August 05, 2022
Woodland gardens aren’t show ponies of dazzling flower color. Their beauty shines through in subtler, shade-loving foliage plants, in dappled light glinting through leaves, in cool shadowed paths that gradually reveal tucked-away art and secret hideaways. Such is the garden of Ann Munson, which I toured on the Madison Fling in late June.
A rustic wooden arbor with a clambering purple clematis invites you in and announces her garden’s name: Moor Gardens. Ann explains: “I live on a street called Midmoor, and every year I’ve added more and more gardens. So it’s kind of a play on those two words.”
The main garden, behind the house, stretches across a deep, 3/4-acre suburban lot. For 43 years Ann has been expanding her gardens and planting trees and shrubs — more than 250 of them! Today most of the garden winds under her collection of trees. Wood-chip paths meander around two ponds and a connecting stream, past mysterious found-object art, and lead to various hideaways deep in the garden, including a firepit patio in an open glade, a hammock under a pine, a mural-painted playhouse, and a rustic tepee.
Ann says, “My gardens allow me to participate in the ongoing cycle of life — seeking beauty, health, and creativity. I want there to be mystery, excitement, interaction, and health in the garden. I want color, design, natural critters, and the flow of the seasons made real. I want to look out my window at a natural world, and step out my door and do a forest bath.”
A poetic manifesto for a garden!
The deeper I wandered into the garden, the more it affected me. I soon realized why. It brought to mind memories of a wooded garden I played in as a child, with hidden paths under trees and sheltered hideaways.
Ann’s garden evokes a childlike sense of discovery when you come upon her artful vignettes, like a metal bird perched in a cage…
…or a masked, ghostly figure that seems to float above the leaves…
…or an intriguing relic from farm country that marks a bend in the path.
Ann clearly enjoys recycling castoff machinery into artful displays among the trees.
A metal dino rampages through the understory.
In a clearing, a relaxed patio offers a mix of seating around a firepit.
And at the rear of the garden, a hideout emerges.
A blanket-brightened hammock for lazing…
…and a two-story playhouse for adventuring, built for grandkids. Is that Godzilla emerging from ocean waves?
Another mural adorns the front of the playhouse. Both were painted by Ann. I think the structure with the mirrored art is a garden shed.
Reflective surfaces bring depth and light into a shadowed space.
A place for grandkids to grow a few things, perhaps?
Just up the path, a rustic tepee is half-swallowed by vines.
An inviting forest hideaway for little ones
A fiery begonia seems to grow out of a bird’s nest in a tree.
Trunks and tall branches make handy materials for a woodland arbor.
A sinuous dead tree seems to dance near a solitary bench.
Stained-glass dragonfly on a gothic wire trellis
One of the inviting, dappled-light paths into the garden
A wider view
Ann’s collection of trees includes some blue-green conifers that I love, like ‘Horstmann’s Silberlocke’ Korean fir.
Check out those frosted, curled needles.
A vertical view shows Horstmann’s Silberlocke with an even taller, and contrastingly droopy, conifer — a weeping Nootka cypress.
It’s gorgeous! I bet these conifers make the garden beautiful during a snowy winter too.
A pale lilac clematis
An open area near the house offers space for sun-loving plants.
Irises were blooming.
As were many other lovelies in the fir-fringed meadow.
Up next: Lilies, clematis, and alliums glow amid raindrops in the garden of Cindy Fillingame. For a look back at Jane and Duane Miller’s artistic, colorful, and semi-portable garden, click here.
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