The 10th Annual Midtown Garden Stroll-Pt 1

Monday, May 22, 2023

My family and I got the chance to visit gardens on the annual Midtown Garden Stroll for the first time this year, and let me tell you it did NOT disappoint!

I had heard about this event via Instagram maybe a year ago, but did not know it was happening this past weekend, until a friend invited me to go.  We, unfortunately, weren't able to go together, but I am so glad she told me about it.  I told my boys they couldn't come with us girls, lol, but they ended up going with me in the end and we made a family day out of it.

There were so many gardens, that we didn't have time to see them all in the 3 hours that we toured.  I thought that might be the case, so I was glad I had browsed thru the tour brochure posted online before hand to see which gardens I thought would interest me most.  I have a shady yard, so I was looking for ideas and inspiration from gardens that shared that feature.  I didn't get pictures of them all, but I will show you some of my favorites.  I wish I had taken more pictures.  I mean, I took 70, and I still am missing some gardens, lol.  There was so much variety of style in garden design and architecture that made it so interesting, and talking to the gardeners about their gardens was the icing on the cake.  Let's begin, shall we?!

Seal Place | Garden #24

Our first stop was this front yard shade garden on Seal Place.  What a great garden to start with!  

This garden could easily be described as the Shade Gardener's Playbook.  If it were music, it would be a symphony.  It it were food, it would be a fully-loaded taco...and I love a fully -loaded taco.  There was so much variety in such a small space!  

(Cast iron plant making a triumphant comeback!)

The composition...the juxtaposition of plants against each other along with the stonework and pathways...le sigh.  It was ALL. SO. GOOD!  This gardener wasn't outside when we stopped by, but they had graciously placed out water, wine(!), and snacks for stroll guests.  Can you get any kinder than that?    Actually, almost all of the homes offered beyond gracious hospitality to us stroll guests which made the tour that much sweeter.

Seal Place | Garden #23

Next, we walked up the street to Sanna's home where, I actually got to meet the homeowner and see another beautiful shade garden.  The more I talked, the less pictures I took, lol!  So unfortunately, I didn't get many pictures.  But look at that gorgeous gravel and brick path.  She shared that this was a DIY project that she had added this year. 

I loved that she had also made use of natural stone found on the property to DIY some of her smaller stone retaining walls.  Many gardeners had experienced plant damage from the Artic Blast we had in December.  She had lost a gorgeous sweep of star jasmine that had been trained up and over her garage door, but the plant was already growing back up the gate (I forgot the pic!).   So I look forward to seeing how far it's grown next year.  But beautiful garden and gardener nonetheless.

After these two stops we hopped back in the car and drove over to St. Charles Place.

St Charles Ave. | Garden #26

Wow.  Let's just start with that.  This garden, no, this property was gorgeous! As we were walking by, the homeowner's little daughter was out front inviting us to come see the garden in the back.  The homeowner, Elliot, and her daughter were a pleasure to meet. My favorite was the front garden because it lie in the shade of a GIANT oak tree, and it was so well done! The front garden featured a parterre with gravel paths and monster-sized hostas in several varieties surrounding a beautiful planter centerpiece.  That was a nice switch-up from the usual fountain. 

It took me a minute to take in that there's no grass.  It can be incredibly difficult to grow grass under mature oaks, so I love that they haven't fought it.  Surrounding the front garden are azaleas, hydrangeas, boxwoods and flowers.  I loved the variety, but also commitment to a tight plant palette.  It creates beautiful interest and order without being overly formal.  This was the second gravel path we saw.  I inquired about maintenance and the homeowner shared that she is able to blow leaves off of it.  

Going thru to the back garden, we could see why it was probably the little girl's favorite part.  The back garden has been recently renovated to be a beautiful family hangout space. 

Trash cans were neatly tucked behind the little enclosure on the left.

The homeowner shared that she had been inspired to create this 'grow wall' after seeing the concept in different spots around Atlanta.  It's newly planted, but I can only imagine how beautiful it will be as it fills in over the summer.  There was a beautiful dining table and chairs just to the left of this area that I forgot to photograph.  But the homeowner shared how she mixed high/low of the table and chairs, which I loved, because it proves that we all love a good bargain!

If you live in Atlanta, you know that flat yards rarely exist.  The homeowner shared that they had leveled out the yard, creating a kids play area and lovely raised-bed vegetable garden in addition to the amazing patio spaces they had created along the entire back border of the home.   An investment that I'm sure they will enjoy for years to come.

St. Charles Ave. | Garden #25

Sadly, I talked so much here to Tom, that I didn't get a single picture of his amazing vegetable garden, but he was a pleasure to meet.  When you go behind his house and see this lot with the garden, it is nothing you would ever expect to see in the city.  I mean, it's great to have a raised-bed planter and grow vegetables and herbs, but my guy Tom is actually growing corn (and a lot of it!) in addition to all the other plants he has.

He shared that he had moved to his home in 1974...just that fact alone means he had a lot of great Atlanta history to share.  One thing I loved was that his vegetable plot featured tiered garden beds lined with stonework that had been rescued from different parts of the city of Atlanta.  I think now we would call it architectural salvage.  He shared that these huge granite blocks were just being pushed to the side of this demolition site and he loaded up his VW Beetle and made many trips back and forth to bring them back to his garden.  What a labor of love!  And he still gets to enjoy it nearly 50 years later.  

Penn Ave NE | Garden #19

Ok, we decided next to get closer to the market and tour the homes where we could just park and walk to many all at one.  I would also add, parking was not difficult at all even with limited residential parking.
Coming up to this garden, I recognized it from pictures I had seen from the event in previous years.  Actually this garden and the house to the left of it provided such a visual feast that it was hard to decide which to go to first!  You walk up the driveway, and you see this.

But to your left, you see this path inviting you to come on over.  Focus Mel!

Ok, we decided to tour this garden first and then go next door. This garden offered a virtual masterclass in training plants.  I think I counted at least 8 different plants trained over different garden and house structures.  There's a vine trained over the front porch.  Wait, let me back up. Ivy is trained as a ground cover over the front garden.

Then there's this beautiful vine trained over the front porch.  I wonder what this is?

Beautiful plant palette

There was this vine trained over the fence.  

Another vine trained over garage.

Ficus being trained over sculptural forms. What a great idea!  I love this plant as a houseplant, but didn't know it could grow outside.

Along the painted cinderblock back wall, star jasmine was trained over a criss-cross wire pattern.  I imagine their jasmine was damaged in the Artic Blast too, but it's coming back nicely.

That one spot where everyone wants to get a selfie on the garden stroll!

Lovely raised planter, but notice the rose being trained against the fence.  And I didn't get a picture, but there was a tree espaliered against the wall to the right as well.

This garden style was definitely more formal, but all of the trained vines and plants made it still feel very inviting and warm.  It had formality without any stuffiness.

Penn Ave NE | Garden #18

Walking back down the driveway of the house above, you begin to tour the garden of this house next door.  This was the home of Susan and Chris who were a pleasure to talk to as well.  This home is DRIPPING with charm.  From the house's color palette, to the plant choices, to the way it's perfectly nestled into the landscape on this narrow lot...this property was garden perfection.  Love has been poured into this property from the edge of the curb to the tip of the back fence.  It was absolutely stunning.

I'm trying to analyze, why did I love this garden so much?  I think because it's a masterfully executed and maintained southern shade garden.  There were so many different varieties of shade loving plants.  I often feel limited because most of the plants I love won't grow in shade, but I am expanding my horizons.  There was so much for me to learn here.

I also love what I call a 'nestle and tuck' know, that cozy, warm, welcoming vibe.  And this house just has all of that to me.  Ok, enough of me going on and on.  Let's see pics!

These were all just from coming back down the neighbor's driveway.

Now we're back at the front of the house and garden.  Let's go up the front walkway, shall we?

A beautiful gingko tree underplanted with gardenia and a shrub behind it that I meant to ask the name of.

There's that pathway again leading back over to the neighbor's driveway.

Gorgeous planters flanking both sides of the porch entrance.

That same pathway from the neighbor's driveway crosses the center pathway and goes down the other side of the yard leading to the sidewalk of this corner lot.  Loved these unique stepping stones!

Gorgeous spreading yew!  I just got some of these plants last year.  Can't wait to see them mature.

Gorgeous azaleas along the street-side of the home leading back towards the rear garden gate entrance.  Their azaleas were so full and lush, it's made me realize I need to embrace pruning more to encourage mine to fill out more.  Also in speaking with Susan, she shared that she uses Hollytone to fertilize her azaleas.  When I asked her how they had fared after the Artic Freeze, she said that some had put their energy towards plentiful blooms and perhaps weren't as full, and others had put their energy into foliage and didn't have many blooms this year.  This was a good perspective to hear, because I have a few azaleas that are looking a bit sparse, and this may be the explanation for it.  All of her azaleas looked beautiful, though.

This lovely little planter was holding the garden gate open, and the chocolate colored plant caught my eye.  I had to 'google lens' what it was.  Turns out it's a chocolate variety of creeping jenny! 

Lysimachia Congestiflora

One final picture, from inside the back garden.  I loved the color of this decking with the red brick pavers.  I imagine that it's wood, but perhaps not had a beautiful, more refined grain to it.  Once inside, I was looking around and started talking to the homeowners, and by now you know what happened.  I didn't take anymore pictures.  But it was lovely as well!

I think I will take a breath here and share the other gardens we toured in a second post since this one is already quite long.  There's about three more gardens that I have to share.  (Psst!--Click here for Part 2) One was behind a gated courtyard.  Like, you would never get to see this garden unless you knew the homeowner and yet here it was open to the public this one day!  And our last stop of the day included an exterior renovation that had the gentlest, warmest version of black and white pallet I think I have ever seen.  I really should have asked them their paint colors.  The best way I can describe it's like they took the sharpness of a square and sanded down the corners.  Anyways, I will share those soon.

We made sure to thank every host we met for opening their home and sharing their garden with us.  I know that it takes a LOT of work and expense to cultivate and grow a beautiful garden.  So, for these homeowners to open their doors to the public and not just invite, but welcome, us in was just so kind.  There was a lot of foot traffic, so I'm sure even with the best of guests, perhaps a few plant stems were broken or inadvertantly stepped on by a guest or two.  But oh, the magic, the inspiration, and the beauty they've allowed us to be surrounded by was a gift this spring!  And I look forward to making this an annual tradition of Strolling the Midtown Gardens!  

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