Keeping their spirits in bloom

Pair's woodland garden is a Baltimore County pleasure spot



Tina and George Beneman's garden, tucked into the Baltimore County woods, is like entering the Enchanted Forest. Clematis tendrils reach through the newspaper box like a creature out of Harry Potter. A big rhododendron hovers beside an oak, which sports a mustachioed face. Driftwood flanks a pottery creature that defies classification.

But it's the flowers that stand out.

Purple, crimson, mauve and soft orange tulips line the vegetable garden, burst from containers, and wave among the trees. Drifts of mauve-tinged hellebores, fragrant daffodils and windflowers (Anemone) cover the woods' floor like a patchwork quilt.

"Bulbs are wonderful for woodlands in spring before the trees leaf out," says Tina Beneman, a garden writer and lecturer.

When the Benemans moved into their house 17 years ago, there were two main challenges. The first was the meandering driveway that visually dominates the property. To solve that, she created gardens that bracket and flow around the drive from curb to house and beyond. The second challenge was a surfeit of shade, something she fought initially.

"It was more shade than I anticipated," she admits, laughing. "At first I was in denial."

She planted a rose garden, coreopsis and a host of other sun-lovers in the six-hour sunny blotch by the house.

"But they weren't happy," she says.

Gradually, she bowed to circumstance and began to fill the wooded property with dry shade perennials and shrubs, mostly carefree natives. Virginia bluebells (Mertensia pulmonarioides), Solomon's seal (Polygonatum biflorum), bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis). Bloodroot (Sanguinaria), Ligularia and black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa). Along the drive, a Star Magnolia(Magnolia stellata) waves its loose pompons, redbuds (Cercis chinensis) open delicate clusters of mauve blooms, and the buds of a native flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) swell. There are chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa), serviceberry (Amelanchier x grandiflora), and inkberry (Ilex glabra), which offer bloom, fall foliage and berries for the critters.

"I plant things that the animals will be able to eat," she says. They added a pond, which sustains wildlife and draws frogs. "The wood frogs come in February, then the toads and then the green frogs," she says. "We took out the fish so they wouldn't eat the frog eggs."

But while she adapted to shade, she refused to give up completely on sun-lovers. Raised beds and pots nurture favorite vegetables and herbs. "You can sometimes push the edge of a plant's sun needs with heat," she says.

In addition to what she grows, she leaves a range of "weeds" -- stinging nettle, purslane, chickweed, among others -- to use for salads and teas.

"They hold a lot of important minerals that are easily released into the body," she explains.

But like most gardeners, Beneman is never satisfied. So this summer, she plans to create a garden room right on the driveway by growing sunflowers against the garage and using them for a trellis for morning glories (Ipomoea) and moonflowers.

"I wanted a spot where we could sit in the shade and be out here and enjoy the garden," she explains.


Bluemount Nurseries

2103 Blue Mount Road

Monkton, MD 21111


River Hill Garden Center

12165 Clarksville Pike

Clarksville, MD 21029


Edrich Farms Nursery

9700 Old Court Road

Windsor Mill, MD 21244


Glyndon Gardens

205 Hanover Pike

Reisterstown, MD 21136



Valley View Farms

11035 York Road

Cockeysville, MD 21030


Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.