Runner up: 'Labor of love' transforms small lot in Abingdon

Amelia and Thorpe Staylor's suburban garden began about 15 years ago when the former bankers downsized from a 12½-acre property in Havre de Grace to a quarter-acre lot in Abingdon.

The smaller space gave them new opportunities to focus on garden design, Amelia Staylor says. But first, they had to solve the problems of a steeply sloping backyard that was susceptible to erosion.

Their solution was to create three outdoor rooms and position higher plants on the downward slope. They also "borrowed" the landscape of a wooded common area to provide a backdrop to their design.

"It was very simple to do," Amelia Staylor says. "It was a few placements."

An archway trellis covered by a climbing rose provides the illusion of depth, while a bistro set welcomes visitors to stay a while. Thorpe's tomato beds anchor the edge of the garden.

While not large, the garden features an impressive variety of plants, including honeysuckle, peonies, weigela, crape myrtle, inkberry, wood poppy, vinca, lilac, hardy begonia and an unusual double-blossom oakleaf hydrangea.

One of the most difficult tasks they undertook was creating a terraced walkway on the side yard. The couple carried and positioned heavy landscaping blocks, even though she was in her 60s and her husband was in his 80s.

"It was a lot of work," Amelia Staylor concedes, adding, "That's the way we are. … It was a labor of love."

Favorite plants: Oakleaf hydrangea, climbing rose bushes, rhododendron, hardy begonia, wisteria.

Advice: Amelia Staylor says gardeners should learn what plants need to thrive. "You can't expect to put a plant in the ground and just walk away from it," she says. "You have to nurture it."

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