Tranquil in-town retreat overlooks waterfront bustle
Belfast — A hidden gem of an in-town garden that provides a serene setting for watching the bustling goings-on at the Front Street Shipyard in downtown Belfast will be open to visitors on Friday, Aug. 1, as part of the Belfast Garden Club’s annual Open Garden series.
When Andrea Whyte inherited the property that straddles Bridge Street to Front Street in 2004, it was “a mess. Everything was overgrown and there were so many cedars and privet on the Bridge Street side you couldn’t even see the house. I spent months getting rid of ‘stuff’ — junk, garbage, debris — from both inside and outside of the house and on the property.”
Although Andrea’s garden appears to be the result of a professionally designed master plan, she laughs and says “I never have a plan. Everything I’ve done here has just kind of evolved. I finish one project and move on. I buy what I like and I plant it. If it doesn’t work there, I dig it up and move it somewhere else.”
Andrea certainly knows how to weave a beautiful landscape from disparate elements. Her house dates from 1840 and sits practically on top of Bridge Street. Instead of trying to screen the house from the street, she designed garden vignettes that celebrate her home’s in-town location. The privet was the first to go. In its place she installed a split rail fence that now serves as a backdrop to rosa rugosa, bee balm and lilies. On one street-facing corner of the house, she has planted a beautiful hydrangea; above it, an American flag flutters in the breeze.
There is very little transition space from the street to Andrea’s yard and, although some might find that difficult to contend with, she shows her design talents once again by creating a series of very small, interlocking gardens that lead visitors to her front door and the yard beyond. Interspersed among a peony, assorted hosta, iris, lilies, astilbe and phlox are a lovely pedestal birdbath and a custom-designed barrel-shaped water fountain. But one more treat is in store — the “Nautical Garden,” as Andrea has named the narrow strip of land that borders the car park area. Peaking out from among hostas is another pedestal bird bath, an enormous rusty anchor, an equally enormous running block hanging from a tree limb and yes, enormous cleats anchored to railroad ties that define the parking area. It is an inspired bit of design for a garden that overlooks Front Street Shipyard, one of the largest yacht facilities on the East Coast. Andrea explains that her deceased husband loved to collect ship’s artifacts and she was delighted to be able to incorporate his “treasures” into her garden.
Downhill from the “Nautical Garden” lies the heart and soul of the garden — the space Andrea calls “Middle Earth,” which is almost entirely out of sight from casual passers-by. It is there that she and Brad Sherwood have created an oasis. Brad designed and built a cascading waterfall and pond that borders a stone patio and fire pit, also his own design and labor. A Japanese maple is planted near the top of the waterfall; opposite it is a young pink Dogwood. Softening the water’s fall are sedum, hosta, iris, lilies, astilbe and phlox. A bronze heron keeps watch over the pond. From the Adirondack chairs on the patio, the view is captivating — the lawn leads to an expansive perennial border (coreopsis, sedum, lilies, peonies, campanula, daisies) and the shipyard just beyond.
New since last year are a vegetable garden tucked away behind the perennial border, a charming cement stepping-stone path alongside the apartment, a raised herb garden just outside the apartment’s front door, and granite cobblestone edging around the front and two sides of the house. Andrea laughs and says, “Every year we say simplify, simplify... and every year our garden grows.”
The Whyte garden is located at 37 Bridge Street in Belfast. From the traffic light at Main and High Streets in downtown Belfast, go north on High Street past the Colonial Theater and turn right onto Bridge Street, just past MacLeod’s Furniture.
This is the fifth of eight Open Gardens, all of which are on Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., rain or shine. The next, on Aug. 8, is the Muir Garden in Brooks, which features a just-completed major revamping of all the garden’s hardscape, including new stone pathways, steps, and a patio enclosed by a new terraced stone wall.
All Open Gardens can be visited by making a $4 donation at each garden. For a complete schedule, visit belfastgardenclub.org or pick up a brochure at numerous retail businesses in and around Belfast. For more information about Open Gardens, call Martha Laitin (948-2815) or email email@example.com.