Which is not to say there aren’t elements of the Gables garden that reach all the way back to the early settlers.
“We’re famous for our Mrs. Lawrence Geranium, which is 100 years old, and which we basically keep alive,” Kanter said. “It was believed to be popular in Colonial times.”
The garden also includes older varieties of plants, including snapdragons, salvias and foxglove.
But Kanter has also tried to carry on the work of the man who hired her, Daniel Foley, a well-known Salem landscape architect and editor of Horticulture Magazine who died in 1999.
“I have remained true to Dan’s vision,” said Kanter, who inherited Foley’s slide collection, which she will use in her talk. “He was one of the most famous seaside landscape architects of his day. He grew up in Salem and wrote a book called ‘Gardening By The Sea.’”
Plants that grow by the ocean have special needs, all of which Foley took into account, Kanter said. While they benefit from milder temperatures and saturation from mist, they also need protection from battering wind and the effects of salt spray.
As the numbers of tourists visiting the gardens increased over the years, Foley also created orderly pathways to accommodate them, Kanter said.
He planted boxwood bushes to frame the gardens and create a sense of scale and made his own, original contributions to the gardens’ design.
“What gives that garden its integrity is the play of dark and light,” Kanter said. “You have that center lot, which is bright and cheerful with pinks and lights and blues, then dark houses that surround it.
“Then you have garden with ocean in the background. That’s why it reads so well. That’s what makes that garden special.”
A SEASON IN THE GABLES GARDEN What: Slide lecture by garden designer Robyn Kanter When: Saturday, Sept. 21, 2 p.m. Where: The House of the Seven Gables, 115 Derby St., Salem Admission: Free Information: www.7gables.org or call 978-744-0991. For info about other Trails & Sails events, visit www.trailsandsails.com.