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Baltimore Sun 2013 Garden Contest

Large garden winner: Inspired by nature's art

Gardener envisions beautiful canvas beneath poplar trees

By Liz Atwood, For The Baltimore Sun

5:23 PM EDT, July 11, 2013

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Bill Gant says asking him to choose a favorite plant or a favorite season in his garden is like asking him to choose "among my children."

When Gant and his wife, Nancy, bought their home in 2004, the previous owner had created a place for a large flower bed in the side front lawn, but nothing was planted in it.

"The garden was a canvas, my trowel awaiting inspiration," says Gant, a Harford County title researcher who writes poetry in his spare time.

In that open space he created a four-season garden that features snowdrops, irises, astilbe, coneflower, hosta, spirea and daylilies.

The front garden is one of several on the 1.3-acre property that is set against a stunning backdrop of towering poplar trees. A rose garden that includes a yellow David Austin, a pink Gertrude Jekyll and hot-pink Knock Out roses provides a colorful setting for outdoor dining, while a swimming pool garden overflows with hosta, hydrangea, rhododendron and azalea.

Gant says the home's previous owners had planted mostly grass and shrubs, but the yard didn't provide year-round color.

The Gants began to read about garden designs and considered the sunny and shady areas they had to work with. Starting with anchor plants such as butterfly bushes, spirea and hydrangea, they added color and texture to their garden.

"The first few things seemed to be swallowed up," Gant says.

But the couple kept adding and changing plants as the years past. Both are artistic, and each year they scrutinize their plant beds to see what space might need an extra bit of color. They fill in some spaces with annuals, such as impatiens and petunias, but depend mainly on perennials to give color from winter through fall.

Favorite plants: Irises the Gants received from their parents and grandparents, and roses, many of which were Mother's Day presents.

Lessons learned: "Never buy less than three of anything," Bill Gant says. "Don't spread the same plant out too far and try to group them close enough to inhibit weeds."

Runners up: Scott and Jodi Levitan, Poplar Hill