Eclectic Enclave

Garden Spot

Roseville Pottery host varied plantings and add to the natural unassuming flow of the garden. Photo: Derek Thomas

The homes of Capitol Hill, in fact the overall feel of the Hill, are largely due to the varied mix of styles. From block to block, and in many cases home to home on individual blocks, there is a diverse mix of architecture that is wonderfully diverse.

Distinction and individuality runs the gamut on the Hill, from quaint single story former factories that lie on the southwest corner of Kentucky and Independence avenues, to the towering repurposed Pierce School building, the Hill has a style that is unique and eclectic. Gardens on the Hill are also charming and synonymous with what a well-tended neighborhood should look like. In fact the gardens of Capitol Hill are the welcome mat to one of the best neighborhoods in the country. Varied and distinctive, classy and rigid, sprawling and cottage like, well you get the point, as different and precious as the homes who give them easement to grow here.

Thank goodness there is no guideline to the creative sprit that has inspired hundreds of Hill residents to be ingenious, original, and prideful with the gardens they grow.

504 7th St. SE

Pride is what inspired Hardy Pearce and Rick Bergwin to share their private rear garden with the Hill. The garden is landlocked and has no entry from an alley or rear footpath. A tall Ivy covered brick wall to the east keeps the gardens quaintness in tact. The ivy and wisteria that covers the fences on all remaining sides make for a comforting space. Hardy says, “the garden is used for 9-10 months a year, it is our outdoor room where we come to unwind after a long day”. However the space was not always this nice, formerly a law office the rear garden had a imposing rear stair and deck area, broken old patio and was “utterly uninviting” says Hardy. The pair have called the converted Law office home for the past 10 years and during that time have brought in collections of plants and adornments to make the rear garden feel like a San Francisco enclave, complete with all the artistic elements that a gardeners garden needs.

The Plants

There are plants that are interlopers from all over the country. The Euonymus that was Hardy’s grandfather’s shrub is at home climbing and spreading out on the fence. The Brazilian Pepper that grows in one corner was a gift from Rick’s cousin. A wonderful broad leaf Succulent that has provided them with offspring comes from Newport Ritchie Florida. A old Southern Pine was transplanted from Charleston. And a lush Acuba is a Bethesda native that now calls their Hill garden home.

The hanging baskets are filled with plants from Fregars and spill over and add pops of color throughout the garden. There are many houseplants that have lived with them for years and according to Hardy “Make the indoors very lush during the colder winter months”. The annual plants that fill the varied planters with color, texture and vibrancy are placed in the gaps and fill and collide to create waves of green. The splashes of veggies, succulents, and baby plants occupying any remaining space and helping to complete the orchestra of colors and living texture.   

The Decor

If you are looking for the contrived, staid, rigid garden you will not find it here. The garden furnishings are varied and complementary. There is a metal style rocker bench, a pair of antique daisy inspired bent metal chairs and matching table, a set of diamond pattern metal lawn chairs and a matching side table, and a aluminum accent chair. The garden art and planter further push the eclectic envelope. The Planters on the patio and in the garden are a mix of glazed and shiny planters, terracotta and clay like pots, and collectable and decorative vessels. The Fish planter that shows off a towering Persian Shield, the pig planter with a Geranium spilling over, the hanging Roseville pottery collection with mixed flora in each, and the plethora of garden art each with a sense and sensibility that make this garden a bohemian bliss. The stonework that was installed by the pair and their kids is a wonderful random pattern flagstone with solid brick border. In the corner tucked behind the menagerie is a black lantern that is perhaps the only piece in the garden that screams mass-market. Hardy says “it was once on the side of the stairs and they left it there and built the garden around it”. The garden that Hardy and Rick have built is at once reminiscent of a stroll through the rear garden enclaves of Grove St. in San Francisco, a day spent wandering through the private gardens of Key West Florida, and still thoroughly a part of the varied unconstructed beauty of the gardens of Capitol Hill. 

Derek Thomas is principal of Thomas Landscapes. His garden designs have been featured on HGTV’s Curb Appeal, and Get It Sold. His weekly garden segment can be seen on WTTG/Fox 5 in Washington. He can be reached at www.thomaslandscapes.comor 301.642.5182. You can find and friend us on Facebook at Facebook/Thomas Landscapes. Followhim on Twitter @ThomasGardenGuy For Great Garden Tips.

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