Ramblings of a "New American" Gardener

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 early January, the 2013 garden year didn’t really start until well into May.

January

An ice-coated garden

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February

Thinking we were having an early spring, I burned and cut the garden earlier than usual. Here, Miscanthus in flames on the bank up to the house. Rather dramatic, but most of the burning is small scale and done one grass at a time.

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April

Little of interest in April, except for the Sanguarnia along the road and just outside the house.

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May

The garden gets going in the second week of May–all green and gold.

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A mass planting of hybrid Petasites in bloom.

 

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Senecio aureus (Golden ragwort) and Matteucia struthiopteris in the woodland garden.

 

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June

My first Garden Conservancy Open Days was on June 29. I loved seeing people in the garden–over 200 on this occasion. The garden came alive in a way I’d not seen before.

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Visitors make it possible to see the scale of the garden and to see how immersive the experience can be.

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A group on the gravelled terrace outside the house.

 

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A true prairie plant, Silphium laciniatum (Compass plant)

 

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Cephalanthus occidentalis (Button bush)

 

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A screened view of the new reflecting pool

 

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Darmera peltata blending into Carex muskingumensis ‘Oehme’ on the left, Sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis)
on the right, and a mass planting of Petasites behind

 

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An inner path between the pond and the house bank, heading into the woodland garden

 

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The pond, which I’ve cleaned and lined to keep open water next season

 

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Pulmonaria ‘Samouri’

 

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Tall spires of Inula racemosa ‘Sonnenspeer’

 August

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Hystrix patula (Bottle brush grass) from roadside collected seed

 

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October

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Exquisite distorted stem of Salix sachalinensis ‘Sekka’

 

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The second Garden Conservancy Open Days was on October 19, three days after the New York Times published an article by Michael Tortorello–”The Good-for-Nothing Garden”–on my garden. Attendance, as you might think, shot up to over 300.

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The next day, Andrea Jones, on assignment for Noel Kingsbury on the east coast, arrived to do a photo shoot of the garden. Here she is taking a close-up shot of one of my new Lindera glauca v. angustifolia.

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November

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 December

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Scott Weber January 10, 2014 at 9:26 pm

Thank you, James, for this look back through the year. I find myself really drawn to that first photo early in the year of your pond…it’s so wonderful and placid…such counterpoint to later in the year. Seeing people in your garden, as you say “immersed” is awesome…that’s exactly the feeling I love…of moving through an immense, heaving behemoth of life and bounty. As always, the fall/winter shots are my favorite…your garden is truly masterful…moving gracefully from the verdant greens of spring and summer into the opulent decay of fall and ultimately winter…a true year-round garden.

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James Golden January 11, 2014 at 5:03 pm

Scott, I love your metaphor “immense, heaving behemouth”; I’ve often thought of the garden as a living organism, which it is, of a kind. Thanks.

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Cyndi January 11, 2014 at 12:35 am

So beautiful! One question: why burn grasses instead of cutting/composting?

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James Golden January 11, 2014 at 5:06 pm

To reduce the mass of vegetation I have to deal with, and I think fire helps renew some of the prairie plants and prairie character of the garden. There’s still so much cutting that a great deal of organic debris remains on the ground surface, to become organic matter in the soil in time. The rest goes to the biomass disposal pile, which is a long-term compost pile left to decompose on its own.

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Anne Wareham January 11, 2014 at 5:57 am

That thing about scale and people is really interesting and I’ve not seen discussed much. When our garden was first appearing I remember seeing people in it from a distance (from a house window) and they looked too big! Giants walking around in Lilliputland. I thought I’d got it badly wrong.

Then the garden grew, and apart from the fact that you can’t see people in it now for the hedges, when you do they look the right size.

Phew! But I’m not quite sure how that’s arrived at or whether it really could have been totally wrong and stayed wrong.

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James Golden January 11, 2014 at 5:10 pm

Even though I see the garden daily, when in residence, and see it changing in scale throughout the year, I often feel it’s too small. But when I see groups of people in it, I realize it’s quite large. Though there are some objects I should be able to use to judge relative size and proportion (seats, sculpture, a pool I know is 7 feet by 7 feet, these objects really don’t help in seeing relative scale. The human body seems to make all the difference. It’s quite mysterious to me.

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Kathie January 11, 2014 at 8:10 am

Thank you for this beautiful pictorial. Your magnificent garden made my day.

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Bill Lester January 11, 2014 at 12:16 pm

Jim, fantastic retrospective of your beautiful garden! We’ve been following it since its inception, and it has taken on a life and a personality of its own. Your photographs capture those “moods & musings” so brilliantly that we can almost hear the sounds of its existence, like a musical soliloquy. Like a Rhapsody.

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Extravagantgardens.com January 12, 2014 at 9:37 am

Thankyou for a lovely post. I’m always amazed at the depth and breadth of your plant material. It’s staggering. And your fall and winter photos are especially inspirational.

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Aafke7 May 16, 2014 at 1:15 am

What a stunning and huge garden! Stumbled into your paradise gate… Amazing! Even without roses.:-) Thank you for this refined seasonal inspiration! I will start reading your blog from early 2005. And get lost presumably.

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