Tag Archives: Garden Conservancy

June 17 – Garden Conservancy Open Day at Federal Twist

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 busy “editing” the plants and pondering how to turn their profuse spring growth to best advantage.

The images in this post were taken on June 1 last year, so they are as close as I can come to showing what’s likely to be here on 17 June 2017 (a Saturday). I expect the daylilies will be in flower, the Japanese irises and Iris ‘Gerald Darby’, the Baptisias. Perhaps the Filipendula rubra ‘Venusta’ will be in bud. It all depends on the warmth of the coming days.

Come with an eye for detail. My garden is very much in the spirit of the layered plantings advocated so eloquently in Thomas Rainer’s and Claudia West’s book, Planting in a Post Wild World. Plant form and structure, and the interplay of shapes and textures, are the main thing in late spring and early summer here at Federal Twist.

Here is the Garden Conservancy description of the garden:  ‘When we moved into a mid-century house overlooking the woods, I immediately knew only a naturalistic, informal garden would be appropriate to the place. The garden is hidden. You enter through the house, where you first glimpse the landscape, a sunny glade, through a wall of windows. Huge perennials and grasses evoke an “Alice in Wonderland” feeling (many plants are taller than you). The garden is in the New Perennial tradition: plants are massed in interwoven communities, and emphasize structure, shape, and form—which are long lasting—rather than flower.

Begun as an experiment to explore garden making in the challenging conditions of unimproved, heavy, wet clay, the garden is ecologically similar to a wet prairie, and is maintained by cutting and burning. Much of the garden peaks in mid-July, when plants reach mature height and flower, then a second peak occurs in October when low sunlight makes the grasses glow in yellows, russets, and golds.

Two small ponds attract hundreds of frogs, insects, and wildlife. Many gravel paths open the plantings to extensive exploration. The garden has been featured in The New York Times, Horticulture magazine, and in two books, Gardens of the Garden State (2014) and Planting in a Post-Wild World (2015). Recently, it appeared in the Garden Design Journal, the magazine of the Society of Garden Designers (UK) in January 2016, in the September 2016 in Gardens Illustrated, and the October issue of Better Homes & Gardens.’

Please consider visiting on June 17. Tickets, available at the door, are $7, fully in support of the work of the Garden Conservancy.

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I’ve recently started a small garden design business on retirement from my full-time work. To visit my garden design website, click on the link below:

www.federaltwistdesign.org

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

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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Nothing gold can stay

The first weeks of May. Cool air, sweet scent of the weedy Russian olive, the chatter of bird’s making their high pitched insect sounds so strange the tree frogs at night sound more like birds, the golden lace of just emerging foliage glowing in the golden afternoon, the dark slowly coming on. Time to stop after a long day of planting. The feeling of the moment is enough to overlook parts of the garden still undone, that still exist only in my mind. The bank of Hydrangea arborescens I had planned for that hillside, the Darmera tubers that won’t emerge for another two or three weeks, maybe not at all this season. It’s all an intermingling, an effect, an atmosphere, a mood, detail merging into the whole, unfinished parts into general process, as I move from one part of the garden to another. 

Continue reading Nothing gold can stay

Garden is a verb

“Garden is a verb,” he said to me.

Indeed. A garden is only finished when the gardener dies, or so the saying goes. Mine seems to be less finished with every passing day. Too many projects started over the winter, too much planting to be done.

You can see above the new reflecting pool area surrounded by a low berm for planting. The berm covers a prominent path I’ve long wanted to erase from the garden. It resembles a lava flow, and suggests the flow of water across the garden in heavy rain, a wash of soil waiting for nature (or a gardener) to populate it with plants. (This “flow” metaphor is an underlying design motif of this garden.)

The area still looks a mess but time has come to plant and deal with finish details. Will it look grown in by the June 29 garden tour deadline? I think so, at least enough to show the process of this garden. Once the weather warms, the grasses and perennials will grow quickly. What can’t happen for several years is complexity, the interweaving of mixed growth that only comes from self seeding, natural spreading of perennials, and yet-to-be-conceived human interventions.

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I’ll continue to use mixed planting (methodically described in the new book by Noel Kingsbury and Piet Oudolf, Planting:  a New Perspective), but my garden presents difficult constraints–that being heavy, compacted clay. Designing a planting for this garden is hit or miss. I certainly can’t start with a design on paper that considers only physical appearance and characteristics of the plants over time. I’m no Oudolf and, if I were, it wouldn’t do much good. Of the venue of extraordinary plants I know thanks to these two, many just can’t grow here. (My garden offers a rapid death to any Echinacea, as one example.) Finding the plants that will grow takes trial, experimentation. Oh, I can follow some basic principles–use moisture-loving plants, avoid those that require “well drained” soil, favor those with long tap roots, not fibrous root systems, favor vigorous, competitive plants that spread rapidly–but only success over several years can prove a plant’s ability to merely survive, or thrive, here.

Now I’m at the planting stage and realizing just to what extent garden is a verb.

To help get a more finished look quickly, I’m using large plants when I can get them: Rudbeckia maxima (five) in a group, several new and recycled Miscanthus, Panicums, two amazingly mature Baptisias I found at Paxson Hill Farm, and Pycnantheum muticum, which may eventually function as a matrix plant. I may even try to transplant some Inula racemosa seedlings for an immediate “mature” effect. Once the large plants are in, I have a mixture of other plants chosen for the dryer soil of the berm–20 Baptisia lactea, 10 Liatris ligustylis, several Angelica gigas, and a number of things to seed in:  Prunella grandifolia as a ground cover, Bronze fennel, Verbena bonariensis, of course.

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The frogs have even taken up residence in the new pool.

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The rough grassy area in the foreground of the pool is being planted with Miscanthus, which copes very well with the wet and the compacted soil, and will be a ground cover. I’ll scatter various Sanguisorbas among the Miscanthus mounds, and other things as I find what can thrive in this very damaged area (lots of tromping on the muddy clay last winter).

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In addition to this new reflecting pool and planting berm on the east end of the house, we also added two stone-walled planting areas in the slowing evolving woodland garden on the west end.

Here is the view up the path to the western woodland area.

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Lots of work left to do here. I moved Rodgersia to these elevated beds and planted Darmera peltata (roots, not plants), so it may be a while before the large foliage has impact.

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This is a very wet area; the small scattered stepping stones don’t work, visually or practically. I can’t afford real stone, so I’m searching for alternatives.

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The surrounding area I’m trying to turn into a shady meadow. It’s about half covered with Golden ragwort (Senecio aureus), as well as scattered ferns, Siberian irises, various carex and shade tolerent grasses, Sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum) and Pulmonaria.

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I’ve struggled with this wet, root infested end of the garden for years. The final solution may be a sea of Petasites.

Success. Failure. Chance. Change.

Garden is a verb.

 

Garden visitors thumb

Garden visitors

Garden visitors (1)

Surprised, I was, a few weeks back to get an email from Noel Kingsbury saying he would be in the Philadelphia area for several days, and would like to drop by.

Garden visitors (2)

When we moved to Federal Twist in 2005 and I recognized I’d be gardening in a very difficult place, my hope for the future came from two books by Noel Kingsbury–The New Perennial Garden and Planting Design: Gardens in Time and Space (written with Piet Oudolf). In the first, I learned about naturalistic gardening, in particular about planting into rough grass. Continue reading Garden visitors