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Boston's Hidden Gardens

Boston’s Hidden Gardens
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On Beacon Hill, Betsy McMeel has been tending her shade garden for 32 years. The plot is L-shaped because a room was added onto the original house about 100 years ago. Old clothesline hooks still embedded in the brick walls are perfect for securing her whimsical iron animal art.

Like Margaret Pokorny, Betsy prefers a white-flowering palette. Her plantings include holly and verbena bushes, white geraniums, a miniature birch tree, and borders of white impatiens. Her 30-plus-year-old hydrangea climbs over the garden wall, ornamental ginger serves as ground cover, and purple violets add visual interest to what she describes as a very low-maintenance garden.

When Paula O’Keefe began gardening on Beacon Hill 38 years ago, she had a disaster that opened her eyes to the differences between city and country gardening. She planted 100 tulip bulbs close to the walls of her brick home; in winter, the radiant heat fooled the bulbs into thinking it was spring. They came up in February and died in the cold.

Paula has since learned that hot red bricks will also cause the soil to dry out faster — even in a shade garden — and says city gardeners need to plan accordingly. She has opted for fewer flowers and more greenery, such as boxwoods and ivy. To break up the sea of red brick, she uses window boxes and tubs with colorful flowers and a watering system.

“It’s simple, elegant, and looks cool,” she says.

Visit glorious gardens in every New England state. See “Editors’ Choice.”

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