Anyone walking past Jerry and Georgia Martin’s two joined, brick townhouses near the American Visionary Art Museum would never suspect that a breathtaking terraced garden thrives inside the vine-covered fence.
“‘Urban Italian,’ is how I describe it,” says Georgia, a CPA and voracious gardener who has turned into a knowledgeable horticulturist since she and her husband moved here five years ago. She also has turned a steep, rocky hillside into a lush garden that erupts with colorful trees, shrubbery, perennials and annuals, many planted in terra cotta and glazed pots of all sizes.
Georgia’s friend and former fellow Park School trustee, Carol Macht, landscape architect of Hord Coplan Macht Inc., designed the walled garden with a sweeping series of stairs that connect the various levels. The first set of steps matches the bluestone patio at the top, which is bordered by a kitchen garden that overflows with herbs and vegetables. The brick house, the stone walls and the patio hold the sun’s warmth, while the oven vent emits heat from the house— so this kitchen garden grows well into winter. “I have rosemary in January!” says Georgia.
Much of the year Georgia and her attorney husband, and sometimes one of their two sons, eat dinner on the patio under a red umbrella strung with twinkling white lights. “This view on the Fourth of July, with the fireworks over the harbor and the boats, is pure magic,” says Georgia.
So is the view of her gardens below. After crossing bluestone rectangles edged with carefully cultivated moss, visitors descend a curve of fieldstone steps carpeted with emerald green mazus. On one side of the steps is a woodland garden planted with cryptomeria, river birch trees and winterberry. On the other side a pair of crape myrtle trees— one pink and one white— anchors two beds of summer blooms: yellow lantana, purple scaevola, zinnias, pots of flaming orange cannas and magenta petunias.
“Carol’s idea was throwing in these bricks every once in a while to tie the wall in with the house,” says Georgia, pointing to the occasional rustic brick embedded in the fieldstone wall holding the bed.
This touch of brick adds to the Italian flavor of the garden, as do the cypress and arborvita trees planted at the bottom of the stairs to provide privacy for the hot tub. The couple uses the tub all winter, and regardless of their status as city dwellers, they spend as much time as possible outdoors.
“It’s like being in the most exotic spa,” says Georgia, as she takes in the view of leyland cypress and arborvitae, nandina, winterberry and holly bushes on a summer day. “We have an entire ecosystem here.”
A mourning dove perches on a nest above the balcony, where wisteria twines and Boston ivy climbs the brick walls. A butterfly lands on a stand of white phlox. Benny, the kitten, chases a Japanese beetle through pots on the stone wall.
A distinctly urban cacophony, however, intrudes upon the garden serenity, as pile drivers push steel beams into the earth for the townhouses being constructed along Key Highway. The Martins have known ever since they moved in that one day they would lose the broad panorama of waterfront. But they’ll never lose the majestic views of their own garden paradiso.