Heather and her daughter enjoying the backyard gardens.
Heather and her husband Kevin bought their 19th century home in Vermont about ten years ago, and in that time have transformed the half-acre or so into truly picturesque perennial gardens - many of which solve bothersome landscape problems.
Everywhere you look on the property there is a garden with a different objective; whether it’s to reduce mowing and runoff on a slope by their mailbox, hide an unsightly oil cap by their house, or line the steep slope at the back of the property, each individual garden fits together perfectly to create a cozy, private oasis.
Heather let us take a garden tour of her property on an early morning in late July, which she says are the peak of her gardens.
Hostas, Astilbe, Hydrangea, and other easy-to-grow shady perennials fill in the front gardens.
Re-Building A Shady Front Garden
As soon as you pull up to the front of the home, you’re greeted by a spectacular display of full, colorful perennial gardens. Heather says these gardens were original to the home, but have been through a few different iterations since they moved in. In the beginning they added a variety of shrubs to bring the garden up in height, including Juniper, Boxwood, and a Crabapple Tree. A few years later disaster hit and they lost their main plumbing line in the front of their home in the middle of the (Vermont) winter. “We had to rip out most of the front garden and you can’t do much with plants in January, so we made a pile to keep them warm in the vegetable garden,” says Heather. “We couldn’t plant until the following spring so we had no lawn and no garden. We essentially had to start over.”
This garden is one of the first things you see when you pull into Heather's driveaway: Geranium, Sedum, Astilbe, Clematis and Hydrangea.
They rebuilt the front garden using some of the plants that made it through the winter, a variety of purchased shrubs, and offshoots of divided perennials in other parts of their garden. Heather says that project took the entire summer and involved hauling in a lot of soil and essentially rebuilding the garden from scratch.
Heather fills in the front gaps of her gardens with annual Begonias. These provide a season-long display of color and help reduce weeding.
Heather uses repetition throughout her gardens to make them cohesive: Hydrangea, Hostas, Begonias.
The results are stunning; several years later the shrubs and trees add just the right amount of height to the garden and perennials fill in underneath, leaving little room for weeds. The garden has a classic elegance about it and features a variety of easy-to-grow perennials that thrive in partial shade. This garden — like all of Heather’s property — doesn’t get full sun.
Front Garden Objective: To add interest, height, and color to the front of the home, as well as hide the foundation.
Front Garden Plant List:
The driveway garden is one of Sally's (the dog) favorite spots to run around in.
Planting Perennials to Reduce Mowing in the Driveway Garden
Heather says the garden by the driveway was one of the first projects they tackled when they moved into the home — out of necessity. “We started adding to this garden because we didn’t like to mow that area at all,” Heather explains. “It’s really hard to mow and it’s under a pine tree, so everything is hard to grow there and it’s on a slope, so all the water runs off.” They added a couple of retaining walls to the area to help hold the soil in and worked on connecting the existing Lilacs on one side of that bed to the existing creeping Phlox that elegantly hangs from a concrete retaining wall at the end.
Phlox, Sedum, Bearded Iris, Daylilies and more are planted in this sloped bed.
Several years later this garden is full, colorful, and one of Heather’s dog Sally’s favorite places to run around in. It’s a true testament to the easy-to-grow varieties in it; they seem to be holding up just fine
The garden by the mailbox connects to this garden at the end of the driveway: Creeping Phlox (that had passed blooming by the time I was there), and tomatoes in pots.
Driveway Garden Objective: To eliminate the need to mow a steep area on the side of the home, to add interest along the driveway and to reduce water runoff.
Driveway Garden Plant List:
Heather lines the concrete steps of her side entryway with several tomato and herb plants.
Garden Tour: Side Garden With Raised Beds
Heather talks about how they haven’t been able to focus on the raised bed vegetable gardens this year, but as we turn the corner it’s obvious that when Heather says “they don’t look great,” it really means that they look better than most gardens I’ve seen. Tomatoes, beans, and some perennial herbs fill in the beds and she’s dotted the gardens with fun garden sculptures that her one-year-old daughter enjoys.
Spiderwort, Daylilies, Hostas, Clematis in the side garden.
A perennial garden wraps along this side of the house, featuring more easy-to-grow perennials, and Heather has planted about a dozen pots with tomatoes and herbs that line the side entrance to their home. Everywhere you look on this side of the house there is something fun to discover.