Spring Beauty by Celine

I recently had the opportunity to visit the garden of Celine & Stan Sprague on Timberview Circle and was reminded how gentle and encouraging filtered sun can be – on both plants and the gardener. Mature neighborhoods in Greensboro are blessed with both shade trees and understory trees, but if you don’t have them – go plant some and enjoy the lasting effects.

Upon arrival, I noted once again that the mailbox garden often makes the statement: “A gardener lives here”. We want to proclaim our love of plants and our eye for design by sharing both with our neighbors and their visitors. Imagine your mail carrier’s vantage point, with the variety of displays they encounter on their daily rounds.

I noted the beautiful bark and graceful living sculpture of this Crape Myrtle. Lagerstroemia is not my favorite, but this one is done justice by letting it grow/not topping it. This is how they should look. Prune wayward side branches when the tree is young, just to shape it, and watch it reward you with an extended view of the cinnamon bark.

At left, one of my favorite Plum Yews is contrasted with a purple Ajuga’s early spring bloom. The first of several Laurels is revealed behind them. I wondered to myself whether the Daylilies have enough sun to bloom here along the driveway.

The lovely brick sidewalk to the front door is flanked by more Laurels, looking out on River Birches with their signature triple trunks. Note that Celine uses groundcovers such as Pachysandra well, avoiding the need for more mulch.

More Pachysandra and Laurels contrast nicely with a weeping Japanese Maple. Deciduous plants can be used effectively in foundation planting when backed by evergreens. Our eyes just ignore the bare branches in winter, and make the return of the new leaves that much more exciting.

Time to ring the doorbell and have Celine show me her magnificent back yard!

Breathtaking and restful at the same time, you see the center island garden with its stone patio, and the first impression is all soft pastels bordered by varying shades of green. The modern-style chairs invite us to sit a spell and sip our tea, but there are fabulous plants to see.

Now a long view across the Otto Luyken Laurels to the ever-popular George L. Taber Azaleas. It made me wonder – who was Taber and why is his name on this plant? I looked it up in Allan Armitage’s “Legends of the Garden” book, available to check out in our gardening book library @ GGC – it turns out he was the son of a nurseryman in N. Florida and back in 1928 discovered a variegated flower sport on another Southern indica Azalea in their nursery. He cut and cloned it, grew it out and determined that the variegation was stable. ‘Taber’ grows to 6-8′ tall x 4-5′ wide and remains a staple of spring throughout the south today.

I’ll let you Google who Otto Luyken was.

Just around the corner from where I shot that last shady photo, full sun provides the perfect site for the vegetable garden. The structure is a great frame for holding frost cloth or insect netting.
Looking across the border to a neighbor’s yard. This illustrates how borders don’t always need to provide privacy. We also see here a dwarf pine “candling” its new growth. And look at the placement of sun and shade plants – the pine and columbine aren’t usually neighbors for most of us, but dappled sun that changes through the seasons – and throughout the day – owes to Celine’s success with it.
Great composition here, with the finer chartreuse groundcover leaves contrasting with the longer/wider strappy leaves of Scilla and its nodding blue lanterns.
Celine uses various shades of blue and purple repeating throughout her borders, as with this ‘Daughter of Stars’ Bearded Iris.
Another Iris, name unknown, is a cherished gift from a mutual friend. I have it too! Undoubtedly we will both pay it forward.
Doesn’t this make you feel cooler, gazing on this sturdy fern? That’s because it IS cooler in the shade. I noted that it felt like the temperature dropped 10 degrees. The Selaginella “Spikemoss” bright green clump on the left is given its own space to achieve its form next to the blue pansies still hanging on. If she’s lucky the pansies will go to seed and their offspring will return in the fall.
The short bird bath allows bathing privacy – doesn’t everyone want that?
Celine’s willingness to use just ONE Dianthus impressed me. The boulder and its ornamental turtle lend permanence to this composition.
I absolutely love garden art, including this weathered concrete frog. Whatever it started out looking like, time and the elements have made it perfectly one-of-a-kind. Let’s see some of Celine’s other ornaments –
Sweet weathered perfection.
Another bird bath, visible from inside and nestled among the yews.
Fountain quit working? No worries – it endures as a sculpture.
Back to plants – this is the tallest Chindo Viburnum I think I’ve ever seen. Chindos can grow in sun or shade, albeit faster in the sun. They’re tough, glossy evergreens that can be pruned for tighter hedging, or left to develop their own shape. This one has offspring becoming established in nearby environs.
This Autumn Fern was still unfurling her fiddleheads. Aren’t plants cool?
Here come the Rhodies! Just as the early Azaleas begin to peak, we get a glimpse of the Rhododendrons intending to carry on the succession of blooms. Celine’s color echoes are magnificent, pinks and blues in various hues.
Gazing out into the “timberview” that helps create the shadows in this slice of Timberview…a couple of Oakleaf Hydrangeas at left/center. One of my favorites for sun or shade, their leaves get much bigger in the shade.
This image and the next demonstrate how Celine and Stan smartly protect their young trees – and their investment – from deer, rabbits, and voles. Voles are vegetarian rodents that will burrow under mulch to get at roots and bark.

The full trunk wrap treatment against young buck antlers.

Bleeding Hearts bloom for love’s sweet sake.

I was also treated to the hidden spot where the compost bins and rain barrels reside, but you’ll have to wrangle an invite from Celine and Stan to enjoy the behind-the-scenes stuff. We all have those tucked-away operations, so vital to permaculture, and all custom-configured.

I enjoyed the tour immensely, and looking back I’m remembering the feeling of serenity this garden imparted. For an hour or so I enjoyed peacefulness and the untroubling nature of nature. Thanks Celine, and congratulations on our 27410 Yard of the Month award!

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