Farm and Garden walk
Rain or shine
Last year the Ann Arbor Farm and Garden Association's annual garden walk was scheduled for a Saturday in mid-June when my husband and I were going to be in Stratford. So that I could write about the walk for the Observer, I received special permission to visit the gardens the day before. What luck, I quickly discovered, to be the only person on a garden tour!
I awoke that Friday morning to pouring rain - and it never let up. Take my advice: if it is raining on Saturday, June 11, do not skip this year's garden walk. A late-spring garden in the rain, its many shades of green and other subtle color tones shimmering through a prism of water, has its own special allure.
In past years I've encountered many a memorable garden on this walk. I recall peonies and irises around an elegant pool on a Barton Hills estate, the perennial border of my dreams at a north-side garden, and a garden in Ypsilanti that enlivened all four sides of an 1840s Gothic house in a tour de force of personal expression. On the downside, I've also put in time trudging between McMansions off Geddes encircled by tedious beds of impatiens. There was barely an impatiens to be seen on last year's walk - it was a true gardener's tour.
I started at the U-M's Inglis House, which backs up enchantingly to the Arb, offering a delectable array of formal and informal vistas and gardens. It is Ann Arbor's best imitation of an English estate, and I savored every second of my personal tour of its idyllic grounds.
Next, at a two-story house sited well off Walnut Road northwest of town, garden elves were cheerfully ignoring the deluge to add last-minute plants along the driveway. The home owner told me that five weddings had been held in her backyard. Her garden had lots of paths, some through the woods. And there were ferns everywhere,
and herb and sedum gardens.
When I arrived at a house high on two acres on Craig Road, I couldn't take my eyes off the gorgeous tricolor beech on the island in the circular driveway. Behind the house, the expansive backyard sloped away from the patio, providing a distant vista of woods and hills. The English home owner, who does all her own design and planting, told me that five years ago her backyard had been "an overgrown field." Surveying what she had accomplished, I felt stunned and humbled.
My ultimate moment of gardening inspiration that day came in an in-town garden on the corner of Third and Mosley, across from Wurster Park. The simple brick house on a sloping corner lot reminded me of a Rennie Mackintosh design. A multilevel backyard flowed seamlessly from the house, as if both had been designed together. A lovely small, weathered barn was the perfect garden prop. The subtle waterfall made me think again of Mackintosh. Flashes of purple were everywhere. My eyes hurt with pleasure.
When I arrived home, I called up friends, telling them to not miss the next day's garden walk.
[Originally published in June, 2005.]