Here’s the second in the series of previews of gardens in our upcoming Garden Tour.
DISCOVERING WHIMSY UNDER A WALNUT TREE
“It was 14 years before the owners started to tame the unruly spot that was their backyard. In 1996, they started laying down the hardscape that allowed them to shape fun, inviting gardens from a steep slope dominated by a large walnut tree.
Maybe the first thing you will notice as you enter the backyard is the potting shed” – the small outbuilding that looks like the cottage you want to vacation in while visiting a little Italian village, complete with an arbor entrance and an old-fashioned market bicycle parked next to it. As you walk towards the shed, notice the rock bed that is part sculpture garden and holding bed for plants awaiting a permanent spot.
Shift your eyes from the potting shed and sweep them around the yard. This is a treasure hunt – follow the paths to find the old bikes, delight over the metal folk art and laugh at the numerous sculptures of faces and heads that pop out of the ground or watch you from the tree trunks.
The sloped ground is organized into terraces by stone and pathways. The slope of the backyard ends at a high-banked creek, delineated by a stone wall. A walkway along the base of the slope meanders past a butterfly garden in the sunny spot, hostas and liriope in the shady bits, a bright green carpet of creeping sedum, and a rooster riding a bicycle. In the next terrace up the slope sits a lovely pond, in the center of which is a stunning hibiscus.
Closest to the house is the first garden bed the owners designed, which embraces the shade-providing walnut tree. Terraced stone walls provide deep raised gardens that they have filled with a variety of hostas, stonecrop, bugleweed and sculptures. The thriving specimens “just happen” despite being located at the base of the defensive walnut.
The raised beds have allowed them to amend the lousy soil the yard began with and mitigate competition between plantings and tree roots. They still amend the soil as they go, tackling what could be an overwhelming problem bit by bit.
The owners have welcomed yet another challenge: gardening in a large, treed lot at the edge of a creek brings woodland critters. But they relish the visiting chipmunks and the occasional sightings of bobcats, hawks and coyotes.
At the far end of the yard from the potting shed sits a small sloped garden, its differently sized stones, rocks, pots and ground-hugging plants positioned to slow and channel water running along the side of the house on its way to the creek.
The bright, sunny front yard sports the owners latest addition – an idyllic waystation amongst the trees and lawns for butterflies and other pollinators.
Tip: Any yard can delight visitors with sculptures, found objects, and unique collections tucked in among the plantings.”