When Gary and Rita Moore moved to their farmhouse on Oak Hill Road in Standish, Rita couldn’t begin to think of gardening before they removed all the barbed wire and fence posts that remained on the old cow farm.

Now, 30 years later, their property abounds with an array of wonderful, colorful flowers, shrubs and trees.

According to Gary, Rita has done all the work planting and nourishing her many gardens that incorporate outcroppings of ledge, frame the pool and provide splashes of color and texture for areas of both sun and shade.

Inspired by some of her friends from Portland who were “into gardening,” Rita began her own gardening shortly after they moved in and has never stopped.

She constantly moves things around until she’s satisfied with their location. She also exhibits a lot of patience – she took five years to build up one bed with soil, manure and grass clippings before actually planting it.

I visited Rita and her gardens this week on one of the many beautiful, sunny days we’ve enjoyed this summer.

The Moore’s land on Oak Hill Road looks out over stretches of grassy fields to the rich, green trees beyond. Large drifts of flowers in the foreground are a perfect complement to the views. Constructed over many years, many sturdy rock walls curve and twist their way around the flowerbeds.

We strolled through her yard, peering beneath tall phlox to see both her hen and rooster nestled on the cool ground in their shady hide-a-way.

And, oh, those phlox! At this time of year, they explode in jewel tones that glow in the sunlight. Rita has skillfully combined them with some of her favorite plants: gloriosa daisies, State Fair zinnias, Russian sage, and hollyhocks and sunflowers that reach to the sky.

Other favorites include hibiscus, heliotrope, and “most anything variegated.”

Not content with four months of beauty in her garden beds, Rita has incorporated shrubs and small trees so that even in the middle of winter, a mixture of colors, shapes and textures surrounds her. She particularly leans toward weeping varieties of trees, placing chairs under their canopies to provide cool, secluded resting spots.

Rita had simple but important advice to give any gardener:

“Have fun and experiment,” she said. “If something doesn’t do well, don’t get discouraged; move it to another spot.”

She also had some good advice about invasive plants. Some plants “just need their own garden – put them in their own beds.” But, she said, when shopping for plants “if the tag says it’s invasive, don’t buy it.”

As for gardening books, she doesn’t really have a favorite. She does look at garden catalogs to discover new plants. But most of her learning is done in person at the many nurseries she frequents.

Rita also enjoys scavenging at garage sales where she often finds unusual garden ornaments. Many of these sales are given at homes with beautiful flowers. And, as Rita says, people love showing off their gardens – especially to other gardeners.

As I admired her flowerbeds I was struck by the number of birds darting through foliage and bustling with activity in their avian condominium complex of flower stems and leaves.

Rita welcomes them to her garden, allowing many flower stalks with dried seeds to remain through the winter to furnish the birds with a hearty meal. Many of the flowers she grows attract the birds to her yard.

“There’s nothing like leaning down while gardening and hearing a helicopter sound of a hummingbird next to my head,” Rita said.


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