Beekeeper, gardener, and Park School teacher Marla Hollandsworth takes a Darwinian approach to her four-acre Phoenix property. "I'm not into over management," says the former attorney. "These plants know more about where they want to live and where they want to be than I do. I just try to take my cues from them. It's the same with the bees—you figure out what their needs are, but basically they are masters of their own destiny."
Though Hollandsworth has lived in the '70s California contemporary with partner Joyce Lammlein and their daughter, Jessie, 13, for more than two decades, the garden really got going eight years ago when the couple renovated. The construction, most of which Hollandsworth did herself, led to a reconfiguring and expansion of the extant gardens. The primary goal: to attract nature, nature, and more nature.
"We live here because we love nature and critters," says Hollandsworth. "We are all bird nerds. At five years old, Jessie could name any bird in the Mid-Atlantic region. We live in the woods so we have to have stuff that will grow in the shade and plants that will attract everything from frogs to fox."
Indeed, on a balmy summer's day, it's not unusual to see green frogs sunning themselves in her backyard pond, family dogs Maggie and Beau frolicking through the beds of daylilies, bees getting their honey from tulip poplars, hummingbirds feeding on red Lucifer flowers, and monarch specimens flying between the phlox and butterfly bushes in an area dubbed "the butterfly highway" at either end of the driveway.
Hollandsworth learned to garden from her paternal grandfather, Martin Hollandsworth, though the growing options of her Missouri childhood were limited. "There's not a lot to gardening down there," says Hollandsworth. "It's all limestone hills in the Ozarks. The soil is really awful. You can grow daylilies and irises, and that's about it. It's not very interesting."
In her own garden, Hollandsworth grows hundreds of varieties of plants, from climbing hydrangea to houttuynia, and has a dedicated vegetable garden abundant with snap peas, mesclun, and edamame. Hollandsworth also has some specimens not commonly found in other gardens, including 15-foot-tall hybrid lilies engineered by a professor friend in Missouri and magnificent pale pink poppies.
"These poppies are allegedly from Monet's Giverny," says Hollandsworth. "A friend of a friend was at Giverny and the poppies had set seed. Supposedly, the friend surreptitiously popped a couple of seedpods, put them in her pocket, brought them home, and they took. She gave them to my friend, who then gave them to me."
While the lush plantings mesh into a picture perfect tableau, the talented gardener, who once dreamed of doing set design, laughs at her own attempts to have a plan.
"[A garden] is a place where I can exert some control, but it's somewhat finite," she acknowledges. "You think you can control it . . . and then all hell breaks loose."