Starting Over

I’ve promised a look at the new garden and we’ll get to it, but I want to begin with the house, affectionately dubbed ‘Chateau Tiebreaker.’ If you suspect a story behind this name, you’re right. Although we had long planned to move out of the suburbs, Tim and I soon found ourselves at a stalemate. Like Oliver and Lisa of Hooterville, Tim wanted green acres and I had my heart set on living downtown.

September 2010, before work in the garden began.

September 2010, before work in the garden began.

View from kitchen window, autumn 2010.

View from kitchen window, autumn 2010.

Another kitchen view, winter 2010-2011.

Another kitchen view, winter 2010-2011.

Front garden, before clean-up began.

Front garden, before clean-up began.

Back garden and woodland adjacent to river, before clean-up began.

Back garden and woodland adjacent to river, before clean-up began.

After vetoing each other’s initial choices, house hunting became testy until our real estate agent, Margaret Marcum, found the perfect solution in a 50’s ranch home in a country-like setting just a few miles from Greenville’s Main Street.

Within minutes of stepping across the threshold, both Tim and I knew we would make this house our home if we possibly could. Hoping to downsize, the house is bigger than we planned, but it offered two compelling features—a comfortably updated interior and fabulous views from nearly every window.

There were also compromises, however, and the garden was one. Located adjacent to the Reedy River, the lot is steeply sloped and heavily shaded by towering hardwood trees such as tulip popular and red and white oak. For a gardener who favors sun-loving plants and direct-line focal points, these are tough conditions, to say the least.

So, here I am, trying to embrace the shade and learn the art of the curve. I keep telling myself “new is fun” and “look how much you’re learning,” but these tricks don’t always work. Nonetheless, I’m committed to finding my way and making this garden something special.

It has its good points to be sure. Over the years, many gardeners have had a hand in shaping the landscape and one or more had a keen love of plants. There are a number of pleasing evergreens including hemlock, holly, and aucuba. And flowering ornamentals such dogwoods, camellias, gardenias, and azaleas are plentiful, as are a handful of herbaceous perennials.

The small front yard is bisected by a sweeping driveway and one side yard is also devoted to an asphalt drive and parking pad, while the second side yard offers the best potential for a dig-in-the-dirt informal planting space. Just behind the house is a wide but shallow garden created by a retaining wall, followed by a series of steep terraces that reach down to the water.

In my next post, I’ll begin to show each of these spaces in turn, the progress made, and pick your brain for ideas on the best way forward.

(Click on photos to enlarge.)

5 thoughts on “Starting Over

  1. thegardenerandthechef

    My last garden was on a steep slope to the lake. I can tell you gardening on a hillside is not easy but it is fun. When you stand at the bottom, all of your plants are visible. Our brick path to the lake was done as a switchback mountain trail with a patio about halfway down and another at the bottom.

    Reply
    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Anne–I haven’t even begun to figure out a pathway in the woodland, but we have uncovered some old steps made from railroad ties (now mostly decayed) when we were removing ivy. We’ll have to do something similar to your switchback, because a parasail is needed to go straight down.

      Reply
  2. julieadolf

    How exciting to plan new gardens! Your views are spectacular. I visited Peter and Jasmin Gentling’s garden near Asheville during the Garden Blogger’s Fling last year. Their garden is incredibly sloped–mountainous is probably a better term!–and I was awed by their design. Lovely paths meandering through stunning plant combinations–just brilliant. I can’t wait to see what you have planned for your gardens. Enjoy the journey!

    Reply

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