Inspiration, joy and a whole lot of color
Cape Cod Life / April 2016 / Home, Garden & Design, Nature, People & Businesses
Writer: Lilly Lowe / Photographer: Meredith Schulman
Falmouth resident reaps a bounty of rewards from his backyard garden
Meandering through Dave Lynch’s luscious gardens in midsummer is a delight to both eyes and nose. Outside Lynch’s Falmouth home, colorful annuals and perennials dance on either side of a stone walkway that winds its way through the flowers, wraps around a frog pond, and disappears into tall stalks of corn.
Brilliant red mandevillas, luminous cleome with their exceedingly long seed pods, and the heat-tolerant and drought-resistant vinca are just a few of Lynch’s favorite annuals, and are found scattered throughout the gardens. Perennials such as colossal white Incrediball hydrangea and vibrant black-eyed Susans add variety and texture.
That midsummer glory takes a lot of work—spring finds Lynch cleaning up winter damage and prepping the garden for the early perennials. Fertilizing, pruning the bushes, and putting down pre-emergent weed killer are all part of his thorough routine. But it’s a labor of love for this 75-year-old, who bought a 1916 farmhouse on Davisville Road in 2002 and turned the property’s small vegetable garden into a showpiece that has earned accolades from neighbors and passersby, as well as recognition from local garden clubs.
Lynch credits his father, Frank, for his enthusiasm for gardening. Growing up in Arlington and Needham, Lynch helped his father in the family’s garden and the seed was first planted. “I would follow him around, helping out with the landscaping and tending to the yard, and I enjoyed what I was doing,” Lynch says. “When you’re 8, 9, 10 years old, you absorb everything. You’re like a sponge. That’s where I picked up the beginnings of gardening, and I just took it from there.”
Lynch and his wife, Judith, raised their family in Glenville, N.Y., where he was general manager of the CBS affiliate television station in Albany. Their three children—Christine, Theresa and Brandon—all settled down within an hour of Cape Cod, influencing the couple’s own move over the bridge. An early retirement at age 60 granted Lynch the time to create the garden he always dreamed of.
Feedback from admirers spurred him on. Casual compliments from strollers on the sidewalk next to the house quickly turned into sponsored tours through the yard. Increasing public recognition led to awards from the Falmouth Garden Club, which presented Lynch with the Garden Achievement Award—an honor that a gardener can receive only once every five years—in 2003 and 2010. Pondscapes Garden Center in Cataumet also gave him two “Best Garden” awards, in 2004 and 2006.
“That’s what got me really serious about gardening, when I started to win these awards,” Lynch says. “I thought, ‘Gee, maybe I’m doing something right.’ Once you receive recognition, you begin to spend a little more time and energy with it. It makes me feel good about what I’m doing when people want to see my garden.”
Lynch participated in his first garden tour in 2006 with Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a nonprofit organization dedicated to funding and finding a cure for breast cancer. In 2013, he took part in his first tour with the Falmouth Garden Club as a fundraiser for its scholarship fund. The club asked nine Falmouth residents to open up their gardens to visitors for the day. Also in 2015, he was invited to be a part of the inaugural Cape Cod Hydrangea Festival, which showcased gardens across Cape Cod for the benefit of the Falmouth Historical Society.
“The word that people use the most when they have come through the garden is whimsical,” Lynch says. “You go around every corner of the garden, and there’s something new to see, and I think people appreciate that.” Some of these items include bird houses, bird baths and bird feeders, which pop up in various corners of the garden, fighting to stand out in the sea of richly colored flowers. Lynch is a member of the National Wildlife Federation, and the garden is a Certified Wildlife Sanctuary, a designation the federation provides to indicate that the garden helps restore habitats for various species of birds. Chickadees and bright orange orioles, among other birds, frequent the garden often and pick at the grape jelly Lynch strategically places in one of his feeders next to the deck.
Once plants start to go to seed, they typically need to be revitalized and clipped back. Because the plants do not look their best when they’re trimmed, Lynch takes them out of the ground and puts them in containers in a corner of the garden he calls the “plant hospital.” “It’s like giving somebody a really good haircut,” Lynch says. “That’s what I’m giving these plants, a good trim. By cutting the plants back, their growth has been stimulated. Then they are all able to come back for a second growth. It works pretty well.”
Lynch spends about 25 hours a week in his gardens from April to October. As long as the weather cooperates, he likes to start each day in the yard. Along with gardening, he enjoys playing golf once or twice a week at the Falmouth Country Club and in a Monday night league. He also volunteers for hospice and at the Falmouth Council on Aging Senior Center. “You don’t always realize how many people need help because it’s out of sight, out of mind,” Lynch says. “But volunteering has opened up my eyes to all those in need of a little aid.”
In the off-season Lynch continues to find inspiration for his garden through research on websites such as provenwinners.com, and from various gardening magazines. When it comes time to actually purchase his plants for the year, he visits at least half a dozen nurseries. “I’ll often go out and scout before I even purchase,” Lynch says. “I like to go and see what the nurseries have and what is new. Then I’ll decide from there which plants to purchase where.”
For Lynch, tending his gardens is like escaping into his own little world. Luckily for those around him, it’s a picturesque world that they too can escape to with just one step down the stone path.