Elizabeth Schumacher has gardened on this terraced hillside for more than 40 years. She graduated from the Barnes School of Horticulture and, in 1979, founded Garden Accents, a business specializing in antique, contemporary, handcrafted and imported garden ornaments. Visit gardenaccents.com or call 610-825-5525.

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Adding Individuality to the Garden
by Elizabeth Schumacher       #Design   #Feature

“A garden is a result of an arrangement of natural materials according to aesthetic laws; interwoven throughout are the artist’s outlook on life, his past experiences, his affections, his attempts, his mistakes and his successes.”  – Robert Burle Max

A garden contains a collection of plants chosen for the location and the role they are to play, but a garden can be much more. It can become an expression of shared memories created over a lifetime – a picture of things that have been important to you. Most residential gardens are obviously personal. However, it can be fun and constructive to review how your garden has evolved and consider what personal touches you might add. These are some ideas from our 1-acre garden, which has evolved over four decades from a barren, steep hillside to an all-season, award-winning delight.

1. After years of planning and developing our garden, I decided we needed a focal point beyond the entrance, on the slope to the left. I chose a wrought-iron piece by a Canadian artist, Richard Kramer, called The Partners. It sits in front of a privet hedge, backed by a Himalayan pine (Pinus wallichiana) and surrounded by creeping juniper (Juniperus horizontalis ‘Plumosa’) and lesser periwinkle (Vinca minor). The Partners reminds us both that the garden is a product of our mutual, whole-hearted commitment to the ongoing effort and evolution. We do love it.
2. Before we came to Philadelphia, we lived in Boston, fairly close to the Arnold Arboretum. On an outing to the arboretum, we stuck our 1½-year-old daughter on the branch of an interesting tree. My husband recorded the name of the tree – a Cercidiphyllum japonicum,or katsura – so he could label the photo. Once living in Pennsylvania, we decided we needed a tree for some shade. The Memory of the tree in Boston prompted the selection of this specimen. Now there is so much shade, we had to put in a brick patio since the grass wouldn’t grow. We now love the patio. This is a beautiful tree with heart-shaped leaves, great fall color and no diseases.
3. Our daughters loved this jungle gym. Once they outgrew it, it was repurposed as a frame for vines until the grandchildren came along. Now you see another reincarnation with trumpet honeyscukle (Lonicera sempervirens ‘Major Wheeler’) happily attracting hummingbirds. I enjoy the shape and the contrasting periwinkle-color of the jungle gym. We’ve also added sculptures of our granddaughters as toddlers to remind us of this evolution. In the background, you can see a wood-chip path cut out of the ivy, inviting exploration up the hillside.
4. My husband is a University of Pennsylvania professor, and he has often taught in other countries. On an early trip we spotted this carved stone lion in a pawn shop just off the Zocalo in Mexico City. It was our first acquisition of an accent for the garden. He sits surrounded by Sargent juniper (Juniperus chinensis var. sargentii).
5. The Franklin tree (Franklinia alatamaha, hardy to Zone 5, only with protection) arching over the path from the right pays homage to Philadelphia’s rich gardening history. John Bartram brought this plant from North Carolina – where it is no longer found in the wild – and named it after his friend, Benjamin Franklin. Allegra, a happy sculpture by Barbara Chen, acts as a focal point at the end of the path.
6. The backlit foliage of the Franklinia is a late season delight – not to mention the great late-summer flowers.
7. When I was a child, I lived in Japan for five years, very close to the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo. I still remember how my sister and I used to play in the gardens and wander around the beautiful wooden buildings. When we decided we wanted a peaceful resting spot on an upper level in the garden, I designed a natural cedar building with a curved roof, benches and moon window – things I remembered from my childhood.  
8. From our kitchen window, we see two things that remind us of our mothers. The dwarf weeping Texas redbud (Cercis canadensis var. texensis‘Traveller’) was chosen in remembrance of my mother, a barely 5-foot-tall, world traveler who retired to Texas. The bird feeder, a major attraction for a variety of birds, was inspired by a bird-identification book given to me by my mother-in-law. On the left, a Cercis canadenis‘Forest Pansy’ blooms at the same time as the ‘Traveller’.

From State-by-State Gardening January/February 2014. Photos by Rob Cardillo.


Posted: 04/16/14   RSS | Print


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