WRITTEN BY Bek Mitchell-Kidd
GARDEN DESIGN By Amy Pallenberg
Amy Pallenberg was tasked with creating a secret garden for her client inspired by Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic children’s novel, “The Secret Garden.”
The garden style is a combination of coastal and sustainable meadow with formal elements; a balance of colonizing perennials that thrive seaside, wildlife-friendly plantings, and a nod to classic garden features including rose arches and pea-stone paths.
Amy describes the space as “a secret garden for the soul, one that feels like a place to go, and a feeling of nowhere to go once you’ve arrived.”
The large garden is designed into three sections. By arranging it this way, each area serves a purpose and balances the other: rose-arched seating and small dining area, central water feature with benches, and the wall/meadow garden.
The garden provides protection from the strong ocean winds that the estate is exposed to, given its location on the South Shore of Nantucket. Built on the eastern side of the property where dense hedges separate the garden spaces from the main house, there are two entrances to the garden on opposite ends. Labyrinthine in concept, you can’t see what’s beyond your first point of entry. “I believe that having two entrances allows energy to flow through the space unrestricted,” says Amy.
Depending on where you enter the garden, your experience will vary, but both are spectacular and have the water feature centralized. Perfectly at home in the whimsy, the water feature is a French 19th century copper cheese vat. In its new life, it serves resting birds and delivers sensory stimulating water sounds which are both in contrast and in unison with the sound of the nearby crashing ocean waves.
Locally designed steel rose arches provide a shady area for sitting and a dose of nostalgia. Amy planted Rosa “American Pillar,” a vigorous rambling rose, which is disease-resistant and tolerates salt spray. “This rose is abundant with clusters of dark foliage, a pink/white center, and showy yellow stamens. It’s a classic rose, and a go-to for me as it’s guaranteed to cover a space quickly,” says Amy.
Seaside gardens like those in Nantucket need strong plants that flex with the wind and don’t need a lot of support. The environment is salty and windy, and the deer and rabbits are hungry! Amy says, “The perennials I selected are predominantly animal-resistant. This was the main criteria, followed by size, aesthetic, and bloom color. In addition to being the designer, I manage the maintenance of the garden, so I can truly say these plants are easygoing.”
Amy incorporated Munder Skiles’ Wharton Collection furniture which sits perfectly given its natural appearance and timeless vibe. The rounded, flowing form of the pieces seamlessly plays into the rose arches and curves found throughout the garden.
Amy has started to introduce handmade, fine Italian Seibert & Rice pottery, complementary to the Wharton pieces, that contributes to the sense of timelessness in the garden. Meanwhile a kinetic wind sculpture by Lyman Whitaker is mesmerizing and reflects a sense of wonder in the meadow.
The garden is splendid in creativity and scale; perhaps most impressively, it can be enjoyed year-round. Amy concludes, “The garden is such a joy. It’s unique for a special garden to be a hidden surprise that forces you to stop and just breathe in the beauty—it almost holds you hostage. Adding this garden to the property changed how the full estate flows, which we didn’t expect to be so profound. Our growing season is long, as we are closer to the Gulf Stream than the mainland, so we have continual blooms when the plants are managed well.”
Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’
Paeonia ‘Sarah Bernhardt & Bowl of Beauty’
Thymus wooly & citrinoides
Hibiscus ‘Luna Swirl’
Digitalis lanata ‘Cafe Creme’
Digitalis p. ‘Dalmation Creme’
Lychnis ‘Petite Jenny’
Schizachrium s. ‘Standing Ovation’
Buddleia ‘Pugster Blue’
Vitex ‘Shoal Creek’
Buxus ‘Green Gem’
Thyme — at stepping stones
Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’ — threads through the full space, planted with plugs/auger
Clethra a. Hummingbird