I first met Peg Bier this June at the opening party of our Garden Bloggers’ Fling at Willowsford Farm in Ashburn, Virginia. She looked lovely! It was fun to think we were going to be seeing Peg’s garden a few days later – the Fling write-up called her a “local gardening legend”.
Later in the tour, I spotted her chatting animatedly with another Fling attendee, Gryphon Corpus, soaking up the garden vibes at Meadowlark Botanical Garden in Vienna, VA.
But the best sighting of Peg Bier was in the driveway of her own home in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia, where her large, 2.5 acre woodland garden appeared a leafy oasis in a neighbourhood of neat and tidy lawns.
Even in the driveway, there were clues that this was not just the domain of a gardener, but a collector and artist as well.
Peg has lived in this pretty house for 58 years, raising four children with her late architect husband Richard and teaching her twelve grandchildren the fine art of gardening.
As for that “local gardening legend” billing, for 25 years (1990-2015) Peggy had been a television personality on the show Merrifield’s Gardening Advisor produced by Merrifield’s Garden Center, (which we visited on the Fling, below), where she continues to work part-time as a garden specialist. Imagine having this as your plant source…….
…. and this as your outdoor furnishings resource! (I could have spent a lot of $$ here, but contented myself with a sweet purple birdhouse and some windchimes.)
P.S. – A big thank you to Merrifield Garden Centers for hosting the garden bloggers.
Here’s a little taste of Peg on the show, chatting with host Debbie Warhurst Capp about shade plants inspired by her own garden, which she calls a ‘nature preserve’ with its foxes and opossums.
Back to our tour. As we moved into the back garden, I gazed up and saw a canopy of mature oak trees….
….and some tulip poplars (Liriodendron tulipifera) as well. Keep in mind that this miniature forest is a literal ‘island of wild’ in a ‘desert of tame’. Residential development swallowed the land surrounding the Bier home, but Peg held on under her big trees.
Immediately behind the house is a roomy deck with a table big enough to seat a lot of family. And I loved the deck boards placed on the diagonal.
And a comfy chaise for reading and relaxing.
If you took some time to watch the video above, you’ll know that Peg has hewn lots of paths out of the shade-dappled understory. This is her favourite path material: crushed ‘red stone” on top of landscape fabric. And look at that textural shade planting!
But it’s not all about the plants. Over the years, Peg has created little sitting areas out of the woodland. This is one I loved, atop a flagstone patio.
Much of her seasonal colour comes courtesy of inspired container combinations. Look at these cobalt-blue accents – and of course, the perfect complementary colour contrast in the orange Bolivian and Rieger begonias!
And I loved this little vignette, with French bistro table and chairs painted aquamarine. What a lovely place to have lunch!
With such a large property to tend, I wonder if Peg ever has time to sit in one of these lovely Adirondack chairs?
Another sitting area featured bricks laid around a mature tree. The understory in the woodland includes natives like redbud (Cercis canadensis), fringe tree (Chionanthus virginicus) and dogwood (Cornus florida), as well as shrubs and small trees Peg has planted including aucuba, mahonia, camellia, nandina, sweet box (Sarcococca), Japanese maples (many grown by Peg from seed), hydrangea and boxwood everywhere.
Everywhere there were containers of tropicals mixed with luscious shade plants. And more of those lovely orbs!
And loads of grasses! Variegated Japanese sedge (Carex morrowii ‘Ice Dance’) is a particular favourite of Peg’s.
Speaking of grasses, she loves dwarf mondo grass (Ophiopogon japonicus), too – and what a spectacular use of it, below.
At the far end of the property, in the sunniest spot, there was a deer-proof enclosed garden filled with sun-loving perennials, vegetables and herbs, all mulched with pine needles.
Tomatoes are grown in containers here.
And there’s even the odd rooster.
I wanted to walk every path, but time was running out! How beautiful is this? Imagine those hellebores in early spring.
I found a bathtub with a spouting frog….
…. and a few fairies. (Peg loves fairy gardens.)
This pretty path was near the front of the property…..
…. where I found concrete stepping stones embossed with the handprints of all Peg’s grandchildren. Isn’t that lovely?
At the very front where the neighbours can see them was a glorious profusion of sun-loving perennials…..
…. as if celebrating colour and fragrance on the edge of this shady forest…..
…..and the grace of bees.
The bus was loading and I made my way along a split-rail fence, sniffing this luscious trumpet lily as I took a last look at Peg’s garden.
But as I was climbing up the bus steps, I heard her cry, “Oh, no. I forgot to show everyone my special garden.” I wondered where that could be, since every part of this big garden had seemed “special” to me. I thought it wouldn’t hurt to run back for two minutes, so I followed her back into the woodland. And there it was, her beautiful little memorial garden to her late husband.
Having spent time with Peg, talking with her and learning a little about her, I thought how special that marriage must have been, and how his presence must still be so strong in this lovely garden where family is cherished above all.
And then it really was time to go.