Gretchen Ebbesson-Keegan grows a glorious riot of a garden. The botanical gold in her little “acre” goes much deeper than what first appearances might reveal. In truth this dedicated gardener started out with an almost impossible plot of an in-town lot, covered with coal waste and bogged down with poor drainage.

In the two decades since she took on the challenge of that sorry patch of earth, Gretchen has created a garden of Eden where edibles, fruits, berries, vegetables and herbs thrive cheek-by-jowl with exuberant blooming annuals, perennials, vines, shrubs and trees. How she achieved this bounty is a lesson in persistence and practice with a touch of professionalism mixed in.

A confirmed organic gardener, for years Gretchen worked with students at Mount View School in Thorndike, where she and they ran a working greenhouse, eventually starting up a program in which students grew and sold organic vegetable and herb seedlings to the public. Gretchen’s legacy there continues, helping young people become acquainted with and proficient in gardening techniques from the seed up.

Fast-forward to Gretchen’s move to Camden, where she purchased and set about transforming a nearly-barren patch into the series of lush gardens that it supports today. Drainage was one of the first challenges, and eventually a French drain was installed to help move some of the water past the gardens. Early on, yards of compost and soil were trucked in and spread. On top of that, a series of raised beds was constructed to deal with the poor drainage. Gravel paths were laid out and wind though a series of plantings — both ornamental and edible.

Today a flowering veil of old garden roses, 7 feet tall and taller, wreaths the fenced garden, providing a fragrant backdrop for the delights within the boundary. Fruit trees and berry bushes rise above a carpet of blooming perennials of varying heights that invites a cacophony of pollinators and beneficial insects — bumblebees, native and honeybees, tiny wasps and lady bugs. The result is a well thought-out, complex garden of food and flowers in perfect synchronization. This is no haphazard serendipity, but rather is a garden of Eden by design.

“I have to credit ‘The Art of French Gardening,’ by Louisa Jones,” Gretchen said of a book that proved to be an inspiration and directed her multilayered approach to gardening. “I got that book and I have never been the same since.”

Gretchen’s husband, Barrie, can usually be seen working alongside her as her number-one garden helper. Last fall he and Gretchen’s grown son, Ian, collaborated to make one of her dreams become a reality by constructing a greenhouse that occupies a central spot in the garden. The tidy little structure sports a rock facade on the lower third. Inside, raised beds frame three sides of the greenhouse, occupied by a range of vegetables like carrots or cabbages maturing or tiny seedlings coming along for sequenced plantings of vegetables or herbs or annuals.

“It is just wonderful,” she said with a smile, clearly tickled with the addition. “If it is chilly out, I often go stand in there.” The greenhouse enables her to start the seeds for her vegetables, herbs and annuals in a protected place. In addition, Gretchen is now conducting corresponding trials of tomatoes and other vegetables grown both in the greenhouse and outdoors. And throughout the garden, she adjusts the plantings and selections as seasons pass and elements mature or fade away. After completing a permaculture class, Gretchen said, she implemented her knowledge to alter plantings that surrounded the several fruit trees in her garden. Liberal applications of compost and cow manure help keep the garden humming.

Hardly a static setting, Gretchen’s garden continues to evolve, not just with the seasons, but with her experiences and knowledge. Experimentation is a given. This season the garden has no fewer than 17 vegetable varieties, a half-dozen fruits and berries, as well as one of the most robust collections of ornamentals to be found this side of a botanical garden.

“I’m also growing herbs in pots for the first time,” she added. An avid cook and baker, the herbs (both culinary and medicinal), vegetables, fruits and berries Gretchen grows are a vital part of her kitchen.

While all this might conjure up the image of a pristine garden where nothing strays outside of borders or where nary a weed invades — Gretchen’s garden is the exact opposite. The serendipity of a mullein that insinuated itself into her garden will serve as a handy marker where one of the garden paths takes an abrupt turn, as flowering perennials jostle for their space in the sun and obscure the turn. Common weeds are not evicted, but often are left to flower and invite certain pollinators, yet pulled and added to the compost pile before they can go to seed.

“This is a pollinator-friendly yard, and I let a lot of the wildflowers grow. I leave the gill over the ground,” she says, noting with pride that it feeds at least two varieties of bumblebees, including the tri-colored bumblebee (Bombus ternarius) and common eastern bumblebee (Bombus impatiens). “Because it is one of the first available flowers for the bumblebees.”

Buzzing with bees, activity and bursting with beauty, this garden by design is a working example of how ornamentals and edibles thrive in close quarters and make for one pretty special place.