A garden becomes a work of art
Botanical artist Mindy Lighthipe taps her creativity to shape her changing garden.
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The garden is convenient to her home studio, where she spends the majority of her teaching time, and is a plentiful source of subject material for her art: Three kinds of milkweed tempt bright orange monarch butterflies, and a Dutchman’s pipe vine draws dusky pipe-vine swallowtails. Butternut trees play host to the
ferocious-looking hickory horned devil caterpillar, the larval form of the regal moth. The native waterlilies in the pond attract dragonflies.
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Lighthipe’s garden picture is also colored by environmental awareness, and about half the plants are native species.
She and her husband have fought a pitched battle against invasive plants, even replacing insect-friendly butterfly bushes, which self-seed aggressively in her area, with native plants that attract the same butterflies.
A shady flower bed on one side of the property showcases native columbine, trillium, wild ginger, May apple, and Virginia bluebells, while the graceful, arching stems of Solomon’s seal surround a tree in front of the house.
Shooting star, a northeastern wildflower with distinctive backswept petals, blooms by the pond.
The sunny beds that hug the property’s perimeter are full of oakleaf hydrangea, bee balm, jack-in-the-pulpit, and ironweed.
Since the deer fence went up, Ms. Lighthipe has dotted the open space on the back half of the lot with redbud, viburnum, catalpa, and dogwood saplings.
Not all the invasives have been banished. A previous owner planted a swathe of tall, nearly indestructible bamboo plants that is now 50 feet long and dominates the rear of the property. Every spring the couple thins out at least 200 canes to check the bamboo’s rapid spread.
Over the past few years, the garden has expanded to include food for humans as well as wildlife. Herbs and raspberry canes soak up sun by the swimming pool.
The vegetable garden contains a selection of Mr. Annicchiarico’s favorite hot peppers, plus an impressive rhubarb plant. This year, the couple has also added an asparagus bed.
A few months ago, Lighthipe became a licensed beekeeper and added a boxy hive to the outdoor decor. Honeybees buzz in and out of the new addition, which sits in a protected spot not far from her mother’s plantings.
This landscape is a work in progress, and in some areas the plants are just getting started. So is Mindy Lighthipe, who plans to sculpt paths that will meander from the front half of the property to new “areas of interest” at the rear.
Plans are also in the works for a bog or wetland garden. “The more lawn I get rid of, the better it seems,” she says, adding that she will always hold on to a little grassy space for boccie games and other outdoor activities.
Change is the one constant in the Lighthipe horticultural picture, where all the elements of the artist’s life and career come together. Her mother and husband help with the chores, and her father’s ashes rest beneath the dogwood tree. The family’s cats and dog have the run of the property.
Butterflies and flowers seem to fly from the garden directly to the studio, where their portraits line the walls.
Art and life have grown inseparable.