The beautiful gardens that were to be on the Garden Views Tour this May Enjoy your Private tour of each!
The owners purchased this 1948 house in 2012. They moved directly across the street and were able to move some of their favorite plants with them. At the time the garden consisted of a mid-century swimming pool, which so far remains unchanged, some large wild cherry trees and not much else. In the intervening time, informal and meandering beds were cut out, soil was amended, steppingstone paths were made. Trees, shrubs and perennials were planted, a water feature was installed, and a pergola was added. The children’s garden is a work in progress, but what in a garden isn’t? It is being created around a large, old, fallen Franklinia which began to grow sideways after falling. It’s mate, still standing and just as old, is in the far back yard. There is a spring that runs underground the property on the south east side that has proven to be a wonderful area for plants that don’t mind moisture: Astilbe, Pulmonaria, Hosta, Carex, Acorus, Hydrangea, Sweet Bay Magnolia, Camellia, Ilicium, Trocodendron and Pieris. There is both ample sun and abundant shade for the owners Hosta, Lily and Peony collections. Growing bearded iris has become a recent joy. Zinnias fill in for seasonal color throughout the sun gardens while selections of perennials such as allium, Day Llies, Baptisia, Nepeta, Stokesia, perennial Geraniums, Oriental lilies, Lady’s Mantle, Poppies and Echinacea provide sequential blooms. American wisteria in both purple and white, clematis of all kinds and trumpet vines cover the solid board fence The shade gardens are filled with Rhododendrons, Hydrangeas, Phlox, Jacob’s Ladder, Jack in the Pulpit, Solomon Seal, Maianthemum,Trillium, ferns of all sorts, Bbleeding Heart, Bloodroot, Hepatica and other spring ephemerals. The Davidia ,Heptacodium, Kousa , Crape Myrtle, Southern Mgnolia and Witch Hazel provide pleasure. About 5 years ago a small fenced area was created for a vegetable garden that is lovingly kept by the husband. The garden has not been without its trials and tribulations. All of the boxwoods in the back died due to fungus 2 years ago so a rock garden was created in their place. Establishing rhododendrons is difficult in this garden. Many dead trees have had to be removed. The two Stewartia flanking a path to the pool don’t appear to have grown more than 2” in the 8 years since planted , there is an ongoing battle being waged with evil gout weed and watering in a drought is a chore. There is a very hungry bunny who continually eats the tricyrtis, among other special plants. The owners wish that the fox that occasionally appears in the garden would take note of the bunny because the resident dachshund seems to have befriended it.
Richard and Alice Farley
Dear WGC members, it is always such a pleasure to visit your gardens and to share ours, so we are so disappointed that this year we can’t share and visit the gardens in person. This is a garden best seen up-close-and-personal, as there are so many small nooks and crannies jammed with interesting plants, troughs, water features and sculptures. .There is often something interesting to sniff or admire around the corner, and there are quite a few corners to peak around. We hope these few snap shots give you a taste of the garden and, when this is all past, we can hope to open the garden for your pleasure. As I write this, in late April, the mid-season Rhododendrons are blooming, the Redbuds are having a moment, the Davidia (Dove Tree) is about to bloom, as is the Trochodendron (Wheel Tree), and there are still spectacular Camellias in full blossom. The Tree Peonies are popping, and yet there are still daffodils to admire. It is a wonderful time of year, and I am sure your gardens are also abuzz with life and beauty.
This is what I wrote about the story of our garden to hand out to the garden visitors: We, as two very young architects and landscape architects, fresh out of graduate school, designed and built our house and gardens in two phases: 1978 and 1987. We broke ground on the house on the day our first child was born, and, in fact, we stopped on the way to the hospital to watch the backhoe take the ‘first bite’. The first garden job - after cutting down 50 Ailanthus trees, which I did while 7 months pregnant, was planting 1000 Daffodils with a two-week-old baby. There was no way I could face my first spring with a garden of only mud! From that small beginning, we have had 40 years of changes, small and large. The garden is now mature. Many would say as mature- or over the hill- as the owners. But when you have personally been responsible for virtually every single thing in your home and garden, it can be tricky and painful to want to rip it out and start over. Though each year I tackle at least one rebuilding project, often initiated by some act of nature, like an ice storm. I initially built the walks, terraces and steps on my own- but not the pool! - often using stones I dug up while trying to plant trees, and also planted the entire garden, plant by plant. Of all you can see, there are only the seven tall trees that were here when we started. Maybe I was a woodchuck or a terrier in an earlier life: I love to dig and to weed, and while I was once stronger than I am now, I am still the entire garden maintenance crew with lawn and pool care done by Richard. Either it keeps us young, or it is doing us in. We are not always sure which. A lap pool, built in 2010, is the most recent garden addition. We keep it open from March 1 to December 15 to enjoy the fountains, and we try to swim from late April through October. The sound of water is so soothing and refreshing anytime, but especially in our very humid summers. You might notice the ‘l’ shape. The shallow area is so that our baby grandson has a place to splash. Our garden is a shade garden, so it is at its’ peak in April and early May. However, I particularly enjoy the textures and shades of green in the garden when the blooms are done. While there is something in bloom virtually every day of the year, I think that contrasting tones and textures are as interesting, if not more so, as the loveliness of fleeting blossoms. The garden is filled with woodland treasures and ericaceous plants which need well drained, oxygen rich, organic soil. The garden is about evenly split between natives and exotic plants. The evergreen exotics, in particular, add winter interest, as we do not have an abundance of evergreen natives in this region. Most of the garden is warm sandy loam, built up over forty years. Every spring 40 yards of composted leaf mulch is added…. usually in late February before the tiny woodlanders emerge. Chemical use is severely limited, with no pre-emergent inhibitors or herbicides, and blooming plants are never sprayed. This does add to the weeding burden, and we also struggle with our voracious deer and woodchuck. They really appreciate the feast we have provided them, but so do the birds, butterflies and insects. To control the overfeeding by the deer, I have had to spray year-round, and I am working to reroute the deer away from their habitual paths. One neighbor really enjoys the deer, so she would like to see more, more, more. But she also doesn’t garden at all… It is a balancing act! Maintenance, on average, takes about ½ day/ week with many more hours needed in the early Spring. At this point in time, a lot of the maintenance is pruning to keep the plants semi in-bounds. In building the garden, I have tried to choose plants with varied texture and form. My favorite plants include Rhododendrons, and all broadleaf evergreens, wildflowers and woodlanders, especially unusual plants with beautiful foliage. Although we have mainly shade, I have a fondness for alpines (makes no sense, I know!) so we have maybe twent five troughs for rock plants tucked into the stairs on the terrace as well as into the garden in a sunny corner. Many of the garden plants are quite rare. See if you can find the Trochodendron, the Davidia, the Japanese Hornbeam, the Variegated Longstalk Holly, the Stewartia monadelpha or the Edgeworthia (Japanese Paper Plant). Bonus points if you can find the SIX different variegated Dogwood trees or the dwarf Pink Kousa Dogwood (Hint- it isn’t all that dwarf!). If the weather cooperates, you might find that some of the Itoh Peonies are in bloom, but in general, late May is the time when the foliage begins to take on the starring role. Because of the varied topography, the garden has many long views and vistas and borrowed views into attractive neighboring yards, and while new construction adjacent and across the road has had a dramatic impact on them, we are still surrounded by many pleasant vistas. On a micro scale, you might notice how densely the garden is planted. This is to mimic nature’s way, create a layered look, and minimize weeding. The minimal lawns and hardscape do provide a small, necessary visual resting place. It might be a good idea to have more open spaces, but that would mean fewer areas to plant the incredible flowers, shrubs and trees that are just waiting for a spot to grow. As long as I am able to garden, I will be excited by the opportunity to plant something new, to tweak little bits of the garden and to find my peace working there.
Sarah and Jonathan Frank
We bought this house in 1985 because of the yard – a large expanse for our young family to enjoy. There was a lovely formal garden off the patio, a 1930’s, thick walled, oval swimming pool in the side yard and a hedged-off “service” area behind the kitchen that housed a clothes line, an old tool shed, poison ivy and multiple, dying spruce trees. Huge native rhododendrons filled most of the border beds, but were suffering from several years of drought and also, borers. Glorious, but aging, red maples lined the street, creating fall majesty as well as dry shade and lots of leaves to rake! In short, much beauty to behold, albeit some of it faded, and a number of problem areas to address. Over the years, the entire family tended the yard as we planted, pruned, chopped, composted, moved, mulched, raked and mowed. We learned the hard way “what worked where” and what drought, disease and invasive pests could do to a garden. The massed, native rhodies were decimated in the 90s, leaving the borders empty. Ice storms took out several specimens, including a beautiful Styrax and a magnificent magnolia. The red maples left giant holes when they died of old age. Hurricane Sandy took out major trees and upended the entire front yard. But these changes also created landscaping opportunities! Hands on gardening certainly taught us a lot, as did the advice of fellow gardeners and paid experts. Who ever heard of a Cladrastis lutea? You always know the names of the shrubs and trees you plant yourself. Ditto, the invasives and pests you tackle! The borders were slowly built up with hydrangeas, winterberry, a wonderful “Arnold Promise” witch hazel, Cryptomeria, viburnum, Crape Myrtle, spruce trees and more. A multi-stemmed Katsura replaced the old chestnut tree and the red maples along the street have been replanted along with Nellie Stevens hollies and Okame cherries. That Cladrastis lutea (yellowwood) gives a fragrant firework of blossoms on the edge of the patio. A Magnolia grandiflora stands in a more protected location than the one that died. We bought a tiny Meta sequoia in a bucket and planted it in the back border 29 years ago, when our youngest was born, and it is now a towering, primeval work of art—look at the bark! The liriope in the back borders, as well as most of the pachysandra, grew from plugs taken from my mother-in-law’s garden. Ditto, many of the hostas. The original changing shed for the filled-in 1930s pool is now our grandchildren’s playhouse, with native mountain laurel to one side and Mahonia, further down the border, transplanted to this more favorable, shady location after it almost died from sunburn. Follow the secret path through hostas, ferns and hydrangeas in the back border—put in where our children and their friends used to build hidden forts. We also sought professional advice following Hurricane Sandy’s devastation. A wall was added in the front yard and new walkways and fences were installed. Washington hawthorns, boxwood, limelight hydrangeas, hollies, Stewartia and an Eastern redbud were part of the renovation. We also replaced the formal garden with a pool. With conservation in mind, we put in drains and a water management system to prevent ponding and to keep groundwater on the property. Our original four compost piles have dwindled over the years as most of our leaves are composted in areas of the perimeter beds where there is, by design, no ground cover. Pine needles are likewise raked and put in areas that like a more acidic soil and grass clippings are left on the lawn. We gather fallen sticks and branches and use them for kindling, if appropriate, or allow them to decay in a hidden area. The formal garden with its more intense maintenance was eliminated and we look for plants that are pest and disease resistant. We mostly use horticultural oils instead of pesticides and weed rather than spray. The highlight of our gardening has been doing it together as a family. While our children loathed nothing more than spreading compost on a cold March day, they now remember their hard work positively and cherish the memories of summer BBQs, wiffle ball games, epic neighborhood flashlight tag battles, and the numerous parties and celebrations that took place in our much loved backyard.
Built in 1857, this stately Victorian house, located along one of Chestnut Hill’s most historic streets, has seen relatively little change in ownership over the past 160+ years. Enter through the picket fence gate and note the thoughtful mix of native and non-native specimens that make this garden special. The specimen Ohio buckeye with its underlying bed of Jelena witch hazel, witch hazel Arnold Promise, Ilex -glabra densa, Hydrangea, Erigeron, Huechera, Chrysogonum, Iris, and Carex welcome all who enter the property. Also note the Pseudocydonia sinensis and Japanese maple completing the beds on the left side of the entrance walk. In the distance of this house’s deep lot, is a Stewartia which invites a closer look. Along the right side of the property, an undulating bed of spring bulbs, hosta, hellebores, rhododendron, and astilbe, capped by a striking Exbury azalea, provide an explosion of color and interest to the eye. Cornus mas, Hypericum, and Itea virginica, serve as a frame to the outdoor terrace. The colorful perennial bed that extends from the edge of the terrace creates the perfect setting for a pond filled with Iris, water lilies, goldfish and tadpoles. The perennial bed contains cranberry, lamb’s ear, geranium, Sedum ‘Autumn Joy”, peonies, daylilies, hellebores, blue hosta, cherry laurel, and is framed by a prickly ash and Dwarf Cryptomeria japonica on one side and a holly and Mahonia on the other. At the end of the house, is a bed of spring bulbs, Sarcococca, Itea, and herbs. A curved bed winds along the walk to the driveway and the back of the property. This bed features Viburnum conoy, Aronia brilliantissima, Clethra ruby spice, Syringa vulgaris (lilac), and Chionanthus virginicus (Fringe tree). Ground cover in this bed includes both native and English ginger, heuchera, and Saruma henryi. A bed of native azalea, forsythia, and a fig tree abuts the garage, while the bed extending along the fence to the rear of the property contains a variety of interesting trees, including prickley ash, lacebark pine, weeping cherry, red twig dogwood, kousa dogwood, weeping bald cyprus, and dawn redwood. Central to the rear of the property is a Stewartia that provides a show for every season. The property’s garden provides an outdoor room in which to enjoy an eclectic mix of color and nature. The garden has grown and thrived without the use of pesticides for more than 30 years and provides an ample bounty of edible spices and vegetables in spring, summer, and fall. The owners recently incorporated hydroponic gardens to conserve space and increase vegetable growth. The owners have taken the GCA pledge against pesticide use and incorporate composting and recycling into their daily life habits.
Sarah Andrews If anyone had told us fifteen years ago that we would still be developing gardens on our property today, I would have thought they were crazy. But true enough, our gardens are never finished. In 2004 when my husband and I “downsized” our living space to our home on Norwood Avenue, the outdoors was an empty canvas with beautiful sweeps of hillside, a few magnificent old trees, and intriguing changes in elevation. We began by opening a perennial bed along the driveway that offered a contrast to the magnificent white oak and sugar maple that stand in front of the house. Since then, working with Jerry Fritz at Linden Hill Gardens, we addressed the outside living space in back of the house where we spend most of our time. The pool was renovated and the patio was rebuilt and extended, including repair to the original stone wall. A lovely curving fence was added to enclose this space. A troublesome sweet gum was removed. A back hoe tore out its roots and new lawn was established surrounded by perennial beds. A recently designed walnut bench sits in the upper garden as a spot to relax and view the scenery below. My husband believes it is his “man cave” although it is obviously out in the open. Perennial beds were also planted next to the house and on the upper terrace to the side of the house. Along the property line on the hillside is my “hospital” bed. Whatever I don’t know what to eliminate or plant elsewhere ends up there. Recently, we found an underground cistern, approximately 8’ by 10’, in front of this bed. It appears to have been connected to the original house above us before it burned down at the turn of the century. A concerted effort has been made to create structure on the perimeter of our 2 acre property. We have added 39 trees as part of that plan, which has offered more refuge for birds. Along the southern border of our property, we have two connected but distinct spaces: one a perennial bed featuring three Norway spruce, hollies and oakleaf hydrangea among many smaller plants and bulbs, and the other a hidden garden behind a row of Skip Laurel where on hot days we can enjoy an afternoon siesta in one of our hammocks. A unique feature of our property is the conservation easement on the north side of our house. Its restrictive covenants prevent any hardscape. It also is a pass through for water that runs from the top of Germantown Avenue, down Caryl Lane, across this acre, and ends up along Norwood Avenue. The Philadelphia Water Department has installed a rain garden in the right of way. It is part of its ongoing green infrastructure development “ Green City, Clean Waters”. Now that the project is finished, we are enhancing the gardens on our side of the wrought iron fence, including adding hollies, viburnum under the Black Walnut, and irises. In Spring of 2021, we will see the new vegetable garden as a central feature of the north acre. As you walk across this part of the property, you will also notice a bocci ball court in the far corner where our guests, children and families can enjoy a bit of competitive entertainment.