BELFAST, Maine — The first garden on display in Belfast Garden Club’s Open Garden Days is set to view 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday, June 3, at the home of Robert and Leeanna Richards, 25 Salmond St.
A picket fence and bursts of colorful spring bulbs and annuals at the street entice viewers to come through the wisteria-laden archway, and along a curvaceous stone and brick pathway leading along beds of Solomon’s seal, green and yellow verigated euonymus, pulminaria and ferns. A forsythia has been pruned into a tree and stands gracefully alongside a welcoming bench at the bend in the path. Leeanna, who does not like the messy tangled look of shrubs gone wild, takes great care to prune her bushes so that lots of light and air come through the sweeping forms of the trunks and several of these “open” shrubs are on display.
The Richards began their landscaping adventure from scratch 23 years ago after moving from a farmhouse with a large vegetable garden in Benton. The lot was bare, save for the lilacs and maple trees. The couple moved all the rocks for pathways, to define beds and to create a central pool, and planted all of the perennials themselves. Many of the rocks forming the paths came from piles deposited in their yard when the city put Charles Street through, along one boundary of their property, and many of the plants came from family and friends. The couple has added privacy with a great cedar hedge enclosing the garden. Leeanna, somewhat of a plant collector, can’t shy away from new plants or good deals at local garden centers. She is not afraid to transplant and rearrange the garden, and loves putting in gifts from friends and neighbors. “Our guests don’t bring brownies, they bring flowers, rocks and bricks because they know we like them,” she said.
Around the corner of the house visitors can expect to see Jack-in-the-pulpit, hosta, peonies, ferns and Jacob’s ladder, as well as a very vivacious looking holly, and a tall lace hydrangea, which majestically glides up the side of the house, providing nesting space for a family of birds.
The newest addition to the garden is an armillary, a tall, ornate copper tower, crowned with several brilliant blue glass orbs set within copper spheres and pierced with an arrow. The sculpture is meant to represent the solar system and is a collaborative piece by the Richards, reusing copper from previous projects and home refrigerator tubing. The deep blue balls are delightful finds from a trip to Goodwill. The sculpture stands shining in the spring sunlight, a strong focal point in their side garden.
At the back of the house the pathway opens into a spacious patio and lawn area, interspersed with small gardens. A decidedly Asian theme is echoed here. A stone Japanese temple sits among peonies, a dark stone design is set into the lighter stones of the pathway, Russian sage, a lovely red Japanese maple and evergreens reflect in a central bubbling waterfall and pool where a strong, but friendly warrior sculpture, the “Garden Guardian” stands watch. Under a flowering crabapple, the Richards share a small fruit patch of strawberries and blueberries with resident birds and squirrels and Simba, the 25-pound black cat, is remembered in a sweet memorial garden of impatiens, forget-me-not, bleeding heart and pink dianthus. Vegetables have been planted in raised beds outside the cedar hedge on Charles Street. Touches of whimsy, small sculptures, glass balls, a colorful turtle and birdbaths add to the cheerful and creative garden. Tall trees overhead whisper in the breeze and the song of bird calls all around put the finishing touches on this relaxing in-town oasis.
Directions to the Richards’ Garden: From Northport Avenue, turn on Salmond Street. Follow the yellow Garden Tour arrows. Enter the garden through the wooden fence; exit through cedars on Charles Street.
Tickets may be purchased at the gardens, on the day of the tour for a donation of $4 for one garden, or $15 for a five-visit ticket. Proceeds will benefit the club’s civic beautification projects.
The sixth annual Belfast Garden Club Open Garden Days, features 13 gardens in the Belfast, Belmont, Searsport, Searsmont, Bayside and Northport. One garden per week will be open to the public 10-4 Fridays, June 3-Aug. 26.
The next tour will take place Friday, June 10, at Whitlock Garden, 110 Union St., Belfast.
For more information, call Diane Allmayer-Beck at 338-3105, Martha Laitin at 948-2815, or visit http://www.belfastgardenclub.org.