Porch Update & the Big Idea

It’s been an exciting week, as porch construction is now progressing at a brisk pace.  When I arrived home Sunday evening after more than 3 weeks of travel, only the floor was finished, but framing took just a few days and this afternoon a roof membrane was rolled out in anticipation of shingles.

Monday morning

Monday morning

Wednesday morning

Wednesday morning

Thursday afternoon

Thursday afternoon

We’ve also received the happy news that the custom windows are complete and will be installed after the holiday weekend.  The subcontractor who will build the basement-level patio is also slated for a consultation within the week.

All of these are good things, but my thoughts are completely monopolized by a BIG IDEA.

I have a list of tips for making the most of a garden tour which I share when leading a group.  One of those ideas is to continually reference what you see on tour to your landscape at home, imagining how features or plants might work in your personal garden.

What design might work in this long but narrow space?

What design might work in this long but narrow space?

Imagine my excitement, then, when I saw a garden design at Mottram Hall, a grand property hotel in the Cheshire countryside, that offered a solution for organizing my long but narrow space.

It’s simple really—a five part garden connected like a string of pearls.

The garden at Mottram Hall, set within a large rectangle of lawn, comprised 3 circles—a large center circle with two smaller circles at each end—linked by a pair of Arts & Crafts pergolas.

One end of the Mottram Hall garden (L to R):  large circle, Arts & Crafts pergola, small circle

One end of the Mottram Hall garden (L to R): large circle, Arts & Crafts pergola, small circle

Mottram Hall garden, view across the center circle, from one pergola to the other.

Mottram Hall garden, view across the center circle, from one pergola to the other.

The question, however, is what form should the 5-part garden take?  Since the space will often be viewed from above and the garden will be set among surrounding beds of plants, rather than a lawn, pergolas are not a feasible choice.  Plus, because the width of the garden is uniformly narrow, the center section should be an oval or rectangle, not a large circle.  Here are a few ideas…

DSC_5301

So, what do you think?  Is a five-part design a good choice for the space?  Do you have a favorite among the options above?  And, what other possibilities come to mind?

31 thoughts on “Porch Update & the Big Idea

  1. Amy

    My vote: curves-curves-curves! And perhaps a fountain, bird bath/feeder/house or armillary sphere for the center to give structure but without the space requirements of a pergola. Just a thought!

    Reply
  2. Susan Temple

    You’ve asked a crazy plant person so what do I know about design. :)) I like the middle option. The center shapes would mirror your home and the other levels of your garden, with circles breaking up those shapes. When time to plant, put large numbers of same plants so the shapes will be emphasized when looking down from your porch.

    Reply
  3. mattb325

    I vote for the third option as I assume the rectangular bed will align with the new addition, but whichever way you go, you’ll have so much more room for plants….and choosing new plants will be the most fun of all!

    Reply
  4. b12alley

    You are the Queen here. I wouldn’t dare suggest anything except flow from the addition out. Lucky you!!! I can’t even get a greenhouse.

    Reply
    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      B12–Well, it was nearly 5 years coming. We’ve been saving our nickels and dimes a long time for this porch. My husband says we’re too old for another mortgage:^)

      Reply
  5. casa mariposa

    Before answering your question, I need to know what you’re going to do with the hydrangea. Will they be the backdrop to the new design? I’d either put something soft and flowy on the slope like Japanese Forest grass or set in boulders with planting pockets to control erosion. As for the design, I’d go with the first choice to soften the squareness of the house and remove all the grass. Put in a soft, pretty groundcover, instead.

    Reply
    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Tammy–The hydrangeas will be transplanted around the garden in smaller groups. The idea is for the frame to define the middle and then everything goes soft around the edges. Going to call the slope the Fern Bank, but will also have spring blubs and other shade loving plants. Best of all, there will be zero grass.

      Reply
  6. Beth @ PlantPostings

    Design is not my strong point, but it looks like you have a great one! When you’re done with your project, will you design some landscaping for me? 😉 How wonderful to start from scratch with that large patch of land! The porch is looking great!

    Reply
    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Beth–I know good design when I see it, but I’m that doesn’t mean I can come up with it on my own! I’m really thrilled with how everything is coming together at just the right time.

      Reply
  7. whichwaynow101

    I think I like option no. 2 but I’m not very good at visualising things. I often change my mind after the project is finished. I hope you get some useful feedback.

    Reply
  8. Beth croft

    You will love your porch-I love mine.I like the third choice if it fits on your lot.
    Have been working on the very neglected back corner of my garden. Going to put a potting shed/tree house for grands. Have cut down the jungle!

    Reply
  9. Angie

    Exciting times, your project is much nearer to completion, I can only imagine just how excited you are Marian.
    Personally, I like the mixture of both curves and straight lines, in which ever combination above. The idea of a fountain as suggested above is also a good one. Can you imagine sitting there listening to the water. Incredible!

    Reply
  10. annamadeit

    In looking at the new porch (how exciting!) and its central role within your elongated space, the sketches you presented feel awfully formal, and as competing schemes rather than complementary. If I were you, I would break up the long space into smaller rooms utilizing some kind of zig-zag arrangement where, as you turned the corner, a new focal point would appear. I think your new porch should be one of those (the main) focal points. Those stately trees could be another, and so on… You could put the suggested fountains, seating areas, birdbaths, whatever along that alternating progression, as you see fit, and you would have two different, albeit corresponding vistas in two different directions, as you enjoy the view from your porch. Does that make sense? It’s hard to explain without a pen in my hand…

    Reply
    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Anna–I lean towards OCPD and formal makes me feel calm and satisfied. My idea is to use the “string of pearl” outline as a pattern for the walkway through the space which will organize it but still allow for informal planting. The front garden slopes toward the house and the woodland is a series of terraces down to the river, so both are necessarily informal. Having this one area with a symmetrical layout is important to me.

      Reply
  11. Mary Rabe

    I would like a more sweeping look to break up the straight lines of the porch. But, if you are going for a more formal look, I vote for the rectangle with oval in the middle.

    Reply
  12. Sharon Lanier

    It is so neat to read everyone’s ideas…..after all you did ask!!! You have such a great eye for garden design and any of those three designs would be beautiful. Very English!! My choice would be the first design with the large oval at the center. I agree that those gorgeous hydrangeas will be beautiful worked into the edges. Can’t wait to see the finished project.

    Reply
  13. Kathie Fagan

    I vote for the first – oval between circles – because of the angularity of the house and the (perceived) curvature of the land.

    I think it is a nifty use of the space.

    ~~ Kathie on Capers, G’ville

    Reply
  14. gardeninacity

    Very exciting about the new porch, and fun to watch it take shape. As for the big idea, I think my preference would be the first drawing (all curves). As Kathie said above, let the house have all the straight lines. And curves can provide a good compromise of relaxed and formal.

    Reply

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