Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Talking to Ellie, Marilyn, and Anne
Someone commented recently, “I always expect to see elves coming out of the cottages on 'Little' Summer.” I know what he means. These are the houses for which the word “darling” was created. This year, as a result of bribery, arm-twisting, death threats, and I don’t want to know what else, Summer is contributing fifteen gardens to Garden Walk. Now, this is a little winding block of, for the most part, tiny cottages. What you find out though, is that it’s actually easier—all caveats admitted—to have a lush, colorful garden in a small space. It takes less design and hardscaping than it would to, say, turn half an acre into a terraced English garden. This is why so many of the people who visit Garden Walk say they have large properties, but their main plant is grass. There’s a whole different mindset going on here—though I’ve noticed it’s changing.
Anyway, Ellie has a lush bed in front and in back an amazing array of trees, vines, shrubs, and perennials, all in pots or raised beds on concrete, with a flagstone path running through the plantings. Hmm, there’s a way to control tree roots—keep all those monsters in pots. I think there’s some kind of pruning system she uses to keep it all under control.
In an area very close to downtown, the gardeners of Johnson Park are arranged around a sizable central green space. Marilyn and Anne have a brick Victorian on the green, with a largish back yard, once the home of partially buried shopping carts, hypodermic needles, broken beer bottles, and other urban detritus. Now it looks like this:
There are also sizable beds of grasses, herbs, and other perennials. This is another garden (like mine) very focused toward Garden Walk. Anne and Marilyn described a week-long “bootcamp” ordeal of weeding, filling in gaps, trimming, mulching, and edging that goes on to get the place in perfect condition for the Walk. I kind of got a headache thinking about it.