Colonial Williamsburg, in Williamsburg, Va., is known for its historic buildings and staff dressed in period costumes. If you go off the main roads and slip through the little white gates into the spaces behind the buildings, however, you’ll discover numerous beautiful little gardens, which now are a riot of spring color.
The style of the gardens and the plants in them are authentic to the time period. The overall layouts are very formal. They are all straight lines, square beds, and lots of trimmed hedges. Within that formality the plantings are rich, layered, and a little bit wild. The formal structure tames the informal plantings, and the final effect is magical.
Yellow tulips mingling with red-and-yellow native columbine (Aquilegia canadensis, Zones 3–8) and blue Spanish bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica, Zones 3–8).
Spanish bluebells are everywhere in the gardens. These tough bulbs take sun or shade, resist deer, and multiply to make big, romantic masses like this. In addition to the common blue, there are white and pink forms, though they tend to be a little less vigorous in the garden.
Neat brick paths and mown grass contain the wild exuberance of the plantings. The whole garden is presided over by an old crepe myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica, Zones 7–9) with a beautiful trunk. White fences and historic buildings frame the scene.
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