Gorgeous Gardens – #1 A Garden for All Seasons

Written By: Catriona Tudor Erler

Inta Krombolz’s garden is all about combinsing textures and foliage color, using different plant materials so it looks beautiful in all seasons.

Inta’s focus may be for her own aesthetic pleasure, but she is generous about sharing the garden with visitors. It is a favorite destination for garden groups who travel to West Chester, Pennsylvania, to visit Fox Hollow. There they enjoy walking through her 3 1/2-acre garden, which features a wonderful array of plants combined so each enhances the other and the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

The Krombolzes moved to Fox Hollow in 1978. Inta was thrilled to have a larger property than before so she wouldn’t run out of garden space. But the forested property also provided challenges, and Inta had to learn to garden in shade. Finding out what does well in those growing conditions and what plant combinations work has been a learning process with plenty of trial and error.

Over the last 30 plus years, she has become an expert in shade gardening, learning what works in an environment that gets six or fewer hours of sun a day in most places.

The garden begins with the patio and pavilion that overlooks the rest of the acreage. Clusters of containers planted with succulents including echeverias, agaves, and sempervivum (hen-and-chicks) welcome people to the space. The containers are an eclectic mixture featuring hypertufa troughs, terra cotta and concrete pots, and the rusted hub from the well of an antique Ford truck. The collection of pots and plants is a foretaste of what’s to come, illustrating Inta’s gift for combining disparate items and diverse plant form to make a compelling picture.

A square linear pond populated with fish was inspired by the lily ponds at nearby Longwood Gardens. The brick rim that is cantilevered slightly over the water’s edge hides the liner so the pond merges easily with the surrounding surfaces. It is a great focal point, from the house and the covered pavilion that is comfortably furnished with wicker armchairs upholstered with plump cushions.

From the pavilion you can look down on a side garden, getting an aerial view of the wonderful textures and shapes created by the plantings of miniature boxwoods, bean pole yews, and Stewartia. A brick path lined with Belgian blocks and with a grinding wheel in the center bisects the little garden room, giving structure and focus to the designs.

Sloping away in front of the patio and pavilion is the main part of the garden. There grass paths wind between and along large beds planted with a rich medley of evergreens and perennials. A shed in one corner features a front porch furnished with rustic rockers made by artist Bobby Bridges. The attractive and comfortable seats make that spot a destination within the garden.

Other features that give character to the freeform garden design are a rustic starburst arbor also made by Boddy Bridges and another shed that was originally an outhouse with two seats. Inta found the structure at an antique shop. She removed the seats, put on a new roof, and attached columns on the front. There she stores tools so she doesn’t have to run from one end of the garden to the other when she’s working. The words POTTING SHED are clearly written over the door lest visitors mistake the building for its original function.

The same sense of whimsy is evident in the welded iron ornaments that decorate the garden. These pieces are Inta’s creations. She became a sculptor by accident.

Visitor’s to the garden are so struck by her sculptures that they have put in orders for their own. Now she has a small business making and selling these pieces, which are constructed from old machine parts.

But it is the plants and how they are combined that make this garden so special. A pair of variegated dogwoods (Cornus controversa ‘Variegata’) are planted in front of dark green evergreen trees so they pop out in brilliant contrast to the background. Spiky yucca contrast with a cascading mound of colorful coleus and dwarf willows. Large swaths of hosta mingle with dwarf conifers, creating a medley of color and texture. In some places, Inta has combined plants that have similarly colored foliage but contrasting forms. In others she opts for color and texture differences. But always her artistic senses are at work, using the plants to draw the eye to a desired focal point, to create an exciting vignette, or to set each other off to best advantage. And if she make a mistake, then she moves the plants.

This love – and understanding – of plants has been a lifelong passion for Inta, and it shows.