Ramblings of a "New American" Gardener

Post image for Federal Twist in Sept./Oct. issue of Horticulture

Tovah Martin wrote a superb on-point article on my garden for the September/October issue of Horticulture magazine. Rob Cardillo took great photos. You can read Tovah’s words in the most recent issue of Horticulture (I’m not so sure you can easily read her text in the scans in this post). Rob’s photos were extraordinary, but printing on less than stellar stock and then scanning the paper copies brings them down several notches. But you get the idea. Click on the images to enlarge them.










Federal Twist was on the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s Bucks County Garden tour last Sunday. (Okay, I’m in New Jersey. But Bucks County is only three miles away!)

We had a great turnout–far more visitors than I expected at this time of year.

The garden is in one of those “in between” times so I set up a slide show of the garden in all four seasons. Several visitors asked me to put it up on my blog. You can access it by clicking on the photo above. That will take you to my Flickr page. Click on the third symbol from the right near the top (it looks like a box) to start the slide show, which will open in a new window. To stop it close the window, or use your Esc key. Sorry I can’t make it simpler than that.

(All photos copyright James Golden)



September 7, 2014


Innisfree is a naturalistic garden in the Hudson River Valley inspired by the 8th century garden of Wang Wei. 

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Mellow Yellow

August 16, 2014


It’s a riotous time in the garden. Not really mellow yellow.

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July 26, 2014

Big prairie plants are dominating. By mid-July the Filipendula rubra ‘Venusta’ is fading as the Silphium perfoliatum and Rudbeckia maxima flower at their fullest.


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Early summer

July 9, 2014


Early July and the flowering has begun. It’s a pleasant diversion, but flowers aren’t my primary interest in the garden. What really gets my attention are the sculptural forms of the plants and the complex patterns they make growing in community. Most of the garden is very tightly planted, by intention, so the patterning becomes quite complex. I push it to the max. Some might say it’s messy, but I like it. It’s edgy certainly, aesthetically risky, a delicate balance between chaos and order.

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After the tour

July 6, 2014

The Garden Conservancy Open Days tour last weekend (June 28) was a very pleasant day. Warm and sunny, with much lower humidity than last year.

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June 25, 2014

 Garden Conservancy Open Days Saturday, June 28, 10 am to 4 pm You’re welcome to stop by this Saturday, June 28, for the Garden Conservancy Open Days here at Federal Twist. We’ll be open 10 am to 4 pm, as will several nearby gardens in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. My driving directions are here. The Bucks County gardens are here.

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Thomas Rainer: Interpreting nature

June 21, 2014

I’m too close to the subject of this post, so it hasn’t come easily. My intent has been to write about Thomas Rainer’s lecture at New York Botanical Garden in March, but I’m in such complete agreement with him, I find it hard to distinguish my own thoughts from my memory of Thomas’s presentation. That […]

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Straightening trees, opening voids

June 13, 2014

My previous post showed the Sunburst honey locusts in my Brooklyn garden bent over into a mass of drooping foliage at the center of the garden. When Kerry Hand, who planted the same trees on his land in New Zealand, commented “Don’t think I would like that,” that really got under my skin. So late Wednesday […]

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Brooklyn status, for Diana (on mobile phone)

June 10, 2014

Diana Studer of Elephant’s Eye recently asked about the Brooklyn garden. Here it is, Diana. With the Garden Conservancy Open Days coming up June 28, I’ve been focusing all my attention on the country garden. Brooklyn has had to get by with a few minutes each week. Here it is after a day of rain. […]

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Hold that date … Garden Conservancy Open Days … Saturday, June 28

June 7, 2014

Federal Twist will be open Saturday, June 28, for the Garden Conservancy Open Days, 10 am to 4 pm, along with several gardens in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. More information and driving directions are at the Garden Conservancy web page here. You can find a direct link to the Bucks County gardens here.  

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I’ve been reviewed

June 4, 2014

  Thanks to Lucy Masters for a review of Federal Twist on thinkingardens.

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No visitors allowed: plant communities emerging

May 22, 2014

Most of the garden is missing. I have to say “No” when people want to visit Federal Twist at this time of year.  Though some interesting things are happening, my garden depends on the structure of large plants for much of its effect. By late June–when it’s open for the Garden Conservancy Open Days–it’s ready […]

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Bloodroot season

April 21, 2014
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When they appear depends on where you look. Two weeks ago, this small colony of Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) outside our living room window burst into bloom. It has a southern exposure and is protected by the ivy it grows in and by its closeness to the house. Over the years, two more colonies have emerged […]

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Imitating New Zealand

April 3, 2014
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Time and time again I drove past thousands of flowering Crocosmia on the roadsides of New Zealand, remarking to myself, “I’ll stop in a few miles and take a photo of this.” As a plant of South African origin, Crocosmia apparently loves Kiwi roadsides. I never stopped to take that picture, so the closest I can […]

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Accidental encounter … Shigeru Ban

March 25, 2014
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“Architecture generally involves creating monuments to permanence from substantial materials like steel and concrete. Yet this year, the discipline’s top award is going to a man who is best known for making temporary housing out of transient materials like paper tubes and plastic beer crates.” – Robin Pogrebin, New York Times   Christchurch, New Zealand, […]

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Garden Diary: Late, better than never

March 24, 2014
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Driving along Federal Twist Road last weekend, I stopped my car for a quiet look at the forest. With sunlight beaming down in silent stillness, I could almost hear it, spring in the air.

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Wigandia: a garden of the sun

March 12, 2014
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I first learned of William Martin and his iconoclastic garden, Wigandia, several years ago when he spoke at the Vista lectures in London (I listened to all the Vista podcasts). Shortly after, he discovered my garden through my blog, and an intermittent dialogue and friendship began. Wigandia has been widely publicized in books and magazines, […]

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Wigandia Mashup

March 10, 2014

If you received a partial blog post on my visit to William Martin’s garden Wigandia in Australia, it was published prematurely and withdrawn. I’m receiving questions about it, so that’s the story. The complete post will appear shortly.

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First Contact: Meeting William Martin

February 8, 2014
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On Thursday, Phillip and I rented a car and headed out from Melbourne to meet William Martin and see his garden–Wigandia–in Noorat, Australia. Before we got to Noorat, we lunched with William in Camperdown and a conversation (or several) ensued–photographed by Phillip. That plant behind us is the eponymous Wigandia caracasana. (William,  correct me if […]

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More snow … we’re off to another hemisphere

January 25, 2014
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It’s snowing again, after a literal blizzard earlier this week and temps near zero every night, the fuel oil flaming away in the furnace. So it’s a pleasant thought to know we leave for Australia and New Zealand later this week. One of the highlights will be a visit to meet William Martin and see […]

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Looking Back on 2013

January 10, 2014

Musing over the photos of last year’s garden, I realize I lost most of the late winter and spring. Constructing the new reflecting pool and surrounding area, then replanting the construction site took most of my attention and made a mess of the garden. Apart from the winter interest provided by an ice storm in […]

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Garden’s end

January 4, 2014
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The winter garden–my winter garden in far western New Jersey–usually lasts into January or February, but when the garden interest diminishes sufficiently I look forward to the annual burning and cutting–firmly ending the year and preparing a clean palette for spring. Its lifespan, like ours, is unpredictable. Three days after I took these photos we […]

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More than the Lurie Garden

December 21, 2013

In Chicago for a family event last weekend, I hoped to see Piet Oudolf’s Lurie Garden for the first time. Unfortunately Chicago had its first major snow storm that week. The garden was closed. But all wasn’t lost.

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