Today we’re seeing a beautiful garden created by Syd Carpenter. We’ve visited her home garden before (Last Summer in Syd Carpenter’s Garden), and today she is sharing a cool project she recently completed.
I am a sculptor and a gardener. Gardening plays a very large part in my art, and my own garden has been an endless source of form for my sculptures. Last year I, along with my husband, Steve Donegan, also an artist, was invited by the Woodmere Art Museum in Philadelphia to design a garden in an underutilized area of the museum grounds. The emphasis on the development of this garden was on sustainability, with use of on-site materials a priority. It was suggested that I might create a “hugel,” which is German for mound or hill. It is an ancient raised-bed technique that makes use of fallen trees and other compostable materials. Fortunately, there were several fallen trees available for the project. My design includes two curving hugels that undulate across the site, surrounded by a pattern of log tiles. Each hugel is about 45 feet in length, with a maximum height of just under 6 feet at the highest point. The plants I selected are drought tolerant, deer and rabbit resistant, and have four seasons of interest.
The mounded soil is built up over stacked logs, and here some of the logs were left exposed to show how the hugels were built.
Log tiles form the pathway around the hugels.
Here’s how the hugels began, with putting in the logs and other base materials.
The hugels built and newly planted.
The log tiles going into place.
The finished project in June is grown in and blooming. The yellow flowers are Achillea ‘Moonshine’ (Zones 3–9), their color echoed by clumps of the yellow-leaved Carex ‘Evergold’ (Zones 5–8).
Rich pink flowers of Double Play spirea (Spiraea japonica, Zones 3–8).
The height of the hugels allows layers of plants to be displayed without the ones in front obscuring the ones in the back. At the top of the mound, a big clump of borage (Borago officinalis, annual) with blue flowers makes the mount feel even taller.
A final view of this inspiring planting. I love that they used fallen trees to create something exciting and beautiful.
Have a garden you’d like to share?
Have photos to share? We’d love to see your garden, a particular collection of plants you love, or a wonderful garden you had the chance to visit!
To submit, send 5-10 photos to [email protected] along with some information about the plants in the pictures and where you took the photos. We’d love to hear where you are located, how long you’ve been gardening, successes you are proud of, failures you learned from, hopes for the future, favorite plants, or funny stories from your garden.
If you want to send photos in separate emails to the GPOD email box that is just fine.
Have a mobile phone? Tag your photos on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter with #FineGardening!
You don’t have to be a professional garden photographer – check out our garden photography tips!
Do you receive the GPOD by email yet? Sign up here.
Great work, Syd. The log tile path, wow! Museum quality, to say the least! Love the creativity and the hugel components are incredibly cool.
the log pavers really added excitement to the garden
Having had the privilege of participating in the group planting of the project, the organization by Syd and Steve was brilliant. Before mulching, the mounds were covered with a loose burlap which was peppered with numbered stakes. These coordinated with hundreds (thousands?) of plugs in numbered trays for the volunteers to insert. Mulch was distributed carefully that same day.: a heroic effort accomplished efficiently without confusion!
Thanks for the explanation. Helps me understand more about it.
Seems appropriate on the Solstice to feature a newly created approximation of an ancient raised bed. I love the contrast with the plantings especially with the light colored grass.
Bravo! A splendid project, beautifully done. I did a modified hugel hillside recently with fallen tree and branches.
Incredible work, and a lovely result. How well do hugels last? I know stumps of cut trees rot eventually and the dirt on top collapses. Does having the logs on their sides counteract this?
It will be at least a few years before these hugels settle into the ground , leaving behind a slightly raised bed. Then we will berm it up again with more logs and earth.
WOW!! It is awesome ! A unique work of garden art...beautifully designed and planted.
Amazing, with all our fallen ash trees this makes sense to try. What is the least size hugel mound that would be effective?
On the paths how thick are the cut logs and what options do you recommend for in between space?
You can see from one of the photos that shows Syd herself that the floor "tiles" are about 6" thick. What's so engaging when you are there is seeing groupings of small tiles -obviously cut from the same tree limb because of the unique pattern and coloring of the slices - as a constellation around the larger trunks slices with bark looking like corrugated teeth on a gear. In lieu of grout is simple gravel to allow rainwater runoff. The installation is on the crest of a hill so the natural drainage will help the pathway last a while.
Anything thinner than 6 inches and it becomes unstable
We dug a trench About a foot deep, filled it with logs and stacked more logs on top. We piled about 4 inches more or less of lesves and other compostables on that. Then we put a jute net over that to prevent erosion, finally covering with 6inches of soil. The plugs just took off growing immediately.
You can make a hugel any size. It depends on what kind of garden and how you want it to look. Too tall and you can’t tend it.
This is just gorgeous. It's a great use of materials that would otherwise just go into a landfill. A good way to give some variation to a flat level space without the use a backhoe. I would think that some very real planning has to take place beforehand to get a lovely result such as this, but you could just start out small and work up to larger installations. What fun to experiment with this technique.
I had a pretty detailed planting scheme but I have done some editing in the last few weeks which is to be expected. I didn’t realize the top of the largest hugel was getting so much wind. So seeds sown up there did not germinate. My borage grew so large and fast that it toppled over on to other plants and was removed. I replaced it with a more well behaved sage berggarten.
I'm so impressed with the plantings and path, and so intrigued by the hugel and like that it's created with fallen trees.
Wow- just beautiful, and such an accomplishment!
Stunning and inspirational garden!
Log in or create an account to post a comment.Sign up Log in