For love of herbs, night views

The Baltimore Sun

After Ned Colburn demolished his grandparents' home, built circa 1830, he planned to remove the foundation and plant grass.

But his wife, Carolyn, stopped him, she said, because the foundation was all that remained.

For five years, she was unsure of what to do with the space inside the stone foundation. But last year when her husband went on his annual hunting trip, she built a walkway and laid out an evening garden.

"Evening gardens have this thing about how they look when the moon's out," said Carolyn Colburn, 60, of Havre de Grace. "They are magical. When the moon is full, the plants create shadows. There is something neat, and quiet about it. "

Garden lovers will have a chance to stroll through Colburns' garden during the Secret Garden Tour that will be held on May 17 in Havre de Grace. The tour, a fundraiser for the Havre de Grace Maritime Museum, includes several gardens located at private residences and on the grounds of museums in the city.

The idea to hold the fundraiser stemmed from a love of gardening, said Brenda Guldenzopf, director of the maritime museum, who will show her Victorian-inspired herb garden in the tour.

"Carolyn Colburn and I love gardening," Guldenzopf said. "And Havre de Grace has so many gardens, we thought it would be nice to feature them in a tour and share them with the public, and raise money doing it."

Colburn began gardening when she worked in her father's vegetable garden, she said. She said she didn't enjoy the work but loved the flowers planted around the house.

The tour was started last year, but Colburn said her garden wasn't ready. So this year, she started her garden layout early.

Colburn's evening garden is perhaps the most unusual on the tour. Bordered by the stone foundation from the 1830s farmhouse, the garden layout was created by a horticulture landscape designer.

"I knew the basic plants that I wanted to include in the garden, but I was drawing a blank on how to arrange them," she said.

In preparation for the tour, Colburn said she is working four to six hours a day, rain or shine. The project has been a labor of love, she said.

"When I was clearing the pathways, I remembered doing that as a child, in the woods," she said. "I love working with the soil and the smell of the earth. For me, a garden is all about the joy that comes from seeing it grow and mature."

For her husband, the garden is a constant reminder of his childhood and his grandparents, he said.

"When I look at the garden I remember my grandmother cooking on an old iron stove in the house," said Ned Colburn, 67, a retired chemical engineer. "And I remember the house had a nice porch that we used to spend a lot of time sitting on. At the time, the porch faced the Chesapeake Bay and my grandmother used to look at the sunset over the water to get ideas for her needlepoint."

Although the Colburns have lived on the property about 33 years, Ned Colburn has family ties to the property's first owner, Thomas Ford, Ned's ancestor, who built a house and lived on the land in the 1600s.

Since then, the Colburn family has owned the property. Ned Colburn's grandparents moved to the property around 1907, and he was raised there.

His interest in gardening was nurtured as a boy, when he helped his father and grandfather in their vegetable gardens, he said. However, Carolyn Colburn didn't want vegetables in her garden, she wanted something she could enjoy in the tranquillity of the evening, she said.

"Evening gardens are so beautiful to look at," she said. "They are so fragrant."

Shaded by a large old elm tree, the main garden contains light-colored foliage and luminescent flowers that include grape hyacinth, Coconut Lime coneflowers, white bellflowers, white Oriental poppies, frost-proof gardenias, white geraniums, white peonies, white petunias, Fothergilla and moonflowers, she said.

The garden also includes several props, including heart-shaped stones, raised flower beds and a window from the old farmhouse, with a window box.

"Hearts are really big in gardens," she said as she picked up a large heart-shaped stone. "I'm always gathering rocks for the garden, and once in a while, I find one that's heart-shaped."

To the right of the main garden is the Stonehenge Garden, so dubbed because of the tall stones that stand in the center, said Carolyn Colburn, a retired illustrator.

Other foliage -- lily of the valley, rosemary, vinca, lamb's ear, tulips, an umbrella pine and Japanese maples -- is planted around the house.

Guldenzopf, the museum director, said her garden is inspired by herbs.

Started in 1907, when the Victorian house she owns was built, the historic garden starts in front of the house and wraps around to the back, she said.

The garden includes lavender, rosemary, mint, sage, perennials and organic vegetables.

"I like herbs," Guldenzopf said. "I like the smell and texture of them."

Another garden new to the tour this year was once called the "Best Little Secret in Havre de Grace" by the mayor, said Shirley Graves, who owns and tends to the garden with her husband, Harry Graves.

Started more the 35 years ago, the three-quarter-acre sun and shade garden -- which includes more than 250 azaleas, a pond and a waterfall -- is broken into several small rock gardens.

"Although our garden tends to be formal, it's intimate," said Shirley Graves, who started gardening about 10 years ago after her children moved away. "My husband made concrete blocks with the names of our 13 grandchildren on them, and he also made special sections devoted to the people who have acted as our guides for the past 10 years."

The Graves' favorite part is the back of the garden, she said. Winding paths lead through trees and azaleas that are planted in tiers, she said.

"It's breathtaking," she said.

But she said her favorite part of gardening is the bond it has created between her and her husband.

"I love having things to discuss, and sharing our work," she said. "I like standing back when we finish something and looking at what we have created."

The garden tour will be held from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. May 17. Tickets can be purchased at the Havre de Grace Maritime Museum, 100 Lafayette St. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door.

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