by Anne Raver

Our visit to Nancy Weiss-Fried’s garden in Cranston, on a hot, sunny morning in late July, was a feast for the eyes and senses. Hundreds of species, including groundcovers, perennials, ferns and woody shrubs are terraced down the steep bank behind her house, shaded by the oak, beech, maple, white pine, and even a young chestnut tree that march down to the edge of Spectacle Pond, and which kept us cool, as we wandered about, plant ID lists in hand.

“I learned Excel to make the lists,” said Nancy, a very organized landscape architect, who has organized them according to a mapped garden plan. “I think about 25 percent are Rhode Island natives, 40 percent American natives, and a lot of non-natives. I just can’t pull them out!” (Who among us is a purist? We loved the crocosmia blooming in the sun, as much as the hummingbirds.)

Some of us took notes of beauties we want in our own gardens, such as spikenard (Aralia racemosa), a handsome tiered shrub that thrives in dry shade, its white flowers yielding dark purple berries in fall; and shrub yellowroot (Xanthorhiza simplicissima), an eastern native with small brownish-purple star-like flowers in spring, and attractive glossy green, compound leaves that turn yellow to reddish-purple in fall. This three-foot, spreading shrub, thrives in shade and makes a great ground cover for moist sites.

A few delicious refreshments – watermelon with mint, Nancy’s own chewy, rich chocolate cookies, and iced tea (Earl Grey, lemonade and bitters of some sort) – were laid out on a creative potting table (we lifted up the tablecloth to discover a repurposed wheelbarrow), and we cooled off in the shade of the trees, which accommodated their guests with a lovely breeze.

As for that satisfying drink, Nancy says, “The punch thing was very strong tea (I used eight tea bags to two cups of boiling water) one can of frozen lemonade concentrate.  Mix the two and then add seltzer to taste (a little more seltzer than mix).  I added some bitters to give it that adult punch flavor–this time it was Lee Brothers old fashion aromatic bitters–but have used Angostura bitters before, too.”

Thank you so much, Nancy, for a wonderful visit!