A bit of old Provence on the Eastern Shore

Home & Garden


In contrast to the American rural character of the area, the garden at the Eastern Shore home of Michael and Mary Ann Bowers looks like something out of Provence.

An arbor-sheltered porch, big terra cotta pots frothing with annuals, and a lattice thick with autumn clematis all whisper rustic Gallic charm. But it's the Marydel garden itself -- comprising four raised square beds -- that really sets the mood.

Salvaged garden decorations -- a nubbly concrete birdbath, a verdigris sundial -- punctuate three squares, and designer Mary Ann Bowers has filled the fourth with fragrant lavender, perennials and culinary herbs.

"I imagined a French kitchen garden on a very small scale," she says.

With 20 acres, gardening could have been overwhelming. To bring it down to manageable size, she envisioned a small, visually contained garden shielded by trees, ornamental grasses, and shrubs.

"I wanted it doable, a space I could take care of myself," she explains.

Husband Michael, who created the beds and built the low enclosing wall that doubles as a bench, wanted to enjoy it year-round. So they oriented it to the glass French doors of the living room.

"We can look out straight down the center path and see everything," he says.

The garden's atmosphere is so appealing that friends have held weddings here in spring and summer.

In fall, the beds are a casually artful combination of spent bloom. Dried oregano flowers and the dark eyes of black-eyed Susans gone to seed share space with lush purple asters and the cardinal-red spires of fall-blooming pineapple sage. Mary Ann loves it at this time of year.

"I like wabisabi, the Japanese art of imperfection," she explains, "the aesthetic of mixing together things that are coming into the beginning of their lives and going out at the end."

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