The three-level pond
The rock garden is just a teaser, though, to what lies beyond. Behind the house, a stunning, three-level pond showcasing Tara’s made-for-the-shade hosta collection takes centre stage. In all, the shade garden boasts nearly 150 plants, including 30 varieties of hostas. Though she enjoys the large types, Tara confesses, “I have recently become enamoured with the miniatures, such as ‘Blue Mouse Ears’ and ‘Little Boy Blue’.” Among the hostas, the pinkish white froth of foamflowers (Tiarella cordifolia) creates an ethereal effect. Blue Siberian irises and Japanese painted ferns (Athyrium niponicum var. pictum) add a soothing wash of colour, as do the tangerine goldfish that slip through the water.
Gazing southward and away from the pond, large expanses of lawn give way to sweeping drifts of boisterous colour in the perennial borders. Tara loves the masses of lupines, their tall spires weaving a kaleidoscope of violet, pink, yellow and white through the beds. They make amiable companions for the blowsy, scarlet ‘Ladybird’ oriental poppies (Papaver orientale ‘Ladybird’) with which they share the space. Tara admits that if the effect is pleasing, it happened by chance. Her method is to scatter seeds and let nature become the artist. “Once established, most plants multiply with abandon,” she says.
The log barn and guesthouse
Near the perennial borders, a log barn and guesthouse contribute their old-fashioned charm to the scene. The barn’s attached greenhouse stands out with its fire-engine red door, and draws you in for a closer look. Once a chicken coop and later used by Tara to start seedlings, these days the greenhouse is the perfect refuge for a weary gardener to sit and take a welcome break.
A path to the wildflower meadow
Beyond, a mown grass path leads you past the forest and into the wildflower meadow, where nature seems to have made bold strokes with a paintbrush, leaving giant swaths of colour as far as the eye can see. Tara points out plants that do extremely well here—with a simple scattering of seeds—tickseed (Coreopsis), purple coneflowers, blanket flowers, alliums and brown-eyed Susans. Near the meadow, boughs of weeping willow drape lazily over a pond; it’s an idyllic picture, with Siberian irises, lemon-coloured daylilies and silver grass (Miscanthus spp.) framing its edge.
The woodland garden
Heading back toward the house, the west-facing forest becomes the backdrop for Tara’s woodland garden. Here, the early-spring light coaxes daffodils, bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) and wild ginger (Asarum canadense) into an explosion of bloom. The show is followed by drifts of white, blue and purple violets that are soon complemented by a pink haze created by naturalized bleeding hearts. Later, in early summer, clouds of pink and lavender dame’s rocket (Hesperis matronalis) dance gaily among the muted tapestry of colours. Hostas once made their home in this shady glen too, but no more. “Unfortunately, the deer love them as much as I do,” Tara laments.
top photo: An unnamed lupine cultivar; inset photo: The rustic shed is a focal point in the shade garden.