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Second star to the right & straight on ’til Martha’s Vineyard

Tara Gayle’s imaginative gardens provide storybook-like inspiration for gardeners across the Cape and Islands

Gayle’s projects are true works of art. Her vast botanical knowledge ensures that every garden she completes is remarkable. Photo by Kay Rentschler

Ever the scholar, Gayle describes herself as “Vineyard-based, but travel-happy,” and says that she pulls from the beauty of landscapes all over the world. “I tend to draw inspiration when walking through age-old gardens, most notably public gardens that have grown into their purpose,” she says. “One can find a garden of some sort in any corner of the world. I love marrying traditional English gardening techniques such as pleaching and topiary with the loose, natural style found most often along coastal New England, incorporating meadows and walks when possible.” With pleaching, the branches of a hedge are espaliered together, as if they were braided, to create a raised, flat plane that gives some separation to a design, almost creating rooms, as Gayle puts it. Tying this together with the more natural growth of a garden creates an interesting contrast and brings worldly elegance to the classic Vineyard style that marks her island home.

Clients who work with Gayle Gardens can look forward to landscape creations that not only intend to capture the historic beauty that graces gardens and landmarks worldwide, but also the literature that often inspires those places. “I draw from stacks of books that feature botanical illustrations, to biographies of some of the great landscape architects and designers I most admire,” says Gayle in words reminiscent of great whimsical visionaries like Barrie. One could just imagine Peter Pan and his Lost Boys gallivanting through one of her gardens, or a gaggle of fairies tittering around through her breathtaking flower arrangements.

Interestingly, Gayle’s favorite project is actually one of the first that she completed as owner of Gayle Gardens: a “moon garden” that she continues to add to every year. “A moon garden, also known as a white garden, is one where both the blooms and the foliage of the plants catch the light of the moon on a clear night,” she explains. “So we excavated the clay hillside and nursed a lush garden, which boasts year-round interest.” The detail and passion that Gayle brings to her landscape designs is perhaps most evident in her description of this project. “The border garden along a native stone wall offers a roadside attraction, backed by newly planted, pleached hornbeams, which will grow into an elevated hedge, for privacy. Young, espaliered fruit trees grow along the sunny front of the house. The wraparound deck is populated by container gardens with edible plants. One of my favorite things about this project is the secret garden aspect to it, though it does allow for anyone traveling along the road to enjoy the emerging and ever-evolving cottage garden, sneaking a view as they travel past.”

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