clearly, and set about to make some new paths connecting disconnected gardens. Above you can see the landscape cloth we laid down under the paths before spreading peastone.
After reading about possible path materials and consulting the Angels about what kind of material to use on the paths, I settled on peastone gravel like the gravel used in the entrance courtyard.
Settling on the idea of gravel and actually starting to dump load on load of gravel into the garden are two different things. I found it a bit of a leap to lay down so much gravel. It seemed so permanent. As I waffled about going for it with the gravel, the Angels arranged that every time I opened a gardening book it showed a garden with gravel paths.
I got the point. They want gravel.
We began where I felt most confident, with laying down gravel on the path that the dogs had already made in all their travel from back door to front and front door to back.
We didn’t get as far as we’d hoped because it takes a lot of gravel to do a little bit of paths but this is how it looks so far. This is the entrance to the Arbor garden. As we get more gravel to spread, we will keep this path going around the south side of the house to the back porch as well as following the dog path in the foreground of this shot all the way to the main entrance on the north of the house.
You can see where we ran out of gravel, just as we turned to corner to run along the south side of the house. I created a small circle of a garden bed between the Arbor garden and the Rose garden. I hope it will be a sort of promontory moment when gravel encircles it and it has a bit more substance.
I still have to think of how to more cohesively connect the two gardens. This small circular bed of alpine strawberries, decorated right now with a fuschia in a pot, doesn’t quite unite the Arbor Garden and the Rose Garden into a whole. But it is a beginning. I will keep fiddling until it feels right. We’ll get more gravel next weekend when I have Jim to help shovel and then we’ll see what happens.
And in the meantime, I can keep mulching all the gardens. We had 20 cubic yards of native bark mulch delivered last week in the most enormous truck I have ever seen. The driver willingly backed the truck down to near the compost heap and then dumped the whole load in one fell swoop.
Here’s William atop the mulch pile in all its glory! That’s even enough mulch for me, the mulch queen. I have taken about thirty wheelbarrow loads off it already and it doesn’t even look like any has been used. That’s my idea of heaven, gardens to mulch and enough mulch to do the job!