A narrow parcel of land behind our cottage sat vacant for more than fifty years after a turn-of-the-century motel had been torn down. It became our back garden in 2019. Just two shrubs and one trillium could be saved from this long-standing forest of plants.
The excavator’s main concern was controlling water runoff and preserving the integrity of the street above. Two steep slopes (1 on 2, 50%) were created with a swale between the two to channel excess water to a buried drain along the south side of the property. The upper slope spans the full width of the property while the lower slope extends 122 linear feet in a half-circle around the back of the house. Stone steps installed through the lower slope provide access to the upper level. Once the excavation was complete we could see that there was enough flat land at the top to house a garden shed, which my husband and I erected from a prefabricated kit.
’Floricycle’ was first used to describe the garden design of the Darwin D. Martin House in Buffalo, New York designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and built between 1903 and 1905. Records from the time suggest this was an invented word between Martin and Wright to describe this concept of planting in a hemicycle, or half circle, with a sequential cycle of blooming plants from March to November.
The Martin House floricycle is on a 25% slope and uses repeating planting patterns of more than 19,000 plants in what they called a ‘plant thick and thin quick’ strategy. There was no such forethought to the pattern of planting for my own floricycle.
My first landscaping priority was for privacy from the street up above and the house next door with the second priority for as many flowering plants as would fit into the space allotted. I’ve managed to fill almost every area with a plethora of plants, including herbs, perennials, bulbs, shrubs, grasses, trees, ground covers, natives, and vines. The left field is full-sun while the center and right fields enjoy part-sun giving me the opportunity to bring home almost any plant I can find.
Looking back on my effort, it may have been more straightforward to evenly space beautiful shrubs throughout the floricycle and call it a day. But it’s delightful to see such an abundance of seasonal flowers from the back windows of our cottage and watch the wildlife that also calls this spot of land home.
Our garden consists of seven areas: the floricycle (including the upper slope), a meditation garden, rain garden, St. Francis Garden, sloped front garden, and a flagstone garden pathway.