As editors of a gardening magazine, we’re often asked, “What’s your favorite garden?” For me the answer is easy—Barbara Weirich’s garden in Benton Harbor, Michigan. It’s a landscape of garden rooms all fascinating in their makeup and chock full of interesting plants.
The drive up to Barbara’s house is magical; plants of all shapes and sizes flank either side. You feel like you’re driving up to a botanic garden. The house itself is modestly sized, but from the array of plants surrounding its foundation and spilling out of various containers, it is clear that a seasoned gardener lives there.
A stone’s throw from the front door is a bog garden filled with plants that don’t mind wet feet. Here there is a giant gunnera (Gunnera manicata, Zones 7–10) that survives thanks to the microclimate of this area. Walk along the elevated wooden boardwalk and you’ll see persicaria (Persicaria spp. and cvs., Zones 4–9), papyrus (Cyperus papyrus, Zones 8–10), and ligularias (Ligularia spp. and cvs., Zones 3–9) spilling onto the planks. At the end, a shady patio offers visitors a place to rest.
Just beyond the bog garden is a pair of long shady borders filled with a mix of interesting woodies and perennials. A turf path, bordered by a black pebble edge, pulls you down the fairly narrow tunnel to a modern red bench. Although the bench is the focal point here, a variegated giant dogwood (Cornus controversa ‘Variegata’, Zones 5–9) and billowy masses of ‘Aureola’ Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’, Zones 5–9) are pretty eye-catching too.
There are full sun borders nearby, which are overflowing with plants that sport bold colors and bold forms. ‘Black Magic’ elephant’s ear (Colocasia esculenta ‘Black Magic’, Zones 10–11) and ‘Pretoria’ canna (Canna ‘Pretoria’, Zones 8–11) are among the standouts. Golden pineapple sage (Salvia elegans ‘Golden Delicious’, Zones 8–11) is another of Barbara’s favorite plants. These hot-hued borders are somewhat contained by the river-rock edging that provides a clear delineation between the garden and the lawn.
Walk around the tall yew hedge that backs the tropical borders and you’ll arrive at the edge of a steep cliff that spills into Lake Michigan. Barbara decided to get playful at the outer edges of the property and dubbed it her “beach.” Here you’ll find a tan gravel garden with strategically placed blue lyme grass (Leymus arenarius, Zones 4–9) and ‘Elijah Blue’ fescue grass (Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’, Zones 4–8). A small bench provides the perfect spot for taking in the view of the great lake.
These gardens are just a taste of what you’ll see in Barbara’s landscape. There’s a black-and-white garden, a colorful annual border, and even a succulent hellstrip too. If you want to be truly inspired by the diversity that one garden can achieve, take the full tour by watching the video now.
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