When planning the ornamental garden, besides playing off the house, I drew on four different categories of plants.

  1. The plants that were already on the grounds.
  2. The plants needed to create the look and feel of the plan.
  3. The plants that bring sentimental values and recreate garden memories.
  4. The unexpected source of plants from friends’ yards that they either wanted to remove, or needed to divide; Iris, hosta, liriope came from these sources.

Already on the property was a lilac that had overgrown the spot it was in. Peonies that had an old fashioned quality that were a keeper. Wood hyacinth, narcissus, daffodils, and surprise lillies were in clumps. All begging to be divided and reorganized. Instead of replacing them or cutting them out, I propagated and replanted them. My lilac “baby mama” bush was the start of hedgerow of lilacs. The garden was divided into rooms and beds. The narcissus was divided and spread in one room. The daffodils into another room. Color and waves of texture began to drive patterns and excitement.


[/media-credit] The garden rooms at Mezzacello

To create a “historic” town garden, in an “Italianate” plan, meant hedgerows Would be needed to divide spaces and create “rooms”. I preferred boxwood, but could have used yew or holly. Privet would have been another alternate that would have been easy propagate. Horn beams were chosen for height and aesthetic. How patient and immediate I was willing to be dictated some of my choices. Some things were dictated, regardless of how much time it might take, because of their sentimentality. Leading me to the final

I drew on memories and sentimental values for what I was going to buy, or become more resourceful to collect. The places I’ve been, and felt a connection to were channeled into this last type of collection. Being from Virginia and Carolina, boxwood and monkey grass was a “need”. To create the rooms and the Italianate style of the garden, meant horn beams or something similar, to create walls of green. Filling out those bones were the anemones I kept noticing and loved. The magnolia and tree peonies were brought in for the love of places and people they reminded me of.

My friendship garden is the surprise of community. What my friends had that they thought I would enjoy. Their provenance sometimes trumped what varieties I would have preferred. There’s “Aunt May’s“ Crepe Myrtles, the “Pragati” and “Rosen” irises, “Bill’s” tobacciana and foxglove. Most of these have been consigned to the southern edge of the garden. They continue to grow, spread, and flourish.

Start with where you are, go where you need to, and finish with romance. These are the parts and bones of a garden that will keep you intrigued, engaged, and inspired.


  • The garden is inspired by the Italian school of gardening as I understand it. The closer to the house, the more formal the setting is. The further out from the house, the wilder the gardens get. The path Jim refers to, with this in mind, is what I call the “wilderness”. But my wilderness isn’t a woodland. It’s a passage behind the allée that links the pond to the “Friendship” room. Along that path are a profusion of pollinator plants that feed, among other insects, a hive located in a tree behind the property. It’s a delight to watch as the bees use the property, and the fountains, for pollen and water. We place water plants in the bird bath, and the Italian fountain, to give the bees a “landing pad” and platform to drink from …so they are less likely to drown. They, and other pollinators are encouraged, because without them, we know we don’t have fruits and vegetables.

  • Janet Hofmann

    Please consider plants that are native to this area. The birds and insects depend on it.

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