A lovely site within view of the Patuxent River in Calvert County is the winner of our magazine’s Most Beautiful Garden contest. It was designed and built by Chloe Ewalt with assistance from her husband, Bart. Their garden boasts a nicely executed design, full season elements of interest, wildlife considerations, diverse plantings, and a place to sit and enjoy it all.
Chloe and Bart Ewalt built their home in 1996 and in 2001 Chloe created an English cottage garden. Chloe is the designer of the garden and responsible for all of the planting, Bart built the infrastructure.
“I was inspired by the gardens at Mount Vernon and Monticello as well as an island garden I saw on the Isle of Shoals in New Hampshire owned by Celia Thaxter,” she says.
Chloe’s first inclination for her garden design was formality, but as she began the process it changed into the informal cottage garden style that it is today mainly, as she says, because it is more fun.
“One day I was so delighted when I had some little girls come for a visit, and they came running into the house when they discovered the ‘secret garden’ at the bottom of the hill. Ever since then I’ve enjoyed seeing the garden through the eyes of my friends. Some enjoy counting the boxwood, while others just take time to smell the lilies,” she says. “Friends particularly enjoy relaxing while sipping a glass of tea under the wisteria-covered gazebo, and listening to the splashing water in the fountain.”
Chloe started her English cottage garden with a picket fence that she and Bart installed themselves. That first year they also placed two of six raised beds, and she planted them with a variety of perennials and annuals. Each bed was lined with boxwood cuttings from Monticello. The following year two more raised beds were added, and a circular herb garden created from old brick salvaged from a family home on the Patuxent river that was destroyed by the British in the War of 1812. A lovely tiered fountain in the center coaxes birds from the woods. In bed three and four, pear trees anchor the center of each. Bed five and six were added the following year and feature peach trees in the center. Boxwood lined each raised bed to provide some formality, and plants that bloom from early spring to fall filled the beds in.
All six raised beds are filled with three-season plantings such as spring bulbs, climbing hydrangeas, larkspur, foxglove, peonies, Asiatic and Oriental lilies, iris, daylilies, climbing roses, phlox, bee balm, Rudbeckia, coneflowers, asters, mums, coreopsis, herbs, tomato, pepper, and other vegetable plants.
“I encourage natural re-seeding to create the informal cottage effect mixed in with the formal aspect of the boxwood. I think our fruit trees and berries offer another cottage essential,” she says.
Historical elements abound in their English cottage garden such as a family farm millstone dating back to the early 1800s, a small grinding stone from Maine, a reproduction of a sundial from Monticello, and an old granite monolith that Bart believes predates colonization.
Architectural elements providing winter interest for their garden include the fountain, gazebo, garden gate and the trellis that frames it, as well as bird feeders, urns, and an obelisk.
Chloe’s future projects include restoring a rescued column from the historic Dorsey home in Calvert County; starting and maintaining a bee hive to aid with pollination, and enlarging the vegetable garden. “I’d also like to add mass plantings with azaleas and hydrangeas on the outside of the fenced area to expand the garden’s border,” she says.
The Ewalt’s English cottage garden is best enjoyed by them when they break for tea in the garden gazebo during the summer months listening to the soothing water falling, birds calling, and the fragrance of the lilies in bloom.