A week after Super Storm Sandy, my husband and I purchased a 120 year old Victorian house on a secluded ½ acre of property in Northport. Restoring the house was my husband’s priority. My focus was to create an old world setting that lent itself to the historical architecture of the late 19th century without the formality, elegance and maintenance associated with the ‘Victorian Garden’.
Before getting into the process of designing the garden, we needed to consider the plants appropriate for an old fashioned garden. We considered several ornamental trees including dogwoods, Japanese styrax, magnolia and cherries. Lilac, hydrangea, boxwood, viburnum, holly and roses were on the short list of shrubs. Old fashioned perennials would include bleeding hearts, phlox, peony, bearded iris, lady’s mantle, balloon flower, perennial geraniums, daylily, baptista and lily of the valley just to name a few. When considering an annual list, you would have a hard time coming up with flowers that are not considered old fashioned. It is safe to say most any annual would work so long as you plant in large masses of one color. Take creative license when including newer varieties of old fashioned plants, especially shrubs like hydrangea and roses. Newer varieties of hydrangea come in a multitude of colors and most rebloom throughout the summer and early fall, especially when deadheaded regularly. Knock out roses and carpet roses come in incredible colors also re blooming from mid spring to late fall. Personally I love the double flowering and the blush pink varieties of knock out roses and the coral and amber carpet roses. There is a carpet rose called ‘Scarlet’, and if you’re a fan of red flowers, this one is a must have. The combination is breathtaking when planted next to Hydrangea ‘Endless Summer’.
The first stage of this project was to evaluate the existing plants and decide what to remove, transplant or leave alone. We kept several old hydrangea along a fence that bloom the most incredible shade of deep purple. They took my breath away! An old lilac, a weeping cherry, Japanese maple and all the healthy mature trees also remained. Other plants that did not fit into the ‘old fashioned’ theme like euonymus, pachysandra and Alberta spruce, were removed and donated to friends and neighbors.
The next stage involved redesigning the brick driveway. Then we added a serpentine irregular bluestone walk to open the view of the wraparound porch and an irregular bluestone terrace to give the appearance of agelessness. Once the masonry was complete, the garden beds were defined, amended with compost and rototilled. Now the fun began…planting!!!
Screening an ugly stockade fence along one side of the property was the first priority. A mixed border of Nellie Stevens Hollies, English laurels, Ilex crenata and varieties of Viburnum were chosen, all having an old fashioned aspect and lots of texture, with the bonus of berries for winter interest. The foreground plantings included Hydrangea varieties ‘Endless Summer’, ‘Teller’s Blue’ and ‘Annabelle’, a tree form Hydrangea ‘Pee Gee’, Abelia ‘Rose Creek’, Platycodon grandiflora, lots of Geranium ‘Rozanne’ and coral carpet roses with an old bird house as a focal point in the garden.
The foundation planting included Ilex ‘Dragon Lady’ and several varieties of boxwood as hedges, groupings and single specimens for evergreen structure. For color, groupings of Hydrangea ‘Twist and Shout’ and ‘Endless Summer’ were planted with a mass of Hydrangea ‘Mini Penny’ surrounding an old dwarf lilac adding a wonderful fragrance along the porch for several weeks in the early spring!
Spring in Northport is just weeks away and I can hardly wait!
If you would like to get in touch with Maria please contact her via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by Maria Morrison-Ferrero