My sister Banu who lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania has a lovely home and a beautiful garden. Banu’s garden is lush and emerald green. It’s the greenest garden I’ve ever seen. As Banu explained to me, that’s because of the high humidity in Philadelphia, and the constant bouts of rain showers they get sporadically off and on all summer long. In fact it is so humid that she hardly turns the sprinklers on and can go for weeks without turning them on sometimes. Can you believe it? For a California gardener like myself, no sprinklers or watering means the death of our gardens here, especially in the summer.
Banu’s garden is more of a large space that has natural divisions in the landscape rather than actual separations. Basically her garden surrounds her home. Front, back, two side yards. No fences and no barriers between her garden and her neighbor’s means that the garden has more of a park-like garden feel.
Trees in my sisters garden garden are huge. A giant Magnolia tree graces Banu’s garden and provides a majestic focal point on one side of her yard. It pretty much engulfs one corner of her garden. This tree would be the envy of any historical public garden.
This magnificent magnolia tree glows in the winter when covered in pristine white snow.
I wish I knew the secret to growing grand magnolia trees. They put on a spectacular show in the spring that is unparalleled.
Banu has the most amazing spring display of flowering trees in her garden. Aside from the magnolia tree, Banu has planted at least five more spring flowering trees in her backyard. Over the years these trees have grown huge, over 3 stories tall. Spectacular weeping cherry blossom trees, gorgeous flowering plum trees and giant azalea bushes put on a spring show that is a feast for the eyes.
I have never seen such tall weeping cherry blossom trees like those in Banu’s garden. Absolutely stunningly beautiful, and so tall that you have to crane your neck to see to the top. The trees are taller than her 2-storey home and in the spring, bloom into a picture perfect postcard, right next to her living room deck.
In the summer these weeping cherry blossom trees drip like green waterfalls.
Delicate birch trees line Banu’s property providing a natural privacy screen from her neighbor’s driveway. These trees were planted as young trees over a fifteen years ago, yet being only 15 years old, these trees tower so tall that they block the neighbor’s home as well.
Either it’s the weather or the soil – whichever it is, lilies, evergreen bushes, roses, dahlias, daylilies, coleus, everything is 3-4 times bigger than what I am used to seeing back home in California.
The reason for everything in this garden looking like it is pumped up on fertilizers is because this garden is nutrient rich. The soil in Banu’s garden is rich from all the prep-work that Banu put into it when designing and planning her garden. I remember her telling me how she scavenged for old newspapers all over town to lay down on the soil all over her yard over the winter months so the paper could disintegrate into the soil and add nutrients. I also remember her telling me she trucked in tons of mushroom compost and fresh soil to amend the existing soil in her yard. All this she did patiently over the course of a year even before she considered planting a thing. Only after all the soil prep-work did Banu start planting trees, bushes, and flowers in her garden. There is an old garden saying for gardeners “Good soil is like black gold.” This couldn’t be any truer as in Banu’s garden.
Banu loves vegetable gardening, even more I think than flower gardening, which is the opposite of me. She has a huge enclosed vegetable garden where she grows enough vegetables for ten families. I asked her what in the world is she growing that many vegetables for? It’s like a farm, and all that for a family of 2 adults and 2 kids?
Banu is an avid gardener just like my Mom and me. But she is crazier than me when it comes to gardening. She enjoys it so much that just like my Mom she will spend hours in her backyard and lose track of time. Banu loves growing vegetables just like my Mom did. My Mom would grow every vegetable imaginable, even tropical veggies, which are hard to find in Louisiana where she lived, she would grow these from seed. Banu is just like my Mom 😀🍅🍆🌶🌽.
Banu’s veggie plants produce a bounty of vegetables. She grows eggplants, pumpkins, squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, green beans, peas, all types of herbs, carrots, arugala, lettuce, and turnips, just to name a few. Basically anything you may buy at the farmer’s market, she grows in her veggie patch.
Banu enjoys growing herbs just as much as her vegetables. She grows herbs in elegant pots on her kitchen patio and deck. These herbs grow tastefully and delicately because of the humid and shady conditions in her back yard – as compared to my herbs that grow almost wild, looking like they need a bad hair cut every month.
My sister also enjoys flower gardening. She has planted lilies, roses, lavenders, dahlias, coneflower, and so many more plants in all textures and colors, and they all look lush and healthy in her garden, with the most minimal amount of care.
Hydrangeas in my sister’s shady garden are taller than me! Covered in lush pink, white and pale-blue blooms, hydrangeas in Banu’s garden couldn’t be any happier.
The front of Banu’s home has beautiful Knockout roses and huge daylilies that are as tall as the first floor of her home. I’ve never seen knockout roses this huge anywhere! These bushes are 8 feet tall.
The daylilies here are very tall. Interestingly Banu said she didn’t plant any daylilies in her garden, they just popped up all over her yard. They must be native plants to this area, as I found daylilies to be growing in abundance all over Philly, off the freeways, at parks, in every front yard and landscape, they are just growing wild all over this area., and they are just beautiful.
What I appreciate in Banu’s garden is her ability to layer bushes and plants in various textures, colors, and shapes. Variegated plants, beautiful hostas, Russian sage, and evergreen bushes create a lovely natural border in Banu’s garden.
Banu’s garden is a little piece of emerald green heaven where one can spend countless hours lounging and soaking in the beauty of this serene shady landscape.
My sister Banu’s garden in Philadelphia is the perfect reflection of my sister Banu herself – a calm, giving, and beautiful place, an arcadia in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.