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.

July 11, 2013

Private Garden Tour, Part IV

     This is the final post in my Private Garden Tour series, and I have saved the Campbell garden for last because it is my favorite. This in no way means the other gardens are something less, this just happens to be my personal favorite, but this one had an unfair advantage. One of my top favorite trees defines the back garden, and without them it would be an entirely different place.

     The Campbell garden sits on a large lot, compared to its neighbors, and although it is not right on the ocean, it is close enough. The house itself is old by north end Virginia Beach standards and was built in the 1920's. The first thing I noticed when we pulled up was a twisted Japanese black pine that has as much character as the house does. The tree is surrounded by bluestone, boxwoods, self-seeding cosmos, Russian sage, ornamental grasses and larkspur. It is a great mix of restrained and wild, befitting the setting.

Campbell Garden (5)

Campbell Garden (3)

Campbell Garden

Campbell Garden (4)

Campbell Garden (6)

    A walkway on the side led us through an arbor, into the back garden and to a series of sitting, dining and entertainment areas. Most of the back garden sits under a canopy of marvelous live oaks (the favorite tree of mine mentioned earlier). The Campbells apparently love these trees too, as they purchased the lot next door to ensure that nothing would happen to the live oaks. Some of the trees are growing on top of old sand dunes that somewhat form a small valley. A waterfall flows down from one of the dunes and feeds a koi-filled pond at the bottom of the valley. Decking from the back of the house was sensitively built and offers good views and access to what makes this garden special, the oaks.

Campbell Garden (2)

Campbell Garden (8)

Campbell Garden (7)

Campbell Garden (16)

Campbell Garden (19)

Campbell Garden (18)

Campbell Garden (14)

Campbell Garden (33)

Campbell Garden (20)

Campbell Garden (15)

Campbell Garden (35)

Campbell Garden (32)

Campbell Garden (12)

Campbell Garden (26)

Campbell Garden (10)

Campbell Garden (25)

Campbell Garden (38)

Campbell Garden (30)

Campbell Garden (37)

Campbell Garden (34)

     Thank you for tagging along on the tour. If you want to see Part I, Part II or Part III, just click on the hyper-link. If you would like to see the full set of photos, some of which I did not show in these posts, you can visit my Flickr set.  I would also like to thank Meg for organizing the tour and for suggesting it in the first place, my boss for making it happen, and I would especially like to thank all of the gardeners who graciously opened their homes to us.


  1. It really is an extraordinary garden. The complexity of the live oaks and the intricate interweaving of the garden surfaces (stone, wood, water, plants) is quite amazing, quite intricate geometry. I assume that had to have professional landscape architectural help to make all this happen while protecting the trees. For me, the areas without flower (the flowering hydrangeas) look best. The greens complement the trees so well. The colorful hydrangeas seem to compete. I know I'm nitpicking. Beautiful.

  2. Agree Les... The front yard is great, with its reliance on flowering and natural, less on strings of evergreen. The backyard is exceptional, primarily because of the natural structure of the Live Oaks (even if you don't have existing trees to build a landscape around, you can plant them), and they add I think a major part of a garden or landscape. I am still surprised to see so much Fescue used (I think I saw it in some other gardens you posted), and would think this takes a lot of artifice to keep alive. Clearly, the indigenous, unfettered look in a garden/landscape has the greatest appeal.

  3. Oh, and of course, what also makes this garden a little more special? The almost 100 year old home with its classic lines...

  4. Virginia Beach untamed or carefully tamed is truly beautiful. Beautiful photos. Beautiful gatrden.

  5. Yes James, I have been working with the Campbells and their garden for the past 8-9 years. When we began with the front yard master plan, the house had existing enormous and thriving overgrown green Euonymus and city sidewalks that were very low due to years of sand blowing in off the beach (they are the second house off the beach). It's been a wonderful journey to develop their yard and expose the beauty and character of their home, Live Oaks and of course the wonderful windswept Black Japanese Pine (of which pruning in a bonsai style with directive pruning has been a great way to show case it's natural beauty).

  6. Les, I'm not surprised this is your favorite garden because it is one of mine, too. I was fortunate to have Bill as my boss for many years and to this day, he and Meg remain dear friends. I last visited the garden in 2011 and I can see from your excellent photos I need to make a return trip.I love the walkway and those splendid live oaks. It is indeed a paradise ( and the beach is just steps away!)

  7. How lucky they are to have those trees! And they have designed around them so well. I never knew that there were live oaks in the tidewater Va. region, although I left the area after high school. It's nice to become reacquainted through your pictures.

  8. I really like the garden and especially the walkways and hardscape, but what a gorgeous house. Thanks for sharing your photos.

  9. Those trees are wonderful! You are absolutely right: no trees, no garden.

  10. Is this garden tour a new event? What a great collection of gardens. I agree, this garden is those Live Oaks. The huge hydrangea shrubs are something I dream of.

  11. I enjoyed all of your tour posts, Les, and seeing your evocative photos. Thanks for taking us along with you.