If folks want to see urban dwelling with Mother Nature as a welcome resident, Arlington Court is the place to visit. There's an amazing, natural river-rock fountain, sculptural tomato cages, a square-foot vegetable garden, strawberry plants, evergreens and annuals, brick walls and walks and, well, it's hard to list everything that is crammed into this verdant, magical space.
The public will get a chance to wander through Arlington Court along with many other marvelous gardens during the East End Main Street Garden Showcase, June 14-29. Visitors will be able to view gardens that are formal, fancy, wild, practical, exotic and just about everything in between.
Approaching Arlington Court, visitors see flowers planted at the base of sidewalk trees. Then a natural banister of driftwood gives a hint of the artistry to come. This neighborhood, tucked between 1910-era row houses near CAMC General Hospital, offers a beautiful mix of plants that blend to make an exotic home for couples, families with young children, and senior citizens.
Throw in a few cats and Jean Anaporte's handsome black standard poodle, and the picture is complete. On a recent workday, Anaporte's handy neighbor was installing a nifty black metal fence for the pup.
Gary Blake is modest about his accomplishments, but in this tight-knit neighborhood, he's a Picasso with bricks and plants. He has put his artistic touch on several of the gardens in the magical Arlington Court, installing mounded beds, brick walls and walks. Blake and the above-mentioned handy neighbor have strung twinkle lights between the homes, creating a continuity to the space that makes nighttime glorious. "It's like a circus in here," said Peggy Cavender, a longtime resident.
A nice stroll over to Virginia Street - past the great garden that's taking over a vacant lot thanks to Helen Chilton and Larry Schneider and the always fabulous vegetable and flower gardens of Don and Susan Churchill - allows garden enthusiasts to see the classic English garden of Rob Aliff and Tracy Wilkerson. Pruned tree roses in hot pink flank the front, with the home's dark brick providing a perfect backdrop. A holly hedge borders the driveway, and perfectly round boxwoods punctuate the front yard. Little pockets of sedum, astilbes, balloon flowers, salvia, hosta and other perennials provide color and interest.
Charming hayracks also complement the brick structure of the house and garage, with pretty annuals spilling out to soften the hard walls. In the back, there's another oasis of green in the middle of an urban area. A grassy yard is surrounded by flowers, shrubs and trees with a nice southern magnolia as a focal point in the corner. The owners enjoy dining alfresco on a large, oval teak table tucked in between the drive, house and yard.
Kanawha Boulevard is the setting for Lyne Ranson's law office, but it's also home to her beautiful gardens. Charm abounds, starting with a low white picket fence as an outline at the sidewalk. The white of the fence echoes in the double columns by the front door and at the corners of the restful, brick side porch.
A bank of ivy has a nice dwarf red maple in it, and there's a huge maple tree in the center of the front yard that is clearly preserved by careful pruning. Like many of the large trees on the East End, this one is probably original to the home, and so its age demands that it be given lots of tender loving care.
A row of liriope camouflages the spent Siberian iris stalks - a great garden trick - with a formal boxwood hedge on one side and lovely hostas, lilies and other bits of color dotting the bed.
Out back, there's a "wow" moment when you enter the peaceful garden that features a dwarf variegated willow, spirea, roses, dark maroon coral bells, brick walks and a hot tub. There are rhododendron throughout the spaces, lending spring color and year-round green.
Many more gardens, including the Living AIDS Memorial Garden and Contemporary Galleries, will be open to visitors and there is no cost to tour. Signs will be posted at each participating home. A color brochure, complete with map, will be available at all East End businesses, and will be available to download at www.eastmainstreet.com. There are no specific hours, but visitors are asked to tour during daylight hours.
Sara Busse is a Charleston resident and master gardener. She may be contacted at sjbu...@gmail.com.