BELFAST — The lush, welcoming garden of Martha Block will be open to the public 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday, June 17, as part of Belfast Garden Club’s Open Garden Days. The garden was created for private spaces and planted to be an attractive songbird habitat featuring layers of coniferous and deciduous trees, flowering shrubs and bushes, and perennials and herbs.
Although the garden is situated on an in-town lot with close neighbors on either side, visiting the Block garden gives the viewer a feeling of living in the countryside or at the edge of a quiet glen. “There is a wildness to my garden,” Martha smiles. It is not prim and fussy; little nooks and intimate spaces under trees and large shrubs create a cozy, relaxed atmosphere.
Block moved to the property 15 years ago from Bucksport. “When we arrived, there were only a few trees and plantings. It was very bare,” she said, pointing at a photo of a boxy lawn with wide-open views of the neighbors’ homes. Block, who had brought cuttings and plants with her from her former home, began to “create spaces” in her new garden.
She started by adding structure, putting in larger shrubs and trees first and layering with shorter under-plantings of various shapes, sizes and colors. Three features were important: the garden needed to be interesting in all seasons, welcoming to birdlife and rich in scent.
As visitors come up the drive they are welcomed by a sunny gathering of peonies, day lilies and lupine. One hardly sees the Block’s’ beautiful home, which, although not necessarily hidden, is tucked away behind a friendly and loose hedge of rhododendron, thornless hawthorn, beauty bush (Kolkwitzia), and the white and pink bells of several prolifically blooming enkianthus. The dooryard garden is crowned with a stunning display of rich, pink-flowered weigela. A hearty, pale pink climbing New Dawn Rose, Block’s mother’s favorite, adorns the entrance to the house.
The once plain and barren backyard is now filled with varieties of azaleas, thornless roses, quince and old fashioned pale pink mountain laurel and is ringed with tall cherry, magnolia and plum trees. The birds enjoy Arnold Red Honeysuckle and winterberry. Rhodedendrons of all colors and shapes bloom from spring though early summer, including the beautiful, rusty brown underleaves of early flowering bureavii and pale-pink, frilly edged Janet Blair. Siberian iris, poppies, lupine, monkshood, pink geranium and dark red astilbe add color to the lower layers of this living tapestry. Several tall heritage birches provide shade in summer and stark beauty in winter with fascinating pink, brown and silver peeling bark.
Visitors who walk into the dappled sunlight under the grand Norway maple’s canopy at the heart of the garden are treated to a peaceful cathedral of green. A circular shaped patio has been laid in the grand tree’s shadow using reclaimed bricks now covered by a carpet of moss. A solarium-like potting shed made of recycled windows provides workspace and interesting architecture. Arborvitaes and thujas break views to the rear of the property, and low-lying shade perennials, such as ferns, feathery cimicifuga, lady’s mantle and seven-petalled starflowers, complete this relaxing garden.A bucket of cuttings from an easy-to-grow, pale-yellow forsythia, a favorite transplant from Block’s Bucksport garden, will be offered to visitors during the Open Garden Day. Tickets can 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 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Fridays, through Aug. 26. The next tour in the series takes place Friday, June 24, at the gardens at Searsport Shores Campground, 206 W. Main St., Searsport. These gardens boast forty acres to explore, including a 550-foot-long sea wall walkway stretching alongside a flower and herb garden. See flowerbeds placed between campsites, poison ivy-eating goats, woodland trails, a potato tower, a “river of hostas,” gourds in trees and floating gardens built on boggy soil. A botanical-themed quilt show in barn and twig sculptures by Susan Perrine will also be on display. For more information, call Diane Allmayer-Beck at 338-3105, Martha Laitin at 948-2815 or visit www.belfastgardenclub.org.