I had briefly been there before, but today I was giddy driving over the hills and through the woods knowing that, this time, I would have a personal tour. As I pulled up to her garden she came out to meet me, and we sat on a pretty stone bench to chat.
Sharon Harms is an artist, a savvy businesswoman and — my, oh my — is she a gardener.
We begin at her mailbox garden, which is next to the poppy garden. I love that each area of this artist’s garden is treated as a canvas and given its own identity. Climbing up the lamppost is a lush clematis. It’s tall and full of blooms in varying shades of purple. This sets the stage for the tour.
As we move to the poppy garden, you can’t miss the dinner plate hibiscus with blooms that are deep red and truly the size of dinner plates. Sharon does what all experienced gardeners do: She plants with the bloom times in mind. Doing this ensures that something is always blooming in her garden.
When talking about her rock garden and the ground covers and sedum growing there, I am again reminded Sharon is an artist. She talks of sculpting her garden and creating the lines she is happy with rather than letting plants ramble over the space. Yes, this bed is composed to be a scene — not a still-life scene but a living area that changes with the seasons.
Of course she has a spice garden growing in cobalt blue pots outside her kitchen window. The pots themselves add a shot of color and structure to this little spot.
From here, visitors have an up-close view of the paper bark tree shading the walk. I love this tree — it is a piece of art! The bark is shades of gray, cream and brown and the texture is mesmerizing. This tree and the large rhododendron bush came with the house. The other beds have been added by Sharon and her husband, Bill, over the last 15 years.
What you notice about Sharon’s garden is the unusual and almost exotic plants she grows. This is not a garden of coneflowers, hostas and black-eyed susans (like my garden). This is a garden with plants cultivated from all over the country. The front borders are filled with 7-foot lilies and the blooms are spectacular. In front of the lilies are tall old-fashioned phlox. On this day, the blooms are full and butterflies are fluttering through the plants. Truly enchanting.
The next spot is Genny’s Garden, planted in memory of Sharon’s daughter. As you would imagine it is soft and delicate and reflects Genny’s love of animals and nature. Planted next to this canvas, I found one of my favorite plants, the rattlesnake plantain. It is an evergreen and the most common wild orchard in North America. This tiny plant captured my attention with its green leaves, white veins, and white spine down the middle.
I haven’t even mentioned the shady path with maiden hair ferns, Lenten roses, Peter’s pennies with their bright pink blooms in the spring, money plants and bluebells. Maybe seeing this path in bloom is a reason to visit again in the spring.
Sharon is from Chicago and studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and the American Academy of Art. Her watercolors can be seen in exhibits throughout the region. Have you been to Tamarack? Sharon’s stained-glass work (which she learned after moving to West Virginia) can be seen in four windows and the doors to the Fine Arts Gallery in the Tamarack building.
So, it is no surprise that this accomplished artist creates a garden that is a masterpiece. Her love of color, nature and the unexpected are all reflected in each canvas or room within her garden. She has the artist’s eye to layer the plants creating interest and beauty. Thank you Sharon for scheduling, rescheduling and again rescheduling my tour. I enjoyed your stories, your knowledge,and every step I took within your garden.