Graham Ray’s Shady Labor of Love

20200423_173800What makes Dr. Graham and Helen Ray’s garden at their home on Rustic Road so special? Planning, patience, compost, and hard work over many years. This shady treasure located just a mile from the garden center has been visited and photographed repeatedly by this top fan and legions of serious gardeners from around the region – and around the world. Graham’s friendships with many top horticulturists has offered him the opportunity to acquire unique specimens and to indulge his love of conifers, hosta, and Japanese maples.

20200423_172446This ‘Wolf Eyes’ dogwood appears to glow on this cloudy afternoon, at the crossroads of a gravel path and a grassy path. In fact, Graham mostly uses grass as paths between garden beds rather than a wide lawn. This is not a place where all the plants are pushed to the edges of the lot.  ‘Wolf Eyes’ grows more slowly than green-leaved dogwoods due to the lack of chlorophyll in the variegation.

20200423_172403Speaking of a lack of chlorophyll, how about this white hosta? Almost no green to make photosynthesis.  The speckled wild ginger in the foreground contrasts nicely with the hostas. Graham’s compositions always feature a variety of colors and textures that complement each other, so that even when there seems to be one of everything – the design still works.

20200423_171645Drooling yet?

20200423_172827Even his vegetable garden is off-the-hook gorgeous. Surrounded by poultry wire on 8-foot supports, deer can only dream of marauding this buffet.

The evidence of Graham’s planning and precision can be seen here, too, in the rows of beans and peas guided by strings nailed across the raised bed.

20200423_172731Back to the shade – ‘Little Honey’ oakleaf hydrangea shines in shady spots, and these clumps of heartleaf Brunnera must have been there a long time.


A lot to unpack here, but mostly the deciduous azalea calling attention to itself – Graham says he doesn’t like oranges and reds, so we’ll call this one a yellow bloomer.

Beckoning paths, one of grass and one of mossy brick, beg you to explore.

20200423_172014Japanese forest grass dots the pathways with the graceful appearance of movement even when no wind is present.

20200423_175334Aren’t garden kitties the best? Meandering with us on this pleasant afternoon, never far from view.

Now, no more words – this garden can speak for itself:


Actually, a few parting words – I also admire Graham’s contributions to Greensboro’s public gardens. As a longtime fellow member of Greensboro Beautiful’s Public Gardens Committee, I have benefitted from his calm wisdom in our monthly meetings, as well as in Guilford Horticultural Society endeavors. Graham currently curates the Dwarf Conifer and Hosta collections at the Greensboro Arboretum, so you can always visit his handiwork there.

To read more about Graham’s techniques – this Greensboro News & Record article he wrote a few years ago will further delight you – Click Here


One thought on “Graham Ray’s Shady Labor of Love

  1. lynne broderius

    WOW! Great choice of garden to share. I am new to Shade Gardening and experienced this garden in person some years ago. It only improves with time! Such a thrill to share the love of ‘tender loving care’ we all enjoy in our gardens, for our psyche! More we want more please


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