A Dublin Gardener Dreams of Summer

Winter is the time when Peggy Davis plans her warm-weather projects.

Teresa Woodard
Peggy Davis of Dublin enjoys her well planned gardening shed. A year-round gardener, Davis takes time in winter to plan next spring’s gardening activities.

Yes, frost and snow dust the grass seedheads in Peggy Davis’s garden. While living in Dublin with her husband, Bill, this winter she’s dreaming about her next warm weather projects. She is already planning a quartet of raised beds with a resting space in the middle and maybe even a fountain. Also she will be adding more plants such as the ‘Ice Cream’ tulips she ordered with her young granddaughter. 

“I really don’t have an off-season,” says Peggy. “I’m constantly perusing the internet for ideas, plants, pathways and accents.” 

Thanks to her relentless tweaking, her backyard garden shines year-round with a gabled cottage sitting center stage atop a slope and surrounded by flowering shrubs and perennials. In spring, a violet river of ajuga blooms spills down a stone walkway to the cottage’s divided Dutch door. In summer, hydrangea shrubs bend heavy with giant blooms in creamy pink, purple and periwinkle. Along the cottage’s shady side, hostas, astilbe and ferns weave together to form a textural green tapestry. And, on the sunny side, colorful gladiolas, daisies and black-eyed Susans accent the front facade. 

Peggy has a long history of garden tweaking. Forty years ago, she planted her first red impatiens along their condo patio in north Columbus. She longed for more space to plant. Soon, she and her husband moved to Dublin and built their first home. They hired a landscaper to help install the foundation plants. The challenge then came in caring for the plants, filling in more plants and experimenting even more. 

“If something’s not working, I move it somewhere else until I find its happy place,” says Peggy, explaining that the problem is often due to lighting, a soil challenge or a watering issue. 

Over the years, Peggy’s gardening skills shined as she toiled in the dirt and even won “Best Homeowner Landscape” from the City of Dublin’s awards program. 

Then, in 2001, the Davises built a new home and gained a blank slate to create another garden. They declined the standard builder’s landscape package for their large lot. Instead, they chose to design the plan and work with their own landscaper to install a mix of trees plus 100 boxwood shrubs around the home. Peggy eventually filled in the landscape beds with layers of perennials and hydrangea. 

“I started with a basic design and have since moved things around as they outgrow their spaces,” she says. 

Eager to learn more about the plant world, Peggy enrolled in the Ohio Master Gardener Training program in Delaware County. There she dove into the science of plants, listening to lectures in botany, plant propagation and pest management. She later served on the Women’s Board at the Franklin Park Conservatory. 

“I’m no master at gardening, but I learned so much through the OSU extension staff,” says Peggy, “and plenty of trial and error, too.” 

One day, she was looking over her backyard’s hillside when she suggested an idea to Bill. 

“Let’s put steps up the hillside through grass,” she proposed. Then one conversation led to another and Bill suggested a potting shed. They visited Beachy Barns in Plain City and came up with a custom design for a gray cottage with white trim, enlarged windows, clear roofing panels in back, a window box and a stacked front door. Inside, they installed a long counter for potting plants and assembling floral designs plus storage areas for pots, tools and supplies. 

Once the cottage was delivered and set on a stone foundation, Peggy went to work on plans for the surrounding gardens. For inspiration, she visited local public gardens, including Franklin Park Conservatory and Inniswood. She made a list of trees, including spruce, magnolia and arborvitae, and hired a landscaper to install them. Then, she filled in the balance with perennials and shrubs. 

For the garden path, she chose flagstones for their imperfections and laid them in a winding line from the cottage through the perennial border to a sitting area and set of raised garden beds. 

“I knew I wanted something more natural and not straight lines,” says Peggy about the path design. “I wanted plants to come in and out, and the groundcover to grow between the flagstones.” 

For fun, Peggy fashioned a stumpery beyond the garden cottage. As declining trees were taken down, they were cut into 2-foot logs to stand on end for borders. She even hauled several tree roots home from her parents’ farm in Kentucky and now displays them like sculpture in her garden. 

Today, she enjoys sharing the garden with friends, family and especially her granddaughter who affectionately named it “Gigi’s Garden.” 

Next season, the garden will continue to take shape with the new projects she’s planning. Just like most gardeners, she’s using the cold weather months for planning ahead. 

“It’s always evolving as I try new things,” she says. “My garden is never quite done and that’s the beauty. It continues to change, and I can always find ways to make it even better.”

The following are Peggy Davis’s favorite hydrangeas: 

Oak Leaf Varieties: Ruby Slippers and Snow Queen 

Panicle Varieties: Limelight, Vanilla Strawberry, Quick Fire and Pinky Winky 

Big Leaf Varieties: Summer Crush, L.A. Dreamin’ 

Lacecap Varieties: Twist-N-Shout and Light-o-Day 

For more help in selecting, growing and pruning hydrangeas in Ohio, see the OSU fact sheet.

Steps for Off-Season Planning 

Evaluate: If you have them, scroll through phone images to review your garden. Where are there holes? When are there times without blooms and what plants can be added to enhance color? What plants are struggling? Are there ways to help them thrive or should they be replaced or moved? 

Imagine: Peruse magazines, Pinterest, Instagram and websites for garden inspiration. Reserve gardening books at the library. Check out new releases such as “Adventures in Eden,” “The Kinfolk Garden,” “Garden Design Master Class,” “Gardenista” and “#OPENDAYS25.” Also, make plans to visit public gardens and gardening centers in spring. Take cellphone pictures of favorite plants and use apps such as Picture This, PlantNet or PlantSnap to help identify them. 

Learn: Ohio State University’s Extension Services provides many resources. Online, submit questions to Ask a Master Gardener, look up Ohioline fact sheets or explore tutorials on its YouTube channel

Draw: Sketch rough ideas to renovate existing beds or create new ones. Check out papergardendesign.com for tutorials. 

Shop: Examine seed catalogs and plant websites like provenwinners.com. Make lists of plants and seeds to order now online, or buy them this spring at local garden centers. 

Source: If you’re planning bigger projects, reach out to contractors for bids to lay a patio, install new trees, design plans or even build a garden shed. Start now before their schedules fill up.