This Garden Uses Budget-Friendly Tricks to Keep Expanding
Although they started with a blank slate and a tight budget, this Connecticut couple created a garden that is splendiferous—not spendiferous. Propagating tricks and spreading groundcovers make the garden full without a big price tag.
The 3-acre landscape around George Jones and Dean Del Giudice’s home is laid out as a glorious journey through garden after garden, all designed and immaculately maintained by the talented couple. The resulting spread of interconnected outdoor rooms the couple named Plantsville Pines could easily rival a botanical garden. It seems like a prohibitively costly endeavor. Amazingly, the whole opus was accomplished on a shoestring. George can count on one hand the number of times they have splurged.
It started 18 years ago when Dean’s parents partitioned off the 3-acre lot from their family’s land in the Plantsville neighborhood of Southington, Connecticut, as a gift to the couple. Building a house was first on the agenda, but gardens were always part of the plan. Training for the task began in George’s childhood, when his thrifty florist mother grew cut flowers as a family income booster. Although his mother’s style was strictly straight rows, he later took the seed-starting skill several steps further to fill ornate borders of all types. And he still grows his mother’s multicolor long-stemmed (for florist bunching purposes) strains of sweet William from seeds saved since his youth.
Meanwhile, Dean discovered a natural ability to propagate plants. He knows precisely when to snip cuttings—hint: after flowering in early summer— to increase the flock. Heirloom roses are his chosen focus, but he also tackles unpatented hydrangeas and other shrubs.
Economical choices started early in the game. While their house was being constructed, George and Dean took advantage of the earth-moving equipment on site, asking their contractor to dig holes every 11 feet along the border. They purchased 300 fledgling pines, firs, hemlocks, and spruces to insert. Those conifers now stand several stories tall, forming a luxuriant, dense evergreen wall. George also brought seven boxes of seeds with him plus divisions of plants from his previous property. Before the house was completed, flats of seeds were germinating in readiness. While the house was only a skeleton, George was well on his way toward the first of many gardens—with minimal monetary investment.
Early July is peak for the 90-foot-long borders, with home-rooted climbing roses straddling arbors overhead and salvias, spireas, sedums, bee balms, lilies, and sweet Williams filling the beds. George extended the season by adding homegrown lychnis, gloriosa daisies (Rudbeckia hirta), ageratum, coneflowers (Echinacea cultivars), and balloon flowers (Platycodon grandiflorus). In case there’s a blank slot, flats of seedlings wait in readiness. The result is a salute to a British manor garden with a generous dose of American ingenuity and Yankee frugality.
British-style mixed borders were just the beginning. The couple also installed a swank Italian parterre studded with fountains beside the house, edged with 400 tiny ‘Winter Gem’ boxwoods from big-box stores. “It took four to five years for the boxwoods to form a solid edging. Now, two years later, they’re almost too big,” George says. The boxwoods’ vigor became an asset because George ultimately used the cuttings—47 to be exact—to edge another sunken garden filled with succulents to host the wedding of Dean’s niece. “I had to do something with all those boxwoods,” George says of the expansion. But even that project isn’t the final piece in the puzzle, because this ultra-productive pair has more schemes afoot. No doubt whatever is next on the agenda will result in something enviably gorgeous. But you can also bet it will be accomplished without ka-ching.
George Jones and Dean Del Giudice stand below one of several arbors supporting pink climbing roses Dean rooted from cuttings. Visitors experience a dramatic reveal as they approach Dean and George’s house from the street as it is embraced by formal gardens and hidden by dense privacy plantings.
Long, deep mixed borders of perennial and annual flowers present weeks of peak garden color. Purples and yellows work well to make each other stand out. Flowering shrubs and dwarf evergreens add backbone to the borders and interest in winter months.
A weeping blue atlas cedar (Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca Pendula’) marks the entrance to the long axis of a formal garden filled with trimmed boxwood, tall sedum, and pygmy dwarf barberry. George’s many cuttings from his ‘Winter Gem’ boxwood found a new home in a parterre garden dividing patterned plantings of lavenders ‘Silver Mist’, ‘Hidcote’, and ‘Munstead’.
An entryway in front of the garden shed features crisscrossed cedar sections from a Yardistry pergola kit and a wall fountain. The aged wall fountain adds character. For climbers overhead, Dean and George planted ‘Peggy Martin’, a classic Southern rambling rose that became famous for surviving Hurricane Katrina.