The Landscape at the Wheelhouse

I was at the wheelhouse this morning trying to tackle the post-winter cleanup and thought I would put some information together about the landscape around the wheelhouse.

             Quite a lot of thought went into the landscape design outside the Wheelhouse. The building is in the forest, away from roads and modern conveniences like running water. I used stone left over from the building to put up small retaining walls and to create terraces for plants. The plan was then to gather all kinds of plants, but herbs in particular that have a tradition of medicinal use. The reason for this was that I wanted there to be a theme to the garden, and I wanted to have a cross section of plants that require little attention. Basically, those plants that did well in a forest climate in New England have thrived and the rest have taken themselves out of the mix. You can see from the garden plan below the original landscape layout at the wheelhouse.

Garden Plan

             Two other elements of the landscaping that are important to the maintenance of the gardens are the well and the tool shed. The soil at the site, such as it is, varies in depth from two feet to about six feet deep and covers a granite ledge. I had excavated the soil where the building was to be built so that it sits directly on ledge. To the south of the building, the ledge forms a depression under the soil. In that spot, I dug down about through six feet of soil to the ledge and put a dry well so that water from the surrounding area would drain and collect in the well. The well is the physical center of the gardens and its location is intended to make the watering of plants as easy as possible with a bucket. Lest anyone get the wrong idea, you should know that my approach to gardening is one of minimal effort, and I water plants rarely, but the idea behind the well is sound, and when I do actually get around to watering, it is easy.


              The design of the tool shed was dictated by events in the forest. Blight came through and killed a small stand of fir trees. One year they appeared to be fine, and by next summer, they were dead. The firs needed to be cut down or become a fire hazard, so I decided to use the tree trunks to make the tool shed. The shed is a cross between a log cabin and an “A” frame. It has just enough room for garden tools, some firewood, an axe and splitting maul and not much else. Even though the construction of the tool shed is different from the wheelhouse the addition of Nordic “house dragons” on the eves of the roof help, tie it stylistically to the wheelhouse.

Tool Shed

            Over the years, the gardens have taken on a life and character of their own. No matter how I try to impose order, plants have a mind of their own, after the third time I tried to put the soapwort, or the comfrey back where I thought it should be, I gave up and let them sort out for themselves who grows where. It now has a somewhat wild look but many of the plants are still doing quite well without interference from me.

              The tool shed, as all tool sheds do, has collected an assortment of items that have nothing whatsoever to do with either the gardens or the wheelhouse. Homemade bows and arrows have ended up there, leftover playthings of local children, now all grown up. Half-filled bags of some miracle garden product that proved to be, less than miraculous, clutter the corners of the shed. Squirrels store odd and ends from their own lives there as well through the winters. In short, the tool shed seems to have a destiny, like the garden, over which I have no control.


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