Ramblings of a "New American" Gardener

More than I expected

July 4, 2013

Post image for More than I expected

The women above are almost dwarfed by the plants; I show this image first to give you a sense of scale.

Over 200 visitors came, far more than I expected for my first Garden Conservancy Open Days tour. Neighboring garden owners tell me that’s the typical number in this area, so I’m pleased.   Everyone entered through the house, which is how the garden is intended to be seen. I think that gave the visit a personal touch, and the house isn’t any worse for the wear.

Visitors seemed pleased, many found the garden quite different from most other gardens in the program, no one criticized or asked difficult questions–at least of me. If anything, my tour volunteers heard much more feedback than I did, and they tell me it was all positive.

That makes me wonder what critical things some were thinking. Next time, I’ll elicit feedback, specifically what they would do differently, or what they didn’t like.

It was early for my garden. Everything bursts into bloom about a week after the tour date, but there was enough happening to keep most visitors interested and asking questions.

So forthwith, some visuals …

FT June 30 after GC OD 017

Quite a few were interested in the pond, which was a happening place with lots of frog and insect activity (yes, there is a pond there).

GC tour PS pics 062913 063

Laurrie, a fellow garden blogger, and I discussing, I think, why there are so many small holes in the leaves of the Lysimachia ciliata ‘Firecracker’.

GC tour PS pics 062913 055

 

GC tour PS pics 062913 057

Our next door neighbor from Brooklyn, Albert, with me in the baseball cap, his sister and a friend.

GC tour PS pics 062913 070

Laurrie and her husband Jim accompanied by a large Ligularia japonica.

FT June 30 after GC OD 020

 

FT June 30 after GC OD 064

 

FT June 30 after GC OD 059

More of the unexpected, Tom and George.

FT June 30 after GC OD 026

 

FT June 30 after GC OD 008

 

FT June 30 after GC OD 003

Then quiet …

FT June 30 after GC OD 226

 

 

 

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{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

william martin July 4, 2013 at 6:03 pm

The place is looking great as usual James. I would consider 200 to be very average in my part of the world in Australia. I live in a very rural area and the nearest big cities are in excess of an hour + away AND Australia’s population is MUCH smaller than the USA! I regard less than 300 to be a flop BUT over 1000 (its happened) to be excessive! Small numbers are best for communication and bigger numbers for the purse! I have abandoned the ‘public’ thing as it is to much of a drain on my meagre resources. I do however look forward to you and Phil visiting my blot on the landscape sooner rather than later.
Do you really need to know what others think about your garden? I

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James Golden July 4, 2013 at 8:46 pm

Do I really want to know what others think, Billy? I think you hit the nail on the head in some past comment. I probably don’t, really. I want to do what I want to do and damn them all. But I still want to find others, like you, for example, who share something, some sensibility, some attitude, some understanding. And I do think one can always learn. Sometimes I take good advice. As to numbers, I can’t say. Others around here tell me 200+ is the usual for such openings, at least Garden Conservancy openings. Now the New Hope, PA, garden tour brings in something like 1000, but I’m in New Jersey, so no chance I’ll be on that one. And there are no New Jersey garden tours around here. What there is is small scale, little river towns.

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Charlie@Seattle Trekker July 4, 2013 at 6:03 pm

Opening your garden and sharing it was a wonderful experience for me. The pictures were special and I went to the blogs you referenced…thank you.

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James Golden July 4, 2013 at 8:47 pm

Thanks, Charlie. There will be more pictures, of course.

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Larry July 4, 2013 at 10:59 pm

You have quite an amazing garden and so different from the style I work in here at Oak Lawn. There are so many ways of approaching gardening that one never ceases to be amazed at the possibilities. I’ve enjoyed seeing this post and look forward to checking your earlier posts out! L

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James Golden July 6, 2013 at 9:01 am

Larry, thanks for visiting. I see from your site that we have vastly different gardens. Where is your garden?

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Faisal Grant July 4, 2013 at 11:35 pm

James, James, Morrison, Morrison, Golden, Golden, Green! These are among your best photos, of your garden, to me. Is it the presence of human beings? It’s that, for sure. I’ve got a better sense of scale now. I’ve also noticed your huge trees, for the first time, and their nearness. Perhaps it’s the springtime thing too, all the new growth, so high and full, that makes Federal Twist look so lively.
I like that you’ll be welcoming criticism. That takes courage. And humility.
I’m so glad it’s all gone so well.

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James Golden July 6, 2013 at 9:05 am

Thanks, Faisal. When I photograph the High Line, I always feel it’s the people that make it work. I can’t say I feel the same about my garden. I like a few “for scale” but many people milling about is rather uncomfortable. But I’m new to this experience. We do have some large trees, and even larger ones coming. There are several Tulip Trees–giants of our forest–coming along as the surrounding forest tries to retake my garden. I’m letting them grow at the edges. I’ll be long gone before they reach maturity!

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Rob (OurFrenchGarden) July 5, 2013 at 5:33 am

Good on yer matey – you garden for yourself foremost. However, if a little criticism creates a new spark, all the better. Keep it tall James. I love the Alice in Wonderland expression.

Back to tranquility in your glade.

On a mundane note, how do you stop the slugs and snails hammering your hostas?

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william martin July 5, 2013 at 6:21 am

Ha ha ha..I would have thought a well balanced garden from ‘Kingsbury Prairies’ would be absolutely bug free!! Toodle pip pop!

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Rob (OurFrenchGarden) July 5, 2013 at 9:33 am

You’ve made an assiciation between mollusc and Kingsbury – quelle surprise. Do you have slugs in your volcano?

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william martin July 5, 2013 at 9:45 am

No living creature except Homo Sapiens affect the growth of my garden Rob!

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James Golden July 6, 2013 at 9:10 am

I guess no slugs could survive in your volcanic scouria.

william martin July 6, 2013 at 6:46 pm

Ummm..A surprise to me too….(or was it) Sure one has slugs and a few snails but my regime of not fertilizing/watering etc etc makes for a fairly poor environment for these creatures. I have worked in enough gardens to know that the healthiest populations of these critters and the many other bugs deemed..well bugs…thrive where over liberal (stupid) quantities of the above are applied. So for those slow off the mark this means most gardens are most definitely over pampered and pure manna for all those creepy crawlies gardeners so love to hate! Also I do NOT do compost or organic mulch…and most of my garden is open to the sun.
P.S. I revoke my ‘Kingsbury’ reference ..it be pure insult to James..It is James who has created a masterpiece and not the many serial authors on the general subject. WHY is this garden NOT featured in Gardens Illustrated…James can provide the best of photos!

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James Golden July 6, 2013 at 9:09 am

Rob, before this spring, I never had a slug problem. They were very active down in the wetter part of the garden this spring. My hostas are all on elevated ground near the house, and there are no slugs up here. But we don’t seem to have the slug problem you have in Europe. Perhaps our frogs keep the usual population under control. This year’s incessant heavy rains resulted in more slugs than we’ve ever had before. Hope that’s a temporary phenomenon.

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Laurrie July 5, 2013 at 6:12 am

Congratulations on such a successful tour. All those people in your garden, and after that, the best part . . . the quiet.

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James Golden July 6, 2013 at 9:10 am

Laurrie, four days after the tour, everything burst into bloom. Bad timing. Thanks for coming.

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Helen July 5, 2013 at 6:26 am

Its great seeing people in your garden as now I have an idea of scale and how big the planting is. 200 people sounds lots. Was it strange sharing your space with others?

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James Golden July 6, 2013 at 9:12 am

Helen, yes, it was strange. I was happy to do it though. And I’d like to do it more often. It forces me to keep the messiness in control.

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Ailsa July 5, 2013 at 6:33 am

Congratulations on your first garden open day James :c) I have not had the pleasure of visiting gardens since several years ago when we took advantage of seeing Margaret Roach’s. But I hope to come down your way another year — hopefully you will continue to keep your garden on the program.
On another note, you are a brave man to allow Lysimachia ciliata ‘Firecracker’ into your space!
P.S. I’m about to have a viewing of Les Quatres Vents tomorrow – can’t wait!

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James Golden July 6, 2013 at 9:14 am

Margaret Roach’s garden was the first Open Days garden I visited. The Lysimachia ciliata ‘Firecracker’ is no problem here. My difficult soil, and competing plants, keep it well within control. Well, it does spread, but quite slowly. I’m envious about your visit to Les Quatres Vents.

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Michael B. Gordon July 5, 2013 at 6:41 am

James,
The garden looks wonderful. It looks like the weather cooperated too!

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James Golden July 6, 2013 at 9:17 am

Thanks, Michael. We did have hot but good weather. A couple of days after the tour, we has something like 2.5 inches of rain in 30 minutes. It washed away a large part of our gravel driveway, at least a couple of tons of gravel. Fortunately, the garden was hardly harmed at all. Resiliency, the new word of the day (since the disasters of Hurricane Sandy).

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william martin July 5, 2013 at 6:53 am
James Golden July 6, 2013 at 9:19 am

I like it.

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william martin July 5, 2013 at 7:00 am

I find it highly amusing when the different folk pass comment about certain plants used by you in YOUR context of a garden..As IF they know how they might perform for you in your climatic equation OR because they are not to that particular persons TASTE…woop te do..what a waffly world we live in. Gardens are about art for better or worse..almost nothing within them remotely relates to ecological reality..but on second thoughts they are ALL about that!
Greetings from Down asunder!

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James Golden July 6, 2013 at 9:22 am

To quote you: “Gardens are about art for better or worse..almost nothing within them remotely relates to ecological reality..but on second thoughts they are ALL about that!” Yes, I agree. Art first. I think many people mistook my garden for an bit of wild ecology for wildlife. That’s not at all why I made it. But it is that too, an artificial wild ecology.

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Emily July 5, 2013 at 1:19 pm

Congratulations, James! These pictures are very different from those that you usually compose and show the garden in a different way. And, wow!, the scale of the plants–generally much bigger than I’d thought. — Emily

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James Golden July 6, 2013 at 9:23 am

Big plants, Emily. I love big plants. Comes from childhood memories, perhaps even deeper memories.

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Marian St.Clair July 6, 2013 at 8:05 am

In my mind, I can never separate people from gardening. Though we often garden alone, if we make it a truly solitary experience, what fun is that? Congrats on a terrific tour…and thanks for sharing!

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James Golden July 6, 2013 at 9:26 am

This reminds me of a quote from Cool Hand Luke. “What we have here is a failure to communicate.” I enjoy the garden most alone, I think. But I have this strange impulse to share. The problem is that most people don’t get what it’s about. Maybe one in a hundred, or a thousand. That’s frustrating. Perhaps I should banish thoughts of intention and communication–just let others see what they see. Familiarity helps, but few revisit enough to get it.

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Diana Studer July 6, 2013 at 10:26 am

Another who only perceives the height of your garden, with a scattered crowd to relate the size to humans. Your visitors are probably still ‘seeing’ your garden, and thinking on it. Will be interesting to get some feedback from returning visitors next year, or next season? Yours surely stands out (in a good way, I’m prejudiced) from the other same old same old gardens on the tour.

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James Golden July 7, 2013 at 9:31 pm

I do think it’s very different from most gardens open the same day. Maybe it will take time for people to get used to the look. It’s easily misinterpreted as an ecological preserve, which it most definitely is not (though it is designed to be good for wildlife). People need to observe and learn to distinguish between the different plants; my feeling is that many just see green things.

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Anne Wareham July 7, 2013 at 4:56 pm

O, that issue of people ‘getting’ the garden – a great preoccupation at Veddw too, even though so different.

Criticism is good if painful, for the better that it brings you. It is so possible to live with something not quite right without recognising that or the unease that it can produce. Let’s all do the best we can to be worthy of our materials and the our sites.

Speaking of which I find a good way in is ‘what do you think could improve the garden?’ – as it gives a positive way in. Easier for people than ‘what didn’t you like?’

You/we should share our good fortunes and what that has made possible for us, James, so well done. XXXXXXX

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James Golden July 7, 2013 at 9:33 pm

I think I’ll give it a try at the October opening. I’m very appreciative of the gifts that have been sent my way by a universe I hope is generous.

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