Step outside the dome home and there’s a garden filled with fringed bleeding heart, several kinds of tiarella, asters, dainty Japanese iris and wine cups.
“I like to be able to see up toward the store, so I don’t put in anything really tall,” says Kris Groff Barry.
Here, in the Colerain Township garden started by her plant-loving parents, she can keep an eye on the greenhouse business she runs with her husband. The front gardens may be short but there’s plenty of space elsewhere for woodland gardens, shrubs and trees plus places to trial new additions for Groff’s Plant Farm.
Her garden is one of 12 on the Porches and Posies Garden Tour on Friday, July 8, and Saturday, July 9, throughout the southern end of the county. On the tour are flower farms, shade gardens and spaces created for as much outdoor living as possible.
The tour is a fundraiser for Chestnut Level Presbyterian Church and in its second year. Aside from a great turnout last year, people appreciated an event to bring the community together, says Anna Mary Barcus, one of the members of the garden tour committee.
The tour is happening as greenhouse business starts to slow, a time when Barry is usually able to start tending to her own garden. But her parents’ house was on the tour last year and she said yes to joining the lineup. That meant more work in the garden before mid-June, which had its benefits.
“It was great because I’ve got to see stuff blooming that I normally don’t see,” she says. “I have some pretty cowslip primulas down there that I’ve never seen bloom before. I never get down here in April.”
Barry’s parents, Carl and Carol, build the dome house in 1991 and started carving gardens into the brambly meadow. Barry and her husband Jon moved there in 2012. They now live there with children Liam, 16, and Alison, 13.
Some things have stayed, like the daffodils and tree peonies Carol planted.
Over the past decade, Barry has made plenty of additions, including her beloved David Austin roses. Two climbing roses bloom near the house: Lady of Shalott has salmon pink flowers and Tess of the d’Urbervilles is red.
Elsewhere, she focuses on creating combinations of yellow, purple and blue.
“I just really like the complementary colors,” she says, next to a mix of yellow variegated euonymus shrubs, blue toned hostas and yellow Asiatic lilies. “It’s kind of pleasing to the eye.”
Blue salvia, purple Jacob’s ladder are joined by wood poppy. When these yellow flowers fade, the yellow lady’s mantle blooms.
Salvia koyamae will bloom yellow in the fall near golden variegated comfrey, bright creeping Jenny and New Hampshire purple geranium. More purple comes from coneflower and Joe Pye weed, which Barry cuts in half in late spring to keep it from growing too tall.
Annuals that fill in between the perennials stick to the color palette too with popcorn plant and branching sunflowers.
In the winter, well after the tour, a blue atlas cedar towers over yellow twig dogwood.
Throughout the garden, Barry’s planted new hydrangeas to see how they bloom and watch how they hold up to cold snaps.
A shade garden that borders the greenhouse has plant names on signs to help visitors identify plants without a tour. Standouts this season include foxglove excelsior (a mix of purples and whites), primula japonica and new ajugas with gold leaves.
Barry’s favorite here is aralia Sun King, with its bright gold foliage.
“For a shady spot, they really brighten up an area,” she says.
The demonstration gardens continue past the greenhouses as a way to show how these plants look outside of plastic pots. Barry wants to point one out: eryngium Big Bluewhich is buzzing with pollinators.
The thistle-like flower heads are long-lasting and bright blue, perfect for her own space.
“I ought to snag a few for my garden,” she says.
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