June 3rd, 2014
You think it’s tough getting a basic quarter-acre yard looking good?
Try planting 2 acres.
I’m just back from leading a trip to see three extraordinary examples of what can be done with 2 acres – given ample gardening gumption.
The first was Stephanie Cohen’s yard in suburban Collegeville, Montgomery County.
She moved to her 2-acre lot 16 years ago and promptly removed all of the common green-meatball shrubs and the property’s only tree – an invasive Norway maple.
Then she set to work building her own private paradise – perennial borders along the entire front, a four-square herb garden, a native-plant meadow, and multiple outdoor garden rooms criss-crossed by pea-gravel paths and picket fencing.
Perennial-lovers will especially love this place. You’ll find some of the latest, greatest varieties as well as species few people grow, such as the yellow-flowering phlomis, a tiered bloomer that looks like something out of a Dr. Seuss book.
The lesson I took away is that there’s a huge array of perennials that do well in our climate. So why do we stick with the same daylilies, mums and hostas that everybody plants when we could just as easily grow silver-leafed brunnera or wispy, arching, gold-leafed Japanese forest grass?
Stephanie also has a fine collection of trees and shrubs (although I suspect she grows them mainly as company for the perennials). The one that was catching the most attention from our tour group was a showy version of sweetshrub called ‘Hartlage Wine.’
This 6-foot spring bloomer has especially large flowers of deep rose – way more impressive than the old-fashioned straight species of sweetshrub, although not quite as strawberryish-fragrant.
Stephanie calls her garden “Shortwood.” She says she went with that name because “Longwood” already was taken.
You know you’ve made it as a gardener when your yard has its own name.
The second amazing 2-acre garden was that of Charles Cresson. His Swarthmore yard also has a name – Hedgleigh Spring, for the stream of that name that originates on the property.