Whitlock garden a textural pleasure during Open Garden Days

Posted June 06, 2011, at 8:26 p.m.

BELFAST, Maine — The textural Whitlock garden will be open for visitors 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday, June 10, as part of Belfast Garden Club’s Open Garden Days. The garden, at 110 Union St., features a spacious sloping green area encircled by many intimate gardens highlighting evergreens, shrubs and bushes, perennial favorites, delicate ground covers, stone paths, garden benches and a relaxing reading nook under flowering trees.

The Whitlocks moved to the property when retiring to Belfast 20 years ago and soon began working with the trees and plantings that were already on the property. Today they have expanded the gardens to include a rock garden, a patio and beds that completely encircle a central green.

Mrs. Whitlock describes it as an “Informal garden” designed with open space in the center to support play of her eight grandchildren, paths for walking, and surrounding beds enclosing the yard, adding privacy at this in-town double lot, while defining borders and creating a coziness to the grounds which was previously lacking

“The house is small,” she points out. “Before, it felt as if it were a rocket plunked into a big field.”

Now the home feels just right, nestled among garden delights, with ocean breezes and something lovely to admire from each window of the house.

Contrast and texture are a big focus of the Whitlock garden. Varying heights, shapes, colors and patterns of foliage and flowers make up a sophisticated patchwork unified by repetition of groundcovers such as Iris cristata, a miniature iris with beautiful sleek green foliage, the tall buoyant Solomon’s seal used as hedging, and brilliant ‘Nova Zembla’ rhododendron, whose bursts of red flowers connect the eye from one section of the garden to another. Evergreens, white birch and dogwood add height as well as year-round beauty.

Visitors also can expect to find much interest in late spring and early summer blooms, Heuchera, Korean barberry and deutzia, make up some of the unique offerings in the outer beds. Within the central rock garden enjoy drifts of dianthus, sedum, gentian, creeping phlox and geranium. A major highlight at the Whitlock garden will be the pendulous clusters of white flowers embellished with a pink stripe on the only known enkianthus bush (‘Showy Lantern’) in Belfast.

Many plants are of great personal importance to the Whitlocks. Creeping ivy from a close friend, hosta plants transplanted from family and a special shrub, ‘Daydawn’ potentilla, which blooms with a cheerful yellow flower, and is a variety her father, a horticulturist specializing in shrubs that do well in sea air climates, introduced back in her native Newcastle, Ireland, (not far from Belfast).

“I suppose it is not surprising that I should take a great interest in trees and shrubs as a result of growing up in that household,” she laughs.

Look for several magnificent climbers marking the edge of the garden at the house. Clemetis alpina boasts early small dark blue flowers, a lacey white hydrangea and akebia featuring lush green leaves and dangling mauve flowers with purple and maroon stamens.

Many birds and butterflies also could be on display; the Whitlocks have spotted more than they’ve ever seen in their garden this spring.

Directions to the Whitlock garden: From center of town, take High Street to left on Allyn Street to right on Union. Once you get close, follow the yellow Garden Tour arrows. Handicapped-accessible.

Tickets may be purchased at each garden, on the day of the tour for a donation of $4 for one garden, or $15 for a five-visit ticket. Proceeds from the 2011 Garden Tour will benefit the club’s civic beautification projects.

The sixth annual Belfast Garden Club Open Garden Days features 13 gardens in the Belfast area (Belfast, Belmont, Searsport, Searsmont, Bayside and Northport).  One garden per week will be open to the public 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Fridays, through Aug. 26.  The next tour in the series takes place Friday, June 17, at Block Garden, 16 Church St., Belfast.

A city garden created for private spaces and planted to be attractive as a songbird habitat includes a pink thornless rose bush, yellow rhododendron, winterberry, honeysuckle, forsythia, lilac, mock orange bushes, and cherry, magnolia and plum trees.  An underplanting of ferns, yellow and pink miniature azalias, white weigela and heliobores provides density. A small potting shed made from recycled windows with a stone floor for carefree watering is tucked in the rear for starting annuals and there is an herb garden outside the kitchen door.

For more information call Diane Allmayer-Beck at 338-3105, Martha Laitin at 948-2815, or visit http://www.belfastgardenclub.org/.

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