A yard goes from a dirt patch to a perennial paradise


Built for Entertaining

“Maintaining the gardens takes me about 60 hours per week, but I love it!” –Joyce Hannaford. Natick, Massachusetts

Joyce Hannaford is a great person to reach during peak growing season. She says that she no longer takes her phone outside. “I left my phone in Zone 12 the last time I went outside, luckily before the sprinklers started.”

Are you curious about the location of that zone on the map? Joyce divided her third-of an-acre yard into 12 irrigation zones, each connected to a 150-foot deep well. However, she still lugs 100 feet worth of hose around her garden. “I love to soak plants. It’s late at night. It is very relaxing. It makes me look at things more closely.

Shown: Joyce Hannaford, homeowner, created two brick gathering areas after clearing her yard, which had been neglected for many years. They are surrounded by conifers, curved stone walls and azaleas.

Constant Garden Surveillance

Joyce may be asking friends how she could work harder than she has. Joyce’s first attempt to bring the yard back to life was 12 years ago when she planted 70 daylilies that were passed on by a friend. Since then, Joyce has been able to pack annuals and perennials into every inch. She simply states, “This is my passion,” adding that she used to consider work a way of supporting her growing habit before she retired. She can’t even tell you how much she has spent over the years. She adds, “I don’t want to know.”

Passion, not pastime

Others collect art, play poker or spend their entire day on Facebook. Joyce, a Franconia native, grew up in a garden and remembers the 10-pound zucchini that it produced for her first-grade show-and tell. Few things can be as satisfying as seeing a patch of earth grow. She’s now more interested in flower than food production, and has a lot of reliable bloomers. Last summer, she saw 875 daylilies flower simultaneously.

Shown: A grass path cuts its way through ‘Becky’ Shasta daisies and ‘Have Time’ daylilies.

Taken apart and put back together

Joyce and Charlie bought their home with a yard that was mostly overgrown and filled with spindly cedars. Joyce states that after making the necessary repairs inside, she began tearing down the yard. It looked like a logging company back there. The remaining trees, bushes and daylilies were removed or moved to new locations, opening the way for two brick patios connected by stone steps. This was followed by an avalanche in color.

Joyce says that she drove across New England in a mad rush to find the best flowers and combinations. She eventually settled with a local nursery where she loaded up her tarp-lined SUV every day.

Shown: The layered perennial bed shown on the left begins with mounding of ‘David’s Lavender’ Phlox, and then gains height with Little Goldstar’ black-eyed Susans. Finally, it rises to near eye level with?Party Queen’ and?Chicago Rosy’ daylilies.

Never finished

She was caught one morning in May and ticked off her list. “I need to purchase more stones for the water feature. Then I’m off for the nursery for impatiens. Next, I’ll stop at a trade school that teaches gardening and sells plants to raise money. There is a German ivy that I can’t find at the nursery, and they have colored geraniums available in odd lots. Five whiskey half-barrels were made from the impatiens. The ivy and Geraniums were to be used in a row window boxes with automatic misters.

Shown: Red pelargonium and magenta celosia are found in this container. The Persian shield is also present.

Growing to Share

Is it too much to ask? Joyce, a member of the local garden club, says that “gardeners are all cut from one cloth.” She loves nothing more than to re-plant plants she has lost. We don’t garden just to enjoy it. It’s a shared effort. She says, “There is always more to be learned.”

Shown: From the driveway, the path to the patio is lined with hot pink, crimson and white impatiens, foliage plants, such as hosta ‘Minuteman,’ and lambs’ ears. This grouping also includes rudbeckia and oriental lilies. A weeping vine emerges from a raised Terra-cotta planter. And a Japanese maple whose rusty red leaves echo the wax begonias that hover behind the hosta.

Enjoyed By Many

Joyce is a meticulous note-taker and amateur photographer. She takes her iPad to the garden to adjust and record her plants. She will happily stop her hori-hori garden knife for a few moments to share tips with other gardeners. One of these strangers was a bicyclist, who she now considers a friend and resource.

Shown: A view from the garden house. It is framed by a ‘Scintillation ‘rhododendron and a Delaware Valley White azalea.

In Memoriam

Joyce invites around 80 people to celebrate the garden’s most flowering days in mid-July. They are greeted by a row of brownish-red, flat stepping stones that lead to a SUSAN’S WAY inscription. Joyce was close to Susan, and they had collected the stones from Franconia together during their last trip. Joyce dedicated this area to Susan’s memory in 2005 after she died from ovarian cancer.

Susan’s Way

Joyce recalls that Joyce loved Joyce’s visit because she said she never knew what she’d see. It was always a surprise. “The garden is constantly evolving.”

As with any well-lived and well-tended life.

As guests enter the garden, they are greeted by a path that is marked “SUSAN’S WAY”, in memory of a friend.

Here are a few of her favorite things

Full sun is required for oriental lilies, as well as well-draining soil. They produce stunning blooms that last weeks, which is not the case with daylilies.

In July and August, double pink flowers with white margins are open on 4-foot stems.


In July and August, wide white flowers with pink dots are open on 3-foot stems.


Stems can reach 6 feet in height in August and September, when wine-red flowers with white edges bloom.


Dia is the Editorial Assistant at dialogoreligioso.org, covering Exterior, Kitchen, home Yard, Poolhouse, and more.

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