The landscape of 2013, pictured here, with wild growth everywhere.
So, this is an account of how the orchard came to be and how the land has evolved at the farm. By no means are we done with these projects; this is just an overview of what has been done to the land to date, since buying the farm in 2013.
When you look at the first picture, you need to look closely to see how wild and overrun the fields were when we first arrived at Hillcrest Farm. That first summer we didn’t do much planting, since we were just settling in at our first and hopefully forever home. We added a few perennials (hostas, foamflower, some ornamental sedges) to the existing beds but largely left the grounds untouched.
But we dreamed of an orchard, and we planned. The next summer, we started the first major landscaping project.
View from the orchard, looking towards the abutting pumpkin patch hill.
During the spring of 2014, we added the large plot of land that would become the orchard. We had the land cleared, bulldozed and the soil leveled, and used a conservation blend of grass seed for easier maintenance for mowing. We planted a total of 8 apple, a pear, a peach, a plum, a cherry, and 3 apricot trees.
In 2015, we added the cages to protect the orchard’s trees from the voles that like to eat the root systems during the winter. They can destroy whole orchards. We also had to protect the trees from the deer that like to strip them of leaves and bark.
The orchard didn’t have a path that connected to the backyard, so you had to walk up past the western edge of the shed to access it.
In 2016, we added the connecting path–a swath of land that would complete a walking loop with many different ornamental elements. We also installed raised beds for growing produce with a strawberry and rhubarb patch, along with tomatoes, zucchini, squash, arugula, and different lettuces.
The raised beds.
With that new section, we completed a full walking loop that showcased the various features of the farmland for visitors and for walking our yellow lab, Wampa, for exercise.
After passing through the orchard, you could amble through the wildflower fields that attract all kinds of beneficial birds and insects. Bees particularly love the Joe-Pye weed, goldenrod, wild cucumber vines, jewelweed, and Queen Anne’s lace that sprawl all over the landscape.
The wildflower field at the end of summer 2017, heading towards the orchard & house.
The connecting path then swooped past the other side of the shed, leading down a slope to the shade gardens, koi pond, and English cottage garden.
In 2016, we also added an English garden with all kinds of hollyhocks, foxgloves, delphiniums, asters, coneflowers, & bee balm. We wanted to attract a lot of hummingbirds, butterflies, and honeybees for viewing pleasure.
The English cottage garden in 2016.
In 2017, we added a new shade garden under a massive pine tree next to the house with all kinds of new hosta varieties, ornamental ferns, and Japanese forest grass.
Looking towards the orchard from the shade gardens near the house, summer 2016.
Another view of the orchard from the back deck, spring 2017.
At times, it’s difficult to imagine what the land looked like from when we first bought the property. People tend to think most of the gardens were already established, but when I look at the photographic evidence, I’m amazed by what we have been able to do over the past 5 years at the farm.
Soon, the orchard will produce a bigger harvest, the English cottage garden will seed itself in perpetuity, and the newer shade garden will mature. We have another section to add in 2018.
But that’s for another blog post.
For now, you can look at the before and after shots. Do you see a difference?
When there was no orchard and no path to loop down past the east of the shed, 2013.