Anyone who has ever been frustrated trying to grow plants in shady areas or wondered what interesting plants could possibly be encouraged to thrive in such conditions should come to be inspired by the beautiful abundance of shade gardens at the Anthony-Greeley Garden, 291 Hatch Road, Jackson. The garden, open to the public Friday June 18, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., is the next in the series of the 2010 Belfast Garden Club Open Garden Days.

Garden visitors are encouraged to bring a blanket and a picnic to enjoy the pastoral panoramic views of the rolling hills of interior Waldo County, and if the weather is clear, of Blue Hill and Cadillac Mountain as well. The garden is set atop a hill at the Anthony-Greeley Farm where Janice Anthony and David Greeley raise beef cattle, maintain 60 to 80 acres of hay fields, and have become master shade gardeners of a lush oasis under a green canopy of trees.

Anthony started this garden project when she and Greeley moved to their hilltop property in Jackson from western Maine 30 years ago. Having grown up in a family that valued nature, often accompanying her mother on Audubon bird-watching and tree identification hikes, she feels her aptitude for gardening was nurtured early in life. Now in Jackson, “We’re big into foliage,” Janice explainrf, pointing out several tall and robust trees she started as small cuttings.

In the early 1980s Anthony had the opportunity to take a workshop at Arnold Arboretum in Boston, where the participants learned all about rare trees and were encouraged to try their hands at growing them with cuttings taken home from the workshop. Today, Anthony has a mini-arboretum of her own with some beautiful and healthy specimens which include: Colorado Fir, a stately blue fir often mistaken for Blue Spruce, two Weeping Hemlock, slow dwarf draping hemlocks which she has grown in different ways producing noticeably different results, and a grand sweeping willow.

Her fascination with the colors and textures of foliage is evident not only with trees, but in the gardens, where an impressive show of hostas, ferns and a variety of rare and native plants produce a varied palate. Most of her plants were started from seed and include varieties from Washington state, New Zealand and England. “I began adding a new bed every year,” Anthony recalled. Now her garden boasts 20 island beds brimming with fascinating woodland plants, which are connected by rambling grassy paths under a thick canopy of tree leaves and bird song.

Those who anticipate seeing what sort of cheerful blooms can be planted in conditions other than full sun will be rewarded with many examples. A small formal garden is only one such blooming highlight. The bed is surrounded by a cedar hedge now nearly 10 feet tall and entered through an arch blooming with white ‘Gillian Blades’ clematis, giving the impression of entering a secret garden. Once inside the hedge wall, a bloom festival greets the eye. The hedged garden brims with allium, Primula japonica (one of the candelabra primroses), more than 10 varieties of geraniums, and many other flowers.

Anthony has an impressive knowledge of the names and histories of many of the trees and plants in her garden. She points to a tall fir-like flat “needled” tree. “Metasequoia glyptostroboides, or Dawn Redwood, looks like a fir but is actually a deciduous tree, and drops all of its leaves each year,” she explained. “It was thought to be extinct, until it was discovered living in the courtyard of a Chinese monastery in 1944.” All Dawn Redwood trees growing now are descendants of those monastery trees. In a bed mixed with hostas and other rich foliage plants Anthony points to a short woodsy-looking plant with speckled leaves, “Pulmonaria’s leaves are shaped like lungs, which is how it got its name. Also as a result, people first thought its leaves cured lung ailments.”

Last year, Anthony and Greeley’s first year on the Belfast Garden Club Garden Tour, was a complete washout, with torrential rains and consequently few visitors. This year they are hoping for clear weather. As visitors arrive they will be given a map and a list of plants growing in each bed. Watch for at least 16 varieties of hosta; including the upright vase-shaped and luscious blue-green ‘Krossa Regal,’ a lovely variety with a painted look, Frances Williams, and the miniature ‘Venusta’. Many ferns will be seen, including Japanese painted fern and native ferns like Christmas fern, which stays green all winter, cinnamon fern and the red-stemmed beauty, athyrium. Flowers in bloom will include poppies, Canada lilies with nodding flowers, iris, geraniums, clematis and hopefully some of the candelabra primroses.

Anthony will be selling a variety of potted perennials divided from her garden stock on the day of the tour, and will offer visitors complimentary iced tea.

Directions to the Anthony-Greeley Garden: 291 Hatch Road, Jackson. (Roughly a 30-minute gentle green rolling drive from Belfast.) North on Route 7 through Brooks. In four miles you will pass a church at the Jackson intersection. Continue one more mile on Route 7, and turn on Hatch Road on the left. Drive 1.4 miles (turns to dirt), and as the road turns sharply to the left at a small green house, drive straight. You’ll find a fork in the road, bear right on the lane, and follow the road up to the top of the hill.

The fifth annual Belfast Garden Club Open Garden Days features 14 gardens from Belfast to Searsport, Jackson to Orland and in between. One garden per week will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays through Sept. 10.

The next Open Garden takes place Friday, June 25, at the Banwell Garden, 133 Miller St., Belfast. Trellis structures define gardens and meandering paths connect gardens; a kitchen garden includes edible flowers, meditation garden, heather, fragrant flowers and herbs, three-bin composting system. Bring a picnic to enjoy on a garden bench.

For more information call: Martha Laitin at 948-2815, or visit belfastgardenclub.org.