Visiting Jean

My friend Jean has an amazing garden which she’s been working on for years and she’s made it into a treasure trove of color and textures which flourish in spite of the thin mountainside soil she first started with.  I love a garden which you can walk through and experience and this garden fits that bill perfectly.

jeans pond

Yoga frog leads the class of froglets who follow along from the safety of the pond.

It’s a sheltered garden filled with the sounds of running water.  You enter the backyard though a shaded arbor at the end of a long drive which leads you through the large wooded lot.  What first grabs your attention when you step through the gate is the large pond carved into the mountainside.  It looks as if it’s always been there, a relaxing little nook left over from when the glaciers last scrubbed this part of Pennsylvania.

jeans pond

Looking out across from the house and main patio to the pond.  A natural stone path leads to a cozy seating area and fire pit, a clematis covered arch marks the path out into the garden beyond.

You have two choices here, explore the pond and gardens to your left or ignore the deck and patios (and inviting patio seating) surrounding the house and let the color of the slope to the right draw you in.  We usually choose the flowery slope 🙂

jeans garden

Jean’s garden is always magazine ready.  It’s got color, paths, destinations, focal points, vignettes… Here container plantings line the stone steps which take you to the upper garden.

I guess the upside to gardening on a thinly covered, rocky mountainside is that stone paths and walls are just an arm’s length away… assuming you’ve got a prybar and shovel at the end of that arm!  Over the years Jean has built up terraces and pickaxed out level planting areas to make room for her plant addiction and they really keep the garden interesting with their changes in elevation and solid structure.

jeans garden

Color galore with annual plantings and summer perennials.  Of course if there’s a nice bright phlox I have to include the picture 😉

The top of the slope has been kept open for sun and leveled to make room for all the summer color that fills this end of the garden.  On my last visit the dahlias were just starting to take off and I hope I wasn’t too pushy with my hints of how much I liked the colors and how well they’d look in my own garden!

Zinnias, calibrachoa, and of course dahlias.  This picture just doesn’t do the scale justice, the pot of purple fountain grass is probably about six feet up on a tower of container plantings.

Jean is just a little obsessed.  It’s hard for me to believe a gardener could be that way but she’s got plants all over, she’s got plant inventories, she’s involved in plant groups, she travels for plants, and she’s got about a million plans which are on the drawing board.  It’s always fun talking to her as her compulsively organized type A personality deconstructs gardening.

jeans dahlias

Even the plant supports are well thought out and complement the yellows, oranges, reds and purples of this section.

Beyond the sunny and bright center of the garden, pathways take you out into the more shaded woodland edges.  Hydrangeas abound and although I didn’t get any decent pictures of them individually, if you start looking you’ll see they show up nearly everywhere… and not just planted ones… believe it or not there are hundreds of hydrangea seedlings in any open spot of soil or gravel which gets a little sun.  What a thought to have to weed out handfuls of hydrangea!

jeans garden

Stone lined paths run throughout the garden and special shrubs and trees fill every available space.  Here the left side of the path is dominated by an eight foot tall planting of purple angelica (Angelica gigas ‘purpurea’).

If there’s one thing which Jean struggles with it’s the local vole population.  Deer are around as well but at least you can fence them out.  Voles are a curse.

jeans garden

The shadier planting still look great but at one time they were also filled with hostas.  Lots of them.

Soil additives, traps, caged plantings, containers, all are in use to wage war against the rodent hordes but as Jean likes to say, her stone walls and rock ledges are practically vole condos so it’s a continuous battle.

jeans garden

Round about the back a pathway has been planted up as a scented walkway.  On a previous visit the fragrance of oriental lilies filled the air, on my my last visit it’s been replaced by the scent of passionflowers and fragrant hostas.

Fortunately she’s holding her own and shows no signs of throwing in the trowel.  Score one more for Jean.

jeans garden

Shaded steps leading around to the fire pit.  I love how things fill in here, and you could plant a whole other garden with the dwarf goats beard, ferns, and other goodies which sprout up in the cracks.

I’ll leave you with one last pond photo as we return to the house.

jeans pond

Just the right amount of water lilies for interest and open water for light reflection.  I’m sure the Japanese maple is awesome in the fall but my favorite right now is the airy variegated moor grass Molinia caerulea ‘Variegata’).

As you exit the garden off the main patio you can’t help but notice how well Jean grows climbing nasturtium.  Although I love the leaves and flower colors, this is one plant I always struggle with.

jeans nasturtium

Nasturtium climbing the arch.  It looks so healthy!

And that takes us back to where we started.  I hope you enjoyed the tour as much as I did and it’s inspired me to make more paths and get more shrubs in the ground.  Structure.  That’s what I need… just like snowdrops are what Jean needs 😉

Thanks Jean!

23 comments on “Visiting Jean

  1. bittster says:

    In case anyone was wondering, I was messing around with this post before putting it up, so if you saw a password protect thing show up a few days ago that was just me not knowing what I was doing 😉

  2. Glad you let us in to see that gorgeous garden. I’m having rock envy as well. So beautiful.

  3. Well I know that prying stone out of the ground isn’t easy. Looks like a fantastic garden!

  4. Nancy says:

    This is definitely one of the best gardens in the Back Mountain. We are so lucky to have Jean in the Back Mountain Bloomers Garden Club. Nancy Mayer

    • bittster says:

      Jean is stopping by here tomorrow and when I think about how much time and work she’s put into her own garden I hope she doesn’t judge me too harshly. I know she won’t, but there were a few spots where I thought ‘ugh, I wonder what Jean willl think of THAT’!
      Always nice to hear from you Nancy.

  5. That is one of the most natural looking ponds I’ve ever seen. Just lovely. And I am going to try dwarf goatsbeard in my stone steps. Great idea.

    • bittster says:

      The pond is really amazing, and as you walk around the uphill side you feel as if you’re on a mountain hike through an alpine clearing. Really cool.
      I was surprised by how small and tight the goatsbeard can grow, you’d never guess it if the straight species is all you’ve ever seen!

  6. Carol Sorber says:

    Jean’s garden is magnificent! It is definitely a labor of love.

    • bittster says:

      I can’t even imagine all the work which went into both its creation and its upkeep, and she just told me she wasn’t happy with the look in a few of the pictures so is weeding and making a few changes! It sure does pay off though, it’s a joy to see.

  7. Wow, that is an amazing garden. Love the water feature.

  8. Eliza Waters says:

    A beautifully designed garden with lots of meandering paths. Love the stonework and water features. I can sympathize with her vole problem. She needs a good cat! 😉

  9. Indie says:

    Wow, such a gorgeous garden with that pond and waterfall! The stone walls looks so pretty, though I know they must have taken a lot of work. Beautiful! I feel for her struggle with voles – absolutely evil creatures. I battled them at my last garden, and what I wouldn’t have given for a nice big snake in the garden, believe it or not!

    • bittster says:

      I can’t imagine all the work of removing stones and building walls. I think all the rock was found on site… and there’s a lot of it!
      I think I’d even consider a cat if voles moved in here. The only snakes I see around here are garter snakes, and I think voles might be too big for them.

  10. Now I want to visit Jean’s garden for myself, Frank. Stunning. I try to grow climbing Nasturtium but it wont climb for me. Don’t know what I’m doing wrong. Great posting of a fabulous garden. P. x

    • bittster says:

      Jean seems to know exactly the types of nasturtium which make good climbers, it doesn’t even look like she has to try hard to get them started up a trellis, and after that they just take off!

  11. Chloris says:

    A lovely garden, you can tell it belongs to a real plant enthusiast. I have never heard of hydrangeas seeding around before. I must try some from seed, who knows what you might a get?

    • bittster says:

      There were hydrangea seedlings all over, mostly paniculatas, but they were as thick as the bitter cress which comes up here. I don’t think you could go wrong raising a couple up to blooming size.

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