Saturday, August 20, 2011

Janie and Tom's City Garden

Our friends, Janie and Tom, have built an amazing garden oasis on the southeastern-most tip of the town of Winthrop.

Winthrop is an ocean-side community built on a 1.6 square mile peninsula that marks the entrance to Boston Harbor. A densely populated community, many of the homes have been built along steep, narrow, roads on hillsides that descend to Crystal Cove and the Sound.

View down the hill from their steps, to the Soun
Winthrop is a blend of all the best things associated with San Francisco, Rye, Ogunquit, and Hampton without the arcades, commercialism, and mobs of tourists.

Situated just across the harbor from Logan International Airport, jumbo jets thunder overhead as they fly out over the ocean from the airport. I love it.

The homes are mostly spacious, year round residences occupying very small lots with postage stamp yards.

On these tiny house lots, the only way to gain additional living space was to build up, and a lot of the homeowners have added second and third stories to their homes over the years. And like Janie's and Tom's, most of the yards we saw were carefully and creatively landscaped to make the most of the limited space available.

Tom and Janie's home is built almost on the street, with a narrow side yard and steps from the sidewalk to the entrance.

In the tiny side yard, they've created a wonderful garden with a strong Japanese influence dominated by a Japanese pine that shades a wonderful dry river bed of white stones dotted with light blue stones that give the illusion of water.

Janie commented that they originally wanted to put in an actual water feature but the piping would have been so complicated, they decided to go with the "faux" look. She found the blue stones that give it the true "feel" of water at the Christmas Tree Shop.

Although their waterless water feature has been there for years, I found it ironic that only days before visiting them, Debra Lee Baldwin posted a Garden Designer's Roundtable: The Suggestion of Water on Gardening Gone Wild, one of my favorite gardening web sites.

Built into a hill, Janie and Tom's back yard is a walled garden, the wall being a retaining wall supporting the yard and home beyond theirs.

What they've done with this very small area is truly astounding. Not a single square inch has escaped Janie's artistic eye and Tom's creative use of everything and anything that appeals to him. They've managed to fit a generous patio, water garden, raised vegetable and herb beds, perennials, and many touches of whimsy into less than 200 square feet of garden space and created a welcoming, fun place to relax with friends.

The patio is faced with pavers and is roomy enough for dinner. Shaded by a huge pear tree, a portable umbrella is tucked out of the way but handy enough when additional shade is needed.
The water garden is tucked into a corner but the sound of running water is audible throughout the area, helping to block out the sounds of the neighborhood. Tom's urn, leaning against the garden wall caught my eye.

The back wall of the main garden area has grapes, vegetables, herbs and perennials spanning its length.
A small jog on the left, behind a neighbor's garage, is filled with raised beds full of vegetables and herbs. A bench tucked into a corner (out of view) provides a  quiet place to escape to with a good book.

The back side of a neighbor's garage provides support for tall perennials and a place to display charming flea market and vacation finds and even a bonsai tree.


Every knickknack and decorative  piece tells a story and we spent an enjoyable afternoon hearing how and where each was acquired. This wall separates their yard from the next home up the hill from theirs.


An amazingly unique planter, I love the way the plant forms the "hair".

An adorable pup has mistaken her pot of annuals for a fire hydrant!

Like me, Janie has filled her beds with a mix of annuals, perennials, and vegetables - a true kitchen garden.

In the front of their home, Tom and Janie used blocks and pavers to build a curved stairway and a narrow flower bed that extend from the street to their porch. Pots of plants are thriving and add softness and color to the hardscape.


Tom and Janie did all the work in their yard themselves and decorated it with treasures acquired during their travels, as gifts, and from flea market finds. The haven they've created is rich with memories and whimsical touches that reflects their taste and personalities and is the perfect place to entertain or simply spend a relaxing afternoon.


  1. Very pretty gardens and I like the decorations they use.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

  2. Love the waterless water feature! And that they use the walls, too, for plantings. Very imaginative, with some great ideas. Love that little dog statue!

  3. Tom and Jane did a fantastic job with the space they had. I love their yard, and all the love and work that went into it. Thanks for sharing such wonderful photo's.

  4. It is always a pleasure to explore a garden so full of personality. Your friends have done a great job with their small space. I love the 'blue water' in the waterless feature! And I see the Lady pot of my Lady Garden has a pretty cousin!

    I also enjoyed seeing all the wonderful blooms in your August garden. It is fabulous. I'm afraid only a few heat loving shrubs and some annuals dare bloom here for me.

  5. Your friends garden is very welcoming and charming. Also, I must say what a great place to live.

  6. So many points of interest in such a small space!
    I agree with others -the waterless feature is awesome!

  7. Thank you all so much for the lovely comments about Janie and Tom's garden. Yes, it is truly fun and full of quaint little things that give it incredible charm. I was also impressed with how they used the walls both in front and in the back as planters.

    It's nice for us to have friends who enjoy gardening and take as much pride in their garden as we do ours!

    And Deb, I thought of you immediately when I saw her pot! I simply must find one of my own!


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