Emmanuel Touhey sent us these photos of his garden in Burke, Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C.
This is my first real American garden. Born and raised in Ireland, I moved to the Virginia suburbs three years ago with my young family. Having always lived in the city, I never really had much green space to play with. Needless to say, there have been many mistakes along the way. I quickly learned about the importance of “right plant, right place” and that you have to embrace the space you have. A rose garden will not flourish in the shade—and the visiting deer, who dined on the occasional bloom, only reinforced that point.
This garden is all about the green. It sits against a woodland backdrop that is stripped bare in winter and is then completely shaded over in summer. It’s filled with plants of wildlife, including the aforementioned deer, owls, hawks, woodpeckers, cardinals, frogs, turtles, snakes, and foxes.
Room with a view. The porch is a wonderful vantage point to sit and watch and listen without intruding on or disturbing nature any time of the day or night. It is the perfect room with a view.
Winter desert landscape. The garden is stripped bare in winter and becomes a barren brown landscape. The structure of the plants reveal themselves in the cold winter light or when snow crusts the naked branches.
Hope springs eternal. In spring and summer, the garden transforms into a mass of lush green. I joke with my friends that there are 40 shades of green in my Irish-American garden.
Lights, camera, action. Light, color, and texture are important in this garden. A variety of grasses blend nicely with the creeping speedwell (Veronica repens, Zones 6–9), which in spring is a beautiful carpet of tiny blue flowers among the daffodils in the foreground, and among the elephant ears (Alocasia) and creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia, Zones 4–8) in the background.
Fun with foliage. There are two varieties of elephant ears (Alocasia) in the garden, one darker than the other. I love the large leaves, which have a hint of black in their coloring. Black and green go so well together, with the black bringing out the richness of the foliage, especially against the lighter green ferns and golden yellow creeping Jenny underneath. The combination is especially magical after a rainfall.
Dancing in the wind. Grasses are perhaps the best plants to show off in the dappled sunlight, and none more so than this purple fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’, Zones 8–11 or as an annual). In summer, it just dances and sways in the gentle breeze.
Pops of color. The blades of iris and the pops of orange and red from the nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus, annual) against the blue pot sit in the one hot spot in the garden. Pots are a great way to add color and interest to a garden. All my pots are blue, which help tie the whole space together. I call this area my “little cottage garden.” It bakes in the afternoon and evening sun in summertime.
Cottage garden. The “cottage garden” is also another great vantage point to view most of the garden and watch the bees and butterflies feast on the buddleia (Buddleia davidii, Zones 5–11). I have several bushes in this small area. I love, too, the frothy white flowers of the garlic chives (Allium tuberosum, Zones 4–8), which bloom freely at this time of year and complement the space nicely. The bees love to feast on them as well.
Thriller, filler, spiller. I always strive to make the space and plant combinations interesting. The grassy spikes (Dracaena indivisa, annual), oregano (Oreganum vulgare, Zones 5–9) and thyme (Thymus vulgaris, Zone 5–9) have a central casting role in this spot, with backup from the elephant ears and a wave of golden creeping Jenny washing over the pathway beneath. It gives the space a sense of movement and excitement.
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