Each year, Hammond-Harwood House, an Anglo-Palladian historic house and museum in downtown Annapolis, affords the area’s voyeurs access to charming gardens hidden away behind its diminutive houses. Thirteen lovely gardens, some tiny, some grand, provide myriad gardening ideas and the pure enjoyment of seeing green spaces only the homes’ owners usually enjoy.
The self-guided tour starts with the Hammond-Harwood House’s own sweeping garden, an elegant space dating from the mid-nineteenth century. Down the street behind the Annapolis Bookstore (indie bookstore lovers take note: it’s well worth a visit, especially with kids) is a fanciful garden filled with a “book house,” made, yes, of books, and various fairy-tale creatures tucked among the hydrangeas and daylilies. We ran into the owner, Mary Adams, who, when asked if she’d made the garden herself, demurred, “Yes, but I had help.” From elves, no doubt. www.annapolisbookstore.com.
Next stop was the Two-O-One Bed and Breakfast on Prince George Street, part of which dates from 1740 as outbuilding for the “baby” Brice house next door. In 1780 it was expanded and given to a member of the Stockett family, who owned it until 1985. A sunny garden room opens up to a pathway leading to a large greenhouse, built by Adam Hill, the last of the Stockett family owners, who was known for growing chrysanthemums. An outdoor dining table under a porch sits by a pond full of huge koi who share it with some handsome terrapins. www.201bb.com
The garden behind the Chase-Lloyd House at 22 Maryland Avenue is a sweeping space featuring a twenty-year-old hosta garden sheltered by exotic zelcova, scholar, and goldenrain trees. But the best part of the garden was the old woman who joined us on one of the benches to chat. She’ll turn 90 in December and she swore she could not figure out how she’d gotten so old. She grew up on a 300-acre farm in Montgomery County and lives, not far from her children, in the “Chase House,” as it’s now known, a residence for elderly women established by Hester Ann Chase Ridout in 1886. Ms. Chase hoped the generations of women who lived in the house would “find a retreat from the vicissitudes of life.” Our lovely lady seemed vicissitude-free to us.
Once the kitchen to the Chase-Lloyd House, 235 King George Street is now home to Kathryn and Rev. Richardson Libby. The Reverend, president of the Hammond-Harwood House Association, greeted us as we entered this tiny front garden space (not exactly a “secret”) through the rose-covered archway. Boxwood, peonies, weeping cherry, and an espaliered apple tree flourish under the watchful eye of St. Francis. The Rev. admitted to enjoying people-watching on King George Street while sitting in his pocket garden.
Next came 248 King George Street: Updated recently to join the upper and lower gardens, the rather formal space features an art deco-style fountain, the style of which is echoed in the carriage house’s medallion. The handsome garden gates reminded us of ones we’d seen in Oaxaca, Mexico. As I drooled over the carriage house as a potential writing space, I asked the owner what work he did in the office and he said, “not much.” Nice work if you can get it. . .
154 Prince George Street showed us a very different garden, all informality, intimacy, and homey experimentation. The garden perimeter is defined by magnolia and holly, with fig trees, roses and hydrangeas throughout. Potted plants give the garden scale and add to the feeling of being nestled in a bouquet of lemon/lime, kumquat, and gardenia.
Down the street at 221 Prince George, the owners have brilliantly employed mirrors to expand the space. Using a mantelpiece inset with mirror was a clever welcoming touch. The sunny garden rooms are framed in pyracantha, dogwoods, and snowflake viburnum.
The artist’s studio at 220 King George Street has convinced me to redouble my efforts to find a writing space, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to find one with a view of the Naval Academy Chapel Dome.
A triplex built in the mid-to-late 19th century by an admiral for his three daughters, the house at 244 King George Street is often referred to as “The Porches.” The focal point of the garden here is a refreshing bit of modernism in this very antique city, a sculpture called “Family Gathering,” by Monk.
Built between 1761 and 1764, the Peggy Stewart House at 207 Hanover Street opens out onto just under half an acre of camellias, nandinas, and boxwoods – a leafy retreat in the middle of the city. On the terrace are potted hibiscus, mint, fig, and rosemary. The program tells us that the unusual large shrub (or small tree) is an osmanthus, or “false holly,” which has two leaf shapes on the same plant. Under the osmanthus are ginger and hellebores. A one-time swimming pool has been filled in to create a shade garden with a birdbath. Much less risk of liability, one presumes, from bathing birds than humans. And the upkeep is much less expensive.
See you there next year? www.HammondHarwoodHouse.org