Garden tour: Former gravel quarry site and lots of compost yields show-stopper

By on August 25, 2014
The Medina sandstone house is in the background. Limestone rocks create the border of the bed.

The Medina sandstone house is in the background. Limestone rocks create the border of the bed.

I’m excited this week to get to do something I’ve wanted to do for a long time – take you on a little tour of a local private garden.

Denise Bedard’s garden is a show-stopper. The Clarendon resident lives along Route 237 and, fortunately for motorists, her most striking garden can easily be enjoyed while traveling north towards the Village of Holley.

Situated on what Denise believes is a former stone-quarry, her mixed perennial border sits on the south-facing slope of a bowl-shaped depression in her yard.   The depression – which sweeps around in a semi-circle – was created when gravel likely was mined from the site for the construction of Route 237, Denise says.

The vegetable garden demonstrates a more formal design.

The vegetable garden demonstrates a more formal design.

She and her husband, Kevin – both retired after careers in teaching – have lived in the circa 1830 Medina sandstone home for just two years. They lived in the village of Holley for 30 years (Denise taught at Holley Elementary), where she also gardened on the side of a hill.
A small amount of planting had been done on the “quarry” slope when Denise arrived, but she saw the potential of the site and has expanded the garden dramatically, incorporating large stones of limestone which contrast beautifully with the sandstone on the house in the background. The limestones were brought to her garden from her father’s property in the town of Sweden.

In creating the garden, Denise decided to fill the area she wanted to plant solely with compost, “A friend of mine said just get compost,” to create the beds, says Denise, and that’s what she did. Instead of a mix of topsoil and compost, Denise brought in a truckload of rich compost from Sara’s Garden Center in Brockport, and the plantings have responded amazingly.  The young garden has large, healthy plants with stunning and profuse blooms.

The hops vines are at the back of the herb garden.

The hops vines are at the back of the herb garden.

As an aside – this tip from Denise reminded me that when I was young, my mother created a circular raised bed in our yard for annuals around the stump of an old cherry tree.  We used flat fieldstone for the edging – it was probably about two feet high – and filled it with composted sheep and horse manure which we were lucky to have in abundance behind our barn from the days when my dad had raised sheep and we had owned a horse. The garden was always spectacular with nothing but the compost as a growing medium.

Denise’s garden looks great year-round. She has selected plants so that, “… something’s always in bloom,” she says. “It starts out in the spring with daffodils and then tulips and then iris.”

curve of gardenNow, the garden is a riot of color:   bright deep pink phlox, daylilies, purple coneflowers, and feathery cleomes are just a few of the plants in her design.  Soon, sedum will carry color through the autumn.

The plants are predominantly perennial, but annuals like cleome and nigella will self-sow and spread freely.

Denise’s nearly 200-year old home anchors the entire four-acre property and was once situated in the middle of apple orchards. Denise and her husband are working to rejuvenate the remnants of one orchard and also have new gardens they previously were not able to grow on their confined village lot – such as a vegetable  garden. The vegetable garden is neatly organized with paths and rectangular beds created with lumber around the edges. There is also an extensive herb garden which includes many kinds of culinary herbs as well as flowers.

Denise Bedard on her porch holding 15-month old grandson, Beckett who already enjoys the garden.

Denise Bedard on her porch holding 15-month old grandson, Beckett who already enjoys the garden.

The herb garden is punctuated with bright blue pyramidal tuteur trellises which are now covered with lush hops vines as Denise’s husband enjoys brewing his own beer. The hops vines add height and add interest to the garden and yard. The herb garden is just a few steps outside the back door, making it easy to harvest herbs for cooking.

Additionally, Denise has foundation plantings around the house and garage/barn. She says she has been enjoying having expanded room to grow things and looks forward to adding to her plantings and tweaking the ones already in place in the future.

Many thanks to Denise for sharing her garden!

Photos by K. Gabalski