There is a gem of a garden at the Bloomsbury Coffee House, above the Bloomsbury Book Store at 290 E. Main St., or directly off Enders Alley between First and Second streets. Bloomsbury’s hidden garden in downtown Ashland is the Ashland Garden Club’s Garden of the Month for September.
The surprising tree-shaded terraced garden is designed, planted and tended by the Coffee House’s owner, David Light. The garden has evolved over the 15 years that Dave has owned the café with many shifts and changes to layout and boundaries of the garden.
There is a watering system in place around the perimeter, but the many containers are watered by hand. Except for an extended two- or three-day cleanup in early spring and special projects, Dave devotes from four to six hours a month for routine maintenance. Because it is part of the business and therefore carefully monitored, Dave knows he spends an average of $400 per year on the health and improvements to the garden.
Four years ago, Dave and new co-owner Terry Masters put a plan together to remake the garden terrace. With customer support, they rebuilt the patio into two terraces with a handsome tiled wall and tiled medallioned drains. Among the stone and timber retaining walls are architectural concrete blocks with a Wright-like design. Dave and Terry created them by repurposing as a mold the plastic containers in which spinach is delivered to the coffee house.
The bamboo border at the south end of the garden is contained by a deep concrete barrier on three sides. The owners are on constant patrol for fugitive shoots on the one remaining side. When Light started the garden in 2002, the decorative water fountain on the west side was one of the first things installed. “Every garden needs its own water feature,” says Dave. The second water feature, in a giant urn, was added this year.
The large almond tree near the southwest corner is one of three almond trees plus the sycamore that were originally here. The other two almonds failed and were removed, opening the garden to a little more light and replaced by a purple locust. The entire garden area is shady much of the year, so they seek out shade-loving plants. Dave enjoys landscaping as a hobby and his flair is evident. Although there is often lots of color in this garden throughout the seasons, Dave says texture is his most important consideration in choosing plants. Among his many admired plants are weigela, hostas, buddleia, Japanese anemone, and many more. The oak-leaf hydrangea, purchased as a gift from customers, is especially treasured. “Being a shadier garden, one can’t choose their favorite plants but learn to the enjoy and work with the shade lovers.”
The Ashland Garden Club has been selecting Gardens of the Month, from April through September, since 2000. Nominations are gratefully received at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out the club’s website at ashlandorgardenclub.wordpress.com or come to the meetings at 12:30 p.m. on the first Monday of the month, October through May, at the Community Center on Winburn Way.