Welcome to The Outsider, Brownstoner’s new garden column by Cara Greenberg, here every Sunday at 8AM.
JOY MAKON’S BACKYARD measures all of 17×24 shady square feet, but that hasn’t stopped her from making the most of her gardening opportunities. There’s also a small, sunnier front bed, and a long, narrow deck in back, which she brightens up with container plantings.
When Joy and her husband Sol began their garden planning back in 1996, they had help from garden designer Glenn Smith. Smith built the wood lattice fence and stone central patio, and recommended the major landscape shrubs — arborvitae, chamaecyparis (conifers or evergreens in the cypress family), holly, rhododendrons, Japanese azaleas, cotoneaster, and enkianthus.
Excessive shade is the main challenge, one Joy has learned to work around. “My garden gets a lot of shade from a Norway maple between my house and the one next door. I’ve learned that green is a wonderful color. I build interest with textures from grasses, ferns, and chamaecyparis shrubs, and use pots of annuals to brighten up dark areas.”
Ninety percent of Joy’s plantings are perennials (hardy plants that survive winter in the ground and re-emerge each spring). Every couple of years, in the fall, she adds flowering bulbs, mostly muscari (grape hyacinth). Because of the Norway maple’s roots, she says, “it’s impossible to dig. I literally go out with a drill bit.”
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Photos: Joy Makon
Orange-flowering trumpet vine along the lattice fence at the rear of the property is “pretty but invasive,” the homeowner says.
An early spring scene with blue grape hyacinth.
Rhododendrons and climbing roses on the lattice fence in late spring.
Joy achieves color combos with annuals like purple oxalis and red coleus; they provide contrast with in-ground perennials like ferns and variegated hosta.
Pots and planter boxes along the railing of the 8′x22′ deck at the side of the house hold impatiens, sweet potato vine, caladiums, and other annuals.
Clematis paniculata, or sweet autumn clematis, is Joy’s favorite plant for late-season bloom — “like snow in September,” she says.
Ekianthus, above, blooms in mid-spring.
Joy got the idea of hanging flowerpots on an exterior wall from Martha Stewart. She plants them with pansies in spring and sometimes puts nasturtium seeds in the pots as well. This year, she’s trying spider plants. “You have to water them constantly,” she says, which she does by pointing a hose in their direction, “or they dry out.”
A summer view of the front garden, which gets about half a day of sun. Here, there are hostas, hydrangea, day lilies, geraniums, rudbeckia, astilbe, and butterfly bush, among other things. “I really cram it in,” Joy says.
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