Sharry Wood's yard in Hampton is a shining example of how one can take a rectangle of grass and turn it into an attractive, personal space that is simultaneously restful and rejuvenating.
The first lesson is the power of "bit by bit" actions. That is, just begin. If the front of your house is lined with a row of overgrown evergreens, take them out and replace them with something you like better. That's what Wood did.
Then, keep at it. Wood jumped her sidewalk and planted a border of flowers along the concrete. That is the key: Use any kind of a "backdrop" — the sides of your house, a fence, a tree or a mailbox — as a place to put plants. Outline the bed with pavers or rocks, if desired.
The final step in this "bit by bit" approach is to simply dive boldly into your yard where there is no backdrop.
You can see for yourself how Wood did this on Saturday, June 22, when her Hampton yard will be one of five open for tours in a fundraiser sponsored by the Silvis Garden Club.
Other takeaways from the Wood yard:
• Plan for color. In sunny areas, you have lots of choices for colorful flowers, and Wood has a wide variety, from bush roses (a favorite) to yarrow, columbine and salvia.
In shady areas, you're more limited, but Wood has planted hostas that are more than green. They're yellow-green, blue-green, variegated and so forth.
Wood also plans for three-season color, with bulbs scattered about for spring and mums and ornamental grasses that come into their own in fall.
And always, she has lots of containers filled with colorful annuals.
• Plan for height, structure. Throughout her yard you'll find plants with height — tiger-eyed sumac, Japanese maple, weigela, rhododendrons and spirea. She also has several trellises for clematis and other vining plants.
• Add interest with objects, if desired. Wood enjoys shopping markets for vintage items "and then I just started putting stuff on the fence," she said.
Among the finds: an 1800s metal ceiling square, an old door, the tines of a metal garden rake and three bright red stars.
She also has a decorative birdhouse collection, several houses hanging from a clothesline pole, while others are arranged on the ground in a mulched planting bed.
Two old chairs are stationed in strategic spots, their seats overflowing with colorful annual flowers in pots.
• Install lights for nighttime beauty. A rhododendron is laced with Christmas lights, while there are poke-in-the-ground solar lights in a planting bed.
• Deter rabbits. Wood sprinkles moth balls on the ground. She says it works!
• Add anything that increases the enjoyment of your space. That's one of the reasons you have a yard, right?
This includes a nice sitting area. For Wood and her husband Travis, these areas began with a concrete patio, then expanded to a large deck off the kitchen and then grew with the extension of the patio with pavers.
In recent years Wood added a small fountain for a soothing, bubbly sound, and a fire pit. Does she use the pit? Oh, yes, especially in fall when the days are cooler. And the grandchildren — there are five — come over to roast marshmallows and hotdogs.
What does Wood like most about gardening? "I just like the looks of it when it's done," she said. "I like the flowers."