Visit beautiful Keppel Croft Gardens in Grey County, Ontario.
Xeriscaping is a method of gardening in which the gardener uses plants that thrive with only the normal rainfall for that particular area. Mulching and careful choice of plants are essential for success in our area.
We select plants that have an ability to withstand long periods without rain as we have no way of watering this garden. Our annual precipitation is about 25 inches. Plants are removed if they do not thrive under this systen of benign neglect--if they haven't already frizzled up and died.
The xeriscape borders have self seeding poppies (Papaver rupifragum), centranthus rubra and catnip. Late tulips grow towards the back of the garden. The use of mulches help retain moisture. The rail fence provides some shelter from the cold north winds off the Georgian Bay.
Our main problem with these gardens has been the invasion of guineafowl and chickens from the barnyard. They love to make dustbaths in the gardens, scattering mulch and plants!
We used this area near the barn as a sheep pasture for quite a few years. Once we began working here, we discovered that the concrete floor of the old pig barn was underneath layers of earth and grasses in the northwest corner of the field. There are even the remains of the pig trough on the south side of the concrete. We plan to plant up the trough with sempervivums and sedums this year.
Bill decided to create a small zen garden here. He built a raised bed in the centre of the concrete flooring, filled it with coarse gravel with fine gravel as the top layer. Several rocks were added to the bed including one very handsome "waterfall" rock found out near the barn. A simple planting of small sedum was put at the bases of the island rocks.
The concrete flooring is covered with a layer of purchased washed river stone. It's very easy to weed and maintain. Space between posts around the perimeter of the garden is lined with bamboo stakes lashed to a top railing. There's a small hedge of cedars transplanted from the farm defining three sides of this garden. The shady viewing seat is a restful place to sit and contemplate the garden.
Running parallel to the barn fence and its border garden, there is a checkerboard path under construction. Bill made a frame which allows him to pour concrete to make a quadruple row of pavers at one time. Recycled carpet covers the area under this path.
The path area consists of pavers and spaces filled with washed river stone. The outer edge of the path has pavers alternating with spaces filled with broken red brick or low growing sedums and thyme plants.
Initially we used black plastic pot trays to protect the newly planted squares from maurauding chickens and guineahens. Now the squares of gravel and crushed brick have become homes to volunteer plants. We are going to mount an attack on unwanted items this summer.The overgrowth of low plants has not added to the geometric look of the path.
A "hedge" of Wormwood runs the full length of the chequerboard path. Eventually at the south end of the path there will be a seating area under a large shady Chinese elm.
Under a Japanese walnut tree we have used sawdust as a heavy mulch over old newspapers. On top of the mulch is a "koru" motif of granite cobbles encircling the tree. Each spring a new sprinking of sawdust freshens up the look of the mulch after the fallen leaves are removed.
The last few springs we have not been vigilant about pulling out self sown plants that have sprung up in the sawdust mulch. This spring we are making a determined effort to bring back the uncluttered koru design. Woolly thyme is slowly encroaching on the koru from the west. We have yet to decide how we will deal with this!
Beyond the Japanese Walnut a stone pathway leads visitors to the thyme and lavender garden. Except for the use of some cut stone scraps from a local quarry on this path, all of the stones here were dug out of the ground when we developed this area. There are thick layers of newspaper under all the stones and gravel to discourage the growth of weeds. A slit through the newspaper makes it possible for plants to grow in the soil underneath. This heavy mulch helps retain moisture.
Bill used flat stones collected from the site to construct two semi-circular dry stone walls, which shelter a seating area and a planting of various thymes and lavenders. Collected egg shaped stones are displayed on a stone wall which forms the back of the seat. We discovered this area was once the floor of the original pioneer log barn for this farm.
The entrance to the thyme and lavender garden is to one side of a stone and wooden bench facing south. The top of the bench wall has a collection of metal candle holders used to hold some of the round stones dug up here. In recent years visitors have started to balance lucky pennies on these stones. We collect the coins and put them towards buying more plants for this area.
This year we are restoring this garden. We will pull out all the plantings and clean the hardscape of debris that has gathered over the years. We'll take up the rocks and renew the fine gravel. Then we will replant the whole garden to restore it to its previous beauty.
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Here is a list of plants we have grown successfully in the xeriscape garden.
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Site Revisions made - May 2010