BELFAST — The heart of summer’s colors shine brightly as Belfast Garden Club features the neighboring gardens of Joan Bennett and Andrea Whyte 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday, July 29, at 29 and 37 Bridge St.
Neighbors and gardening friends Joan Bennett and Andrea Whyte were gardening in their respective yards one day a few years back when Andrea said, “Joan, you sound like you’re very nearby.” They started cutting their way through a hedge of runaway Japanese knotweed and “The Secret Way” tunnel now connecting the gardens was born. Today the two small, delightful gardens run together almost as one.
Joan’s garden is enjoying its sixth season of summer blooms. The ever-expanding garden started when the Bennetts moved to the property’s lower condo unit. Joan, also a member of the Garden Club’s civic beautification committee, who plays a role in the planting and maintaining several of the city’s downtown gardens, discovered the condo’s lawn area was hers to play with. Beginning from scratch, she has tamed the grass, weeds and knotweed and installed a wavy swath of summer perennial blooms along a split-rail fence.
All of the plants enjoy the sunny sea air — bursts of rosy pink bee balm, white and blue hydrangea and silky lilies play off one another, dropping off to a fantastic view of Belfast’s working harbor, and the new Front Street Shipyard. Several large flower beds around the property provide beauty for all who live in the building above and are accented with playful garden sculptures. A bed by the street, “poets corner” is named in honor of a poet living in one of the condos facing the garden.
Tall spires of hollyhock and coreopsis are highlighted with magenta poppy mallow drifting low to the ground. At the border of the two properties is a hosta and day lily bed featuring lush foliage and lilies of all colors and scents around some creative stonework that directs drainage from higher up the hill through the garden without demolishing the plants.
Some of Bennett’s plants came from Andrea’s divided plants next door. Whyte’s garden was started several generations ago by her late husband’s grandmother and boasts some garden beds of perennials more than 60 years old. The central bed, dubbed “Middle Earth,” blossoms with heirloom favorites including phlox, bee balm, lilies and mallow around a central fieldstone pathway and birdbath.
New additions and beds have come about over the years surrounding a large, sloped, grassy lawn beneath a towering willow tree.
The garden includes many shady trees and shrubs including variegated willow, Carpathian walnut, blue spruce and spiraea, and offers several relaxing spaces for reflecting in the shade. Heirloom hydrangea, hollyhock, hosta and fanciful oriental lilies in layers around the well-kept shingled home give a charming, old-fashioned cottage feel. A large bed of echinacea and black-eyed Susan will be in the height of their bloom.
Stones and garden sculpture dot the vegetative landscape. Whyte’s garden plays on a nautical ambiance with the use of shells, a small garden bubbler and a rowboat dry-docked in a garden bed.
Directions: From the center of Belfast, go north one block on High Street to a right on Bridge Street. Follow the yellow Open Garden signs.
Tickets for Belfast Garden Club’s Open Garden Days 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.