Getting into Shape
Gardener brings backyard to life with creative plantings.
By Sue Rockwood, Auburn, New Hampshire
Steve Smith plants everything in his yard with a purpose.
From his colorful layered beds to animal-shaped topiaries featuring the Loch Ness Monster, every little detail counts.
"I like to find something new to do every year in my garden," Steve says. "I love creating new designs and keeping them shaped with plants and flowers."
You can't help but feel childish delight when you're in his Tewksbury, Massachusetts backyard. Around every corner is a surprise and feast for the eyes.
The idea for Steve's garden began 24 years ago because he wanted to connect the three-tier waterfall around his pool to his ponds farther up the hill. He started with the trees, cutting down a few and adding several new varieties throughout the yard.
After he planted those, Steve started filling in the areas with plants. Pretty soon, there were beautiful flower gardens around the trees, pool and the rest of the yard.
Those early years with flowers made quite an impression on Steve. He loved the fact that he could make so many people happy with plants. After that, gardening became a permanent part of his life.
"I love sharing my garden," Steve says.
"I often have visitors from a nearby assisted living center. They bring their box lunches with them and just love spending time in my garden."
Add Life to the Garden
Steve's garden is all about balance and contrast of colors. The different types of trees he has planted stage the background for his flower gardens.
"I love having different shades of greens and yellows, so I get my trees from various nurseries for the best variety," he says.
Steve's secret for achieving the eye-catching symmetry of his gardens goes back to their shapes.
"I trim most of my trees to get them to grow in fuller," he says. "Anything can benefit from the right shape."
Throughout Steve's garden, unique topiaries abound. One of his favorites is a seal that sits near the pool. The seal is balancing a blue glass ball on its nose. And the Loch Ness Monster can't help but impress you with its green and burgundy serpentine body winding through the yard.
"Topiaries can take a long time to fill in, so you need some patience, but they're worth it," Steve says. "My seal took almost 4 years to complete, but my Loch Nest Monster was a bit faster."
Steve arranges his garden to have plenty of contrast so onlookers can appreciate every planting individually.
"The whole yard is like a painting," Steve says. "I arrange my garden with the idea in mind to have open space. Everything looks better if you have a little green in between."
Steve's best tip for keeping an overall healthy garden is to take care of your soil.
"Once you plant something, it's always a good idea to turn the soil when you're weeding," he says. "The flowers grow better if you give more air to the roots and keep the soil loose. For container gardening, I recommend using a soil mix. Adding time-release fertilizer can also make a real difference in plant growth."
It's clear to see that Steve's bliss is in his garden. He puts a lot of tender, loving care and long hours into it, and it shows. From his topiary masterpieces to his bursting flower beds, all the shapes and angles come together perfectly.