The whimsical woodland garden of Ellen Ash: Capital Region Garden Bloggers Fling


Although the tree-shaded entrance to this Great Falls, Virginia, garden was elegant and restrained, I knew the owner would be a gardener with a sense of humor. How? Because at the driveway’s end I spotted, atop a pilaster, a statue wearing actual sunglasses. It was the first sign of a playfulness with garden art on display throughout Ellen Ash’s 2-acre garden.


The bus I was on, during last month’s Capital Region Garden Bloggers Fling, was running a little late, and other bloggers were already exploring the back garden’s extensive paths. I had the serene front garden nearly to myself. It must be a riot of color in spring, when the now-quiet azaleas, rhododendrons, and flowering trees are in bloom. Following this intriguing stone-and-moss path…


…I entered the enormous back garden, which, near the house, slopes gently down to a swimming pool and a swooping, mod pool house and patio.


A closer look at that fabulous pool house and large swimming pool. You could throw some big pool parties here!


In the garden between the house and pool, a small pond shaded by a parasol-like Japanese maple is home to a school of flashy goldfish…


…protected from raccoons and herons, I imagine, by a panel of crisscrossed wire laid on the water’s surface.


At one corner of the house I spotted this aluminum chaise in the shape of a lounging, space-age woman — a futuristic odalisque? A crossroads-style sign points toward cities that perhaps have special significance to the owner.


But to my mind, here’s where the garden really starts: with a sweeping, curvy lawn bordered by a stone strolling path and wood’s-edge garden beds.


From the lawn path, mossy woodland trails wind under the trees in all directions, offering a boggling number of choices to the visiting blogger with limited time to see everything.


At every turn, Ellen’s whimsical garden art coaxes a smile or a laugh.


She has a special affinity for cats, which appeared in all guises throughout the garden.


One-of-a-kind found-art pieces…


…or kitschy flamingos — Ellen doesn’t discriminate with her garden art and clearly is having fun with all of it.


One of the most stunning pieces of art in her garden is this stone moon gate, which welcomes visitors from along a back stretch of the driveway. It perfectly frames a focal-point statue, which draws the eye across a mossy glade as you enter.


Looking through from the other side


I was fascinated by all the beautiful mossy paths, and wondered about their fragility while walking along them.


Most, however, were laid with large stepping stones…


…or a combination of cut stones and brick…


…or even footprint-shaped steppers!


One path led to a stone monolith fountain in a small clearing…


…with benches placed around a circular cut-stone patio around the fountain. Flat, gray beach pebbles neatly skirt the fountain and “flow” along the edge of the patio like seeping water.


I heard that Ellen does almost all of the gardening herself, which is impressive considering the size of the place. I really enjoyed wandering the paths and discovering the surprises, like this cloud of blue hydrangeas, and fun garden art along the way.

Up next: The harmonious garden retreat of designer Barbara Katz. For a look back at the natural log and twig art of designer Debbie Friedman’s garden, click here.

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14 Responses

  1. Great photo tour! I loved this garden and later at the winery had lunch with Ellen. She is a fascinating person and passionate gardener. We found out her husband is a retired race car drivers and there are two of his cars in the garage!

    • Pam/Digging says:

      No kidding! He seemed pretty chill on the pool house patio, smoking his cigar. :) It’s so nice that you had a chance to talk with Ellen over lunch. —Pam

  2. It looks like she has those two acres pulled together well. I adore that moon gate. Just looking at the pictures of it made my heart go pitty patter. All that moss is amazing in a wooded area. I bet the leaf pick up in fall is a full time job. Worth the effort. It is gorgeous.

  3. With a 2-acre garden, it’s easy for viewers with cameras to see very different gardens. But we have some common touch-points, that wonderful moon gate being one. I do wish I had enough moisture under the trees shading my garden for a moss pathway. Sadly, it is not to be.

  4. Lea says:

    Beautiful, wonderful garden! Just to have the moon gate would be enough for me!

  5. Lara Leaf says:

    Those moss paths! Here in Houston, we do get some moss, usually growing up the side of the house on the bricks closest to the ground in a very shady area – right where you don’t want it, lol.
    This garden is wonderful!

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I used to have a little moss that grew in the cool season on some exposed limestone, but it would always disappear in the summer, and after the drought it disappeared altogether. —Pam

  6. JillO says:

    Is it tacky of me to really love the flamingos? They made me laugh out loud.

  7. My goodness, how does one garden that much space on their own? I’m sure its cool greenness was a welcome change for a Texan gardener.

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