Wandering the winding paths in Sarah Patterson’s gorgeous garden, it’s hard to imagine that four years ago it was an uninspired patch of grass shaded by a lone oak tree and brightened solely by a rhododendron bush and some day lilies.
Patterson has turned the entire space into a peaceful getaway full of depth, dimension and color. Dirt paths meander through beds of pink echinacea, yellow and orange lilies, purple pansies and delicate ferns.
Where once an old above-ground pool sat, there is now a sunken, circular, grass-covered patio ringed with a stone retaining wall. Where the tool shed used to be, she’s coaxing a lilac hedge to grow.
Young, interesting trees draw the eye to every corner of the garden as frequently as the flowers do. There’s a dwarf Mercedes fernleaf beech with spiky foliage; a Styrax obassia with large, yellow-green leaves; a dwarf horse chestnut that blooms red in the spring, and several petite dogwoods.
The combination of physical exertion and design work that such a large garden demands is appealing to Patterson, who waters, mulches and weeds for four to five hours every day during spring and early summer.
“I can’t not be out here,” she said.
Sunday, Patterson’s hard work was on display as part of the 18th Annual Secret Gardens Tour sponsored by Soroptimist International of Saratoga County. The tour gave plant lovers a peek at 12 gardens in Saratoga Springs and Gansevoort.
The sunny, warm day brought out plant admirers in droves. As of late Sunday morning, 772 tour passes had been sold, according to committee member Dee Sarno, who had hopes of selling 800 before day’s end.
Funds raised from the event support an 8-week educational program designed to guide victims of domestic violence toward financial independence. The program is run by the Soroptimists in conjunction with the office of Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Services of Saratoga county.
Cars lined the street in front of Carol Webb’s Gansevoort home Sunday and her tidy yard was teeming with garden tourists.
Joe and Linda Torre of Clifton Park were admiring her variegated tomato plant, its leaves a montage of dark green and yellow. Although they are avid gardeners, they had never seen one like it, they said.
Webb’s yard has plenty to make the plant enthusiast stop and marvel. The profuse blooms on her Nikko Blue Hydrangeas mirror a clear summer sky. Gooseneck loosestrife bows its delicate white heads in the shade. Cleome and zinnia mingle with pole beans and broccoli in a raised garden bed by the pool house, and hostas thrive in the dark shade beneath mature cedar trees.
“Isn’t that pretty? I had no idea it was going to be gorgeous like that,” said Webb, pointing to a cascade of maidenhair ferns.
“These bloom when there’s still snow on the ground,” she said, ruffling a bushy, dark green hellebore plant.
Webb mainly grows plants that thrive in shade.
“They’re really fun in the spring, and the spring is when almost all of my stuff is in bloom,” she said.
If that’s true, spring must be an absolute riot of color in her yard. There was no shortage of flowers there on Sunday.
Further brightening the space was a table topped with an assortment of unique hats created by Caroline Blake and Kristen Corcoran of Red Confetti Art Studio in Saratoga Springs. Blake was busy shaping hats from sinamay, a natural fiber derived from the abaca tree.
“We’re trying to do a lot from scratch, or reinvent old hats,” she explained, noting that they like to use images from nature, like flowers, birds and butterflies, in their designs. “We want it to be fun and happy.”
Webb’s whole yard was fun and happy Sunday, with admirers pointing at the pink roses flanking the fence and complimenting her on her robust hostas.
When asked what it was like, living surrounded by such beauty, Webb paused to think.
“You know what? I hardly ever look up and see. I’m always looking down and seeing the weeds. See?” she said, bending to pull a small one poking through the mulch in the garden bordering her in-ground pool.
But Sunday’s garden tour gave her the chance to see the well-tended beds through the eyes of many who marveled at her handiwork.
“I’m loving this. This is really fun,” she said, surveying her lovely yard.