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Mike Riehls

Here's a gardening idea or two


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June 13, 2013
Eight homeowners on the 22nd annual Grosse Pointe Garden Center's garden tour express colorful and imaginative individuality through plantings by the dozens and landscaping to instill feelings from tranquility to excitement. They are mixing Michigan's plants and those from far away lands to reflect their personalities and visions.

The public can view the gardens from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, June 21, and Saturday, June 22, along with the Grosse Pointe Garden Center Trial Gardens at the War Memorial where guests can purchase tickets. Pre-tour tickets cost $12 and $15 on tour days. The event is held rain or shine.

Grosse Pointe Park

A canopy of trees shade the iron gates that swing open to reveal an English Tudor estate on the Lake St. Clair shore. The house, built in 1928, is surrounded by perennials, shrubs and trees, some more than 100 years old. Historical artifacts are tucked into tree-lined areas. Large hydrangeas add color around the house. A mother Mary statue is central to the expansive lawn circled by lilacs, lilies and seasonal plants.

A path through the patio area displays azaleas, lilacs, mountain laurel, roses and Asiatic lilies. A border of privet, viburnum, holly and Japanese maple surround mature mock orange shrubs. Three chamaecyparis can also be found in this area.

A nearly 100-year-old tree is the sole survivor of a long-ago clearing project.

Near the middle of Grosse Pointe Park is a yard once filled with snow on the mountain, the owner of the second garden said. "And it has taken about 20 years to get rid of it," she said.

A second challenge was the accumulation of water because the land sits lower than the surrounding streets and remedied with a better drainage system.

The patio was replaced with a field of daffodils, tulips, azaleas, dogwoods, serviceberry and rhododendrons.

Two climbing euonymus, more azaleas and primrose line the driveway.

From season to season, the backyard blooms with perennials around this house built in 1922.

In observance of the owners' Dec. 28 wedding anniversary several years ago, the couple took the castoffs at a local nursery and came up with rhododendrons, clematis, ivy and hosta — all thriving today.

Wandering on the side of the property is a wood-chip covered path covered by a canopy of mature trees where ferns and hosta brush the ground, leading to a "ladies garden," where all plants are women's names. The owner planted lilies, rosemary, dahlia, ferns and ivy in recognition of female friends and relatives who have suffered a trauma and come out stronger and better, she said.

Growing across one side of the brick garage are climbing roses celebrating a positive doctor's report years ago. Another rose, blooming in soft yellow, grows on the patio and was started from her grandfather's bush.

Tucked in another area is a tribute to Michigan with Solomon's seal, trillium, May apples and rhododendron and a stone plaque in the shape of the upper and lower peninsulas.

The third Park garden to be viewed lies a few blocks south of the aforementioned garden. In 1991, the couple found a bird bath in the backyard's sunken garden. After removing the cement bird bath bowl, they found the base to be a World War II airplane tire rim.

A mighty wind blew through in December 2008 knocking down trees, that in turn, crushed the back fence. Since then the newly planted pines and cedars have grown in front of the rebuilt brick fence keeping the rabbits out. River birch, with its scaly bark, are neighbors to arborvitae, forsythia, roses and day lilies along the fence.

A wild grape vine grows over a gazebo sheltering a picnic table and benches.

The circular flower bed's center holds a peony bush surrounded by a self-seeded cutting flower bed of zinnias, snapdragons and sunflowers.

The homeowners havebeen planting perennials to bring in birds, bees and butterflies.

Grosse Pointe Farms

Two of the three featured gardens are close to each other but both reflect the owner's individual approach together their yards.

Itoh hybrid yellow and light red peonies, rhododendrons and weigela in the front yard beds greet the visitor at one house. The backyard features sun, part-sun and shade gardens filled with perennials, flowering bushes and trees, blooming spring through summer and featuring false sunflower, cone flowers, Joe Pye weed, fox glove and delphinium, among others. Tomato plants flourish near the driveway.

For ground cover, the homeowners used pachysandra, coral bells and hostas in the shaded areas.

Hydrangeas and purple butterfly bushes line up along the side of the house while the walkway and birch tree area see phlox, cone flowers and red cardinal flowers flourishing.

The second house on the short Farms street features both thriving vegetable and herb gardens and a variety of perennials including lavender and climbing hydrangeas. With two comfortable patio areas, guests can look over the European-style garden. Hand painted Majolica pottery and terra cotta pots filled with geraniums, gardenia, oleander and bougainvillea tell of the house owners' travels and reflect Roman balconies. A 10-year-old lemon tree is the container garden's focal point.

Each section of the yard is bordered by low and trimmed boxwood.

A talking point is the gray wooden fence from England surrounding the vegetable garden and keeps the critters away from the lettuce, corn, cabbage, tomatoes, Swiss chard, onions, beets and carrots. A raised herb bed deters the four-footed nibblers.

The garden's fountain is a replica inspired by fountains in the St. Peter's Basilica square and its water attracts a variety of birds.

The centerpiece of the third Grosse Pointe Farms garden was created when a Norway maple had to be taken down. In its place is a small pond surrounded by three toadstool benches and plantings in miniature, including a dwarf Japanese maple that grows an inch a year. The owner is said to want things to stay in scale.

Coral bells, golden hinoki, a silverlock fir tree, also dwarf sized, stands with a dwarf spruce, rhododendron and a weeping hemlock.

A sangau-kaku Jap-anese maple grow near the back fence. The maple's limbs and trunks turn bright red after the yellow orange leaves drop in the fall. Today, visitors can see the red bark striped with a summer's gray bark.

Fragrances of the sweetbay magnolia and daphne that combine to create an olfactory delight when walking through the backyard.

Three sky pencil holly stand slender and erect at the back of the yard and Columnar blue atlas cedar, along with the golden mop false cypress and mature hemlocks, complete the backyard's look.

Grosse Pointe Woods

Two gardens here are "works in progress."

The first stop is a bungalow. Step under an archway covered in varying colors of clematis and yellow Golden Showers' roses to walk into a backyard that is unexpectedly large, carpeted with rich green grass and anchored by mature trees.

The owner said she continues to plant and rearrange so her gardens are blooming in three seasons. Columbines have been planted to bring in hummingbirds and purple cone flowers, daises, butterfly weeds and butterfly bushes to attract butterflies. A pathway and border has been created with rocks from Lake Huron and accented with hostas. A shade garden includes hollies, sweet woodruff, Asiatic lilies and spiderwort.

A vegetable garden gave way to rose bushes, lilacs, hosta, sedum, peonies and lily of the valley.

A fairy garden is under construction. So far the blue stones simulating water and a small house are in place.

Avid hikers, the homeowners would like their visitors to feel the tranquility they have built in their backyard.

A retired University Liggett School teacher has been working four years on her generously-filled garden. Between the lawn ornaments and variety of plantings, this yard is all about color. The front features a myrtle carpet and knockout roses, a border of strawberry candy day lilies and white, pink, rose red azaleas and 400 daffodils bloom in the spring.

The homeowner has a good start on her goal of planting an entire yard of perennials. Rose of Sharon, butterfly bushes, weigela, spirea, daisies, delphiniums, gaura, phlox, bleeding hearts, coreopsis, cone flowers, lavender and hibiscus entice the birds, butterflies and bees to make a stop on this corner lot garden.

A weeping Norway spruce keeps watch over lilies, azaleas, peonies and clematis. A Japanese maple shelters a stone bench and bee balm. A blue Arctic willow, blue star junipers, cotoneasters and rhododendrons are bordered by Ohio bluestone ledge rock.

As a tribute to her mother, the homeowner has planted Tropican hybrid tea roses. A Montana sandwort is being cultivated in recognition of her father's birthplace.

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