A formal garden

This formal garden is based on three city gardens I have seen in Asheville, plus part of our own. The Plesses’ garden has boxwood hedges that are trimmed low and surround mowed grass. The corners are filled with perennials like peonies and poppies. The Coles’ garden consists of a wide perennial border separated by a strip of mowed grass originating from their rear terraces. The border contains Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) and a number of ornamental grasses, chiefly fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides). Boxwood hedges are also featured at Peggy Pennell’s garden. At one corner is a low brick panel about three feet wide and four feet tall. Set into a bank of ivy, it surrounds an architectural fragment of great beauty and is fronted by a small birdbath and an Italian putto of black iron.

If you live in a cold part of the country, the ground cover at the garden’s center could be Japanese pachysandra (Pachyssandra terminalis). A better choice, however, would be one of the more unusual ivy cultivars, such as Hedera helix ‘Baltica’. This plant bears small leaves with whitish veins and makes an excellent ground cover even in Zone 4. In Zones 7 or 8, look for ‘Brokamp’, a German ivy with dark green, glossy leaves that turn a beautiful shade of bronze in winter (a color that is heightened by growing the plant in poor soil). ‘Ivalace’ is also a good choice. Its gray-green leaves have white margins and turn copper in the winter.

The large evergreen shrub could be a rhododendron. Or for an especially elegant look, plant one of the more unusual Japanese maples instead of an evergreen.

This garden is made for sculpture, including many of reproductions sold by museums. Our favorite is a fiberglass reproduction called “Fat Persian Cat” by an American sculptor Richard H. Recchia and sold by the Boston Museum. Be sure to leave a spot for a large concrete or terra-cotta trough filled with beautiful annuals.

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