“I joke and tell people that I am an organic gardener because I am a lazy gardener,” she says. It’s hard to believe when you look at her plot, though. The beds are overflowing, and Cheryl has managed to build year-round interest. What’s more, she is working on stony soil. “My right knee is pretty much exhausted from pounding on my gardening spade,” she adds.
Cheryl and her husband moved to her 3 acre garden in southern New England in 1997. One of the first challenges was to open up enough areas to accommodate Cheryl’s extensive daylily collection of around 80 cultivars. The couple also moved a 13 year-old Japanese Maple from their previous garden. They selectively removed trees to open up the space, and moved native flowering dogwoods from the woods and scattered them around the property.
Their work has paid off. Today 10ft wide beds sweep along the sides of a winding, smooth lawn. Cheryl has planned her garden to include year round interest, but also to set contrasts between plants. The blue-green, thick-skinned leaves of hostas throw the frothy lime flowerheads of alchemilla mollis into sharp contrasts, while the ornamental grasses that Cheryl has grown so fond of in recent years provide useful structure throughout the winter months.
“Every season has something I enjoy, even winter when the garden is covered in snow and ice.” says Cheryl. “I guess my favourite time would be July when my daylilies are in bloom and it is a slow time for my business so I can relax and enjoy my garden.” Cheryl’s busiest times in the garden are spring, when she spends several weekends clearing the perennials and ornamental grasses that were left for winter interest, and pruning summer blooming shrubs. And while she might get by in the summer months with a couple of hours a week of weeding and deadheading, Cheryl returns to a busy schedule in the autumn when her whole family participate in removing the “millions of leaves” which fall into her garden from the surrounding trees.
But the laziness, she insists, comes from a refusal to “be a slave to my garden. Up close, an insect might be nibbling on a leaf, but as long as the insect will not kill the plant, I can look the other way.” Cheryl shies away from pesticides because of the many nesting birds on her site, and this certainly doesn’t seem to be of any detriment to the garden at all.
Cheryl started gardening in 1981 with a small yard where she began growing roses, bearded irises and annuals. She enrolled in a horticulture course at her local university to learn about landscape design. She hasn’t looked back and now runs her own landscape business. “I hope to continue gardening until I can no longer stand on my own!” she laughs. “An older woman with a bad heart once told me she works in her garden every day despite her doctor’s orders. She said if she were to die outside in her garden, she would become useful as compost. I like that spirit.”