Every year for the last three years, I’ve watched closely as Emily Rogals has brought new life to an old flower garden.

Emily, a gardener by trade, spends much of her free time gardening on her own. Her house and yard look like something from the glossy pages of a gardening magazine, in that every available location has something growing. This includes a large selection of containers in addition to in-ground beds.

But for those driving or walking by, the roadside flower bed draws the most attention. This eye-catching bed sits between a hand-laid stone path leading from the street to the house and a stone retaining wall along the driveway. Narrow and long, the site wouldn’t necessarily rank as anyone’s first choice for a showy flower bed. But in this case, the shape, size and location couldn’t be better.

Three years ago, Emily decided to remove the two raised beds from the site and turn the place into an in-ground bed. This took much amending of soil, but once that was accomplished, the garden began to take form. And now, the striking combination of perennials and annuals has become a traffic stopper. But what makes this bed so special? Several things, really.

Staker Emily

The most readily-apparent feature is the great number of different plants all happily living side-by-side. With the tallest occupants in the middle and the shorter, ground cover plants to the front, the bed has perfect form and balance. But there’s more to it than that and it took me a while to figure out just what made this tightly-packed flower garden so special. Then it hit me. Everything was perfectly neat. No leaning or sprawling plants. Even the tallest flowers stood straight and proper.

Upon closer inspection, I spied some florist’s wire around a group of sedum surrounding the Rogals’s mailbox. These plants tend to sprawl, particularly after pelting rains such as Belfast has seen in abundance as of late. But by using inconspicuous, green floral wire, the sedums appear to stand at neat attention all on their own.

The same goes for the tall flowers in the roadside bed. Every plant over a certain height is not only tied, but staked and tied. For this, Emily uses green-colored bamboo stakes, available from garden supply outlets. These, when properly place, are virtually invisible to inquiring eyes. Emily said that she loves the “art of staking,” and employs it not only in her own gardens, but also those of her clients.

Emily has also taken into account the changing seasons. From the time in early spring when narcissus and tulips put out little, green shoots and Jacob’s ladder, Emily’s favorite, bee-attracting plant, takes form, until fall, when killing frosts put a final end to gardening, Emily’s roadside flower garden has something blooming.

Pest-Proof

Something else about Emily’s roadside garden that struck me was the health of the plants. Insect infestation, particularly from Japanese beetles, was practically non-existent. This, too, was no accident. Emily said that instead of battling pests and resorting to poison, she simply removes plants that Japanese beetles love. That one, easy step assures that the flowers here will have that healthy, full, radiant appearance.

I asked Emily how she know which plants were subject to beetle infestations and which plants were not. “Trial and error,” she replied. Being a professional gardener, Emily has taken lessons learned from other gardens and applied them here.

In addition to selecting only plants that insect pests eschew, Emily has allowed a bunch of Polygonum persicaria, commonly known as lady’s thumb, to grow along a fence opposite the roadside garden. Japanese beetles love lady’s thumb and at the time of my visit, had stripped the plants of all their leaves. Emily referred to insect-attracting plants such as this as, “sacrifice plants.”

In total, Emily reckons that she has at least 25 different species growing in her roadside garden. If an early frost doesn’t put an untimely end to this year’s growing season, drivers traveling west on High Street in Belfast still have time to enjoy the roadside flower show at the Rogals’s place.

Future Plans

The roadside garden is by no means the only item of interest on the Rogals’s property. As mentioned earlier, the house itself serves as a foil to dozens of different flowering and vining plants. Walking down the driveway past the roadside garden brings the visitor to Emily’s shade garden. While this garden looked perfectly fine to me, Emily said she is still developing it.

The shade garden runs along the property line and serves as a line of demarcation between the Rogals’s and the neighboring property. But after walking along and inspecting the shade garden, Emily and husband Paul led me to the newest addition to the property, a garden meant for both flowers and vegetables. This uses an eye-catching geometric design and is laid out with walking paths through it. Emily reasoned that picking vegetables invariably leads to crushed and compacted soil, so she may as well accept that and construct established paths instead. This she did in a tasteful and attractive manner.

Leaving the vegetable/flower garden, our walk took us again to the front of the house and the roadside garden. Emily said she plans on having a walk-around viewing of her garden in 2016. This would be in conjunction with the Belfast Garden Club and would be included in their annual garden tour program.

So while Emily’s gardens won’t be open to the public for another year, anyone is welcome to pause and inspect her one-of-a-kind roadside garden at any time.

In closing, let me say that this summer, my travels have taken me from Boothbay Harbor to the Canadian border in northern Washington County. And nowhere have I seen a roadside garden the equal of that owned and maintained by Emily Rogals on outer High Street, Belfast, Maine.