A sandy, windswept spit of land might seem an unlikely place for a garden mecca. But at the very tip of Cape Cod is Provincetown, Massachusetts (or “P-town” as it’s affectionately known). In this tiny, outermost town, which for years served as a muse for artists such as Edward Hopper and Eugene O’Neill, residents defy sandy soil and postage-stamp-sized lots to create their own, more ephemeral, masterpieces.
As a lifelong Cape Codder, I leapt at the chance recently to spend a day touring some of Provincetown’s loveliest gardens with the designer who created them, my friend Tim Callis. Along the way, Tim shared a few tips about what makes these tiny gardens so expressive.
Photography by Justine Hand for Gardenista.
In Provincetown antique homes and cottages were built close, huddled together against the wind and waves, making hedges a must. But severe, horizontal lines are so unfriendly. Better to employ a graceful arch or fall of foliage, especially when your neighbor’s house is so pretty.
Provincetown is best enjoyed on foot or by bike. (Only the greenest of tourist would attempt to traverse those narrow, crowded streets by car!) Strolling the lanes and alleys, one gets a tantalizing glimpse over the many picket fences—which are pretty much de rigueur for Cape Cod—into the garden splendor beyond. Though traditional square gates are abundant, we also spotted a number of rounded gates, which have a less formal effect.
Like many quaint Cape Cod towns, P-town could be in danger of coming across as a bit too precious. The opposite of cute, gigantic planters celebrate the village’s bolder side.
Grasses As Privacy Screen
Enfilade of Arches
Hot & Cold Color Mixes
Long, Lanky Yellows
Ivy Door Frame
In some P-town properties, the front step is all the outdoor real estate you have. Tim makes the most of them for his clients with a combination of planters and ground covers that create a more integrated look.
For more of our favorite Cape Cod gardens, see Landscape Architect Visit: A Very American Garden on Cape Cod and Secret Garden: At Home with Marnie on Cape Cod.