August 15, 2011

Come Saturday Morning

The Xeric garden occupies the property's 'hell strip'.  Double-click on
any of the photos to get a full-screen view.

This past Saturday, we opened our property for the Massachusetts Master Gardeners.  It was a beautiful day for a tour; sunny with a high in the low 80s and tolerable humidity.  For six hours, they rambled through the gardens, fueled by tea, lemonade, cookies and chocolate cake.  It was an erudite group that was both appreciative of the garden and full of questions.  All in all, the work to get ready for the event was well worth it.

I thought this would be the right opportunity to provide a visual overview of the garden as it stands in August 2011.  Yes, everything was edged and weeded to perfection, but a garden is more than the sum of its maintenance.  A good garden is never static; it is always a work in progress with new ideas being tried out and new cultivars being lusted after.  Without question, a year from now, our garden will look different.

The Manhattan and Long Island
beds are visible from the street.
I start at the front of the property with two views of what someone driving by our home will see.  The Xeric garden (photo at the top of the blog), occupies what is sometimes known as the ‘hell strip’ - the narrow piece of land between the sidewalk and the street.  The Xeric garden is now in its third full year (pieces of it are five and six years old).  The delosperma is threatening to colonize the sidewalk; the thyme plugs have grown into a solid mass.  The nepeta has completed its first bloom and has been trimmed back severely to promote a September burst of color.  The agastache is a wonderful pale blue and will remain in bloom - and covered with bees - until a hard frost.

The perennial bed (called 'Manhattan' for its shape) and shrub bed (to the right of Manhattan and so called, naturally, 'Long Island') are studies in contrast.  The last of the daylilies in Manhattan passed in late July; that part of the bed is now dull.  But the tall rudbeckia are in full bloom and asters are heading up.  In front of the rudbeckia is an unusual, tall helianthus that is biding its time before a late September display of clusters of daisy-like flowers.  Long Island has half a dozen shrubs in bloom: clethra ‘Miss Ruby Spice’ in pink, white potentilla, and several varieties of caryopteris are blooming a delicate blue.  A towering Rose of Sharon (hibiscus syriacus) is blooming prolifically.
Looking back down the
driveway, the two shade beds.

A copse of trees separates the balance of the property from the street.  A casual observer sees only a winding driveway leading back, but abutting the driveway are a pair of shade beds, shown at right.  The nearer one is principally astilbe (now past bloom but still with attractive foliage) and hosta.  The distant bed includes mostly native perennials (for example, two cultivars of chelonia [turtlehead] including chelonia glabra, the white turtlehead that is the only food of the Baltimore checkerspot butterfly).  Currently in bloom is an Anemonopsis macrophylla (a Japanese forest anemone that was purchased at the New England Wild Flower Society) with delicate pink and white flower.

The inner and outer sidewalk beds.
Here are the inner and outer sidewalk beds (double-click to show at full screen size).  This garden offers a continuing bloom cycle from early April through a hard frost.  The last lilies are fading but Daphne Atlantica is in full show, various phlox are starting their bloom and a pink dinner-plate hibiscus has another week's worth of buds on it.  Over the past several years, Betty has gradually introduced evergreens into the garden to provide winter interest and structure.  This photo shows some of those elements.  You can also see some of the fifty containers that provide splashes of color around the property.
Old Stone Bed

Old stone bed provides a mid-summer display of perennials.  Colorful daylilies and purple veronicastrum have just passed but golden helianthus is in evidence.  At the top of the photo is the beginning of the hosta garden.

The hosta walk
The hosta walk occupies the shady north side of the property.  There are now approximately a hundred named varieties in the garden (though not all in this particular garden).  The removal of a large, but diseased oak last year has opened the area to more light.  The hosta garden has been expanded but more sun-tolerant varieties are now being incorporated.

The four, interconnected rock gardens at the rear of the property continue to evolve.  Several trees that once provided shade to the gardens bent over this past winter and refused to straighten up with the spring and so were removed.   A cornus mas (Cornelian cherry) has been brought into proper form and now dominates rock garden 4.  At the same time, a Chamaecyparis ‘Snow’, also in rock garden 4, has doubled in size and is outgrowing its space.  The individual elements of the rock gardens and the ground covers that bind the slope are in fine form.  The leptinella serrulata (a.k.a. New Zealand fern and visible in the upper right hand frame of the photo at right) is slowly winning the battle over the stonecrop.  Mosses and ground covers are now covering stones and steps, softening the hardscape.

Irish and Scottish moss flank a
dwarf Japanese maple
In summary, the garden looked very handsome for its day on tour.  It will inevitably change because great plants will become available, existing cultivars will outgrow their location, and new ideas will captivate Betty's attention.  I do not pretend to be anything other than the guy who makes the place 'pretty'.  The intelligence is supplied by Betty.  But's that's OK: an undergardener - and even a principal undergardener - knows he's contributing.


  1. Thanks for opening the garden, it was a beautiful day and a beautiful tour. Bill and I had a lovely time strolling around, and boy did he LOVE the cake. I , on the other hand LOVED the Chamaecyparis'Snow'....and the combination of the bright eyes phlox with the annual whose name escapes me ...(came from Paul M lives in a container year round?). Thanks again

  2. I love what you've done with the hosta and rock gardens. They're similar to what I want to do in a certain area of our property. These photos fuel my imagination.