UPTON – Joy Yarnell has been creating her 3- to-4-acre English garden for more than 20 years. Now, it is filled with thousands of perennials, shrubs, berries and even rhubarb.

Bright pinks and yellows, reds and oranges pop up everywhere. And just down a cool, grassy path is a simple bench, perfect for sitting, thinking and relaxing. Tiny Peabody Creek bubbles nearby. The noise and busyness of everyday life seems miles away.

On Sunday, people will have a chance to visit her gardens, along with those of neighbors Ellie LeComte and Jennifer Casey during a fund-raiser for Mahoosuc Land Trust. The homes are on Mill Road, directly off Route 26.

For $10 per person, visitors can walk along Yarnell’s many paths interwoven with lawn and forest, learn about day lilies and wildflowers at LeComte’s home, and talk with Casey about how she is restoring old gardens and creating new ones.

Visitors are asked to bring a picnic lunch. Beverages and desserts will be provided.

Yarnell and her husband, James, retired to Upton in 1981 after careers at Cornell University. They moved into the home that was once owned by her great uncle. Originally from Mt. Vernon, N.Y., Yarnell, since age 3, had been making summer pilgrimages to the town where her grandfather and great uncle were born.

And ever since her retirement, she has used her love of plants, along with encouragement from Bernard McLaughlin of the South Paris gardens, to create an English garden. She has traveled to England several times to learn more about them.

An English garden, she said, is really a planned landscaped garden that includes lawns, paths, water, trees, shrubs and flowers to create one overall effect. It takes lots of work. Such gardens in England are cared for by a paid gardener.

Yarnell does it all virtually by herself. She employs someone a half-day a week to mow, and when her husband was living, he helped. She estimates she spends about seven hours a day pulling weeds, dead-heading flowers, thinning over-enthusiastic plants, and doing a multitude of other activities to keep the garden beautiful.

Yarnell has at least 100 lily species included in the several thousand plant species growing throughout her garden.

“I take such delight in seeing the plants grow,” she said.

Everything is grown for its beauty, even the high bush blueberries nestled among the green shrubs and the pink-stalked rhubarb. “I like to look at the leaves,” she said of the tart pie plant.

LeComte, Casey

She also has helped her neighbors’ gardens. LeComte and Casey both have planted roots and cuttings from Yarnell’s garden.

Casey, among her several gardens, has a “Joy” garden. Most of the flowers originally came from Yarnell.

While Yarnell’s garden is a mature, English presentation, Casey’s garden is described as a “work in process.”

She and her husband, Paul, both employees of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, moved to an old farmhouse a few hundred yards from Yarnell about five years ago. Along with restoring a long-abandoned perennial garden, Casey is developing several of her own – along with the “Joy” garden are individual gardens focusing on salads, friends (with plants like Rosemary named for a sister, and violets named for an aunt), colorful lilies, vegetables and herbs. She also has a holding garden where plants make their home until Casey decides where she wants to put them.

Casey, originally from Wisconsin, has always had vegetable gardens. Perennials are new and she can’t name a favorite because she likes all of them.

“I like the sense of accomplishment, and I like to look at pretty things,” she said of the masses of color blooming from several small gardens.

LeComte’s home, across from Casey’s, is set back a few hundred feet from Lake Umbagog. She considers her garden more informal. She calls it “wildflowers and weeds.”

Many wildflowers grow abundantly, as does what some people would call weeds – purple and yellow loose strife, goldenrod later in the summer.

Along with these are white cosmos, many lily varieties, white feverfew, Jerusalem artichokes, green and white striped leaf lungwort and dozens of other green or blossoming plants.

A neighbor’s beehive helps ensure that all plants in the area are pollinated, she said.

LeComte said she enjoys her garden. “It’s relaxing and therapeutic,” she said.


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