We started planning it last year, and expected to open along with the Abbey itself, mid-July. We built a large curving wall to enclose the space. A week before we were to open, we found out that we had been erroneously assured that we didn't need a permit to build this wall. Well, we did. So, almost a year later and whole lot wiser (thank you, City of Santa Cruz for this eye-opening experience) we are ready to plant the garden out, and officially open the space.
This is meant to be a monastic garden, in keeping with the Abbey theme, and so we are incorporating elements from these old monastery gardens: function & form, culinary & medicinal herbs & fruit. Wild and tangly with areas of quiet simplicity. We're trying to walk that line, design-wise, between free-form and ordered. We'll see where we go with this. Its really not so removed from our California heritage either: the California mission gardens had similar elements, and our Mediterranean climate lends itself well to many herbs-at least everything in the lamiaceae family, which makes up the bulk of most common culinary herbs. In addition, our climate works well for biblical plants like pomegranates, grapes & the (non-fruiting) olive tree that is a focal point in the garden.Design: Problems
This garden is mostly concrete, so that's been a challenge. Against one long brick wall there are two beds that once held miles of box hedges. Last summer, we pulled the hedges and tried to dig in the soil. Our shovels bounced off the ground. It was terrible. And depressing-this, practically our only free (i.e. non-concrete) planting space in the courtyard, filled with nasty, impenetrable soil interwoven with 50 year old box hedge roots. So we decided to build up: we built planters over the beds, with open bottoms, just false-fronts really. They're backed by the brick of the building, and we decided to line the backs to protect the brick from the soil's moisture. Instead of spending the money on the wood for the back, we used a 1x3 strip of redwood across the back and hung heavy plastic from it, so that it sloped away from the brick. Instead of filling the entire planter with lovely and expensive soil, we used fill dirt and pieces of concrete and brick from around the back of one of the buildings. The milkweed and other weedy grasses that sprouted up from last summer we hacked down and then forked into the soil to add organic matter. Also tossed in were various dead rosemary plants we found littering the church work yard. I love the free section of Craigslist, yesterday evening someone came and delivered a truckload of clean fill dirt onto the doorstep of the garden, we paid a nominal $40 for delivery. In addition to B, Phil Barrick and Dave Boschen, we got a college student who was taking a break from studying calculus in the Abbey next door, and the mighty TJ, Master of the Brew Bar, to lend a hand at the shoveling, while I sat back and directed. Sometimes being pregnant has its benefits. We need a good bit of compost in order to amend the soil, I'm still working that angle.