Elisabeth Murphy’s Laurel Ridge Garden, Princeton, MA
It was easy to find this garden, the last property at the end of a short, private way not far from Rte. 140. The house and gardens occupy a clearing nestled in a wooded area. Before the house was built 30 years ago, the site was occupied by a grove of mountain laurel with many still visible along the woodland edge and understory. Perennial beds and various plantings line nearly the full perimeter of this 1.5-acre clearing, with a large vegetable garden occupying one corner. There are over 350 registered daylilies planted throughout many of the garden beds including every Stout Silver Metal Award winner from 1950 to 2020 and at least 60 varieties that Elisabeth has hybridized herself. The registered daylilies as well as most of the perennials, trees & shrubs have all been carefully labelled. The west side of the house faces a steep slope, originally a grassy and difficult to mow area, which Elisabeth gradually converted to a beautiful terraced garden.There are 10 terrace levels built with rocks gathered from the property. The terraced garden is brimming with a lush mix of daylilies and an extensive collection of perennials - dahlia, peony, sedum and so much more. With so many daylilies at peak bloom, the color was dazzling.A large beech tree in this terraced area provides dappled sun for numerous shade perennials including unusual cultivars of hostas & ferns. Down the full length of one side of the terrace, Elisabeth built an impressive, naturalistic waterfall that gently cascades over a series of wide, flat rocks and is nestled between daylilies and perennials with pond plants at the bottom. At the foot of the terrace, a pristine swimming pool occupies a fenced enclosure which is lined with many more sun-loving shrubs and perennials - hydrangea, filenpendula, aster, ligularia, autumn clematis, roses and daylilies to name a few. A flourishing grape vine of hanging fruit covers an arbor at the pool entrance. A long row of raspberry bushes, bearing an abundance of fruit just beginning to ripen, lines the outer western edge of the enclosure. The veg garden was one of the first gardens planted in 1990. Perimeter fencing keeps critters at bay and black plastic between rows helps with moisture retention and weed control. The plastic is lifted annually to allow compost to be rototilled in. Current plantings include potatoes, asparagus, cabbage, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, onions, beans, root celery, spinach, snap peas and more, much of it grown from seed and much of the harvest to be canned. From the looks of this thriving garden, there will be a lot to can this year. Soaker hoses and timers are laid out in zones throughout all of the beds and irrigation is run about 2 hours daily from an artesian well. No overhead watering is done. There are apple trees (Rome, Cortland and Boskoop), peach, hazelnut, larch, Chinese chestnut, and Japanese maple as well as blue spruce grown for Christmas trees.
Elisabeth opened her garden to the public in 2020, seeking to offer some relief to her COVID-19 housebound neighbors. She periodically sells divisions of daylilies and perennials from her home along with delightful birdbaths she creates from vases, platters and glassware of various shapes, sizes and colors. Visiting this garden is a real treat. What one person has built (with occasional help from family and friends) is also inspiring. When asked, Elisabeth estimates that she might spend up to 20 hours a week tending her gardens although her husband claims it is much more.But who wants to keep track of the time we spend in our gardens anyway.