August 1st, 2006
New Perspectives

new window on the garden
A new window on the garden opens up new design possibilities.

My garden shares little with the Adachi Museum Garden except the idea that my design for the planting relies a lot on how I view the garden from within my house. Although my garden never achieves the standard of a “living painting”, I do think a lot of how it looks from indoors from our uncurtained windows. I’ve always been drawn to the Japanese concept of visually blurring the distinction between indoors and out. During Austin’s hot, humid, mosquito rich summers, I spend most of my days inside. As I stand washing dishes, I think, “There’s a space that needs a plant. Look how the light highlights that empty spot in the mini-woodland.”

During our kitchen remodel we removed the standard small over-the-sink window and replaced it with a window that spans the counter where we do most of our prep work. Now instead of a narrow portrait of the garden, I’m confronted with a CinemaScopic™ landscape. The new window is higher up than the old window, which constrains the foreground view of short people like me. I planted more flowers near the house which I can’t see at all any more.

My predilection for gardens as private spaces might have misled you into thinking that mine was surrounded by tall hedges or brick walls in the style of Arley Hall Gardens. In fact, two sides of my back yard are separated from my neighbors with nothing more than a short chain link fence. The long south side has a new privacy fence constructed by new neighbors with small, incessantly yapping dogs.

Rather than try to screen my neighbors’ back yards, I try to incorporate them into my view. My theory is that a hedge would foreshorten my view. So I planted several small trees instead creating a mini-woodland which provides glimpses of something in the distance while obscuring the fact that it’s just my neighbor’s garage. As the trees have grown taller, I’ve added to the understory planting. Then at ground level, in the spring, Tradescantia takes over and in the fall, oxblood lilies.

This is not much of a garden to walk in but it does provide a pleasant view when working in the kitchen. Now that I can see much more of it, my mind is whirring with new ideas for filling in the planting.

by M Sinclair Stevens

2 Responses to post “New Perspectives”

  1. From Annie in Austin:

    Well, M, since you don’t have Arley Hall hedges, the higher window is probably a good idea. You can look out while you work, but won’t feel as if you’re a chef on display at Williams Sonoma. That’s a very cool, wide window!

    As you know from my post on the museum, the view out the breakfast room window has influenced a lot of what we’ve done in back. From my middle-of-the-room work counter, I can see over the tabletop and out the window, but as you’ve discovered with your invisible but nearby flowers, the line of sight changes from place to place. We can only see the herb troughs when seated at the table.

    I’d intended to post on this once I took a decent photo but that involved window-washing, so you beat me to it!

    I didn’t think to wash the window…We regret not getting a taller window because we can’t see anything sitting at the table. We didn’t think we could put a larger one in but since we ended up rebuilding the entire wall, it turns out we could have had any configuration. — mss

  2. From Pam/Digging (Austin):

    You have a pretty, new frame for your garden view. I know you’ll enjoy creating the art to go in it.

    Pam, having something new to work with, or work around, helps me see the space with new eyes. As someone who moved around a lot in my childhood, I find that now when I’m too used to a place, my motivation and inspiration decline. Shaking things up a little is an antidote to lethargy. — mss