Garden Party

Garden Shed

A hops-covered cedar pergola, fashioned after one Elizabeth Lakeman saw in North Carolina’s Duke Gardens, sets off a seating area and provides a segue between the gardens and potting shed.

Green-thumbed friends gather among vegetable beds for a laid-back meal in a Phippsburg potting shed.

By Sarah Stebbins
Photographed by Douglas Merriam
Styled by Madeline Macomber

On warm evenings, the little windows on Elizabeth and Marty Lakeman’s Phippsburg potting shed glow like fireflies in cupped palms. Guided by the golden fenestration, guests cross the couple’s wide lawn, through a cedar garden gate, and follow a fieldstone path lined with tomato plants to a hops-covered pergola that serves as an entryway of sorts to the Lilliputian structure. Here they’ll pass a pleasant few hours dining with friends.

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Inspired by a magazine photo of a lit-from-within “party shed” (Marty’s phrase) fronted by gardens, the Lakemans spent six years creating their riff on the scene. They started with raised vegetable beds, which facilitate crop rotation with their ready-made planting grid; the elevated surfaces also allow for earlier sowing. “We can plant our peas in late March, when the ground is still frozen, and have a crop by the Fourth of July,” says Marty. Cedar lattice fencing encapsulates the beds: four interior boxes, each one 4 feet wide, with 2-foot-wide containers around the perimeter. The sizes were determined by how far Elizabeth, the president of the Bath Garden Club, can reach when weeding. “We didn’t want anything to be more than an arm’s length from the edge,” she says. Mossy fieldstone paths between the beds underscore the symmetry that Marty, who executed the project, was striving for.

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Lattice fencing, which doesn’t cast shadows, encloses the beds and fieldstone paths (at 3 feet across, a little wider than a wheelbarrow). In addition to veggies, the couple grows nasturtiums, marigolds, and borage to deter pests; the latter also attracts bees.


The shed is a focal point in the verdant vignette, and a kind of fair-weather retreat for the Lakemans, who enjoy sharing their garden’s bounty in the relaxed, somewhat removed setting. Marty modeled the structure’s steep roof pitch and chocolate-brown clapboards and interior beams after the couple’s home, a replica of the 1683 Elizabethan-style Parson Capen House in Topsfield, Massachusetts. For the front and rear of the outbuilding he chose wooden screen doors that slam shut. (“To me, that’s a nice noise,” says Marty. “It’s summer.”) On the pine walls, wasps’ nests and small garden tools surmount a long, slate-like Formica countertop that functions as both potting station and sideboard.

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The Lakemans opt for unfussy dishes that can be served at room temperature, such as honey-drizzled Camembert and goat cheeses from Appleton Creamery, fresh greens, grilled swordfish, and pistachio-encrusted cannoli.


During our visit, the counter is laden with simple, fresh fare prepared on the grill and in the Lakemans’ home. (There’s no electricity or running water in the shed.) The couple’s friends, Suzanne Bushnell, president of the Garden Club Federation of Maine; Judy Stallworth, the club’s treasurer; and their husbands, Bill and Ernie, help themselves and settle in around a candlelit farmhouse table. Talk of garden club politics, deer impediments, and the nesting and migration habits of loons continues until the friends depart and the screen door closes — wham! ­— on a memorable evening.

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Sarah Stebbins

Sarah Stebbins is Down East's special projects editor.