Paige Finley sits with her French bulldogs in front of the pond… (Barbara Haddock Taylor,…)
When Paige Finley, a research specialist at the Johns Hopkins University's School of Medicine, moved into her rowhouse in the Medfield neighborhood in 2005, her backyard contained one shrub and her front was bare.
But Finley had a vision for what she wanted. "I knew in my head I wanted it to be a little sanctuary," she says.
So she set to work. "I made some drawings, and then I just made some spray paint and drew lines where I wanted the flower beds to be, and I started digging."
Finley's garden is a testimony to patience. A border of arborvitae lines the back and side fences. A Japanese maple towers over a bed of hostas, peonies and coneflowers. A crape myrtle shades more hosta and a small goldfish pond.
"Everything started out very, very small," Finley recalls.
The arborvitae were 5 inches tall when she began; the red maple was not much bigger. A friend joked that she would die before the plants would grow into the sanctuary she envisioned.
But Finley didn't get discouraged. Friends and family members gave her plant cuttings. A neighbor left lilies and black-eyed Susans on Finley's doorstep.
"I put them in the ground and kept watering," Finley says.
At last Finley has the sanctuary she wanted, but she notes a garden is never done. "There's always tweaking or moving," she says. "It's a slow process."
Favorite Plants: Echinacea and hostas.
Tips: Finley advises gardeners to start small and have patience. "It's never an immediate satisfaction, which is part of the fun of it," she says. "Sometimes things don't work out, but there is always another pretty plant you can put there."
Runners-up: Debra J. Thomas and Terry Shepard, Otterbein
How the garden contest was judged
The gardens were judged on plant variety and health, overall design and sound environmental practices. Judges included Susan Reimer, a Baltimore Sun columnist and master gardener; Catherine Mallette, editor of Chesapeake Home + Living; Christine Pfister-McComas, a horticulture consultant at the University of Maryland Extension's Home & Garden Information Center; and Liz Atwood, former home and garden editor of The Sun.