ISSUE 45  |  New New England

Garden Visit: At Home in Rhode Island with Painter Georgia Marsh

November 11, 2015 10:00 AM

BY Christine Chitnis

If life imitates art, so too does the garden. At least in the case of artist Georgia Marsh’s home in Jamestown, RI. It is clear that Georgia approaches her garden with an artist’s keen sense of space, allowing stone walls and paths to define the various beds. She has no interest in highly cultivated gardens with perfectly trimmed edges and borders. Instead, she prefers native grasses, fennel, and sedum to spill out over stone borders and into the walkways, swaying, bending, and creating movement throughout the landscape.  

Photography by Christine Chitnis for Gardenista.

Above: Georgia and her husband, Ted, bought the property 14 years ago, despite its dilapidated state and underwhelming grounds. (Their real estate agent had actually been embarrassed to show them the place.) The couple had already spent years fixing up various New York CIty lofts, and they felt they could bring the same vision and elbow grease to the Jamestown property. The result is a home that reflects their aesthetic, both inside and out. 

Above: The indoor furnishings are all “found” and vintage, with lovingly worn patinas and stories to tell. The same goes for the garden, which is filled with plants that Georgia has found in her travels around Maine, Cape Cod, and even New York City.

Above: Walking through her garden, Georgia can remember bringing home each plant, and carefully propagating it. “You either have time or money,” Georgia states about the hobby of gardening. “I have time, so I buy plants that I love and propagate them to fill the space.”

Above: Georgia prefers plants with an understated beauty, instead of those with, as she puts it, “too much lipstick.” There are no flashy bloomers with bold colors in her garden, or plants that have been over-bred. Instead, simplicity and nature dictate the flow.

Above: Georgia calls herself a “disciple of Piet Oudolf.” She has had plenty of time to study the work of this Dutch garden designer, since one of his projects is a backyard to her New York City apartment. “When I’m in the city, I wake up and walk through Battery Park, a loop that takes me about forty minutes.”

Above: In fact, many of Georgia’s first plants came from a sale held at Battery Park. During that event, the plants sold are divisions from Oudolf’s original plantings. Georgia tells a tale of driving her beach Jeep from Jamestown to Manhattan, attempting to park overnight without getting ticketed, loading it with plants in the early morning, and hightailing it out of town to get back to her garden.

Above: Georgia spends June through October, the gardening months, as she calls them, in Jamestown, mostly holed up in her studio, just steps from the house.

 Above: Through the studio doors she has a view of the garden, so she can watch the plants throughout the day, turning their faces towards the sun and bending in the sea breeze.  

Above: After graduating from Rhode Island School of Design and spending years teaching painting and drawing at the School of Visual Arts and New York University, Georgia now has the time to commit to her own artwork. It’s no surprise that her favorite subject is plant life.  She is endlessly fascinated by the architecture of plants, their whirling patterns and organic shapes.

Above: Garlic from the garden.

“It’s my Zen,” she says of her love of plants, and with her garden she has created a serene space capable of imparting a bit of Zen to its lucky visitors.

For another of our favorite artist’s gardens, see Garden Visit: Derek Jarman’s Prospect Cottage at Dungeness. And for another of our favorite Rhode Island gardens, see Landscape Architect Visit: A Historic Farm, Ocean Views Included.