Ramblings of a "New American" Gardener

“Lust?” As in passion? sex? craving? sensuality? longing? fervor? desire?

Yes.

The subject of Christopher Woods’ new book Gardenlust is the unquenchable impulse of humankind to create gardens, an impulse expressed in diverse and multitudinous ways. It is “the force that through the green fuse drives the flower,” but to my mind it is more about the force than about the flower. In a very real sense, the book is about what happens before the garden is, before the garden becomes. And about what keeps the gardenmaker making gardens. It’s about human nature.

Naples Botanical Garden in Florida. ‘The designers were a remarkably talented group who worked collaboratively with each other and with the staff… The remarkable thing … is that it looks and feels as if it has been in existence for decades rather than a few years. It is this way because of the lusty nature of tropical plants, the skill of the staff, and the landscape architects’ intelligent designs.’

Gardenlust is a big book—big both physically and conceptually. Woods spent several years traveling the world visiting an astonishing variety of gardens. Don’t ask what kind of gardens. Its aim is broader than any single garden school or design movement. It’s a breath of fresh air, and it’s completely open-ended—not about design principals, new planting theory, the history of garden ideas. I can’t even begin to guess why Woods chose the gardens in Gardenlust. But the lust particular to gardenmakers abounds: Peter Korn in Sweden, a current hot ticket gardener and designer and experimenter known widely among the cognoscenti of the gardening world but virtually unknown to the vast gardening unwashed, Luciano Giubbilei, a “star” designer and Chelsea winner whose garden in Marrakech he designed for a very wealthy South African family who lives part time in London …

A garden in Marrakech designed by Luciano Giubielli

…, a new “feel good” botanic garden in Oman dedicated to preserving the biodiversity of this part of the Arabian Peninsula, the new Pha Tad Ke Botanical Garden in Laos, which can be reached only by boat, Gibbs Farm, a sculpture garden of a fabulously successful businessman in New Zealand dotted with art works by some of the most well known artists in the world, even my own small prairie simulacrum on wet clay in western New Jersey where an imaginary prairie grows dreams of a prairie that never was.

Entrance to the Alaya Resort in Ubud, Bali, designed by the late Made Wijaya.

Don’t look for thematic connections among the many gardens in the book, or really any common thread.

As Woods writes, “I continue to fall in love with this extraordinary world and its botanical marvels … I am a romantic fool … I want everyone to fall in love with our world too, and with gardening’s potential for adding beauty to the world … After a life spent in public horticulture, I began traveling the world in search of gardens … I moved from conformity to chaos, only to find out it wasn’t chaos at all.”

The hilltop house of Juan Grimm in Chile overlooking the sea.

Woods’ book takes a mostly nonjudgmental look at the creative ferment that drives the creation of new gardens. To document what is happening now, he limited his search to gardens created in the past twenty years. It doesn’t matter whether the garden is the personal work of one individual, a corporate landscape, or a large botanical garden made by institutions, committees, and talented experts, or a public landscape.

The Grand Cascade, designed by Wirtz International, for the Duchess of Northumberland’s The Alnwick Garden, a major garden in the UK with a social and economic development mission.

To keep this wide ranging book within a corral of understanding, Woods has organized it by culture and continent; he covers all of them except for Antarctica. You may, perhaps, think some of the “gardens” are not gardens at all, but Woods makes no attempt to define “garden” or to limit what a garden can be so keeps himself in pretty safe territory. This kind of openness is something new, at least in my experience and you too may find it, as I did, liberating.

I read the book from front to back to make sure I didn’t miss a garden, but I think the best approach for most readers is to keep Gardenlust in a convenient place—you’ll like to have it out and visible because it has one of the most beautiful and arresting dust jackets I’ve seen in years—and pick it up to read about one or two gardens at a time. Dip into the book at random, or pick a continent and read about a garden in Singapore, or Oman, or Florida or Europe. Chances are you will encounter few gardens you already know.

If the book has a message, I think it is this. See as many gardens as you can see. And remember, always, to keep an open mind.

I agree. We need to think anew about gardens in this disrupted world of mass extinctions, and possibly worse to come. The impulse to garden may be one of the keys to our own survival.

(All photos courtesy of Timber Press.)

 

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Variations in autumn Lindera foliage from shrubs in my garden. These are all from Lindera angustifolia var. glabra.

Confusion seems to reign in the naming of an increasingly popular, and to my eye, very beautiful, resilient, and easy shrub. Many of us have seen different variations of the name and wondered what is correct. Are there different species, or are the names simply confused?

Taxonomist Julian Shaw of the Royal Horticultural Society has at last provided the correct nomenclature. Here’s how I found out.

Lindera shrub in a grassy context. The colors can knock your socks off.

My friend Giacomo Guzzon, a landscape architect in London, is visiting this week. We’ve been looking at several of my own Lindera shrubs, at many others used on the Princeton University campus by Michael Van Valkenburgh, and at even others at Chanticleer Garden.

This large, multistem Lindera is growing in shade in the asian woodland at Chanticleer Garden.

Giacomo sent a message off to the affable and extremely knowledgeable Jared Barnes, PhD, assistant professor of horticulture at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas. We remembered Jared had just posted on Lindera naming.

Jared sent Giacomo a link to the Friends of the JC Raulston Arboretum (JCRA) Newsletter, Spring 2015 – Vol. 18, No. 1. You can find the details at this link.

Large Lindera used as hedge at Princeton University, with Giacomo providing scale.

It appears that the names Lindera sacilifolia and glauca are not valid names. In fact, there are two varieties of Lindera angustifolia. The Lindera growing in mainland China, which has soft hairs, is Lindera angustifolia var. angustifolia, and the Lindera growing in western Korea is Lindera angustifolia var. glabra, with smooth leaves.

At last I know what I have in my garden (I hope). Lindera angustifolia var. glabra.

All photos by Giacomo Guzzon (except the one he’s in!).

 

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All images © Claire Takacs/Hardie Grant

 

Claire Takacs’ Dreamscapes: Inspiration and Beauty in Gardens Near and Far is a welcome addition to the canon of photographic garden books. This book of notable gardens, some very well known, some less so, is far more than another pretty coffee table book. Takacs (pronounced “Ta-kahsh” with a long “a” and accent on the second syllable) values light above all else, and she shoots her images in the light of early morning and at the end of day, in fog and mist, or in other singular lighting conditions. Her techniques create images that are gripping and compelling. (Her work is frequently seen in the best garden magazines.) As this new book shows, Takacs gives us a new way of seeing gardens.

The long reflecting pool at Stonefields, Paul Bangay’s stellar home garden in Victoria, Australia. Using the first rays of morning light, Takacs captures the linearity of the pool, leading the eye straight out into the distant landscape, in an image very typical of her work. The dark sides of the topiary and shadowed area at the near end of the pool create a mysterious, almost transcendental quietude.

Takacs’ unique perspective makes looking through her book a tireless adventure, even after multiple viewings, and its generosity of spirit gives you plenty to see and think on. You’ll always find something you missed. The book is a valuable resource for designers, garden aficionados, or simply anyone with an interest in gardens. I’ve read reviews that see a message in the book about naturalistic gardens, but I’m hard put to decipher one myself–other than delight in exploration of design, plants, lighting, moods, space, in fact any of the innumerable elements that can go into the making of a garden.

The Supertrees in Singapore’s Garden by the Sea seem designed for the purpose of making striking photographs, but Takacs takes an atypical approach, shooting the immense towers from down low, capturing low side-lighting with dark shadows and using this unusual perspective to create an otherworldly effect that suggests a primeval nature contrasting with the modernity of the soaring skywalk.

Takacs presents gardens in a new light. Her photographs of two extremely famous gardens–for example, Piet Oudolf’s Hummelo in The Netherlands and Le Jardin Plume in Normandy–show her unique approach. Takacs concentrates on the play of early morning and late-day light in the gardens she photographs. And this technique often brings out an entirely new feeling, so that gardens we are used to seeing endlessly photographed almost look like different gardens. Take this photograph of Piet Oudolf’s Hummelo, for example.

This image of Piet Oudolf’s home garden Hummelo, by hiding the details of the plantings in shadow and emphasizing the agricultural landscape in which it resides, suggests a hidden, magical world by, strangely, preventing us from seeing detail. It’s a stunning image and one completely unlike any other I’ve seen of this garden.

Takacs aims for a feeling, and a new understanding, of an extraordinarily well known garden. Whereas most photographs of an Oudolf garden give close attention to the structures, textures, and colors of individual perennials and perennial masses, Takacs presents an overall mood, indeed a moodiness, that shows the garden in an entirely new way. Most importantly, she presents the garden as a part of a larger landscape.

This photograph is unlike any other I’ve seen of this extraordinarily well known garden–in fact, a garden that has become a virtual “requirement” for anyone with an interest in Oudolf and the New Perennial style. Takacs, by catching the surrounding agricultural fields in the morning light and throwing the garden proper into shade, behind a great camel-backed hedge, makes context the most important element in the image. I find this photograph extremely provocative, and it makes me think of Oudolf’s work in new ways.

Similarly, her photographs of Patrick and Sylvie Quibel’s Le Jardin Plume in Normandy glorify the light of the sun …

Capturing Le Jardin Plume in this moody way imparts a sense of mystery and melancholy, even abandonment, that is extraordinarily different from the images one usually sees of this garden. She shows the reader of her book how to see beyond mere prettiness.

… while thrusting the viewer’s eye down to the hard, brick paving and out toward the landscape, deemphasizing planting detail, a detail that is by far the most well known and recognized aspect of this garden. Landscape, atmospheric effects, mood are Takacs’ hallmarks, and she gives us a new way of seeing gardens we’ve become familiar with—or think we have.

Or take this garden by Fernando Martos in Spain. She beautifully captures mood in the sidelighting of the trees, the spots of light and dark in the meadowish planting, contrasting it with the dark plain of the background trees.

Dividing my time between my garden in far western New Jersey and city life in Brooklyn, it’s hard to know what individual garden makers are up to around the world. Sure, I read the garden magazines, socialize in an Internet way via Facebook and Instagram, attend conferences, follow blogs. I know the trends—the loose, herbaceous perennial nebulae and galaxies of gardens in the meadowish style, along with the tremendous influence of Piet Oudolf both on design and plant selection across much of the world, the more traditional Anglophile traditions of Rousham and Sissinghurst and Great Dixter and other icons of gardening, the rigid symmetries of Versailles and the Italian Renaissance gardens, the Char Bag gardens of India and paradise gardens of Iran, and the gardens of Asia, particularly Japan.

Bryan’s Ground, the work of David Wheeler and Simon Dorrell, well known among the garden cognoscenti, is worthy of much wider recognition outside the UK and Anglocentric gardening worlds.

But beyond all this are innumerable lesser known and unknown gardens—at least to the general public. Many gardens that I, for example, have failed to find, even when traveling with an eye to seeing gardens.

Cambo Estate, the work of head gardener Elliot Forsyth, is a Scottish garden well known to dedicated members of the gardening world, but unfortunately quite unknown to the general public. By featuring it in her book, Takacs may bring more widespread recognition to one of the outstanding gardens in the UK.

So much depends on chance contacts, a bit read here or there, the word of a person one trusts, access to local knowledge. So Claire Takacs’ new book is a welcome addition, providing a useful resource for those seeking new gardens to visit.

Hermannshof in Germany, an important garden in the history of the naturalistic garden of the 2oth and 21st centuries, is here shown in a highly creative “re-visioning” of the formal, annual border, reworked and “exploded” into a vision of almost kitsch, tongue-in-cheek glory. Famous within the community of garden designers for the innovative work of director Cassian Schmidt, Hermannshof is virtually unknown among the general public outside Germany.

Though based in Australia, Takacs travels the world every year seeking out the best subjects for her photography.

Wave Hill, owned by the City of New York, is a garden gem, one known by a small group of gardening cognoscenti, but mostly by locals. This garden was originally the work of Marco Polo Stufano, who retired in 2001, and is now being carried forward by Louis Bauer, the current director of horticulture.

She asks about gardens, seeks them out, and uses her highly personal techniques to make extraordinary photographs. Wave Hill (above) is one such garden I suggested she add to her list when she was on a photography trip to the Northeast US several years ago. She has many sources and is constantly planning visits to photograph gardens throughout the world from her home base in Melbourne, Australia.

Takacs’ new book is a valuable guide to those seeking gardens to visit, and a stunning book of photographic documentation worth a thorough study. I recommend it to you.

_______________

In the interest of being totally candid, my garden is in this book (and is certainly one of the lesser known gardens in it).

 

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Garden memories

July 25, 2018

After another Garden Conservancy Open Day on July 14, Chester Higgins sent me a few iPhone photos of the garden. Chester isn’t just any visitor with a camera; he’s a well known and accomplished photographer with a long career at the New York Times. He even has his own Wikipedia page.

During the Open Day, Chester showed me some of his photos in black and white. Later, he sent me some of his images in color. I’ve converted them back to black and white (because they were a revelation to me) and made some edits to fit them to my blog format.

Chester said he’s interested in apertures, so here are two variations on a theme.

Several Inulas, erect and bunched like models, overhung by a willow, with a dash of grass from the side. An interesting study in texture and form.

 

The stairway up to the house terrace – like a jungle – in two variations.

And the “canal” pond, low and long.

 

Garden people may find Chester’s portfolio of photographs of large, dried leaves – Apparitions – of special interest. Rather amazing.

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Fernando Martos is experimenting with a new style of planting design, mixing the traditional formality of Mediterranean gardens with light and airy perennials and grasses not typical in this region.

This guest post is the second in a series on planting design by Giacomo Guzzon, an Italian landscape architect working in central London for Gillespies, a large, international landscape design firm. Unlike most landscape architects, Giacomo has an extensive knowledge of plants not common in the profession. He believes landscape architects need to be much more knowledgeable in planting design so that they are able to create characterful, living landscapes that meet the needs of users and reflect existing ecological conditions and sense of place. He is a visiting tutor in planting design at Sheffield University and a visiting lecturer in planting design at Greenwich University School of Landscape Architecture in London. He travels widely to meet designers from all over the world, observe planting projects in different climates and environments and share his passion with other professionals.

While a movement toward a more naturalistic look in planting design has been widely adopted in many parts of the world over the past several decades, garden designers in the Mediterranean region have mostly kept to clipped evergreens and a limited range of plants naturally adapted to a hot, dry climate and lean soil. Seeking to broaden the palettes in which they work, some Spanish designers are breaking new ground and beginning to use grasses and herbaceous perennials with light, delicate structures, the ability to sway and move in the wind, to “perform” in all seasons, and to evoke a wider range of emotional responses throughout the year. It is surprising how resilient and sustainable such designs are proving to be, largely owing to the willingness of some designers to experiment with plants from other parts of the world as well as plants usually associated with more northerly latitudes.

Veronicastrum virginicum, Verbena bonariensis, and other herbaceous perennials performing beautifully during an extremely hot day in central Spain.

A few years ago while reading Gardens Illustrated, I by chance came across an article featuring a residential project by Fernando Martos. At the time I didn’t know much about Fernando’s work but I was immediately drawn to the beauty of his design and surprised by how well his experimental planting fit the Spanish countryside. The plantings looked different and unusual, but at the same time appropriate to their context. I think this was the first time I’d seen such a light and airy herbaceous planting in a Mediterranean climate.

Such herbaceous lightness isn’t typical in central Spain planting designs.

I was curious to find out what perennials and grasses, many of which are commonly used in Northern Europe, were thriving in Spain. I eventually contacted him and asked to visit some of his projects.

Grass and herbaceous perennials visually blend with the natural landscape.

Fernando kindly agreed and last summer I flew to Madrid and spent a weekend with him visiting gardens. My timing wasn’t good (or perhaps it was perfect); I managed to visit Madrid during one of the worst heat waves of the summer; temperatures were around 36C (97F). So armed with big water bottles, we started the tour.

At the garden at Finca las Tendas, Fernando encloses a large, rectangular open space with long rectangular beds of clipped shrubs mixed with meadow-like plantings.

Finca las Tendas

The first garden we visited after my arrival in Madrid was Finca las Tendas. This project is in a rural area with vineyards north of the capital, designed around several newly refurbished one-story buildings used as a venue for weddings and events.

From the opposite end, the banking of grasses and perennials brings a vivacity to the clipped Salix balls.

The building layout creates a central rectangular space, surrounded by the venue on three sides and open to the carpark on one side. Fernando divided this large central space and created two main garden rooms by planting tall evergreen hedges, which also separate the garden from the carpark.

The larger garden room has a central area, which lies lower than the surrounding buildings and is planted with Gleditsia triacanthos ‘Skyline’ trees. These light canopy trees are evenly spaced and planted on a grid, to filter the light and provide some shade while still maintaining an open character. This place, surfaced with self-binding gravel, is used for gatherings and buffets.

Informal, colorful seating allows attendants at events to appreciate the light shade of the Gleditsia and enjoy the pleasing contrast of formality and looseness in the plantings that define the space.

The geometrical pattern of trees is completely appropriate to its utilitarian uses, and visually links it with rows of grape vines planted in the fields outside.

A shaded central pavilion for additional functional space that divides the functional area into two separate parts is integrated with the border plantings.

Between the central area and the venue, generous planting beds wrap around the open area, creating a transparent buffer. These beds are planted with Salix purpurea pruned in cloud forms and intermingled with colourful perennials. Salix purpurea is a very robust shrub that thrives in exposed and coastal sites, and it responds very well to regular pruning. While Fernando uses some elements typical of Mediterranean gardens, like the pruned shrubs, he puts them to a new use, for example by juxtaposing topiary with perennials and grasses unexpected in a Spanish setting.

Cloud pruned Salix purpurea anchor the much looser perennial plantings.

The perennial plant species Fernando uses are unusual for the area. He selects species that can cope with the heat and the challenging growing conditions. These species, although not typical or indigenous to central Spain, give a pleasantly fresh, airy and colourful feeling to the composition and surprisingly don’t conflict visually with the surrounding landscapes. A plant like Panicum virgatum, an American native, is a very drought tolerant species (in fact, I have seen it growing in pure sand in a very hot valley within the Walking Dunes on the east end of Long Island in New York). Verbena bonariensis, Calamagrostis, Hemerocallis spp., Iris barbata, Veronicastrum, Sedum, Agapanthus, Stipa tenuissima, Calamintha nepeta and Echinacea can all cope with the hot temperatures and were thriving with the help of some irrigation during the hottest months. All these exotic perennials, combined with native plants, such as Laurus nobilis, Quercus ilex, Morus alba and Olea europea, create a new and unexpected atmosphere and help to connect this project with its rural Spanish location.

Loose plantings at the edge of this pool provide a transition to the wider landscape.

The two rectangular pools, one in each garden, mirror the sky and the adjacent planting and at the same time unconsciously convey to the visitors a feeling of freshness, a much welcomed illusion in the torrid summer. Moreover, the shapes of the pools recall the long irrigation ditches that one can see in the countryside, another subtle element that anchors this garden in the wider landscape.

Guadalajara Garden

The second garden we visited near Guadalajara had a more rural setting; it is immersed in gently sloping hills planted with olive trees located roughly 60 km north-east of Madrid. The garden is surrounded by a rolling landscape, and the approach drive from the main road to the house on a country road creates a feeling of anticipation as you near the house and garden.

At the Guadalajara garden, the weekend retreat of a couple from Madrid, Fernando used very simple plantings on the entrance side of the residence–large blocks of Miscanthus ‘Ferner Osten’ and clipped Escallonia.

The private house, a weekend retreat of a couple from Madrid, is a modern white finca, or country home. The entrance garden at the top of the driveway echoes the building’s linear, low, simple character. Fernando decided that this area needed a simple and formal approach to feel appropriate next to the modern house. The entrance landscape features a large block of Miscanthus sinensis ‘Ferner Osten’ and another one of Escallonia spp. gently pruned into a rectangular form.

The opposite side of the house presents a completely different character, with a central lawn and swimming pool at a lower level, surrounded by mixed and block perennial plantings designed to create a meadow-like appearance.

After arriving we quickly walked around the corner of the house where we encountered a completely different atmosphere. The back garden has a central lawn area for the children’s activities, surrounded by large planting beds that frame the garden and blend it with the surrounding landscapes.

The planting is colourful and lively, and gives a varied, exciting character to the place.

A large, perennial meadow stretches to the open fields and blurs the garden’s boundary.

 

The meadow – another view

To the right of the main house and in front of the guest house, a large perennial meadow stretches into the surrounding fields and blurs the garden’s boundary. Fernando here designed a plant community that is able to withstand dry soils and torrid heat. Lavandula is intermingled with Perovskia, Stachys byzantina, Iris germanica, Stipa tenuissima, Phlomis russeliana, Achillea and some evergreen shrubs pruned in cloud form. These shrubs link this meadow with the other part of the garden around the pool.

The mass and stillness of dark blocks of clipped Escallonia contrast dramatically with the lively, light-filled wands of Stipa gigantea (see next photo).

An essential element of the planting is the use of dark blocks of clipped Escallonia whose mass and stillness contrast dramatically with the lively, light-filled wands of Stipa gigantea. “For me,” Fernando said, “that effect is very important and a key of the project.”

Light-filled wands of Stipa gigantea

Fernando’s remark is certainly revealing. It clearly tells us that he is seeking subtle effects that are something new in Mediterranean planting design. He is experimenting and pushing the boundaries to find plants that can thrive in his local conditions.

The pool area lies below the grade of the surrounding garden and it is planted almost exclusively with evergreen shrubs, though, as noted above, given a lively sparkle by interplanted Stipa. These shrubs resemble the native vegetation that can be seen all around the property, helping integrate the garden with the wider landscape.

The evergreen shrubs (right) visually integrate the pool with the wild landscape (left)

Because the pool has no edge and no fence is visible, it seems to be immersed in the Mediterranean vegetation.

Fernando Martos’ work represents an important part of a new movement in Mediterranean landscape design, especially in the Madrid area. It combines the botanical richness, eclecticism and abundance of plants from other parts of the world with the evergreen forms and prominent structural plants typically present in Mediterranean gardens.

Fernando Martos

It will be interesting to see how these new design approaches develop in Spain, and how they evolve and influence planting design in other parts of the Mediterranean region.

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The woodland garden, with a thick ground cover of Packera aurea, Matteuccia struthiopteris, Onoclea sensibilis and many other plants. At this time of year, most garden interest is in the complex ground cover.

We left for over three weeks in Barcelona and southern France in early May last year and returned in early June. I entirely missed spring in the garden.

Then yesterday I got a text message from garden designer friend, Keith Gibialante, who lives across the Delaware in Pennsylvania.

Spectacular early foliage of Ligularia japonica emerging from a carpet of Petasites and Equisetum arvense, with the long canal pond in the background.

It seems Keith came by to visit while I was away last spring, and finding I wasn’t at home, let himself into the garden and took some photos. (He has a standing invitation to visit, so long as he latches the gate on exit to keep the deer out.)

Golden foliage of Gleditsia triacanthos ‘Sunburst’ magnifies the golden flowers of Euphorbia palustris scattered across the garden.

In yesterday’s text message Keith said he thought he forgot to let me know he’d visited, and he included a link to his photos.

It seems I just discovered last spring in the garden!

I liked the images so much (you should see the garden now, after cutting and burning, and a March with four nor’easters, and now rain; it’s beyond dreary), I asked Keith if I could use them in a brief blog post, to remind myself that … indeed … spring will eventually arrive.

The terrace outside the house, up high, looking across the garden, which is below. The ground layer needs to be cut back, but that had to wait until I returned in June.

Looking at Keith’s photos makes me feel a lot better.

I remove much of the Inula racemosa ‘Sonnenspeer’, the plant with the big leaves (its mature height is six to eight feet). Fortunately it’s easy to remove at this stage.

 

 

The sitting area outside the house gets a lot of morning sun, as does the house, with its large floor-to-ceiling windows. The wide eaves cut off the direct sun inside by about 10 am and three large Sycamores (Platanus occidentalis), planted when the house was built in 1965, shade the outside area all afternoon. I’m sure “sustainable design” wasn’t a term anyone had thought of back then, but the architect, William Hunt, was a fine one and he clearly took some useful lessons from Frank Lloyd Wright and from Japanese design.

The living room is flooded with light (and passive heating in winter) until mid-morning, and the outside sitting area is shaded from late morning to the end of day.

 

Down in the garden, across from the house, are a paved pathway across the garden and a circle of stone, reminiscent of Jens Jensen, overlooked by three large Salix udensis ‘Sekka’ (Japanese fantail willows).

If you look closely, you’ll see many golden-flowered Euphorbia palustris scattered across the garden.

The chairs (from Dan Benarcik of Chanticleer) make a lovely structural contrast with the emergent wild look of the garden. By mid-summer, they will be invisible.

 

Below is the main path across the center of the meadowish garden.

A bronze sculpture at the back of the garden, made by Marc Rosenquist, emerges from a colony of Petasites japonicus.

The central path across the garden again. The white flowering shrub is a Viburnum mariesii, a small tree among the more than eighty Juniperus virginiana we cut down to make space for the garden. I cut the Viburnum to the ground but it clearly wants to come back. I think it was probably planted when the house was built, so keep it for historical and sentimental reasons.

You can just see the “head” of my long box “caterpillar” in the middle right surrounded by a sea of Inula, most of which were removed when I returned from vacation.

A small reflecting pool nestled up against the bank up to the house (above).

And the view from above. Thanks, Keith.

 

All photos courtesy of Keith Gibialante. All rights reserved.

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Resilient planting design for public urban spaces by Giacomo Guzzon

January 21, 2018

Resilient and sustainable planting design has become a subject of major interest in the world of landscape architecture, particularly for urban parks and public horticulture. Significantly, Marc Treib has organized a major symposium on the importance of planting design in landscape architecture at the University of California at Berkeley for February 2018 (The Aesthetics of […]

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Book Review: The New English Garden by Tim Richardson

November 13, 2017
Thumbnail image for Book Review:  The New English Garden by Tim Richardson

I met Tim Richardson, almost accidentally, last September in London. I’m republishing a review of his still very relevant The New English Garden. Take a look if you haven’t read it.   Tim Richardson’s new book, The New English Garden, is a beautifully photographed, sensuously appealing volume slathered with full-page photographs and huge double-page spreads […]

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Late summer

August 27, 2017

What can I say? I’ve neglected to document the garden’s progress this summer. By way of comparison, you may want to see my last post on the garden in the early days of summer, way back on June 2. You’ll see quite a difference. In fact you will not see some things from the earlier post […]

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Visiting Lianne’s Siergrassen – with Carolyn Mullet’s Dutch Wave Garden Tour

June 26, 2017

Last summer I visited gardens in The Netherlands as a member of Carolyn Mullet’s Dutch Wave tour to see the work of Piet Oudolf and many practitioners of the garden design movement he largely created … the Dutch Wave, often called the New Perennial movement. My experience on this tour convinced me this is the best way to see […]

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June 17 – Garden Conservancy Open Day at Federal Twist

June 2, 2017

Federal Twist will open for the Garden Conservancy Open Days on June 17 this year–earlier than ever before–and you are welcome to come. For information and driving directions, click on this link. It’s been a rainy spring and I’m just back from almost a month in Spain and France. Over the next two weeks I’ll be […]

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Creating nature … at the Chelsea Flower Show

March 7, 2017

(I visited the Chelsea Flower Show for the first time in 2015, as a member of Carolyn Mullet’s Chelsea Garden Tour, given by CarexTours. Carolyn is now offering a special price on this year’s tour, but the offer expires March 15th. You can check it out here. This year’s line up of gardens looks really […]

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Garden Diary: late winter cleanup

February 26, 2017

This was the front garden on January 23. It lasted well into winter. But old growth must make way for the new, so last week my garden helper and I began cutting and burning in the back, and largest, part of the garden. This week we started with the front garden. Cutting and burning takes careful […]

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A place for melancholy

February 8, 2017

Perhaps I should title this post “In defense of melancholy.” Attracted by the mist and the sun rising behind the trees this morning, I opened a living room door, leaned out and took this photo of the garden. I posted it on Instagram. Several people commented, a rather rare occurrence on Instagram, so I interpreted this […]

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Part 3: Noël van Mierlo’s Balancing Act – with carexTours

February 5, 2017

As a member of Carolyn Mullet’s Dutch Wave tour in August 2016, I joined a simpatico group of international garden travelers with a special interest in the work of Piet Oudolf and many practitioners of the garden design movement he largely founded … the Dutch Wave, often called the New Perennial movement. The carexTours itinerary […]

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Part 2 – Vlinderhof – with carexTours

December 22, 2016

As a member of Carolyn Mullet’s Dutch Wave tour in August 2016, I joined an extraordinary group of international garden travelers with a special interest in the work of Piet Oudolf and many practitioners of the garden design movement he largely founded … the Dutch Wave, often called the New Perennial movement. The carexTours itinerary […]

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In praise of weather (again)

December 14, 2016

Old English dun, dunn, of Germanic origin; probably related to dusk … I think color is a good place to start, though perhaps not dun … rather gold, orange, black.

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Part 1 – First Visit to Hummelo – with carexTours

November 27, 2016

I’ve been in love with Piet Oudolf’s gardens since I came across a copy of Designing with Plants by Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury while browsing in Barnes & Noble in 1999. I’d never before seen the kinds of startlingly romantic, lush, naturalistic, absolutely stunning plantings I found in that book. I was smitten, and I haven’t gotten over […]

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October into November

November 21, 2016

‘I mean Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties. Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.’ – John Keats   I don’t have much to say about these autumn photos of my garden. The rising light of morning and the lowering light of evening create a palpable atmosphere. […]

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Open Garden, Saturday, Oct. 8, 10-6

October 4, 2016

Federal Twist will be open for the Garden Conservancy Open Day this coming Saturday, along with nearby gardens just across the river in Bucks County, PA:  Paxson Hill Farm and Jericho Mountain Orchards. We’re happy to have as guests Broken Arrow Nursery, Atlock Farm, and Orchard Jewelry. Click on the photo for more information.

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Federal Twist in Gardens Illustrated

September 1, 2016

An article on Federal Twist is in the September Gardens Illustrated. This issue won’t reach the US until sometime near the end of September. So here, forthwith, a scan, which I realize may be difficult to read (click images to enlarge them, click again to enlarge more).

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That evening sun go down

August 10, 2016

‘I hate to see that evening sun go down.’ The line comes from W.C. Handy’s St. Louis Blues, composed by the man called the father of the blues. I think the power of this lyric comes from the sheer poetry of words and image. Why did Handy say “hate to see”? The image of the lowering sun is […]

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Water from the sky

August 2, 2016

So our brief, but heavy, thunder showers last week changed their duration. Instead of 20 minutes of heavy, deluge like, rain, it came for hours, over and over again.

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High Summer

July 29, 2016

It’s late July and I haven’t posted on the garden’s progress for over six weeks. So much for my garden diary … After a drought of several weeks, we’ve had a long period of frequent, often violent, thunderstorms with torrential rains, mostly lasting only 20 or 30 minutes, but certainly stressful for my structural perennials and grasses. […]

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June 1 – Rush to summer

June 8, 2016

Once warmth arrives, the garden luxuriates in planty fleshiness, growth proliferates, detonates in slow motion.

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