The garden of Michael Sczerzen and Robert Johansen’s Belfast garden. (Courtesy of Robert Johansen)

BELFAST — When garden designer Michael Sczerzen and his partner Robert Johansen first set eyes on their Belfast Arts and Crafts bungalow six years ago, more than 60 invasive Norway maples were its most prominent landscape feature.

On Saturday, July 15 — as part of Belfast Garden Club’s summer series, Open Garden Days — the public is invited to view the dramatic transformation of Sczerzen and Johansen’s half-acre plot into an oasis of beauty. 

The garden at 94 Bayview Street in Belfast will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., rain or shine. Admission is $5. It is the fourth of nine private gardens the club is featuring this summer on Saturdays through Aug. 19. 

To even begin envisioning a garden for their new home, Sczerzen and Johansen had to first remove the Norway maples, a dying ash tree, and overgrown shrubs. “The greatest challenge was clearing the land to see what I had to work with,” Sczerzen says.

Taking pride of place in Sczerzen’s design are more than 200 varieties of daylilies, most brought from Sczerzen and Johansen’s former home and much larger garden in Lancaster, Massachusetts, and some of which Sczerzen bred and registered. Providing a focal point in the backyard, they are arranged in a formal bed around a large bird bath.

“Daylilies give me great satisfaction in that they come in a multitude of different colors, shapes and sizes and are easy to maintain,” he says. 

Sczerzen, a former dental ceramist who changed careers to take up his gardening passion, worked with a local stone mason to create terraces and flower beds. New hedges and evergreen plantings define the yard and provide privacy. Elsewhere hydrangeas, dwarf evergreens and a variety of flowering shrubs add interest throughout the growing season. Two raised beds, Johansen’s domain, provide summer produce and herbs.

“Although small in size, the gardens are large enough to provide a never-ending source of pleasure and satisfaction,” says Johansen, a retired Unitarian Universalist minister.

For more on the Open Garden Days schedule, visit Proceeds support the garden club’s school programs, camp scholarships, library donations, and Belfast’s public gardens.