Curb-side gardens are pleasant to the eye

Not wanting to repeat the tired old expression “curb appeal,” I will describe two charming gardens I spotted recently from roads in Cambridge and Church Creek as curb-side gardens. Along the way, I will pass on some valuable tips that the creators of the two lovely oases shared with me on a sunny morning in early October.
One of the gardens, which consists of two 10- by 4-foot strips of ground, flourishes in front of an old house in a somewhat dog-eared part of Cambridge. Often I drive through the neighborhood on my way home from the city.
The profusion of flowers in brilliant colors, various sizes and shapes, from pale green and pink groundcovers to towering yellow sun flowers and red hibiscus, never ceases to make me feel happy. It’s the prettiest piece of ground in front of any house on the avenue for as far as the eye can see.
Through this past summer, the curb-side garden seemed to grow ever more exuberant and colorful. If colors could make sound, if flowers could dance, the music from that small patch would animate a bloc party and the plants would sway all through the summer and into fall.
Dominating one of the two strips of garden are three knockout rose bushes in deep pink, pale pink and white, covered in flowers. Bending over to sniff the rose closest to the sidewalk, I detected a delicious fragrance.
In between the roses grow several even taller clumps of what resemble wild sunflowers – the sort you see out in the country at this time of year. Alongside them are deep red chrysanthemums, orange zinnias, black-eyed Susans, various groundcovers, geraniums, sedum, a rhododendron, lambs’ ears, a cowslip, a hollyhock, mini-rose bushes and more.
White impatiens has seeded itself in a crack along the first of several steps going up to the front door. On the steps and the landing, pots hold orange and red hibiscus, mosquito plants and more geraniums.
“We love flowers,” resident Tony Amanzoy told me, gesturing to his wife Kha who, he said, does most of the gardening chores. “Every time I come home from work, she’s out here.”
Leaves of the mosquito plant make an excellent tea, said Mr. Amanzoy, who works doing landscaping and mowing grass in other people’s gardens. The Amanzoys get seeds and cuttings from friends and clients, they said, although the knockout roses were an expensive exception.
Kha Amanzoy showed me some hydrangeas along the base of their large house. In summer, they produce pink and purple blossom. But her favorite is the Annabelle hydrangea, whose flowers start out pale green then turn white.
The garden is at its best in April and May, the couple told me. People often stop and ask if they can take pictures. “Now we start to clean up, cut (things) down and clean off the dry leaves,” Mr. Amanzoy said. Sometimes they add topsoil and fertilizer, “but we’re on a fixed income and it’s expensive.” In between the plants, they spread mulch.
The second garden I fell in love with graces the main street in Church Creek, a historic hamlet five miles from Cambridge. Drivers entering the village must slow down to 30 mph, an ideal speed for spying interesting sights.
Unlike the first garden, this one’s plants are neatly laid out in a pattern easily discernible from the road. The colors of the flowers seem perfect for fall, with a nod to Halloween. They form a tapestry of mainly yellow, purple and red.
The walkway of the modest house curves in a large spiral – much more attractive than straight as an arrow, as most walkways are. On either side, low cushion-like red begonias, blue ageratums and yellow daisy-like somethings that I couldn’t identify have been planted in a repeating pattern of color.
Along the base of the house, in borders which along other houses usually boast boring green bushes, resident Sheila Jones has planted black-eyed Susans, something resembling purple loosestrife, hibiscus with wine-red leaves, knockout roses and others. A few stray purple flowers grow out of a crack in a step below the front door.
A wreath made from mini-pumpkins and pinecones hangs on the front door. Above the entrance arches a magnificent purple hyacinth vine which, Mrs. Jones says, she must prune weekly or “it will take over.” Outside each window, window boxes overflow with creeping Jenny, ivy, colorful orange leaves and an array of small pumpkins, including an orange and yellow striped one that the gardener said she found at Emily’s, the produce store down the road.
Without my glasses, it took me a few minutes to notice the leaves in the window boxes were artificial. Mrs. Jones confessed she had mixed them in for an autumnal effect. Then she pointed out the many little black dried flower heads, like polka-dots, which added a whimsical touch to the arrangement. These were spent black-eyed Susans. “They also spray-paint well,” the gardener said, adding that she gets many good decorating ideas from the website Pinterest. (Neither of us is getting a commission.)
In borders along the side of her house grow more hibiscus, which “produces flowers bigger than saucers,” a spectacular thicket of wild white asters, which attracts bees, and a pale pink knockout rose bush which, Mrs. Jones said, she doesn’t like because “it gets eaten by beetles.” There are also potato vines, lavender, red cardinal vine, black-eyed Susan vine and other plants.
“Every year, I say I’m going to stop, then I find somewhere else that needs a flower,“ Mrs. Jones confessed. Some of her plants come from friends and garage sales, others from local nurseries like Honeysuckle & Vine on Egypt Road.
She gets help from her granddaughters, aged 10 and 14, who dig in the plants along her walkway and she’s used fertilizer – horse manure – only once in 12 years, because “we have wonderful soil here.”
Gardens like Mrs. Jones’ and the Amanzoys’ are treasures for everyone – gardeners and onlookers alike. They can beautify a street, a neighborhood, a whole village or town. Imagine if many more residents created something similar. In the meantime, happy gardening!
Editor’s Note: Laetitia Sands is a master gardener in Dorchester County.

 

 

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