An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

June 6, 2011

Old Towne Garden Tour

This past Saturday I attended The Secret Garden Tour in Old Towne Portsmouth.  Most of the houses in Old Towne are flush to the front sidewalk and are separated from their neighbors by narrow passageways that lead to small intimate back gardens.  The gardens on the tour had several things in common besides their size.  They were all attached to houses that were over 100 years old, there were many potted containers in use, and most of the gardens were paved with old bricks and cobblestones (likely brought here as ship's ballast).  A couple of the gardens on the tour have been the victims of damaging floods over the past couple of years, but you would not have known it on Saturday.  Despite their similarities each of these gardens was a unique expression of the gardener(s), and there was little evidence someone else did the work for them.

Old Towne Garden Tour (4)

Old Towne Garden Tour (2)

Old Towne Garden Tour (7)

Old Towne Garden Tour (3)

Gardenia jasminoides
Gardenia jasminoides (2)

Red Lincoln

Yarrow (Achillea)

Queen Anne's Lace (Daucus carota)
Daucus carota

Several Hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla)
Hydrangea asst.

Old Towne Garden Tour (5)

Coral Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens)
Lonicera sempervirens

Old Towne Garden Tour (6)

The last garden I visited was the largest on the tour, and it was the only one to have a lawn.  However, the lawn was made of Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon japonicus) with the edges defined by taller, uncut Mondo surrounding a larger area of cut Mondo.  In the center of the lawn was one of the most impressive Crape Myrtles (Lagerstroemia) I have ever seen.

Mondo Grass Lawn

Old Towne Garden Tour (8)

Braided Oleander (Nerium oleander)
Nerium oleander

If you have are a regular follower of this blog, you know I visit Old Towne frequently and once lived there.  You can see my previous visits to the neighborhood here and here.


  1. I wish there was a close up of the mondo lawn. It looks like regular grass. I have been thinking of doing something similar. Love the first photo--deceivingly simple look--and the honeysuckle shadows.

  2. I love garden tours - this looks like a really nice one.

  3. I do love Old Towne. That Mondo lawn is interesting. I had hoped before we moved to show you around Ft. Monroe. There are some really mature Crape Myrtles on post, in addition to a number of centuries old Live Oak.
    Interesting to see Coral Honeysuckle blooming now, with the Gardenias, mine was done a while ago, but the Gardenias are in full swing.

  4. In the mid 80s I was working for a company that specialized in fire and flood restoration work. A kitchen fire in one of those lovely old homes brought me to Old Towne for the first time. I was amazed!

  5. Thanks for the glimpses of your garden tour. Love the idea of a mondo lawn. And the picture of the honeysuckle is wonderful!

  6. Wow! I haven't been in Old Towne in over 10 years. I'm obviously overdue! What a beautiful tour. Makes me hanker for home.

  7. Yesterday and today have been unbelievably hot and humid. Most unusual for the shore of Lake Michigan. Since it is way to hot to work in the Gardens at Waters East, it is a good time to catch up on your Blog and other Blogs I am following. Nice to join you on your garden tour of the homes. I always enjoy seeing what others are up to. Thanks. Jack

  8. Beautiful gardens. Everything is so neat and tidy. I often think I would get less overwhelmed with a smaller garden, but the grass is always greener (unless it's mondo grass). Can't believe the Crape Myrtle!

  9. These are my favorite type of gardens. I love the age of their surroundings and the fact that people work in them themselves. As for the crapemyrtle, waaah. That's all I have to say.

    Seriously, thanks so much for showing these off. Love the mondo lawn.~~Dee

  10. Thanks for taking us on your tour. I love those contained gardens and that vintage car. It was nice to see bright blue skies on this grey day too.

  11. Carolyn,
    It did look like a regular lawn and I did not think twice about it until I overheard one of the Master Gardeners talking about it.

    It was nice, especially so that all the gardens were in walking distance of each other.

    As you might remember I do a Crape Myrtle post every July for Bloom Day, so I may have to get on base this year to see those specimens. FYI, there is a real push on both sides of the aisle here to have Ft. Monroe declared a national park. Keep your fingers crossed.

    I know what you mean about being amazed. It is probably Tidewater's best kept secret.

    Sometimes when I take a picture I know it will look good, and this was the case with the honeysuckle.

    It has become quite the place, not only to stroll around, but there are lots of places that tempt you leave them some money in exchange for good food, drink or treasures.

    I appreciate that you have been following along. Please come by anytime, but be forwarned it is hot and humid here as well.

    My garden is not quite as small as most on the tour, but close. I am at the point now that when I get a new plant, something else must be pulled or something died to make room for the newbie.

    I know, I love that lawn too. It has possibilities as replacement for that dreaded thirsty, fertilizer hungry and herbicide loving fescue.

    That car was amazing and freshly waxed as well.


  12. Love that honeysuckle against the green clapboards. And I am always a sucker for simplicity like the garden with the mondo grass. I used to live in a house that had about a 3' deep lawn and liked the benefit of being right out there where folks see you and you see them. Adds a real sense of community.