Mammoth hostas, in hues varying from muted chartreuse to a deep, almost blue green, bracket Roger Guffey's porch and steep his front bed in a lush, thick carpet of shade-loving foliage.
But that is just the beginning. Behind the simple brick ranch house off Alexandria Drive is a back-yard garden that is nearly all garden.
For more than 20 years Guffey, a retired math teacher, has filled his suburban yard with so many varieties of flowers and greenery he can't list them all.
His inspiration, he said, is an English country garden, but he says he does it simply because he loves flowers and the joy they bring.
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Among his favorites — it's impossible to pick just one, he says — is the night-blooming primrose, a delicate, buttery yellow flower that opens each night at 9 p.m.
"It's 9 o'clock every night," he said, "just like in the old Walt Disney TV. It's a lot of fun for the kids to come around and see which one is going to open up next."
In some ways his garden is a product of happenstance. This spring, for example, his dahlias were in full-bloom — plate-size servings of deep red lining a fence row — although they weren't supposed to be blooming at that time of year.
The purple coneflowers that grow in multiple rows near the driveway are what Guffey calls "volunteers." They grew haphazardly after being left in bird droppings.
A single planting a few years ago in the back yard has erupted into a thicket of white oak-leaf hydrangeas tinged with pink. They have obscured the entire side of the garden shed stretching to the tips of the eaves.
Just across a weathered ornamental bridge are rows and rows of hollyhocks, vibrant fuchsia and light dusty-pink blooms on thin stalks that dance in the breeze. They once were neighbors to their cousins, double hollyhocks.
But, Guffey said, the single strain won out in this location although rows of fluffy white blossoms filled a tiered bed near a back fence.
There are butterfly bushes and a pastel rainbow of daylilies in the center of what would be the yard.
Guffey, a self-taught gardener, knows the history and origin of all of them. Take, for instance, the acanthus spinosus. It's also called "bear britches" because it has little spikes with a bite. The leaf, says Guffey, was used by the Greeks as the model for the ornamentation on the tops of Corinthian columns.
Peeking out amid the riot of color and full spectrum of green are angels and fairies and glistening azure globes that Guffey has collected over the years. He recently repainted many of the originally white figures that were showing age and wear and tear with a more durable black paint. It helps, he said, that it has a hint of shimmer that catches the light just so. Currently his favorite ornament is a golden spinning sun that reigns over a patch of lilies.
Love and attention and some trial and error are his watchwords, although he does warn fellow gardeners to be careful of buying mulch in bulk. A few years ago he bought some that was filled with nettles that just about took over his yard.
All this beauty is not without a price, he said. Even though he tries to plant what can grow naturally without too much water, this dry summer has forced him to break out the sprinklers. "It's going to cost me a fortune," he said.