Carson Garden

Lovely long narrow space, and why it works

I slipped in for the last half hour of Eloise Carson's open garden day, on August 13 this year.  It was blistering hot, and everyone had given up on the 4:00 hour...but I really wanted to see this one, and I'm so glad I did!  

Carson Garden (facing west).  Looking toward the bust sculpture at the west end of the axis path..  

Carson Garden (facing west).  Looking toward the bust sculpture at the west end of the axis path..  

The whole 1/4-acre garden is lovely, as Eloise is obviously an experienced gardener and has worked on the multiple spaces in this yard for many years.  The original layout was created by Ed Ceccacci, and talented designer Gavin Younie has helped refine and expand the garden over the last eight years. 

Of particular inspiration to me was the back yard--a long narrow space on a linear axis, and how surprisingly well it worked. 

Carson Garden, axis path, standing near the bust sculpture, looking east.

Carson Garden, axis path, standing near the bust sculpture, looking east.

Long linear spaces, in my experience, rarely feel this comfortable or are this beautiful.  It is difficult to achieve, and I was thrilled to see this space and walk through it.  Contrary to the usual desire to zip on through a straight line, this one slowed me down. 

Carson garden, axis path, looking west.  (Note: the sun/shadow lines from this hot afternoon are harsher than normal.)

Carson garden, axis path, looking west.  (Note: the sun/shadow lines from this hot afternoon are harsher than normal.)

To orient yourself in these pictures, the house side of the yard is shaded, and the sunny side is the slope "up" at the back of the property. A retaining wall runs the length of the house, about ten feet out.  It creates a 10-foot-wide terrace about 100 feet long.  

Hakonechloa macra 'All Gold' (Japanese Forest Grass) and Pieris.

Hakonechloa macra 'All Gold' (Japanese Forest Grass) and Pieris.

At one end of this axis-terrace is a patio, and at the other is a bust sculpture.  Such "book ends" to a long axis path are part of what make it successful.  The back yard is part of a path system that circles the whole property.

The #1 reason this long narrow space works so well is the plantings.  The plant combinations are lovely, and all plants are healthy and happy.  Large masses of grasses and grass-like plants help calm the feeling.  Each of the plant masses, viewed separately, are large and proportionate to the space.

Hakonechloa macra 'All Gold' and Liriope spicata

Hakonechloa macra 'All Gold' and Liriope spicata

Honestly, I think the space works so well because it is fluffy!  The softness created by the grasses quiets any potential hard lines and obliterates the bowling alley effect (which I'm sure was there before the plants filled in).

Textures are used to good effect--broad leaves next to strappy leaves, big leaves next to fine. The colors are soothing and compliment as well: for example, different tones of green.

The above combination, in this much mass, is daring and spot on.  It features Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa macra 'All Gold') and Creeping Lily Turf (Liriope spicata).

Gravel axis path and secondary paver path

Another trick that can help a long linear path is to break it up, even if subtly.  Here, a paved secondary path intersects the gravel axis and provides a subtle relief.  There is an additional unconscious pause at this break, provided by a small water feature. 

Carson Gdn axis path, bust

The rest of the garden was lovely as well. Here are a few photos from other parts of the garden on this hot afternoon:

This garden was open for the Green on Green Tour in Portland OR, August 13, 2016, a benefit for Albertina Kerr. Not only is this a quality organization to support, their tour is excellent every year.