Last summer, on a garden tour in Boston's South End, I was entranced by the story of four families who years ago took down the fences separating their back townhouse gardens. This photo was taken from the first garden, looking across to the other three.
This small garden has a tiny dining patio up near the house, and the rest of the garden has a circular design filled with perennials: primroses, irises, astilbes, peonies. In the center is an Englilsh chimney pot that serves as a planter.
On the opposite wall (not seen here), lilacs and a mature peach tree flank the gate.
Adjoining the previous garden, this space is anchored in winter by evergreen azaleas and hollies. A pair of redbud trees are on either side of the back entrance (from the alley), and the back fence features clematis and English ivy. On the ground plane, a combination of golden creeping jenny, sweet woodruff, creeping veronica and marsh marigolds edge the cobblestone border. The homeowners engaged Mark Corbin of South End Gardens to help them with the design.
Next in line is one of the deepest gardens, with built-in bluestone benches that double as raised walls for containers. In spring, the garden is filled with tulips, but later on, the beds are filled with astilbe, bellflowers, petunias, Japanese iris, hydrangeas, and Japanese forest grass.
Climbing roses are trained against the house, and it's a lovely, serene garden "room" extending from the main residence.
The final garden, seen here in a photo taken from the house, shows the sunken patio and the raised beds out toward the back gate. Lovely shrubs include daphne and deutzia, hydrangeas and peonies. There is a fence at this end of the gardens, and it's covered with a climbing hydrangea and with a similar vine, Schizophragma hydrangeoides 'Moonlight.' At the top left of this photo, note the umbrella-shaped weeping birch at the previous garden's entry.
These gardens are also cleverly designed so that dining areas are pretty much screened from neighbors -- but you can still enjoy the grand vista that all four gardens provide.