Lily O'Boyle's Gardens Is A Plantito And Plantita's Dreamland
This green thumb will never be satisfied with just cute succulents in tiny pots, indoor plants with variegated leaves or even exotic orchids in a greenhouse. Lily O’Boyle must have more—something sizeable, unique, nonpareil in the neighbourhood. In November 2009, the former television and stage actor in Manila was featured as Tatler Philippines’ cover story at her home with a Maze Garden in the US East Coast.
Five years ago, she moved to a more child-friendly community close to the ocean. The new property, which had an existing garden with lovely mature trees and shrubs and a smattering of flower borders, also had lots of open spaces for children to play in. It seemed perfect for someone who, at this point, wanted to garden less and travel more. Then the pandemic happened.
O’Boyle, who has written two books on Philippine gardens, said that the Covid-19 pandemic brought this garden into being because she had more time to spare while in quarantine after returning from the Philippines. Then she relates how everything started.
“My bedroom looks out onto a meadow that, in the spring, is resplendent with yellow daffodils and in the summer, wildly dramatic with tall brown grass. My family visited me this summer despite the pandemic and I thought how nice it would be to have something to remember them by always.
The grandchildren and I had missed the Maze from the old house. I’ve always been fascinated with mazes and topiaries because they are whimsical and add high drama to the surroundings and I thought we could just put a new maze in—but somehow it did not feel right for the spot. Some sort of topiary garden would make more sense. And although topiaries usually come up from nice, neat lawns, I thought what a welcome surprise it would be if it arose from a meadow instead! The flowers and grasses would provide a startling contrast to the formality of the green boxwood and Alberta Spruces.”
The choice for these two plant species had something to do with the presence of deer in her meadow. “It was crucial to choose deer-resistant plant specimens so instead of the popular yew used in many English topiary gardens, I opted for boxwood and Alberta spruces,” she explains.
The Topiary Meadow, that lies parallel to the Great Lawn where the pool is situated, is at least an acre. O’Boyle expects it to require less maintenance than the Maze. The first few years, she adds, are important to get them established properly with a good watering and feeding programme. “But it can be great fun for the family. And whereas the Maze was created in memory of my departed loved ones, the Topiary Meadow will celebrate the living, our growing family and important milestones,” she says.
It shares the property with two other themed spots—the Woodland Garden with a treehouse and the secret Rose Garden behind the barn.
“Our original family of six has now become 16 with another grandchild coming. The idea behind the Topiary Meadow was for each grandchild to choose a topiary to grow with, creating a story of their own. I was inspired by Richard Power’s The Overstory, a novel where the main characters are trees and the various short stories told of humans are seen from the trees’ point of view.”
She still thinks of The Maze in Connecticut: “I am hoping it is still standing and providing enjoyment to its new owners.” But for now, she is focused on the Topiary Meadow. “It is time for me to sit back and watch the Topiary Garden grow big enough so we can start choosing the various animal and geometric shapes for the individual plants as well as discover the wildflowers and grasses in the meadow that will cohabitate with the topiaries.” Her vision takes her to a wilderness co-existing with trimmed trees. The balance of wild and tamed, of formal and informal. “Then one day, sooner than you think, I hope to realise that I have created this perfect balance,” she says. “And it might just take my breath away.”
This article was originally published in Tatler Philippines November 2020 issue. Download it on your device via Magzter.
- Photography Wawi Navarroza
- Photography Lourdes Matters
- Words Chit Lijauco