TEXT BY AURELIA C. SCOTT
PHOTOGRAPHED BY DAVE DOSTIE
In 2000, Deb and Doug Schmidt decided they were tired of bushwhacking through the thicket of cedars and evergreens behind their Holden home in order to get to the closest of the three ponds on their 20-acre property. So they thinned out a few trees and cleared a rustic trail from the house to the water. Deb wanted to add a little greenery along the walkway. Knowing that grass wouldn’t grow in the shade, she tried hostas — just two of them, at first, and they flourished.
So Deb planted more. Then more still. “I would add a few here, then realize that I needed others there,” she remembers, laughing. “I just kept planting until I had reached the pond.”
Today, 500 hosta varieties carpet the two-acre grove between the Schmidts’ house and the pond. Hostas with rippled edges, including Donahue Piecrust and Jade Cascade, blend with green-and-white Angel Eyes and Fallen Angel. Golden-green Sum and Substance and its sports, Beauty Substance and Sum of All, light up the shadier spots. Grey Ghost and Whitewall Tires come up pale in the spring before gaining color. Most of the plants are from Fernwood Nursery and Gardens, in Montville, which specializes in native and woodland plants. Owners Rick and Denise Sawyer taught the Schmidts what and where to plant. “And their gardens are an inspiration,” Deb adds.
ABOVE A visitor to the garden that Deb Schmidt filled chockablock with hosta varieties can go knocking at the vibrant barn door. They will not, however, find anything behind it.
Native ferns, creamy woodland peonies, white Solomon’s seal, and yellow silphium mingle among the hostas, which self-propagate abundantly. A few paths, edged with granite and carpeted in moss and pine needles, now wind through the shady haven. The pond, stocked with brook trout, sparkles beyond the trees. The Schmidts welcome children and veterans groups for catch-and-release fishing — and visiting kids also enjoy a small “pirate island,” complete with a shipwrecked rowboat and skeleton.
The Schmidt property gets more whimsical still. Rather than put in a simple fence along their property line, Deb and Doug commissioned a series of false fronts of imaginary buildings. These include a gray-shingled barn facade with dark-pink doors, the front porch of a pretend ranch house, and a make-believe casino and country store, the front door of which opens to reveal a leaf pile. A bear sculpture, one of many, stands guard outside. Purchased at the early-2000s Belfast Bearfest benefit auctions, the bears are the work of artists and others around Belfast and include Armored Excalibear, who was made by a welding class and trundles a wheelbarrow, and Hellraiser Bear, who bristles with screws. Sleeping Bear lies among Dark Star hostas, lulled by the sound of water trickling through a patch of astilboides and into a rock-edged pool behind the house.
“The garden is a green bridge out to the pond,” Deb says. “We love it in every season — even in winter, when we remember what flourished and look forward to seeing it again.”