This month I had the pleasure of visiting the home garden of Natalie Gentry of Chesapeake City. Natalie has been gardening her entire life with the guidance from her greatest inspiration — her mom. When this vibrant and charming lady is not hosting large family gatherings by her pool or helping to organize community events, she can be found tending to her magnificent gardens at her childhood home she now shares with her husband, Jeffery, their dog, Colby, and cat, Cookie.

Natalie and I spoke a little about what she has growing throughout the seasons, a new project she hopes to accomplish and the tools most useful to her. Additionally, she shared a few tips to help you in your home garden. I hope you enjoy Natalie’s garden story!

Tell us a little about what inspired you to begin gardening.

My mom has always been my greatest inspiration and nurtured my love of gardening. She got her love of gardening from her grandmother who was from the Ukraine, who later moved to Chesapeake City. My great grandmother was a wonderful gardener and was known as the “Queen of Hydrangeas” and is the inspiration for our gardens.

Growing up, my mom and I worked side-by-side creating the very gardens I tend to today. When my mom moved 10 years ago, I dug up most of the yard and shipped a lot of the plants to her in Tennessee and brought all the other plants to our house in town.

When my husband and I moved back to this house a little over two years ago there were not many plantings left, so we dug up all our favorite plants from the old house and brought them home again. I’ve enjoyed recreating all the garden beds with the help of my mom. She always has new ideas for projects and has a good eye for what works in the garden. She frequently offers advice and is always right. We still talk about gardening on a daily basis. She will always be my inspiration!

What would we find growing in your gardens throughout the seasons?

Throughout the seasons you’ll find many perennials, such as tulips, snowdrops, daffodils, hypericum berries, hosta, Chinese anemone, cleome, peony, foxglove, phlox, lilies, clematis, hydrangea, coneflower, black-eyed Susans, sedum and knock-out roses. Later in the season the elephant ears are stunning. They fill up the landscape and add a tropical feel to the garden beds and the planters around the pool.

I also plant a nice variety of annuals in pots and in the ground, such as coleus, impatiens, zinnia, sweet potato vine, popcorn plant, dianthus, purple hyacinth vine, petunias, portulaca, hibiscus, concord blue streptocarpella and bougainvillea vine. The herbs I have planted around the pool are sage, rosemary, lavender and basil. A few of my absolute favorite plants are my hydrangeas because of the memories they bring, the dahlias — especially the one named “Natalie G.”, the white lily because I received its bulb while I was in the audience during a screening of “The Martha Stewart Show” more than 10 years ago, Persian shield for the interesting color, dragon wing begonia for nibbling the leaves which have a nice lemon taste and lambs ears, ferns and dusty miller for their texture and color.

To attract butterflies and hummingbirds, I favor statice, salvia, honeysuckle, mandevilla and lantana. I also have planters brimming with interesting varieties of succulents. The boxwoods, hollies and magnolias lend green all year long and offer a nice supply of materials for making holiday wreaths for friends and family.

Do you have any new projects planned for next season?

Yes I do! We have a tree in the front yard that has a circular bed planted around it filled with daffodils. I’d love to remove the tree, rototill the ground to create a larger circular bed and fill the space with more unusual flowers and plants that bloom with each season, such as dahlias, alliums and cosmos. A couple of other goals I have are to concentrate on adding a few evergreens to the landscape and to learn more effective ways to deer-proof the gardens.

A good tool can be a gardener’s best friend. Which are must-haves for you and your mom?

One of my favorite tools for digging in a container or the ground is a sharp square-metal garden hoe, hand forged in Montana by Tuli Fisher. His products are really nice and make great gifts. My other must-have tools are a small child’s spade which is good to have on hand because it gets into nooks and crannies and is easy to maneuver. Having a good shovel and a wheelbarrow (I have three) help to save the back. A good hose is also very helpful.

My mom’s must-have tool is a pickaxe. She finds it useful to dig new garden beds. She also keeps a shovel in her car because “you never know when you are going to come across a great plant to dig up”.

Would you like to pass along any tips to help other gardeners succeed in their home gardens?

Plant what you like and select a location where it would do best. Mix annuals and perennials. To get more bang for your buck, buy plants that reseed themselves or multiply, such as cleome, phlox, hosta and iris. Buy at the end of the season even if the plants look horrible, by next year they’ll be beautiful. Consider adding interest to your garden by including plants with different textures and shades of green. Think of your plants as an investment and don’t give up on them if they are ravaged by deer, pests or weather, just move them to a new location and give them time to recover. Remember that there is no right or wrong way to design a garden. Think of your garden as a painting and “paint” with the colors of the plants.

Dee Marotta travels the Cecil area in search of gardeners to feature for It’s Garden Thyme! She asks about their methods and shares what she learns here. If you’d like your garden featured, Dee would love to hear from you. You can reach her at: itsgardenthyme@gmail.com or 410-287-5816. You can also find her on Facebook: It’s Garden Thyme.

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