Highlights of the Brunswick Garden Tour
On a sultry Sunday in July, I met Carolyn of Carolyn’s Shade Gardens for a day of touring gardens in and around the mid-coast town of Brunswick, Maine. The garden tour was a fundraiser for the Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program. The gardens featured were, for the most part, not professionally designed, but were gardeners’ labors of love.
There were large gardens and small gardens, gardens created by plant geeks and gardens whose owners cared only about creating beauty and not about the names of their cultivars, gardens that framed a view and gardens that were the view, gardens where the plants took center stage and gardens where plants were used to create a setting.
The garden I found most interesting was one of the latter. Bob Metivier’s “Sky Hy” garden is constructed as a series of terraces built into the side of a ridge. While there are beautiful plants in this garden, the plantings are not the main focus; rather plants provide the setting for social interaction.
What a visitor to Sky Hy is most aware of is not plants, but stone. There are stone ledges that have been integrated into the garden’s design, and amazing stonework, all of which Metivier, a potter, has done himself. Patios paved with stone provide space for a dining area with tables and chairs
|… or for an inviting conversation area with a combination of sunshine and dappled shade.|
|Rocks and stones are used to create paths that lead a visitor through the garden from one social area to another.|
The work that has gone into creating this garden is mind-boggling, and the results are both exciting and inviting. It was easy to imagine myself at one of the parties or pot-luck suppers that Bob Metivier regularly hosts in his garden.
Ultimately, though, for me gardens are about plants. So my favorite garden of the day was the one that introduced me to new plants and provided inspiration for my own garden. This garden had a number of distinct planting areas, some sunny and some shady. It was the shady areas that had the most to teach me, and I was particularly smitten with two shade plants that I had never seen before. (Happily, I was with a shade plant expert who could not only identify these plants but tell me about their growing conditions.) The first plant that I fell in love with was a Geranium phaeum (above) with dramatic variegated leaves. I want this plant in my garden, and I know just the spot for it. Now I just have to find a place to buy it!
The second plant I was smitten by was growing with some hostas and other shade plants under some trees. It has large dramatic foliage and flowers that remind me of passion flowers (see the photo at the top of this post). Carolyn identified it for me as Deinanthe caerulea (also known as False Hydrangea). Thank goodness she was with me, because none of my perennial reference books mention this plant. It also turns out to be difficult to find, but a web search found it for sale at Plant Delights. I wanted this one so badly I could taste it, and I’m happy to report that it is already planted in my Serenity Garden (where some plants that were not thriving there were moved to make room for it).
I’m delighted that Carolyn invited me to join her on this garden tour; it was a fun and productive day, combining the pleasures of friendship, gardens, and gardening inspiration.