With top and bottom views of the current state of the garden, the idea of this space as a walk through a shrubbery, with raised vegetable beds on the back side, begins to make sense.
Shrubs planted or in buckets waiting to be planted include Goshiki variegated osmanthus, purple Loropetalum (a Chinese relative of witch hazel) intended to grow to hedge size, dwarf Norwegian spruce, dwarf Cryptomeria, dwarf cedar, assorted spireas, azaleas, and tree hydrangeas, laurel, dwarf crepe myrtle, and roses.
Once Alan and I did a flight of brick steps made from an old fallen chimney for my aunts in Lynchburg. Alan and I dug the stairs into their hillside looking out over the James River. Digging was the only technique we knew. We dug the steps in so deeply that if we had wanted to, we could have filled the stairs back in with the leftover dirt and produced a buried staircase. That’s an idea with some romance to it. The idea of a buried staircase is somehow a bit thrilling. We have a couple of unexploited declivities around here and I foresee a truly unusual project.
Another time I knocked together some wooden steps to suit some forgotten occasion, just to see if it could be done. I feel sure I have a solid grasp of every mistake that can be made constructing stairs of any size and material, and all these mistakes will need to be brought into play here.
I recall the time my father Dover, a professional builder of real skill and ingenuity, was first confronted with one of my front door stoops. The play of emotions across his face was wonderful. He couldn’t praise it. No one could. He couldn’t criticize it either. The English language doesn’t have an adjective for that. There was nothing to say. Yes, it appeared to be patted together by desperate monkeys out of marble chips and cement in a rainstorm. And it was one of the heaviest objects for its size for miles around. It was Lovecraftian, Nietzschean in appearance. In a way it was visually offensive but first the mind had to stretch enough to encompass it as a possibility.
Finally Dover spoke. “Did you do this yourself?”
“There was no one else,” I said evasively.
In the end the stoop had to be re-poured. I built a wooden frame and went with a simple tetrahedonal Brutalist slab of uneven cement inspired by Mies van der Rohe and le Corbusier.
There is another gate. This is the last gate until I build another fence. Fence first, then gate—although I suppose a person could build a gate first and then fence around it. Ultimately this comparatively tiny gate was the most trouble.
Of the three gates, it has the least to do, being a sort of postern gate for the back door.