Tour Lesley Kash’s Garden in Greenbelt, Md.



Video by Susan Harris for and

From Lesley: My childhood home, sold in the 70s, was in sad shape by the time I bought it back 30 years later. Never having gardened, I got a “shade collection” at Costco, a sack of scary-looking bare roots that grew into hostas, astilbes and Japanese painted ferns whose progeny are legion. After many mistakes, patient mentoring, great plants from Behnke’s and BGC and good ratings from pollinators, I’m home.

Garden planning can fix a lot of awkwardness. My old scuffed dirt shortcut is now official, flanked by a succulent collection in a half-wall of cinderblocks, a chaste tree and a shapely evergreen, with simple white pavers curving from the neighbor’s driveway toward my patio.

Any everyday destination might as well offer some fun, even a compost station, so my Behnke sign hangs from the chain link fence (by garage hooks, so this irreplaceable memento can come down and spend the winter out of the weather).

Chain link masquerades as pricey wooden fencing when covered with prefab panels. These hang from the iron rail with garage hooks (sturdy ones made to hang bicycles, one in the middle and one at each end of each panel).

A screen fence separates an unlovely, hot-air-belching condenser from a sensitive variegated kousa. The odd, aerial view of this new garden from the window above is unified by a coordinated brick design, with ceramic lanterns adding whimsy atop the posts.

Viewpoints are tricky with living area windows and breakfast deck a half-story above the ground and a much-used screen porch at ground level. Plant heights, shapes and seasonality matter. That Maryland senna, Joe Pye and milkweed and all the butterflies will soon be just a winter daydream. Then, the little evergreens I’m coddling, along with red twigs and curves of brick and the varied habits of the understory trees, will keep me in front of the windows with my hot chocolate.

A memorial for our two beloved cats is snuggled into a venerable azalea hedge, bordered by Revolution hostas and Japanese painted ferns contained by a curve of trenched bricks. For a few weeks each spring, a flush of bridal wreath makes a little heaven above.

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