A Concord garden is transformed into a perfect area for outdoor entertaining.
Sometimes beauty can be found in unexpected places and magic can be made from the most mundane. Magic is certainly the word that comes to mind when discovering this secret garden, tucked away just out of plain sight in downtown Concord.
For Barbara Jobin the real magic of her garden is the effect it has on her friends, family and the occasional visitor who stops by to ask, "How did you do that?" These days the main event in the garden is Jobins' recycled shed, hauled over to the site from a local garden center that closed its doors during the height of Concord's big box explosion. What Barbara saw in this structure, even as it sat dilapidated in an abandoned parking lot, was the potential to bring the indoors out, much as she's always strived to bring the outdoors in.
"The essence of a beautiful outbuilding was already in place," Barbara explains. "This shed had windows with screens, an immaculate interior and a shape evocative of a New England home. It was so much more appealing to my eye than the new sheds available for purchase. Even before we painted it, I knew it would be perfect."
And perfect it is. The shed, which adjoins the patio made of vintage bricks on the garden's front side, is a space for storage and relaxation, and serves as the staging area for the gatherings that seem to happen organically in this petite paradise. Redone in traditional New England earthy tan and russet with faux verdigris-patina painted doors reminiscent of an aging weather vane, the building is a stunning backdrop to the simply furnished outdoor dining space that welcomes visitors to the Jobins' yard.
For the Jobin family the garden has inspired a new way of life beyond the requisite planting and tending. A radio for Red Sox games is allowed in the shed, which also boasts comfortable indoor seating for misty summer afternoons. TV is forbidden, but books and magazines have made themselves at home next to garden tools on the wooden shed shelves. Barbara concedes that a sleeping area might be an inevitable installation as more and more lazy garden afternoons stretch into lazy garden evenings.
"As our children grow up, we find ourselves appreciating the slower pace of an afternoon outside together. In New Hampshire, we have so few days that lend themselves to living outdoors, but this garden has changed that. We can make a fire on a cool evening; we can go under cover if it starts to rain. The garden is an extension of our living space, which is exactly what I imagined it could be."
Accustomed to the spontaneous gatherings her garden inspires, Barbara rolls a bar cart in front of the shed. Guests can pour themselves a cool beverage before they walk down the column-flanked path of flower beds to the pear tree hanging over the handmade rear fence bordering the Jobins' typically tiny downtown lot.
Barbara deftly twists the corkscrew from a bottle of Chardonnay, and it's easy to imagine these same capable hands ridding her tough New England soil of weeds and planting nature's bounty in meticulously natural formations. As on many summer days, friends begin to arrive, marveling at the space they never imagined could be just steps from one of Concord's busiest downtown streets. Soon they find themselves entranced, lost in the best light of the day, sipping wine and laughing as they enjoy one of New Hampshire's rarest gifts, a perfect afternoon.
Just beyond this hypnotic backyard oasis lies the bustle of New Hampshire's capital; state workers and elected officials rushing to their last coffee break, policemen testing their sirens, lawyers making their way on foot to and from the courts that pepper the downtown proper.
But in this secret garden, time and the noise of a city seem to stop, making way for magic: the cool pour of homemade berry lemonade, the creaky squeak of an ancient door hinge brought back to life and the removal of sandals for an endless stroll through a tiny hidden paradise. NH
This article appears in the April 2009 issue of New Hampshire Magazine