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Secret Garden: At Home with Marnie on Cape Cod

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Secret Garden: At Home with Marnie on Cape Cod

July 7, 2020

After bouncing along an undulating, rutted track, wheels crunching over shell drive while wisteria vines lap at the windows, the entrance to my friend Marnie’s garden is like a transition to another world.

Her landscape is an informal, unfussy affair that draws equally from the traditions of English cottage gardens and the wilds of Marnie’s native Cape Cod. Here and there is also a dash of the Mediterranean, reflecting Marnie’s travels to Italy and California. It’s a romantic, unfettered place, full of discovery—the kind that invites children to romp around its pathways. Among the blooms one might find edible treats like thimble berries, or an old pot perfect for the clubhouse, or an ocean-tossed treasure that Marnie has collected from the sea.

Full of proliferous blooms that encroach on paths and climb the walls, Marnie’s world borders, Secret Garden-style, on being overgrown. “I like to let plants do their thing,” she notes. “Sometimes a plant will disappear for a year, and then the next it surprises me by coming back.” This laissez faire approach leads to a much more dynamic garden, “that, like me,” she adds, “changes every year.”

Photography by Justine Hand.

Cape Cod meets Mediterranean &#8\2\1\1; a lobster buoy found washed ashore rests on a deck bordered by a long lavender bed.
Above: Cape Cod meets Mediterranean – a lobster buoy found washed ashore rests on a deck bordered by a long lavender bed.
The pert faces of verbena and native yarrow bloom in front of the garden shed in July.
Above: The pert faces of verbena and native yarrow bloom in front of the garden shed in July.
Marnie&#8\2\17;s signature colors, pink and orange, are reflected in these splendid echinacea.
Above: Marnie’s signature colors, pink and orange, are reflected in these splendid echinacea.
A garden gate leads to the herb patch.
Above: A garden gate leads to the herb patch.
Clematis will make an appearance after the lavender has faded.
Above: Clematis will make an appearance after the lavender has faded.
Guarding the deck and a large sculpture by a local Provincetown artist.
Above: Guarding the deck and a large sculpture by a local Provincetown artist.
Foxgloves tower over the flower garden in early July.
Above: Foxgloves tower over the flower garden in early July.
Lavender thrives in Cape Cod&#8\2\17;s arid soil.
Above: Lavender thrives in Cape Cod’s arid soil.
Benefits of being tucked away in the woods—no walls on the shower which is discreetly located at the back of the house.
Above: Benefits of being tucked away in the woods—no walls on the shower which is discreetly located at the back of the house.
Marnie&#8\2\17;s grandchildren, and my son and daughter, flit around the garden like faeries.
Above: Marnie’s grandchildren, and my son and daughter, flit around the garden like faeries.
A pile of English Garden tiles awaits a more permanent home.
Above: A pile of English Garden tiles awaits a more permanent home.
A bright blue bird bath is surrounded by flowers.
Above: A bright blue bird bath is surrounded by flowers.
Veronica and phlox bloom in early August.
Above: Veronica and phlox bloom in early August.
After a seafood meal, real Cape Codders throw any and all shells into their drives.
Above: After a seafood meal, real Cape Codders throw any and all shells into their drives.
Marnie among the white phlox that borders her kitchen windows in August.
Above: Marnie among the white phlox that borders her kitchen windows in August.
An impromptu border of California poppies and upturned pots lines the flower garden in late July.
Above: An impromptu border of California poppies and upturned pots lines the flower garden in late July.
In the herb garden, a broken bird bath is not cast off. Instead it makes a striking companion to some cheerful marigolds.
Above: In the herb garden, a broken bird bath is not cast off. Instead it makes a striking companion to some cheerful marigolds.
A garden ladder in the July twilight.
Above: A garden ladder in the July twilight.

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