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Special garden heals mind, body and soul

Judi Meyer

With less than 400 square feet of living space, the cottage is tight, but cozy. Photo by Charles Sternaimolo

In the years since she purchased “The Doll House,” Meyer has been cultivating and renovating, with the help of Ron Browning, her partner and companion of 12 years. Inside, the tiny house needed updating. “I raised the ceiling in the living room and kitchen,” Meyer reveals. “We had to take out the linoleum and refinish the pine flooring. We added another exit door, since there was initially only one front door that went out of the house.”

Although improvements were made, Meyer maintained the summer-cottage look that suits the small, shingled home so well. “I have kept the house eclectic,” she says, “and a bit funky with a Cape Cod feeling.”

As a counter-balance to the tiny cottage, the vast yard represented transformational opportunities to Meyer. She began working on the gardens one area at a time. “I started in the front where the wishing well is,” she remembers. “I put in a small fish pond there, and each spring I’d pick a new area to work on.” Moving from section to section, she has planted shrubs, vines, and many perennials over the years.

The gardens are quite shady, which is something that Meyer and Browning appreciate. The yard is cooler in the heat of the summer, and the plants do better during periods of drought. The palette of shrubs and perennials that thrive in the shade is smaller than what would grow in brighter areas, but Meyer has found a number of plants that thrive with less sun.

“I grow hosta, ferns, and foxglove,” Meyer says, “and I have many hydrangeas through the yard that have beautiful pale blue flowers.” A vine that does especially well in her shady landscape is the Hydrangea petiolaris. “I love my climbing hydrangeas,” she says. “They are covered with hundreds and hundreds of big white beautiful flowers every year.”

A small area of lawn thrives in the front yard, which is sunnier, while in the rear of the property crushed clamshells and pine needles provide regionally appropriate paths and flooring around outdoor furniture and the shed. This outbuilding was once used for tools but has since been converted into a guest space and wine bar. Although there is no bathroom in the shed, there’s an outdoor shower off of the cottage, which Meyer says is enjoyed every day.

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