Following the Flagstone Path

It’s that first glimpse, that moment when you open the garden gate in anticipation of the colors and shapes that will greet you. That is always my favorite part of a garden tour.

As I approached the gate and stepped onto the path, I traveled beside a bed of bromeliads. With their colorful and spiky leaves that form their own cups of water, this display is pretty and fascinating at the same time.

These tropical plants will thrive in the hot, humid days of summer, but need to be moved indoors when the temperature begins to drop. Looking closely, I saw this bed was cleverly filled with individual containers that can easily be transported inside.

Talking with the owners, I knew they had done extensive hardscape work over the past year. Fencing, similar to what you might see on game reserves, circles around the back garden. At first glance, you see the wood posts with large metal squares. But then at second glance, it disappears and fades into the landscape.

Before installing the fence, 75 yew bushes had to be removed from the property edges. Fencing now sits behind a tulip pansy tree, behind a gorgeous ‘Green Arrow’ evergreen (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis), and behind a border of full-grown hemlock trees that provide a screen against the back hill. This also created an opportunity to lay a flagstone path that travels through the levels of the reimagined garden space.

With 8-foot fencing in place, and the dozen deer who regularly visited the yard deterred, rebuilding the garden has happened with remarkable speed. Once nibbled to the stubs, pink rose bushes, mounds of black-eyed Susans and lantana trees are now thriving.

I love gardens that have rooms. Following the path, you enter into the dining room. Here, under the pergola, is where dinner is served, birthdays are celebrated and long evening chats are cherished. This is the ideal spot to take in the view of the upper levels and woods beyond the hemlocks. On the day I visited, fawns wondered through the woods, but the garden was safe.

Standing on the patio near the small stone retaining wall, I may have just missed the spring blooming cactus, but I did spy a fairy garden tucked under a recovering conifer. The ornamental conifers fell victim to the deer for years, but have begun to regain their lower foliage. Creeping thyme is doing its thing and creeping to softening the wall edges.

Guided by the flagstone, I wound around to the upper level of the garden. It’s here I saw the peony stems and leaves left over from the spring blooms, tall blooming phlox and succulents of all types. There is Autumn Joy, Creeping Jenny and so many more.

Speaking of succulents, this is a serious collection. The owners have traveled extensively in South Africa, South America and the United States, often to attend succulent and cactus conferences and tours. So it’s no surprise that there are succulents of all types in a variety of containers in all parts of the garden.

Six-foot tomato plants loaded with fruit and several different herbs are scattered throughout what I call the culinary room. Not only is this garden beautiful, it provides a bounty of flavors for the home chef.

Red stems with cream and green variegated leaves caught my eye, and the contrast is striking. Tapioca or cassava is new to me. This variegated variety is grown for its foliage, not the roots. It was 12 inches to 18 inches tall, and the lower leaves have fallen to show off the red stems. It seems right at home among the succulents and other tropical plants in this garden.

Before I left this level of the garden, I noticed the ferns, planted below the hemlocks. Given time, they will spread and create lush undergrowth for the backdrop of this garden.

Keeping with the love of tropical plants, there are pots of orchids scattered on the patio, but the real show is indoors. A table with grow lights is packed with hanging orchids, potted orchids and huge African violets. I am so sorry I missed the bloom time of these plants. Just maybe they will invite me back to see the orchids in all their glory.

As always, when I tour private gardens, the talent and efforts of gardeners humble me. This lovely garden was no exception. The work conditioning the soil, laying irrigation, and the design and care of the plants prove this is a passion project. One that brings great joy to the caretakers and to those lucky enough to visit.