Voila! Springtime in Perry Park
some of our successes ...

Gardening is something we both love! So, we have poured our hearts and souls into creating an oasis for ourselves here. We are trying to create a landscape that might have been here since 1929, when the house was first built, with touches of inspiration from some of the old estate gardens of this region and elsewhere. Most of all, we wanted the gardens to look old! So, we started planting even before we began work on the house.

We bought the 1929 house in 1991
from its original owner , who was 93. While caring for his invalid wife for 25 years, he had done almost nothing to the house or property. Former gardens and shrubs in back were long gone by the time we arrived. All that remained in the front yard were the great Yew, to the left of the house and the large Rhododendron at the right side of the house, plus, some ivy and an overgrown yew hedge along the front walkway, which had to be taken out. Instead of a grassy lawn, there was mostly moss, violets and weeds from the untended, acidic soil. In the back yard, there was nothing but a canopy of tall oak trees above a bed of ivy and more moss, self-seeding violets, wild strawberry vines and lots of weeds.

So, over the years, we have been learning to garden in the shade on a rocky hill, with acid soil, in the extremes of New Jersey weather. Some years go better than others!

Our first project was begun during our second year here, in 1992. That involved tidying up a badly neglected area by the garage on the (left side of the house, out of view below), which is shown on a later page. We removed tangles of mosquito-ridden forsythias and added azaleas and rhododendrons beneath straggling Mountain Laurels there.

In our third year (1993), we hired someone to paint the house and a couple of its upstairs rooms. We continued with weeding, removed more forsythias from the right side of the house, moved rocks around and began the stone work along the steps from the driveway up to the patio area in back of the house.

Spring 1999
The cherry tree, hollies, rhodendrons, yews and arborvitae are twice as large now...
but, our grass is poor this spring (2003), after a harsh winter and a drought last summer.

In 1994 we hired an old, semi-retired landscapist, who knew the old plants and landscapes of this area well. He helped us select some evergreens for the back yard... and then mistakenly planted them in the front yard, shown above! Amused, we decided to go along with it. Those were planted in the fall of 1994. At the same time, Tom began the work on the lawn. .. with the glorious results you see above.

Click image to enlarge.
April 2001
The grape hyacinths below the cherry tree now thickly carpet their space... hundreds of them peek out of the euonymous ground cover.
And, I'm proud and thrilled to say, they bloom precisely with the cherry tree each spring!
But, I never seem to get a photo of their peak display.
The cherry tree blooms again in November (species autumnalis).

Spring 2001, standing atop our hill
(temporarily saving some grass sod beneath the Chinese dogwood on the right)

That same year, we started making preparations to work in the back yard. We dug out hundreds of rocks and small boulders, uncovered old patio stones and the rare and long-neglected plant. We set about creating rock borders here and there, and then we dugged, tilled, and enriched the soil for the work ahead. First to go in the ground out back was a trio of crimson azaleas in a prominent spot, visible from inside the house ( shown above). Sometime after that I made a small and unsuccessful start on some flower beds .... learning that there was too much shade here for most flowers. A couple years later, a tornado felled three large oak trees in the next-door neighbor's back yard, opening our gardens to much needed, morning sunlight!

Click image to enlarge.
May 2001, Boxwood and Ivy bed...almost time for the June pruning.
I adapted the mounds idea from an herb garden in Provence.

In 1995 we hired an Italian stone mason to dig out the remains of the original patio and build a larger patio with brick walls at the back of the house. He then took the old patio's stones atop the hill, for a second patio in a winter sun spot up there (shown below). In spring and summer of the 1996 we dug a lot of holes, moved more stones, and then planted 30 boxwoods and four dogwood trees for the "bones" of the garden plan and a needed understory of trees for lower shading of plants to come. A June-blooming, styrax tree was added later. That is shown at the far side of the path above.

Click images to enlarge.
May 2001, Lower Patio
looking down toward the driveway
Stone steps curve down the hill out of view.

Click images to enlarge.
May 2001, Upper Patio

The Sweet Woodruff herbal ground cover is the only herb that grows in shade.
It now covers the bed with its tiny white blooms.
An old concrete pond is out of view at the back end of this patio.

Click images to enlarge.

May 2001, Upper Wall and Woodland Garden
Left... after a rhododendron in the center was hit by a falling limb in fall's tornado.
It is slowly coming back.

Sometime after that I started a Woodland Garden of mostly native plants, shown on the right above. I also made a small and unsuccessful start on some flower beds .... learning that there was too much shade here for most flowers. A year of so later, a tornado felled three large oak trees in the next-door neighbor's back yard, opening our gardens to much needed, morning sunlight!

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