Rock-bottom work transformed a lot in Stone Meadows.
What a difference a year makes. A front yard that had once little curb appeal has been transformed into a wonderfully landscaped area filled with colorful gardens. Its beauty beckons visitors and delights passersby. A back yard that had been flat, boring and open is now surrounded by a handsome fence to contain it, decorated in repeated flower combinations and highlighted by a stunning water garden.
This lovely garden spot belongs to Eileen Schartz. She gardens on a city lot in Stone Meadows. After moving in only two years ago, she immediately began the garden renovations. Starting from scratch was the best way to begin. She also knew that a garden would be difficult to grow in the awful clay and rock soil that she found. "When I moved in, I had it (the yard) scraped," she explained. She confided that the big secret to her successful garden was working in new topsoil and fertilizer to the site.
Two tall pine trees, one an Austrian pine, the other a Scotch pine, tower on either side of the front garden. A colorful flower garden, filled with many annuals such as Pacific red zinnias and pink vinca, curves out gently in front. Mexican heathers line a portion of the front bed. Their glossy green leaves and tiny pink blooms are delightful.
An attractive brick path brings visitors directly to the front door. In the small bed between the walkway and the drive, a contorted birch tree weeps over an assortment of annuals. Behind it a large oakleaf hydrangea looks lovely, its former flower heads bronze in autumn color.
"It's been trial and error," Schartz said about trying to get just the right flower combinations. "In the front I don't have orange but lean more to blue tones."
The overall inviting softness of the front garden is produced by shades of pink and blue. Tall pentas in a lovely shade of pink and the blue-purple blooms of heliotrope provide a soothing palette for the entrance. The colors of the garden are made even more vivid by an abrupt change with a collection of yellow marigolds.
"I'm not fond of marigolds," Schartz admitted. "But I like a few to bring in the yellow color." The effect of the sunny color is striking. Rounding out the front garden, Russian sage, azaleas, and barberry bushes grow close to one of the pine trees. I noticed a few hostas tucked in at the back of the tree.
Flush with color
As lovely as this garden is, I could sense from Schartz that she really wanted me to see the back yard. We entered the back garden by traveling through the house and out onto a raised deck. Once on the deck, I must admit, I stood there in awe for several minutes. The view of the garden is spectacular.
"I was wanting an oasis," Schartz commented. "This (back yard) was just flat." So, a year ago she and her special friend, George Osborne, began the transformation to make this a wonderful garden spot.
The garden encircles the entire back yard, bordering a wooden fence. Flowers of many shapes, sizes, textures and colors grow along soothing curves. "I like a lot of different textures in the garden," Schartz said. "I tried to do that with grasses. Some of the leaves are waxy, some are velvety."
She also has an eye for color. One of the things I noticed is that many of the flowers are repeated throughout the garden, giving each part of the garden a sense of connection to the others. Some of the plants, though, are one of a kind, like the large Joe Pye plant, a variegated weigela and a cluster of butterfly bushes, one of them in the uncommon shade of yellow.
"I like color," she admitted. "Lots of different colors." To achieve a satisfactory color arrangement, she experiments before actually putting plants into the ground. She said it is not unusual for her to fill up a wagon with different color combinations of flowers when shopping at garden centers and rearrange them in the wagon before settling on her final purchase.
Osborne helps too. "George is unique," she said. "He looks at it (the garden) from an artist's eye."
A new view
Osborne himself noted that the garden view changes.
"There's a different look from different vantage points," he pointed out. Indeed, we saw the garden at ground level, from the deck and then went inside and looked at it out the windows by a set of stairs. Each view was unique, allowing the vista to take on a different perspective.
A beautiful water garden fills the left side of the yard. It arises in a gentle sloping manner as though it emerges naturally from the landscape rather than having been artificially constructed. Osborne said the effect was purposeful to avoid having the pond look out of place in the garden. "It's an integral part of the landscape," he observed.
"I did want a water feature," Schartz admitted. "I love the sound of running water." And a water feature is what she has, but it was not obtained without toil.
Digging the pond was labor intensive, requiring not only a few strong shovels and backs but also a jackhammer
"There's a reason they call this area Stone Meadows," Schartz said.
Even after years of creating ponds, Osborne commented, "I'm still amazed at how much dirt comes out of a hole."
Dressing up a pond
Stones and a few shells collected on vacations have found places along the edges of the pond.
"There's a very eclectic collection of stones," Osborne noted. "It really works out."
Something else that works out is a sculpture called Night Watchman. It had been displayed in front of the Eldridge Hotel six years ago. The striking feature stands among interesting plants to the left of the pond.
Lotus, water lilies, hardy canna, hibiscus and water celery are some of the plants growing in the pond. Castor bean plants and elephant ears loom behind the pond. "I try to give it a little of an exotic look," Schartz said.
Several unusual containers filled to overflowing with an assortment of annuals are placed throughout the garden. One little nook is cornered off with an old iron gate that Schartz found at an antique mall. A chiminea and a couple decorative containers set just the right mood for relaxing.
Behind the nook a pergola shades several kinds of salvia. The structure was "added to counteract the tallness of the house," Osborne said. "And to give shade to the bottom windows" of the house. "We looked at kits," he said. But none fit the space precisely. So they built the pergola themselves.
Other garden structures include benches, one with a canopy for shade along the fence, and a set of shelves protected by shuttering for Schartz's gardening supplies.
"Gardening can be kind of messy," she said. Among her supplies are fertilizers. "You have to fertilize often, like once a week," she said. She has no special brand, generally using "something I buy off the shelf." Though she stated that weekly fertilizing is best, she sometimes stretches it to two to four weeks.
"I can always tell when they need it," she noted. "Things start dropping leaves." With a little shot of fertilizer, "Everything else perks up," she said.
Not only do the plants perk up, so does Schartz. "Gardening is a therapy," she claimed. "Gardening can be so relaxing."
-- Carol Boncella is education coordinator at Lawrence Memorial Hospital. You can send e-mail to her at email@example.com.