Saturday, June 26, 2010


Last summer, we built a fence had a fence built around most of our yard, which was a sizeable investment but a huge quality-of-life improvement, especially for the dogs. It also had the unintended benefit of providing a couple of sites for new niche gardens. This is the Great Smoky Mountains garden we built for Susan. [Click to embiggen.]

It's impossible, of course, to replicate an ecosystem dominated by dramatic terrain and huge trees, especially in such a tiny area (approximately 3'x6'). Instead we decided to let the tiny area work for us by focusing on microhabitat, selecting plants such as one might find growing in the understory of the Smokies' forest, perhaps alongside a cold freestone stream. The forest itself is merely suggested by the shade provided by the fence.

[Jack-in-the-pulpit, wild ginger, and black cohosh]

[Bird's-foot violet]


[Solomon's seal]


Besides those pictured, plants include ferns, turtleheads (both pink and red), bee balm, and cinquefoil. Most are Smokies natives, but we also made use of cultivars and, in some cases, close relatives as stand-ins. Water, another essential element of the Smokies, is provided in the basin (fiberglass, but with a convincing slate finish) and further suggested by the river rocks that "flow" from its foot.

The garden was started last year, and has become fairly well-established; our biggest challenges have been remembering to water frequently (this is a lot thirstier than our prairie garden) and keeping the dogs from trampling it too badly. Anya and Mandie are the main culprits; Max is usually content to doze on the porch of the mudroom nearby.

Soon to come: some photographs of/from the real Smokies.

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