Monday, April 26, 2010

The Patio

I am proud that, over the years, I have, by means of newspaper, black plastic, and several tons of mulch, minimized or even eliminated the lawns in the houses we have owned. Lawns, like corsets and high heels, are crimes against Nature. They consume energy and water, choke out native species, and compel otherwise rational people to use noxious chemicals. There should be a law.

Our present house, unfortunately, is surrounded by a large lawn. I have made inroads against it in the form of the vegetable garden and a couple of flower beds, but I will never be able to eliminate it altogether. Now, however, an opportunity to take a large bite out of the lawn has presented itself.

The lawn comes right up to the back of the house, and in that space we have plunked an iron table and some chairs, and the bird feeder. But the ground in Vermont stays wet for such a large part of the year, that we hardly ever sit out there. I had long resisted putting in a patio because I thought it would look suburban--bear in mind that the area where the patio would go is bordered by the back of the chicken house. This year's mud season went on for so long, however, that I finally decided that we needed some terra firma on which to enjoy the first rays of the spring sun; watch the stars on summer nights; and toast marshmallows around the fire pit in early fall.

So we're going to make a patio--a slate patio, this being West Pawlet. And in it there will be a small round or rectangular pond. And that, I'm afraid, after weeks of thinking and drawing, is as far as I have gotten.

I have a pile of garden and pond books that friends have lent me. And it may well be that these books are what is holding me back. The pictures in them are so gorgeous, so paradisal that they have given me a severe case of gardener's block. Those cunning nooks and charming vistas, those benches and arches and paths, those filigreed beds--what have they to do with my bare little patch with its two infant apple trees?

Where do I begin? I know that what defines a garden is a sense of enclosure, and that the patio and pond will have to relate somehow to the square vegetable garden, the pair of apple trees (which, as I write, are covered in bloom--bless their hearts), the chicken shed. I know that the project must not cost zillions of dollars. And I know that whatever I end up with, I will have to maintain.

So, my parameters are: simple, cheap, and aesthetically pleasing. Is it any wonder I'm stuck?

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