I have been searching for an interesting installation for the center of our Lavender Labyrinth. When I saw some photos of spiral gardens I knew that a raised spiral herb garden would be just the right addition to our labyrinth.
The Spiral Garden invites exploration. It looks different from every angle. The garden bed ramps up, so many of the plants are raised off the ground and are easier to see and tend.
The simple spiral of the garden echos the ever-inward meandering path of the surrounding Lavender Labyrinth. Upon reaching the heart of the labyrinth the ascending spiral of the garden leads your eyes up from the ground towards the heavens.
You can search the internet and find several examples of spiral gardens. Here I present a step-by-step description of how we built our garden.
There are a number of constraints to consider, including the mature sizes of the plants you intend to plant in your garden, the size of the area you wish to devote to the garden, and your budget.
I envisioned an herb garden of mostly perennial herbs. The small starter plants will take some time to grow and fill in the space provided, so we first planted annual flowers to provide interest.
Since we built the garden directly on grass without first doing any ground preparation, we laid down weed block fabric that will allow water to pass through but still prevent the grass from growing up through the garden soil mix into the garden above. I thought about putting down a layer of cardboard, but we had the used fabric on hand. We built the walls and filled the garden with the fabric untrimmed, cutting it later when it was convenient.
The planting space between walls is 12 inches, chosen as a comfortable space for many of our herbs. At its highest, the wall is 38 inches high. The installation is 80 inches across the widest point. Looking at the photo, you can see that our spiral has just over 1 1/2 turns. You can change all these dimensions to suit your own available space and your choice of building blocks, but I wouldn’t make the planting bed less than eight inches wide. If the bed is wider than fifteen inches or so, it will difficult to reach the center of the garden.
Once I had the layout figured out I put in a section of flexible plastic pipe so we can later set up the garden for drip irrigation. You can see this pipe sticking up in most of the photographs.
Each layer of blocks starts further from the starting point, creating the raising ramp. The exact geometry will depend on your choice of building material. I chose a cement block intended for building landscaping walls. If you look at the photo with Victor you can see I started out with skipping two and a half blocks for each higher row.
I soon discovered that the wall was rising too rapidly, so the center of the garden would be much too high. Upon re-stacking the blocks to skip three and half blocks, I found the new slope much more pleasing.
Once the wall was completed, we filled the garden. I used the same potting mix I use to start all our seedlings. I saw no point in filling the entire volume with this, so we first added wood chips, with an eight-inch layer of potting mix at the top for the plants. We use wood chips various places around the farm. The tree service guys are happy to give us truckloads for free, so they don’t have to haul them to the landfill. Over a number of years the wood chips will slowly decompose and settle down, so I expect I will have to add more potting mix on occasion. You should use your own creativity to come up with a good draining material to use for your garden.
We first planted annual flowers in our garden to fill it up and provide color. When I say “we” I mean Teresa and Carol, who have done most of the gardening in this project.
Later we added our herb starts. Next year the herbs will be bigger and we will decide then if we need to fill in with a few annuals again.
We planted our garden the day after it was filled and Carol had to come back and add more potting mix here and there where settling occurred.
We have been watering the garden by hand, using a water wand with a water breaker head, but i intend to install drip irrigation as soon as time allows. Watering will be easier and more efficient, Plus, we have found that even careful watering tends to push the potting mix down the ramp. I hope everything will be stabilized before the big fall rainfall starts.
Gardens are never “finished” and I expect our Spiral Garden to continue to develop. With time we will discover which herbs thrive in the garden. I’d like to find something to plant into some of the bigger gaps between blocks. I’ll be interested to hear what you think and your suggestions on what to try next.
Come on down to the farm to stroll the Lavender Labyrinth and visit our new Spiral Garden.