14 May 2010

'A Scents of Place' Comes to Life

They say Rome wasn't built in a day, but I bet they made good progress given enough time and all those soldiers (and slaves - but that's a history lesson for another day) to lug around all that stone. We aren't building a city, just a cityscape, we have rebar instead of stone, we don't have slaves, we have fellow PGs (though the terms can sometimes feel synonymous), and I have to say the four of us made some amazing headway on our exhibition garden in just two days' time.

Let's go back to mid March: the site containing the Student Exhibition Garden was completed, the paths laid, the plots tilled and ready to go. By the end of March we were able to mark and stake our hardscape areas. By early April the hardscape was in and a few other elements put in place.

Part of our design consists of a series of arches in various stages of construction (or deconstruction, depending on which way you're going) that frame different views of our garden as you traverse the path around it. The arches we designed were fabricated in Longwood's metal shop by our new best friend, Dave. As he finished each piece, we transported them the half-mile from the shop to the garden and set them in place (the full arch - at 10' in height and set in the bed of my pickup - just barely cleared the overpass between the maintenance facility and the Boiler Room Woods access road. We were all holding our breath on that one and let it out in a collective sigh when we made it through!).

Since the garden is ephemeral we didn't use concrete to hold the pieces in place, opting instead to set the two-foot footings in well tamped course gravel. These suckers aren't going anywhere!

With the arches in place, we tilled the planting areas once more to incorporate a healthy dose of compost.

The containers, composed by my design partner Shannon, offered the first hint of what was to come: whimsy, creativity, use of ordinary materials for a not so ordinary purpose, not to mention color, texture, and - most importantly - fragrance (too bad garbage cans don't always smell this good)! People's reactions to using rubbish bins as planters has been very positive and I've overheard a few visitors remark favorably on the idea. Plus, when the garden is dismantled, the cans can be reused for their original (or another equally creative) purpose!

Now comes the exciting part! Until this week our plot had acquired a sort of junk yard persona with all the metal pieces lying haphazardly about, but put the plants in place and everything is transformed!

Putting the first plant in the ground was a moment worthy of capturing for posterity (I just might have to upload this to the Digital Archives when they aren't looking!)!
Within an hour, most of the plants were planted and the design came instantly and vibrantly to life.
A thick layer of composted leaves gave it the finishing touch. We're just waiting on our final plant delivery to complete the installation and then we'll be ready to take the rope down and welcome visitors to our garden!
With the progress we made in just two days, I bet even the Romans would be impressed!

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