Bland Banwell’s garden, an in-town gem at 133 Miller St., is a masterpiece of artistry, design and execution. It is a rich and abundant garden where trellis structures define garden beds that brim with beautiful combinations of climbing vines, flowers, herbs and trees, while rock walls and meandering paths provide unity. The Banwell garden is open to the public Friday, June 25, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., as part of the 2010 Belfast Garden Club Open Garden Days. 

This garden project has developed into something truly special over the past 15 years under Banwell’s creative eye. “There was nothing here when she started,” landscape assistant Richard Yeaton said, “soggy grasses and a few trees — but now look at it!” Today the garden features a small orchard, edible gardens, a meditation garden, a three-bin compost system and summer blooms galore.

Banwell has designed the space as an “inside-outside garden,” orienting each garden outside to the visual vantage points from inside the house. “Each room has an incredible view of the gardens year-round,” garden assistant Sandhya Maltby explained, “and each garden has one especially spectacular feature at one time of the year or another.”

For instance, looking out the piano room window next to the porch are pink and dark red spotted digitalis (foxglove) swaying in the summer breeze; out the kitchen window stand magnificent lilacs in spring, as well as an herb and edible flower bed. The guest room view is an overhead perspective of the small orchard and a newly created edible garden filled with lettuces, garlic, calendula and herbs, encircled with rock walls and centered by a meditative sculpture.

An inviting view for passersby on the street is also very intentional; the outside of the garden, which lies directly on the edge of Miller Street’s sidewalk, has been designed as something lovely to enjoy as one walks along. Heavenly smelling roses and cascading hydrangea vine line the street-side trellises. As you look up the paths at the sides of the house, the garden disappears around corners and the eye travels along the curved rock walls to the delicious blooms beyond.

“Bland has designed the yard using many curved lines, which make it more interesting and seem more spacious”, Maltby said. The method is clearly effective. The property, likely less than a half-acre, feels like a cozy and yet almost endless retreat to explore.  

Banwell’s other forms of artistic expression, weaving and playing piano, are keenly felt in this outdoor venue. Throughout the garden is a sense that it has been designed as a tapestry or a piece of music for the piano would be. Instead of individual groupings of flowers dropped in here and there, each bed or area effortlessly flows together, as melody, drawing you from one part of the garden to the next using the architecture of branches and the undulating curved edges of rock walls and paths. 

A somewhat new experiment has been to pull up the foliage of some of the shrubs, like willow and lilac whose branches generally grow down to the ground, in order to reveal the strong structure of the trunk and branches. With pruning to highlight the crossings and angles of the branches, Banwell adds visual interest year-round to the flowering bushes, generally only looked upon as a beauty during the two weeks of bloom each year. In addition, the new exposed branch system allows more light to reach the under story, and creates space where and new beds of plants and flowers can be grown below the shrubs.

What will be in bloom for Open Garden Days? Visitors are likely to be treated to a garden of summer flowers and plants. The new meditation garden includes a hearty array of herbs such as thyme, parsley and borage, and highlights stunning blue flax, which bobs and weaves in the breeze.

A light purple wisteria blooms from the porch overhang. Other treats include high-bush blueberries, a variety of bachelor buttons, foxglove, Lobelia, phlox, Baptisia, delphinium, yellow iris, monkshood, daisy, hostas, and possibly bee balm and Cone Flower as well. Visitors are invited to bring a picnic to enjoy on a garden bench.

Directions to the Banwell Garden, 133 Miller St., Belfast: From the Belfast intersection of Main and High streets, take High Street to Miller Street at the Public Library. Go up Miller to the house with the trellis fence on the right. Once you get close follow yellow Open Garden arrows. Please park along the street.

Tickets can be purchased at each garden, on the day of the tour for a donation of $4 for one garden, or $15 for a five-visit ticket. Proceeds from the 2010 Open Garden Days will benefit the Belfast Garden Club’s civic beautification projects.  

The 5th annual Belfast Garden Club Open Garden Days feature 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, July 2, at the Berry Garden, 10 Edgecomb Road, Belfast. It features a flower garden with whimsical statues and birdhouses, fountains, shade gardens, flowering bushes and a small orchard.

For more information call: Diane Allmayer-Beck at 338-3105 or Martha Laitin at 948-2815, or visit belfastgardenclub.org.