Hosted by Sally Muspratt
I was ﬁrst invited to Coleman House to plant the parking lot islands but became entranced by the possibilities of the adjacent unused pine woods. In 2015 I developed a concept plan creating a woodland walking loop connecting the parking area to a Memorial Garden on the opposite side of the building. I included two small sitting areas for quiet enjoyment and one larger circle for conversation. The peaceful green woodland walk links the bright annual plantings of the parking lot and Memorial Garden with the contrasting experience of an enhanced natural woodland and provides the elderly residents an opportunity for safe, gentle exercise in the open air. The enthusiastic manager let us install the garden in 2016. Parterre Design installed the steps, the circular terrace, and the stone dust paths, carefully avoiding damaging the roots of the all-important tall pines.
Besides the pines, the pre-existing plantings were mature Kousa dogwoods near the Memorial garden and rhododendron and hosta at the foundation of the building. Irrigation already in place enabled much lusher growth for our plantings in this area than on the windy hillside. We added an understory of trees and shrubs to screen the approach drive and the parking lot and to create a sense of a separate, enclosed space. We improved the soil and gradually added native trees: birches, Amelanchier and additional pines— and shrubs: Hamamelis (witch hazel), spring and fall ﬂowering; Fothergilla, Aronia, Aruncus, Viburnum (both acerfolium and dentatum) and mountain laurel and blueberries, which prove irresistible to deer, but continue to survive. The Amelanchier is the greatest success; the birches and oak-leaved hydrangeas sadly did not survive, despite supplemental watering. The border of sweet fern, (Comptonia peregrina) leading up the sunny steps to the Memorial Garden has grown to a scented, bushy four feet.
We planted inexpensive bareroot plants and plugs of Christmas ferns and wildﬂowers, including American lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis), Tiarella cordifolia, Jeffersonia (twin leaf), foam ﬂower, Canadian ginger and columbine, mayapples, Jacob’s ladder, Jack in the pulpit, Solomon’s seal, and Pennsylvania sedge. The two most ﬂourishing perennials are Actea racemosa, which grew in ﬁve years from tiny plugs to impressive, shrub-sized accents by the path, and Geranium macrorrhizum, ‘Bevan’s Variety’, which has spread into wonderful masses with a year-round presence. The ‘Stairway to Heaven’ Jacob’s Ladder has also done well; I regret choosing it only because its variegated leaves do not contrast well with the geranium when it is in bloom. The only non-native plantings we added are narcissus, snowdrops, and scilla for early spring color.
With the help of the Coleman House ground superintendent, who keeps the paths tidy and helps with watering during droughts, my group does the routine maintenance in the garden. We add leaf mulch to the plantings annually, deadhead, and do minimal weeding. We all love working in the garden; the pleasure the residents take in this peaceful space is a joy to us all. This month, when the seats were replaced in the garden at 6’ apart, we rejoice at the return of the people we intend the garden to delight.
I hope soon you will be able to visit the garden in person!
About our Host
Sally Muspratt is a graduate of the Radcliffe Landscape Design Program and is accredited by the Association of Landscape Designers and NOFA. She consults on civic plantings, lectures and writes, and designs public and private gardens. More information is on her website, www.smmgardens.com.
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