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.


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:


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4 thoughts on “June 17 – Garden Conservancy Open Day at Federal Twist

  1. Your garden is glorious, I envy those who will get a chance to tour it. The layers and textures of green are such a treat to the eye, especially the first broad view photo and the detailed one with the lady’s mantle and ferns.

    1. I just got back from almost a month in Barcelona and Provence. During that period we had a tremendous amount of rain. When I first saw the garden last Thursday, I freaked out. Now, with a little mowing, cutting, and discreet plant removal, I can appreciate those “layers and textures of green” again. The garden at this time of year is for people with an eye for detail. Not for eyes desirous of lots of blousy color.

  2. Determined to make it up there for a visit, but probably not for this upcoming open.

    Given that your description sets the garden’s first peak as in mid-July, I’m guessing that the June date is not entirely your call — i.e., set in order to combine FT with open days of other gardens in the region that prefer to have visitors sooner?

    1. That was the initial cause, then two other garden tours came about, so I now have three in that week. I’m now realizing that changes I’ve made over the years are making the spring garden something special, so I’m tweaking plantings to stretch the showing season into spring.

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