Newport News, Va. When Linda and Joe Hertzler bought their home in Williamsburg, Va., six years ago, the property needed tons of TLC.
The front yard was no exception.
“It was nothing but clay and weeds,” Linda says.
Working with generous amounts of compost, topsoil and Turface, a brand of soil conditioner used to improve drainage in heavy, compacted soils, the Hertzlers created a rich blend that nourishes a photographic garden. Instead of lawn, there’s a bountiful vegetable and self-seeding annuals garden on one side and a habitat-style perennial planting on the other side.
The classic cottage-style creation, which Joe calls “Linda’s Garden,” is featured on several pages in the August issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine.
Even though Joe is the professional gardener in the family — he owns Hertzler & George landscape and grounds maintenance — it’s Linda’s garden in every way. Her vision came from the many times she walked through Colonial Williamsburg gardens as a volunteer with local garden clubs that raised money from the tours.
“I fell in love with the Colonial Revival gardens,” Linda says.
“My favorite is behind King Arm’s Tavern. It is a mix of veggies, herbs and flowers — that was my inspiration.”
Starting with a blank palette was exciting, Linda sats. After ensuring the soil was healthy for plants, she had a new blue stone mixed with flagstone walkway and entrance installed. At the street, an arbor covered with jasmine and honeysuckle welcomes guests to enter and see what’s inside.
“I chose the front yard for two reasons,” she says.
“First, the best sun. Second, I wanted people who pass by to have something beautiful to see. It’s a great way to meet people and to give back to the city.”
A traditional white picket fence encloses the 30-foot-square vegetable and herb garden. Inside, a circular brick walk takes you past Sun Gold tomatoes, green, red and yellow peppers, squash and herbs.
“We love grilled peppers, and I use basil to make pesto,” Linda says.
While the Hertzler family enjoys those edibles, there are also treats in the garden for wildlife that likes to visit.
Giant zinnias provide seeds for gold finches, dill is where black swallowtail butterflies lay eggs, and mint attracts pollinating bees.
“I haven’t bought dill in five years because I let it go to seed and let it spring up where it wants,” Linda says.
“When Better Homes and Gardens heard I had tons of dill, they wanted it pulled out. I had to draw the line on that. It was in full bloom, and I needed the dill for my butterflies. Usually the zinnias spill over the fence, mixed with the dill. Amazingly, they loved the dill mixed in with everything.”
Cardoon is Linda’s favorite plant because it draws hummingbirds — no nectar feeder needed in your garden when you use this plant, she says.
Cardoon, or Cynara cardunculus, is also called artichoke thistle but is a member of the aster family. If you have one cardoon, you will soon have many producing purple flowers because it self-sows freely and sprouts new plants. It is rated as a deer-resistant plant.
“My good friend Patricia lovingly brought me a baby cardoon one day that she had bought at the Williamsburg Farmers Market,” Linda sats.
“I stuck it in the ground, and it grew more than seven feet tall this year.”
Variegated English hollies, which flank the front door, are among Linda’s favorite shrubs, because they add year-round interest and embellish their mantle during the Christmas holidays. She also favors romantic-looking peonies and southern-style hydrangeas.
When people marvel at Linda’s green thumb, she replies with a simple response.
“Baloney,” she says.
Then, she shares what she’s learned from getting her own hands dirty.
“Soil is the key. Have your soil tested and get the pH correct. Add lots of worm poop — lots of worms mean healthy soil.
“Find a way to give back to nature with your garden. Add a bird bath, a broken pot for a toad house, flowers for butterflies and bees. Adding nature is like adding living art to your garden.
“Add architecture. A few pretty flowers are lost without a beautiful backdrop. Define your space by adding a fence or evergreen as your walls. Lay stones, broken concrete and straw, whatever as paths.
“And get a backpack weed sprayer. When I turned 45, my husband asked me what I wanted for my special birthday. Most women ask for jewelry. I asked for a backpack herbicide sprayer. I love that thing. It’s so easy to use and keep weeds under control.”
Lastly, enjoy your garden, and don’t get uptight if something doesn’t work out the first time around.
“If I don’t like something, I pull it out,” says Linda.