Sandy Helsel taught herself about plants by leafing through garden catalogs while waiting for clients to show up during her former career selling real estate. Then she and a friend traveled several times to England, visiting more than 70 public and private gardens.
Upon returning home to Williamsburg, Virginia, she pored through a book about English gardens written by famous British author and garden designer Rosemary Verey. Sandy picked out a plan she could adapt to her back and side yards. Local garden designer Gale Roberts placed the fencing, paths, garden shed, fountain, and focal points. Sandy took care of the planting.
Fences, paths, and focal points lend year-round structure to the plantings.
Major players include purple-leaf sand cherry, purple loropetalum, purple smoke tree, golden barberry, and golden Hinoki false cypress for foliage color; oakleaf hydrangea, roses, Japanese iris, daylilies, and white rose campion for flowers from spring until fall; sheared Schipka laurels for hedging; and tall fescue grass for a small lawn.
The Big Idea Convert the side yard (20 by 25 feet) into a fenced cottage-style garden combining herbs, perennials, grasses, and colorful shrubs and trees.
The Plants Major players include herbs; foxgloves and sweet rocket for spring and early-summer flowers; red-leaf Japanese barberry, purple-leaf sand cherry, and goldmoss sedum for colorful foliage; and "Sky Pencil" Japanese holly for a vertical accent.