Turns out there is something more romantic than a rose-covered cottage: two 19th-century, rose-covered cottages, united by a rambling garden of wild natives, exuberant perennials, and more than 80 heirloom roses, perched on a windswept cliff overlooking Cape Cod Bay. This three-quarter-acre gem is the labor of love of Scott Warner and David Kirchner.
Purchased by David in the mid-1990s, the original cottage featured minimal plantings, a few brooms, and a Sir Thomas Lipton rose hedge. In 2005, David and Scott began to expand the gardens and realized that their “mania” for gardening required a larger plot. Happily, their next-door neighbor offered to sell the property to them, thus saving their rare heirloom roses from a potentially treacherous transplant. The challenge was to merge the two properties in a cohesive style that both honored the history of the cottages and married the Cape’s wild landscape with David and Scott’s particular vision of a classic cottage garden.
Photography by Justine Hand for Gardenista.
Scott and David designed the garden in classical cottage style, with the gardens in front of the house by the road. “We did this in part as a practical matter, because the cottages provide much-needed shelter from the punishing winds that come off of the water. But we’ve found that the open nature of our garden brings a number of pleasures,” they say. “It’s become a place to meet new people who stop by to comment on the garden or to ask gardening advice; a subject for artists who come into the garden to paint; and a spot to chat with neighbors who stop by on their morning walks.”
Though “lush and exuberant,” the garden avoids chaos through careful color selection—purples, pinks, and shades of chartreuse—and repetition of key “signature plants,” such as lady’s mantle, Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’, and Aster ‘Harrington’s Pink’.
David and Scott say they “aim for color throughout as much of the year as possible, beginning with heaths and witch hazels in winter, bulbs in spring, roses and perennials in June, annuals and dahlias supplementing summer-blooming shrubs and perennials, and a final bold autumn display featuring a wide variety of asters and salvias.”
David and Scott also sought to honor the Cape Cod location of their garden by merging their plantings with the native grasses, beach plum, bayberry, wild roses, and red cedar that occur naturally on the site.
After purchasing the second cottage, the couple established this space as their main residence, reserving the original as a place for guests. To unify the two houses, Scott and David added new cedar shingle roofs and replaced a “hodgepodge” of windows with new two-over-two windows, along with pine plank shutters. They also painted all the doors, shutters, arbors, and Adirondack chairs on the decks in Benjamin Moore’s Mountain Lane.
In merging the two properties, David and Scott designed a series of smaller beds that are not attached but are visually connected by certain anchor plants such as lady’s mantle and nepeta as well as pink asters in the fall. They say, “The arrangement of the beds creates pathways throughout the property that are both practical and pleasing in the way that they lead the visitor from one vignette to the next.”
Between the deck of the guest cottage and the main residence, a field of beach grass and other volunteers provides an unobstructed view of the bay beyond. On this exposed deck, the couple placed containers with succulents and other drought-tolerant plants that can withstand the wind and heat.
Alongside the residential cottage, a south-facing dry-stack wall shelters a Mediterranean-style planting, which features plants generally not hardy in this Zone 7a location. Here the path leads toward a wooden shade garden and to the beach beyond.
Take a tour of more of Cape Cod’s outermost gardens: