Shady garden refuge among gems on Regent Square tour


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On a hot summer day a century ago, the Frick family's horses drank deeply at this watering hole at the edge of what became Frick Park.

One hot day this week, 17 koi swam lazily in the same spot in what is now Monica and Jerry Segal's backyard. Despite the afternoon sun, the fish and their visitors were cool beneath the shade of oversized evergreens and deciduous shrubs. Benches made from repurposed curbstones offered natural places to rest.

A little of that peace could be yours if you attend the Garden Tour of Regent Square on July 8. The Segals' three-quarter acre garden is one of nine that will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. that day as a fundraiser for the Wilkins School Community Center.

The topography and style of this garden are in sync, sloping from east to west, the sun rising on a Korean fir and Japanese maples and setting in the woods of Frick Park. It grew around the koi pond and waterfall designed 13 years ago by Donald Bishop. The large fish, a few of them older than the pond, overwinter here with help from heaters.

Mr. Bishop built the stone paths and Rob Weaver the iron railings that wind through this collection of plants chosen by the Segals but planted and tended by Maureen Williams of Penn Hills. She is a gardener, not a designer, and in 13 years, she has never worked from a plan.

"We just went with the flow, and this is what it turned out to be," she said. "From when I started to now, it's overwhelming to me. It's just beautiful."

In a nod to both Japanese landscapes and the park that surrounds the lot on three sides, smokebush, blue spruce, Japanese willow, sandcherry, ninebark and other shrubs and small trees are pruned lightly to keep the paths clear. There are exceptions: A large cotoneaster was limbed up so it looks more like a tree than a mounding shrub. Walking beneath it, peering up through its fine foliage, you feel a little like a rabbit.

Not that a real rabbit would linger long here. The Segals' three dogs -- Isabella, Sabrina and Baby Girl -- and Ms. Williams' two -- Lady and Bella -- patrol its paths.

Since he retired several years ago, Mr. Segal has taken a greater interest in finding unique trees and shrubs. His favorites include a Korean fir with what looks like a dusting of snow on its branches and a Vanderwolf's pyramid pine planted where an elm and mulberry fell in a storm last year. A weeping cherry, roses, peonies, big-leaf hydrangeas and a beautiful yellow calla lily bloom in succession, and there are annuals in pots. But flowers aren't the stars here.

"Flowers are important, but they're not our main concern," Mr. Segal said. "For me, it's the leaves and needles, the greens, reds, blues, yellows, even whites. I like the different colors and textures."

A two-level deck topped by a gazebo is a favorite place for the couple to admire the contrasting foliage. With a steel frame and Trex decking, it's designed to be low-maintenance and long-lasting. The garden is also dotted with artwork picked up on their travels, including a seagull sculpture they bought in Canada and a steel giraffe from Africa that coexists easily with a Japanese rain chain on the gazebo.

"How did two non-gardeners get such a beautiful garden?" Mrs. Segal said. "It's all thanks to Maureen."

Tickets for the Garden Tour of Regent Square are $15 if purchased by July 6, $18 on the day of the tour. Buy them online at www.wsccpgh.org or mail a check to: Wilkins School Community Center, 7604 Charleston Ave., Pittsburgh 15218. Information: 412-244-8458.

homepage - garden

Kevin Kirkland: kkirkland@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1978. First Published June 30, 2012 4:00 AM


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