A Textured Back Yard

This month’s featured garden is that of Kit & Terry Schooley on Gramercy Road. Their love of nature is announced right away by their mailbox cover, a foreshadowing of all that is about to unfold on my tour.

My tour guide on this visit was Dr. Kit Schooley, a Presbyterian Minister. He and Terry, a former Delaware State Representative are always so kind and welcoming – this was not my first visit to their home, as we’ve known each other for a few years in the Extension Master Gardener Program, as well as through their involvement in the NC Unit of the Herb Society of America. I let them know they’d been nominated for Yard of the Month by a reader of this blog, and they expressed their modesty over it. But what gardener doesn’t love to show off their garden?

Calla Lilies fit perfectly in a narrow strip along the driveway.
Nice use of an annual to fill in spaces that perennials will eventually fill.

As the back yard came into view, Kit explained how they’d redesigned what they found when they bought the house. Mostly just azaleas. So they carefully planned what they wanted and where everything should go. It had been fairly shady, but a loss of a large shade tree has changed the light recently. Regardless, the plants that haven’t been moved to more ideal lighting seem to be adapting well.

In the photo below you can see some of the garden structures that most of us have – a small storage shed, bbq grill, shepherd’s hooks, and the fence. That big, blue, beautiful obelisk back left makes a bold garden art statement and will support a couple of crossvines in time.

I like the color play of the little mallow against the Hydrangea macrophylla. It left me wondering what color the iris was.

As we wandered, Kit explained why each plant was where it was. It was clear that the thought process was well-approached. Much more disciplined than my own plant-collector process. The Schooleys have already decided what they want to add this fall.

This little composition of textures and colors works whether any flowers are blooming or not. Wide, strappy leaves contrast with finer textures. Chartreuse pops out against dark green.
I know you were wondering…and so was I! Do you save your labels?
This vignette of a pretty pink garden phlox and ferns illustrates what can be done in that adventure known as “part shade/part sun”.
An empty rain gauge doesn’t mean no rain when you have attentive gardeners checking and emptying it after each rain. A good rule of thumb when establishing new plants is that you’re looking for about 1″ of rain per week, preferably not all of it falling in a 30-minute thunderstorm. If not at least that much rain falls, start watering. But watch the plants for signs of wilt and act fast to restore the water loss. This process accelerates quickly in heat.
Black-and-Blue Salvia – a hummingbird favorite, accented by Art and Artemisia – get it?
Here a bit of lawn with paths inviting exploration beyond.
Lungwort, hosta, and astilbe make a lovely combo.
Young plants are protected from the ravages of rabbits, and the big blue obelisk comes into closer view.
Kit loves this variegated Fatsia japonica. I have one the same color but with much larger leaves…maybe a function of the amount of sun vs shade? Or they could be different species.
At the feet of this beautiful redbud is Begonia grandis, aka ‘Hardy’ Begonia…which isn’t really hardy so much as a reseeding annual, but it comes back so I love it. Truth be told I love all begonias except annual wax begonias. More on that later. I should have asked Kit how he keeps these guys corraled in their brick edging. Mine seem to scramble all over the place.
More combinations of color and texture…bravo!

As we crossed into the more utilitarian area of the garden, I observed the Schooleys’ solution to marauding wildlife in the vegetable garden – an 8′ tall fence of poultry wire seemed to be doing the trick. We talked tomatoes of course, and how this year’s insect pests are worse than we remember in a long time, and maybe ever. A compost bin system and rain barrel completed the ensemble.

Have you ever lost your tomato labels in the ground once all that foliage hides them? Here’s a solution – hang them from the top of the cages!
The blue pot is especially eye-catching. Blue and black seem to show off plants exceptionally well compared to other colors. In the background, note the thick habit of the Edgeworthia chrysantha, or Paperbush.
Here’s at least part of how that thickness is being achieved…pruning. I’d always thought that if you prune this plant it would ruin the shape, not pushing out new growth at the site of the cut like other plants will. Maybe I got that idea from investigating whether it will propogate from cuttings (it won’t, just remove the suckers at the base with a bit of root attached) and I correlated that to “don’t cut” – anyway, it’s working well as you can see from this photo.
This begonia comes outside during the growing season before transitioning back to houseplant status for the winter. What an interesting leaf pattern!

So congratulations and thank you to the Schooleys for letting me poke around, and thanks also to their friend that nominated them – it was indeed as delightful as promised!

2 thoughts on “A Textured Back Yard

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