Rick Archambault, of Finksburg, stands at the entrance to his… (Barbara Haddock Taylor,…)
Each garden is a reflection of its creator, and that is especially true of Rick Archambault's. The retired middle school principal spent many years teaching science, and is constantly experimenting with new plants.
He calls himself a collector, and at the moment he is collecting Asiatic plants.
When he started gardening 30 years ago, he experimented with fruit trees. "I've had a myriad of things just because I like to see how things grow," he explains.
He grew apples, nectarines and peaches, but eventually he grew tired of the spraying and pruning, and turned to flowers.
"My vision was more centered around the fact that I wanted plants I could enjoy and that would be fun to collect," he says. "I wanted a place that I could enjoy that would be my little nature's half acre."
About five years ago, he stumbled on a nursery in Pennsylvania that specialized in Asiatic plants. "I saw these absolutely wonderful shade plants like jack-in-the-pulpits. Plants like I had never seen before," he says. "I was always kind of stymied about what I was going to put in my shade garden. Then I discovered this vast array of shade- loving plants. A good number of them flowered in the fall, sometime late in the fall. That was a bonus because a lot of my flowers were dead at that time."
His garden is just over half an acre and divided into a number of rooms. An island planting in the back yard adds to the illusion of spaciousness.
"As you walk through the gardens, you pass from one room to another," he explains. A large oak tree towers over a shade garden of hostas, tiarallas and hydrangeas. On a sunny border grow butterfly bushes and daylilies. In another room, a woodland garden features many of his Asiatic plants, hellebores and ostrich ferns.
While he loves the Asian plants, he also has a number of native plants, including joe-pye weed and veronicastrum.
"It's just a lot of fun for me to grow these things that are unusual and to have these pieces of nature in my back yard," Archambault says.
Favorite Plants: Jack-in-the-pulpit, Arisaema ringens, sun coleus.
Tips: Archambault says he doesn't make mistakes, he has learning experiences. But over the years, he has learned that it's better to select small trees than large ones. Also, as a former science teacher, he knows it's important to keep records. He always keeps a paint pen in his pocket to write names and observations on plant leaves.
He also always carries with him a root knife to separate plants. The tool allows him to divide perennials such as ornamental grasses without disturbing entire root systems.
Runner up: Patricia Tommasello, Pylesville