by Jesma Reynolds
photographs by Catherine Nguyen
When Bill and Judy Fitzgerald signed up six years ago for one of the cottages at The Cypress of Raleigh, an elegant North Raleigh senior living community, they were hoping to relieve themselves of some of the burden of maintining a six-and-a-half acre country property. But downsizing didn’t necessarily mean simplifying.
Judy made sure the contract included the rights to what was technically a common area behind their cottage. She wanted to recreate, on a smaller scale, the English garden she and Bill had enjoyed at their previous home. So she brought in her friend and garden designer Bridget Hutchison from Hudson, Quebec to help.
Their friendship, nearly three decades in the making, began when the Fitzgeralds lived in Hudson, where “Biddy” – along with a host of other local experienced gardeners – shared knowledge and passion about plants and design with Judy. Hutchison was such a valued resource that the Fitzgeralds had already hired her to create two previous gardens. This time, with Judy at the design helm, the friends sat down at the kitchen table and “went through a couple of erasers” to create a plan that would incorporate all their must-haves within the more limited space.
Hutchison recommended a framework for the garden. That meant hedges, paths, pergolas, and walls to establish structure, or, as Judy says, “bones.” Once that was set, they chose the plants. By including over 25 varieties of roses – hybrid teas and floribundas – they ensured something would always be in bloom (nature permitting) and fragrant, too. Four Iceberg tree roses were chosen to anchor each quadrant of the garden, which is hedged with Nomar boxwoods from Canada. The garden’s painterly mix of annuals and variety of textures are evidence of Judy’s background in interior design.
Today, Judy maintains the garden herself, spending about half an hour each day deadheading or edging. None of the roses are treated with insecticides. Instead, she introduced predatory mites and ladybugs to keep the plants healthy.
And the garden is truly for the community. When the Fitzgeralds’ “Garden is Open” sign is out front, and it usually is, neighbors are encouraged to meander down the path to to enjoy Judy’s, and nature’s, handiwork.