Saturday, August 13, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm – Marblehead Open Day Garden Tour

Join the Garden Conservancy on Saturday, August 13, from 10 – 4 in lovely Marblehead on the North Shore.  The first garden (although you may visit the gardens in any order) is Grey Gulls, at 429 Ocean Avenue. This stretch of craggy coastline presents a challenging environment to the garden owner, not least because of winter winds so harsh that wattle fences are required to protect the plantings. Nonetheless, hundreds of unusual annuals, perennials, and bulbs now thrive here. A whimsical vegetable garden was installed recently featuring heirloom varieties, vines climbing fancifully over wooden obelisks, and delectable berries. The surplus of this latter crop finds its way into homemade liquors gifted to friends during the cold winter months. Even the design of the garden reflects a consciousness of its unique location, with sinuous beds mirroring the surrounding curves of shore and sea. By collaborating with the environment, one is provided with a rich horticultural experience as well as the excitement of experiencing the beauty of raw nature.

A very different environment will be found at the Fettyplace-Bowden House on 15 Waldron Court. This exemplary early eighteenth-century house has been little changed through time, but its land has become much smaller. For the best multiple use of the outdoor spaces, to accommodate a lot of plants, and to be a good gathering place for groups of people, the heart of the property was made more level. Local stone, ancient cut granite, and bluestone were used to create raised and sunken planting beds, a patio, and paths.Hand-cut granite inserts and stone framed existing tree grades and ledge outcrops make the areas around them plantable. Stone walls became seating and setting-down places by design. A lavishly planted roof sits on top of a wood storage alcove, sending flowering cascades down to decorate this stacked splitwood “wall,” making double use of that place. The garden is populated by a great diversity of favorite plants. Colonies of many prized and unusual perennials, edibles, overwintered annuals, shrubs and trees cover every available piece of ground. Narrow vines enhance the walls and fences in all possible locations. Dwarf conifers, late flowering shrubs, vines and perennials will be among your greeters. Two planted granite troughs and a rain chain to stone interface enliven the entryway.

At 19 Circle Street, visit The Parable (Ellen Cool’s garden.) In the oldest part of Marblehead alongside a 1720 house is a garden gate leading into gardens of diverse stone and plant materials. It has been designed to be naturalistic and compositionally satisfying in all seasons. This landscape represents a gathering of the longest blooming and otherwise particularly pleasing hardy perennials and rock garden plants. Long established dwarf and unusual trees, shrubs and vines are also featured and a large collection of planted stone and hypertufa troughs may spark some ideas you can readily use in your own place. This is the working space as well as the display garden of a landscape designer, so the garden buildings, stone features, tools, books and working systems may provide inspiration for your garden work. The summer of 2011 will be the thirtieth anniversary of Stone Garden Designs, Ellen’s landscape design company.

Tickets may be ordered online at, or may be purchased on site the day of the tour.

The Parable -Ellen Cool's Garden, Marblehead, MA.