This expansive garden is a hidden treasure in Ashland. The street address is 71 Water St.; however, unlike most of our Garden of the Month choices, you’ll have to park and walk a bit to view these gardens. It will be worth the effort. Either park on Water St., or around the corner on Central. An Ashland Garden Club “Garden of the Month” sign will lead you towards the short path for a view of the garden, which is in fine array in August. You will note that there is a sign saying “No public passage;” however, the gardens can easily be viewed from the main path, which is a public walkway, and also from the lawn, if you walk up and towards the far end and look back for the long view from the West.
There is no single “owner” of the garden, which is managed cooperatively by the homeowners association of the Water Street Condominiums. The main long garden was designed by John Stadelman of Green Man Gardens. John is a graduate of the KLC College of Design in London, U.K., and has an impressive portfolio to show for it.
Before the current garden was installed, the view from the Water Street Condominiums, and from the other condominiums on the slope above would have been mainly lawn with a few cherry trees. The lawn grass was suffering from construction compaction, and from a drainage issue, being down slope. Much attention to drainage and soil amendment had to be done before planting could begin. John was asked to design a garden that would border both sides of the viewing path which fronts the condominiums. Another request was to create some privacy for condominium owners on the ground floor, without impeding their patio views.
An early concept was for there to be a “river of grass” through and across the gardens. This is accomplished with the use of a variety of grasses. The shorter grasses in the center are Pennesetum alpecuroides ‘Little Bunny’. In August, the golden billows of Nassella tenuissima, or Mexican Feather Grass move in the wind, as do the spires of Stipa gigantea. In the background you will see tall clumbs of Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus’. Deschampsia aespitosa ‘Goldtau’, or Tufted Hair Grass, provides a lacy, fine-textured contrast. Variations in color are provided by Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’, and by the bronze sedges, Carex comens and C. bucchananii . Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ , the Feather Reed Grass, is used on a berm as a privacy screen.
Artfully surrounding and mixed with the grasses are a variety of shrubs and perennials. You will find both heathers and heaths, barberries, carpet roses, dwarf Mugho Pines, and Blue Spruces. At the upper levels of the slope are Rockroses, Smokebush, and, around back on the lawn side, Rugosa roses. Color is now being provided by Black-eyed Susans, Rudbeckia hirta, lavenders, Russian Sage, Perovskia, and Ox-Eye Sunflower.
Like many of our gardens, this garden has suffered some damage from the local deer, and some plants, such as the Indian Hawthorn, are being heavily eaten, and may eventually be replaced. Fortunately, deer leave grasses alone, and the other choices of shrubs and perennials have been wise.
I hope you will take a few minutes to view this lovely garden. It is an example of the wonderful variety of grasses that grow well in our climate, and the many plants which can be used with them to good effect