Garden description: The 25 x 20 ft paved courtyard behind our twin home in Wilmington incorporates a fertile 3 ft wide border backed by a weather-beaten picket fence on two sides and a contrasting brick wall on the third. They provide a backdrop for 50 varieties of shrubs and flowers that I have planted and care for individually. The space is also a welcoming stop for birds, butterflies and bees to eat, bathe and drink.
Who are the gardeners? I am the main gardener, my husband looks after the front and side beds street side. I’ve been gardening for about 30 years. We downsized from the suburbs to a home in the city about 9 years ago to a much smaller plot. When we found this house, we were excited by the opportunities that the courtyard behind the house offered. Volunteering at two city gardens has helped my work significantly.
Why do you garden? For our allotted space I wanted to create something aesthetically pleasing, neither overwhelming nor underwhelming. A private courtyard, not a stark backyard. I’m very particular getting things right (ask my husband), arranging and rearranging, and ensuring different species peak at different times during the seasons to sustain the glory of spring, summer and fall. Having spent part of my life in England I admire how they use space and I tried to emulate the features of a country garden. Above all I value relationships and regularly exchange cuttings with kindred spirits. I estimate 30% of the plants in my garden have the added feature of having belonged to somebody in the community we’ve built. Plants and people, new friends and old friends.
How has gardening impacted you during this time? Having one’s own space benefits one’s physical and mental health, and for me it has been essential during a pandemic. The garden invokes an exhilaration that only nature gifts, especially when the birds sing their hearts out. I like to think it is good for their physical and mental health, too. To transform the long haul of covid into a magical journey, my husband concocted an unusual birthday present (it was a significant milestone, but never ask a lady her age). He asked local artist and poet e.jean lanyon, herself an ardent lover of gardens, to create a painting that features every plant and flower in the garden at its peak. She is developing the work from sketches made in the garden and photographs I’ve taken when each plant was in full bloom. This will be a work of fantasy and befits the name we gave our courtyard: Eden.
What do you have in your garden? Seven species of hostas in the shade garden. A couple of heucheras which the bees love. Various salvias, echinaceas, Shasta daisies, upright phlox, a dwarf yarrow, purple sage, a couple varieties of clematis climbing the fence, lambs ear, dwarf coreopsis, heavenly bamboo, turkey plant or chelone, bee balm, dinner plate dahlias, euonymus, redtwig dogwood, winterberry, azalea varieties, Japanese forest grass, white hydrangea, 3 pink hydrangeas, cherry tomatoes, Iris, dianthus, pink astilbe, white astilbe, hens n’ chicks. Variegated English Ivy, liatris, sedum, coreopsis, foxgloves. I’m trying to achieve the look of an English cottage garden.
Do you have any problems with disease or pests? If so, how are you dealing with this problem? The biggest problem in our courtyard garden have been slugs. They seem to favor beer, I believe it’s the yeast that they are attracted to. I leave beer out in a flat dish overnight, the next morning I see many dead slugs. I also crush eggshells and put it at the base of the plants. We’ve also had some baby rabbits come through the slats in the spring. They devour all the tender shoots that come up. We put an end to that by installing short length of bamboo between the recurring gaps in the picket fence just high enough to prevent them leaping through so that they do not disturb the aesthetics.