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The Queen of Landscapes

Elizabeth Gardens stands as a monument to indigenous plants and regal design.

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The property is laid out in a series of 20 open-air rooms connected by meandering paths.Duncan keeps deer at bay through a two-pronged strategy. First, he uses a commercial spray that repels animals without harming the environment. And second, he focuses on plants that deer don’t like, such as daffodils. “I love tulips, but we don’t have them here because of the deer,” he says.

Instead of vast expanses of grass that must be tamed by weekly mowing, Duncan gravitates toward meadows of wild flowers and other perennials that are permitted to grow free. “Grass gives nothing back to the environment,” he says. “You fertilize it with chemicals. You use fossil fuel to run the machines to mow it.”

His advice: cultivate a small area of scrupulously manicured grass and highlight it with a focal point, perhaps a metal garden ornament, then transition to a good groundcover.

Like gardeners, plants have distinctive personalities. Duncan admires crape myrtle for its beautifully peeling bark and vividly colored flowers, as well as the tree’s moderate size, which makes it ideal for patio plantings. Mahonia, an evergreen shrub, boasts bold foliage even in deep shade, and is equipped with spiky leaves that deer can’t abide.

Sedum is cloaked in a variety of colors, ranging from gold to deep and light greens and blue-gray. “We use sedums on our green roofs because they can grow in literally a few inches of bone-dry soil without irrigation,” he says. “They are very cool plants.”


  • Give your outdoor room structure by introducing an architectural focal point such as a column, oversized pot or substantial garden ornament.
  • Mix it up. Add lots of diverse plants to your garden, as well as a variety of hardscaping materials, including stone, brick and wood.
  • Clip your reliance on grass. Consider other groundcovers, including wildflowers and other perennials that do not require mowing.
  • Go tropical. Bring in palms and other warm-weather plants during the summer months. Plant them in large pots you can move around your patio or bring inside.
  • Let there be light. In addition to lighting pathways to ensure the safety of people walking outdoors, consider illuminating trees with uplights and downlights and spotlighting such features as ponds, and stone walls.


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