by Susan Weber, APLD, LEED Green Associate
Integrity recently received a Merit Award from the Ohio Nursery Landscape Association for the design of ‘The Kitchen Garden’. The front of the house pre-project was heavily shaded, wooded and covered at ground level with a variety of invasive groundcovers, including English ivy and vinca. The picket fence was in place, as well as a brick paver area near the front porch.
The clients (the wife is a chef who owns a cooking school and a local-food magazine, and the husband is a commercial realtor) wanted to transform the front yard into a formal-but-fun European-style kitchen garden. Their vision was to use the kitchen garden to produce chemical-free vegetables and fruits to use for their family and for the nearby cooking school, but they also wanted it to be a striking focal point from both the house and from the street. Following an evaluation of the tree canopy, the clients removed all of the trees inside of the picket fence. All of the groundcovers were removed in early spring 2014.
The design for the front yard included raised beds for the vegetables. The homeowners constructed the raised beds in spring 2014; they painted them a neutral taupe color, filled them with the rich old woodland soil from the pathway excavation, and amended them with local leaf compost for optimal fertility.
The gravel pathways were excavated and self-installed by the clients and their family members in fall 2014; the raised beds were also installed, and the at-grade beds were amended and edged with stone curbing that the clients found on Craigslist. Brassfield fines was selected for its exceptional compaction, making it low-maintenance and easy to clean in the fall. The original paver area with its picturesque mossy covering was left intact.
A first planting in the raised beds in spring 2014 included many edible flowers, including nasturtiums. The client uses the spicy blooms as garnishes for salads; the peppery seed pods are preserved in a pickling solution for their caper-like flavor. Additional edibles are produced in a small ‘pocket orchard’ of dwarf sour cherry trees between the front sidewalk and the front of the picket fence area.
The garden’s strong structure is apparent from both ground level and from above. Pyramidal and shrub-form boxwood, tree-form hydrangeas, compact crabapples, fragrant viburnum, a sweet bay magnolia, and hardy hydrangeas form the ‘green’ structure of the space. Brick was specified for the central fountain area as a connection to a brick area in the back of the house and to delineate this area as a focal point. The clients also found the vintage brick on Craigslist.
Wrought iron tuteurs were placed in the beds to create vertical focal points and to allow vining plants (including mandevilla, morning glories and scarlet runner beans) to thrive. The fountain, a vintage piece and another Craigslist find by the client, brings a traditional feeling and the soothing noise of trickling water to the space. The client is experimenting with connecting the fountain to a solar pump to remove the need for electricity. A cistern is planned to capture rainwater runoff from the roof to water the raised beds.