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Beautiful plants and remarkable construction

There are several nice garden surprises at the unpaved end of Ohio Street, northwest of Laurel. One is the fabulous garden and fence at 265 Ohio St. This garden, designed and maintained by Gene Leyden, is the Ashland Garden Club’s Garden of the Month for June. This is a naturally wet parcel (note the giant pond next door) where dampness- and shade-loving plants thrive and carefully placed sun-loving plants also flourish. Gene planted the willow tree, now enormous (14 feet in circumference!), when she moved in with her family in 1987, transporting it to the site from the nursery in the back of the Volkswagen bus. Garden observers can walk or drive down the alley to the right of the house to get more views.

In addition to the prospering plant life, there are remarkably beautiful constructions by Gene’s friend, the artist and carpenter Nathan Sharples. Look carefully at the gorgeous fence, installed only three years ago. Note the unusual wooden screen door. Now catch a glimpse of the fabulous gazebo in what appears to be the backyard but is actually the front of the house, which was moved to this location shortly before Gene moved in. Sharples built the gazebo of many species of wood, rarely using straight planks, but fitting curved pieces together with exquisite workmanship. Multicolor glass in clerestory windows add light to the interior.

Also salted throughout the garden are sculptures by Gene’s friend Cheryl Garcia, as well as other items of interest.

Gene has the advantage of access to Helman ditch water. She has had to amend the soil over the years because the site was ill-used before she (and the house) arrived. She refers to it as a “wild garden” that reseeds itself each year and “does its own thing.” She insists that she doesn’t spend as much time working on it as its beauty suggests, and she does have help now with weeding and mowing. Gene says she has a special fondness for fragrance in the garden and chooses many plants on that basis, including roses, jasmine and nicotiana.

Among the many highlights in the garden are a selection of huge hostas loving their location under the willow, Lady Banks and Cecile Brunner roses climbing through the vegetation, and a smoke tree and smoke bush lending their rich dark foliage as contrast to the riot of greens plus colorful blossoms. There’s a little bit of everything here.

This is clearly the work of people of great imagination, especially the primary gardener.

The Ashland Garden Club has been selecting Gardens of the Month, from April through September, since 2000. Nominations are gratefully received at aogardenclub@gmail.com. Check out the Club’s website at ashlandorgardenclub.wordpress.com or come to the 12:30 p.m. meetings on the first Monday of the month, October through May, at Pioneer Hall on Winburn Way.

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