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.
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.
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 🙂
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
Fortunately she’s holding her own and shows no signs of throwing in the trowel. Score one more for Jean.
I’ll leave you with one last pond photo as we return to the house.
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.
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 😉