When the farm erected an electric fence around the property, the woodland hideaway became much more popular. Koon gazes skyward, rolls his eyes in frustrated acceptance, and says, ”What can you do? Anger won’t stop them. You have to live with it.”
While the natural look of a woodland garden might suggest a less intense need for maintenance, Koon says the opposite is true. “Over the years, trees come down, branches fall off, and suddenly shade gardens have become sun gardens,” he says. “I spend a lot of time moving things around to find the best spots for growing. I’ve transplanted some specimens two or three times. I also try to space out and extend the blooming periods with lots of perennials.”
This garden that began as a path is well known amongst Nantucketers and its fame has spread far beyond the island. It has been photographed for the Smithsonian Institution’s archives as an exemplary woodland garden. With this kind of fame, it is not unusual for people to drop off plants they think Koon might like to add to his woodland. “I have to be very diplomatic,” he says.
Koon’s labor of love begins in the early spring and extends through the summer into fall. He is up by 5:30 every morning to inspect the garden and hand-water before heading off to the hair salon.
“By mid August, I’ve had it with the garden,” says Koon. “I generally give up and enjoy it for what it has become that year. It changes every time I look at it. But it is always a thing of beauty.“