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The Laurie Garden: A Beautiful Blend of Rustic and Manicured

September 30, 2012

Of all the lovely gardens I visited as part of the McLaughlin Foundation garden tour in late July (see Inspired and Inspiring: The Primozich Garden), one of my favorites was the garden of Xuan Xanh Laurie, high on a ridge in Maine’s Oxford Hills.

xanh garden overview

In a variety of garden areas surrounding a 1795 house with attached barn, Xuan Xanh has managed to create a garden that is simultaneously rustic and manicured by combining informal and formal garden elements with a rustic backdrop of farm buildings and with a rural setting that includes rolls of hay in nearby fields and breathtaking views of mountains beyond.

Xuan Xanh grows vegetables as well as flowers, but I was drawn to the flowering perennials and shrubs, including this beautiful hydrangea growing near the barn. xanh hydrangea
xanh garden entryThe garden is made up of a number of discrete planting areas, including this display of daylilies that greets visitors at the top of the driveway
… and this cottage-style garden at the front of the house.
xanh front garden

But it was the gardens at the back of the house, shown in the top photo, that took my breath away.  This is where Xuan Xanh’s artful combinations of  informal and formal elements are used to spectacular effect.

Xanh rose garden … As in the way that this rose garden with its formal statuary is set against a rustic fence and woods.

… Or the way that this canopy of trees frames both a beautiful mixed border and the mountain view beyond.

xanh mountain view

I was also intrigued by the way this garden creates the illusion of manicured lawns with a mowed 3’ wide swath around the edges of the flower beds while leaving the rest of the grass long and rough. In this way, gardens seem to flow seamlessly into farm fields.

This was the last garden I visited on the day of the tour. It provided not only a wonderful note of beauty and peace on which to end the day, but it also left me with food for thought about how I might combine the rustic setting of my own garden in the woods with the kind of neat somewhat manicured aesthetic that most appeals to me.

27 Comments leave one →
  1. October 1, 2012 12:11 am

    Very lovely. I like the stone fence and the arbor framing the open field. Interesting about the grass.

    • October 6, 2012 10:39 pm

      Jason, It is a lovely garden in a lovely spot. I wish I’d gotten a photo through the arbor of the view beyond.

  2. October 1, 2012 5:16 am

    Hi there Jean – I know what you mean about manicured contrasting with more wild – it is a very appealing combination – the one seems to need the other in a way. This looks like a very interesting garden – thanks for the tour on my behalf as I won’t be your way any time soon, it’s lovely to be able to vicariously visit America instead. Happy gardening, Ursula

    • October 6, 2012 10:41 pm

      Ursula, I was fascinated by this garden; it’s a contrast, but somehow not a contrast — a beautiful blending. Thinking about that blend really does open up new possibilities (ones I’m just beginning to glimpse!) for me.

  3. October 1, 2012 5:19 am

    That looks like such a relaxed and pleasant garden. I love the picture of the house; it looks almost unreal, so pretty is it.

    • October 6, 2012 10:43 pm

      Soren, The garden we visited just before this one (on the same road) was very much a cottage garden, and the owner described the Xanh garden as “formal.” But when I got here, I thought, “No, this isn’t formal.” I don’t really know how to describe this style, except to say that I love it :-).

      • October 10, 2012 6:07 am

        It is hardly a formal garden!

        I’d rather classify it as a classic country garden. Comfortable, relaxed and pleasant!

  4. October 1, 2012 6:27 am

    Jean I love this look and am very drawn to the effects used. It also left me with food for thought. A must see for sure.

    • October 6, 2012 11:02 pm

      Donna, I love the look too, and I feel as though this garden has opened up a whole new way for me to think about my own garden. I can’t put any of it into words yet, but there are exciting bits of images darting around before my mind’s eye.

  5. October 1, 2012 12:31 pm

    Very beautiful indeed and the last picture could well be a scene from the countryside in my part of the world.

    • October 6, 2012 11:04 pm

      Alistair, I had never thought about these similarities before — but I suppose that the topography of your part of the world, like mine, must have been formed by receding glaciers. That would give our respective landscapes very similar contours. Fascinating.

  6. October 1, 2012 2:40 pm

    So lovely, Jean. I particularly like that garden by the mountain view. I will never tire of looking at beautiful gardens…gives me such a nice feeling and makes me smile.

    • October 6, 2012 11:08 pm

      Michelle, The views from this garden were wonderful. Such a great way to end a day of touring beautiful gardens.

  7. October 1, 2012 3:17 pm

    intrigued to see which way you will take your garden, when you have more time for it. No lawns for me, but that – mowing just the edge, and leaving most of it long – sounds like a good solution. Access for visitors and gardeners, habitat for grassland wildlife.

    • October 7, 2012 10:54 am

      Diana, I have some lawn in my garden. The space between the Fence Border and the Serenity Garden has grass growing because it is over the septic system leaching field and can only support shallowly rooted plants. (I had a lot of moss growing there before the leaching field had to be replaced three years ago, and I’m hoping some will grow back again.) My ideas for the new front garden include a small lawn made entirely of clover (a native plant) and surrounded by mixed borders of perennials and shrubs. Around here, any space that you want to keep open (e.g., as wild grassland) has to be mowed at least once or twice a year; otherwise, it will revert to forest.

  8. October 1, 2012 9:47 pm

    I really like the combination of gardens and grass. Grass is calming and helps give more emphasis to the gardens. What a beautiful place!

    • October 7, 2012 10:55 am

      Tammy, I did like the way the open grassy areas framed the plantings in this garden. I agree that it is a beautiful look.

  9. October 1, 2012 11:28 pm

    I really like that visual lawn illusion. I personally love the look of lawns but think the making of them unreasonable (particularly here where they have to be watered 2x a day). Seems so British, your picture.

    • October 7, 2012 10:08 pm

      Jess, I liked the lawn illusion, too — although I think the mowed paths are probably about twice as wide as I estimated. (I am very bad at size and distance estimates.) Lawns probably make a little more sense in a cool climate; there are probably people in Maine who water their lawns, but I don’t know any of them. 🙂

  10. October 2, 2012 6:08 am

    I love this concept of combining the rustic and formal garden elements. This contrast provide added interest to pique the viewer’s eye.

    • October 7, 2012 10:12 pm

      Stiletto, Thanks for visiting. I, too, found this combination very appealing; and I’m still thinking about how best to use it in my own garden. (I see that you have similarly beautiful blue hydrangeas featured on your own blog!)

  11. October 3, 2012 7:45 pm

    oh Jean, thank you for your review of this garden. I loved the roses against the old fence. I would normally never get excited about roses but as you point out, the combination of rustic and formal in this garden is fascinating. Being on a ‘rustic’ type property myself, I see some ideas here I could use myself. Also loved that you pointed out the mowing technique, something I might try in future.

    • October 7, 2012 10:13 pm

      Marguerite, I can see the similarities between this property and yours, so I’m happy that you found the style of this garden as fascinating as I did. (BTW, I think the mowed paths were actually more like 6′ wide, not 3′.)

  12. October 4, 2012 1:06 am

    Such a lovely garden, the last photo of the dipped garden bed, is fabulous, the beds are all so neat and well set out, i like that. The cottage style garden at the front of the house is very pretty.

    • October 7, 2012 10:14 pm

      Karen, I found the cottage garden at the front pretty, but it is those gardens in the back that really won my heart.

  13. October 21, 2012 1:19 pm

    Hi Jean, there are several styles in this garden, but I like the photo with the arch that seems to seamlessly open out into fields beyond. It’s really effective because it gives the impression that the garden goes on and on and even into the forest behind.

  14. November 7, 2012 9:36 am

    Late to the party, but this garden is lovely. I especially love the last picture. Very nicely done with the benefit of using the lay of the land to let the rainwater drain to the roses. Deliberate or not, there is an obvious benefit to it with fine results in a Maine garden. Love this. Must remember it. Thanks for sharing the photos.

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