Ramblings of a "New American" Gardener

Catch as catch can

July 7, 2015

I’m leaving for England for a month tomorrow. Last weekend, I realized I hadn’t documented the garden’s summer progress, so I made the rounds.

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Though the midsummer peak won’t occur until late July, here the garden is, as it is. The Filipendula rubra ‘Venusta’ is coming into bright pink blossom, Filipendula kamtschatica is going over, and Ligularia japonica and Rudbeckia maxima are just opening their first buds. Not a lot is flowering now, but that’s not what this garden is about.

Line, shape, form, texture, light and atmosphere are the important things.

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I aim for complexity, balanced with contrast and legibility of form.

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Time is short, so here are some images. They have to speak for themselves (mostly).

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Tony Spencer July 7, 2015 at 8:33 pm

Looks wondrous lush, James. The plantings have achieved a maturity and breadth of scale, it’s something to observe. Selfishly, I’m curious about your moisture-loving perennials like the Filipendula kamtschatika and the Ligularia japonica. And it looks like you’ve made peace with Equisetum by using it as an underplanting for your Petasites.

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James Golden July 9, 2015 at 4:03 am

Tony, the garden is completely governed by the soil, moisture, and other ambient conditions. That’s why it looks so very different from an Oudolf-style garden. I did nothing to “improve” the soil, so had to learn what would work in difficult conditions. Call me a stubborn gardener. Equisetum actually works wonderfully as a beautiful groundcover, particularly in spring, and it doesn’t retard the growth of other very vigorous plants. Even if it does a bit, it’s all for the good. Petasites needs to have its growth retarded!

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Lysbeth Andrews July 8, 2015 at 2:23 am

Beautiful, reminds me of my Aunt Gerry Herrington’s garden in Stafford Springs, Connecticut.

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James Golden July 9, 2015 at 4:04 am

Thanks, Lysbeth. Now I want to see Aunt Gerry Herrington’s garden.

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Nell July 8, 2015 at 10:41 am

Have an excellent trip, James, and thanks for leaving these excellent images for us before you go!

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James Golden July 9, 2015 at 4:04 am

Thanks for being a regular commenter, Nell.

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Michael B. Gordon July 8, 2015 at 11:36 am

James,
Your garden-making and photography are maturing at equally alarming rates. First off, the structural elements (trees, shrubs, evergreens, paths, walls, ponds, art) are making a significant and very positive impact on your garden. The risk one takes in building a garden like yours is that there isn’t enough definition of space in the planting; i.e. there is too much muddle. Things get better and better with each structural element you add. My brain does structure first, then plants. You have moved in the exact opposite direction to wonderful effect. You once called my garden an ‘Arts and Crafts’ garden and I think you were spot on. That kind of garden is structure first, plants second. Your garden was plants first, then structure. This organic process suits the New Perennial style well (at least under your gifted and thoughtful direction; not everyone can pull this off). I applaud your photography: distant shots that convey the overall garden picture combined with compelling close-up shots. Regrettably, few garden magazines can pull this off.
You have created something very special. I get a vicarious thrill watching your process.
Have a great time in England. I can’t wait to see how this adventure will change your garden.

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James Golden July 9, 2015 at 4:13 am

Michael, I’m on my first day in merry old England, in the middle of a total Tube strike, so my movements are limited. You correctly identify one of the challenges of a “wild,” naturalistic garden, lack of structure. I actually like a lot of structure, so I’ve worked to give the garden structure, but in an unobtrusive way. I’m even working on the idea of adding a couple of “towers,” really inconspicuous elevated decking, to provide elevated views across the garden. Seeing the work of several professional photographers, who use ladders, has made me realize you can’t get the “sweep” of the larger landscape any other way, at least lacking elevated topography as I am. These will be hidden, surrounded by growth, but will be places where a few people can sit and observe the planty version of a “sea surface full of clouds.” I make reference to the Wallace Stevens poem because it’s relevant in more than one way. (I think I have to do a post on that.) Thanks for the great comments.

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Michael B. Gordon July 10, 2015 at 12:02 pm

I love the idea of towers, James. Seeing the garden from above is always exciting; for yours, or any garden. I get great pleasure from the view of our garden from our second-floor bedroom.

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Clyde Watkins August 7, 2015 at 1:39 pm

Consider a mount. Have you seen the one at Scampston Garden on one of your England visits?

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James Golden August 9, 2015 at 7:18 am

I am considering a mount, one of several options. Thank you for the suggestion.

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Nell July 9, 2015 at 9:40 am

The new circular stone wall is a very successful addition of subtle structure, but a tower or two would be most exciting. Halfway through your photos the first time, I was thinking just that — if only there were some way to get an overview. Best wishes for success with your aerie(s)!

And may the tube workers get what they’re struggling for quickly. ..

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James Golden July 11, 2015 at 3:28 pm

Thanks for confirming my intuition, Nell. And the strike ended after only two days. Now I’m feeling very comfortable using the Tube. Wish I could say the same about driving on the left side of the road.

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Desert Dweller / David C. July 13, 2015 at 6:14 pm

What Michael G. said., and –
The row of chairs / table area, the chair floating out in the meadow, and the square reflecting pool are my favorite parts, today. Knowing how it holds together in the growing season and winter, I see your success.

It would be difficult to go away to another place, except you get to return…there.

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James Golden July 19, 2015 at 3:45 pm

Thanks, David. I just saw your comment. I’ve been in England over a week and I sure am wondering what’s going on back in the garden. I see weather reports about extremely high temps and violent thunderstorms, but don’t really know. I think I need to install CCTV cameras.

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Cindy MacMillan July 24, 2015 at 10:05 am

I love your small reflecting pond. During the Open Garden day tour you explained how it was constructed. I want to build one in my garden. How do you keep the mosquitos out?

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James Golden July 24, 2015 at 4:55 pm

Cindy, live in an area with many frogs. I’m convinced that’s why we don’t have a mosquito problem. We have hundreds of frogs, and they appear wherever there is standing water.

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lindaB August 11, 2015 at 4:42 pm

Did you get over to Hummelo?? Netherlands?? You are doing something so appropriate to the US East Coast and I think M. Oudolf would gain much by visiting Federal Twist. Hope your travels ended well and and you and companions are in one piece. It has been typical of the last few years down here in DC. Periods of RAIN followed by extended NOT RAIN. Oh, well. We survive and live to plant another day. Thank you for your work and for your blog.

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James Golden August 13, 2015 at 9:53 am

Linda, no, didn’t get to the Netherlands at all. My plans were much too ambitious, so I relaxed and let serendipity take control to some extent, and had a better trip by doing that. Though I often invoke the name Piet Oudolf to explain what kind of garden I have, I’ve always had second thoughts about that–because it’s really nothing like an Oudolf garden. I do plant for overall effect, not for individual plants or flowers, and use plant structure, texture, form, size, and characteristics other than flower or flower color, which I learned from his work and Noel Kingsbury’s writing about it. In that respect, Hummelo, the new book by Kingsbury/Oudolf tells a much more complete story of the history of this planting style, or planting approach. Your mention of Oudolf set me off on this track, which I’ve been thinking about since reading Hummelo and listening to the new Gardens Illustrated podcast of a talk with Noel and Piet. Thanks for sparking these thoughts. I think I’ll do a blog post on it.

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