Meadow Mist

A tidal pond sets the tone for a serene blue and pink garden in York.

Pondfield, David and Barbara Chase’s garden on York’s Barrell Mill Pond, designed by Jacquelyn Nooney
Drifts of cool pastel blooms frame David and Barbara Chase’s view of York’s Barrell Mill Pond, seen here blanketed in morning fog, and Steedman Woods nature preserve on the opposite shore.
By Virginia M. Wright
Photos by Nicole Wolf
From the September/October 2019 issue of Maine Homes by Down East

David Chase’s garden is shaped by his rules: It must be cloistered from the road and neighboring properties. It must frame the view of York’s tidal Barrell Mill Pond in summer. It must vanish in winter so David and his wife, Barbara, can look out their living room window and watch the seabirds that forage close to their shore. Most important, it must bloom in blues, pinks, and purples — no other hues allowed.

Though designed with these constraints, Pondfield, as Chase calls his half-acre plot, has a breezy sense of order. In late summer, when morning fog settles on the pond, clouds of lavender, periwinkle, rose, and burgundy float over the land. This is Chase’s vision, but he relied on Eliot landscaper Jacquelyn Nooney to recommend perennials and annuals and their placements. “The truth is, I don’t really consider myself a gardener, because I don’t know much about plants,” the retired architectural historian admits. “I have a design sense and a particular idea of what I’d like to accomplish in terms of color and bloom period. Jackie’s terrific at figuring out how to do things.”

Clockwise from top left: Plants are arranged by height in curving horizontal rows, so the entire garden can be seen from the Chases’ living room window. Pruning shears in hand, Chase approaches his front gate; spilling over the top of the fence are trumpet vines. Chase walks among verbena, a self-seeding annual favored by monarch butterflies.

Barrell Mill Pond is an artifact of York’s mill-town era, created when the York River was dammed in 1726. From their one-story house on its east bank, the Chases can see the famous Wiggly Bridge, which connects York Harbor to Steedman Woods nature preserve. When they bought the place in 2000, their lot was mostly lawn with a few flowerbeds at the edges. They made some modest renovations to both house and yard over the next few years, then around 2011, Chase says, “I got the idea that it was calling for flowers. Plus, I didn’t like cutting the grass.”

He and Nooney embarked on a landscape overhaul, installing a color-themed garden that whittled the lawn to a 3-foot-wide path. One enters through a circular sitting area surfaced in pea gravel. From it, long, gently curving rows of flowers ripple toward the pond. Swaths of color are created by dense horizontal masses of perennials like catmint, purple coneflower, Culver’s root, ironweed, Joe Pye weed, meadow rue, salvia, and Russian sage. The air buzzes as bees from a next-door- neighbor’s hive drift from blossom to blossom. Come late fall, everything except the arborvitae hedges that border each side of the property will be cut to the ground, opening up the view to the mudflats that attract migrating shorebirds.

Designed to be viewed from the house, Pondfield takes it color cues from water and sky. However, the house is the backdrop out front, where it forms a small, enclosed courtyard with a tall cedar fence. To complement the bright-red board-and-batten siding, Chase and Nooney chose hot colors to line the courtyard’s edges: scarlet canna lilies and dahlias, yellow coneflowers and leopard plants, and orange false sunflowers and ligularia. Birch trees provide dappled shade. And trumpet vines, with their big orange-red blossoms tumbling over the top of the fence, offer passersby their only hint of the fireworks inside.

May 2024, Down East Magazine

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