At this time of year, early spring, I am reminded that my friends, John and Trish Tilley, have one of the most beautiful and interesting gardens in town. While every other garden lies dormant still, John has brought a little bit of his home state, South Carolina, to his garden. Because of an unusual micro climate, his garden is weeks ahead of any other local garden.
Early spring is marked by an incredible crocus display that makes us forget what an awful winter it’s been. This year the crocuses, being the only thing in bloom in the whole town, attracted almost all the bees from Spring Ledge Farm at one time.
I hypothesize that John and Trish’s garden has been responsible for many a rubber necking accident on Main Street, but never more so than when his millions of daffodils start blooming. As I write, they are fully in bud and beginning to open.
When his girls were little, John made a fairy garden in the shade next to his front door. He planted some treasured shade plants, such as hellebore and wild ginger in that area. For many years, a special neighbor left little gifts in the fairy garden for the girls to find.
The front garden spans both sides of his front walkway. Many years ago when the foundation planting between his house and the walkway was found to have insufficient space for all the +flowers John wanted to grow for Tricia, he decided to expand the garden to the other side of the walk. The mostly shrub planting on the house-side of the walkway provides a great backdrop for the perennials and annuals on the street-side of the walkway. And at Hospital Days parade (a local summer event), suddenly a couch, many chairs, a rug, lots of food and sometimes a giant smoker, sushi bar, or crawfish boil become a part of that garden. It also is a dependable and lovely background for all sorts of obligatory dance, graduation and prom photos.
My favorite part of the Tilley’s side yard is the heirloom peony bed. These peonies preexisted their purchase of the house and are one of the few areas they have not updated, except for generously sharing peony divisions with their friends.
Just outside their kitchen door there is a mixed vegetable herb garden. It is the perfect location. I urge all my customers to locate their vegetables and herbs as close as possible to the kitchen, so if you are cooking something and need herbs or an additional carrot, you can just run and grab it without even turning off the burner. They have framed their vegetable garden with two espaliered apple trees creating a vegetable garden that has more beauty than many perennial gardens.
Out back, John is working on an Asian inspired garden. The layout is perfect and all the structural elements are placed, John is just looking for the time to complete it. He has mastered the art of perfectly pruning his trees and shrubs to emphasize their structure and beauty. He also uses this skill to keep bountiful fruit trees in tight space.
A true love of gardens and nature shine through in all aspects of the Tilley’s garden and it is truly a reflection of what a happy, optimistic and beautiful family they are.