You may have noticed the sunny garden on Plymouth Boulevard, surrounded by nine pineapple guava trees and the charming antique wrought iron gate that begs you to enter. But what you can’t see from the street is the quaint courtyard garden featuring a bubbling fountain surrounded by exuberant flowers. Perfectly sited, the garden room offers a delightful view from the inside living room window.
This lovely front garden belongs to Debra Knowles who considers it as much a personal gift to the neighborhood as well as the gardener who nurtures it.
Designers Cheryl Lerner and Judy Horton designed the garden in 1996 for Knowles and her two young boys who starting their new life after a divorce. “We had six weeks to get all the work done on the house and then I spent the next year planning the garden,” said Knowles. “I wanted a place that would magical and fun.”
The back and side yards are full of sun loving fruit trees and veggies. Right now there are tomatoes, squash, lettuce, blackberries, blueberries, mulberries, two varieties of apples, quince, citrus, figs, grapes and a slew of herbs.
Over the years, Knowles has added to the garden, replacing plants that didn’t work, simplifying some sections and adding a wonderful tapestry of balls and cones to the parkway which were inspired by other elements of the garden.
Judy Horton recalls it was the last garden she and Lerner worked on together. They are still good friends but work separately, and it was the first garden where she used Little Ollie as a hedge. Little Ollie Dwarf Olive (Olea europaea ‘Montra’) is so popular now but then it was mostly used as ornamental elements, never as a hedge. Once the oleander hedge died in the back, Knowles replaced it with Little Ollie.
“Debra was on a very tight budget so we laid out the design and supervised the installation but she found all the garden elements, like the fountain and the front gates,” said Horton. “We knew she had great taste and it would all work out.”
“I’ve gotten so much from this garden over the years,” said Knowles. “It’s a dynamic place where something is always happening.” Over time Knowles has come to appreciate the design and the wonderful plant palette Horton is known for, which wondrously unfolds season after season.
“I have learned that plants don’t always work but this garden has such an excellent structure that it looks great even when I don’t always have time to attend to it,” said Knowles.
Now, she is taking her experience to another garden. Knowles is starting another chapter in her life, the young boys are grown, and she will be passing the garden along to another family with a young child.