Claire Takacs’ Dreamscapes: Inspiration and Beauty in Gardens Near and Far is a welcome addition to the canon of photographic garden books. This book of notable gardens, some very well known, some less so, is far more than another pretty coffee table book. Takacs (pronounced “Ta-kahsh” with a long “a” and accent on the second syllable) values light above all else, and she shoots her images in the light of early morning and at the end of day, in fog and mist, or in other singular lighting conditions. Her techniques create images that are gripping and compelling. (Her work is frequently seen in the best garden magazines.) As this new book shows, Takacs gives us a new way of seeing gardens. Continue reading A review of Dreamscapes: Inspiration and beauty in gardens near and far, by Claire Takacs→
I met Tim Richardson, almost accidentally, last September in London. I’m republishing a review of his still very relevant The New English Garden. Take a look if you haven’t read it.
Tim Richardson’s new book, The New English Garden, is a beautifully photographed, sensuously appealing volume slathered with full-page photographs and huge double-page spreads so large you feel you could fall into them. The book is a hedonistic delight and a source of many hour’s diversion and, if you’re so inclined, a pleasant opportunity for learning. Having my own recent experience with photographers who don’t know how to photograph gardens, the impressive work of photographers Andrew Lawson, Jane Sabire, and Rachel Warne is executed with knowledge and skill. One could hardly do better than study the photographs in this book to learn something about how to do it right. Continue reading Book Review: The New English Garden by Tim Richardson→
Last summer I visited gardens in The Netherlands as a member of Carolyn Mullet’s Dutch Wave tour to see the work of Piet Oudolf and many practitioners of the garden design movement he largely created … the Dutch Wave, often called the New Perennial movement. My experience on this tour convinced me this is the best way to see gardens in distant places. The itinerary is well organized and packed with engaging destinations, and all the logistics of travel and lodging are taken care of for you. I’ve traveled on my own to see gardens but I find traveling alone, making multiple arrangements for transportation and lodging, even finding the gardens, very stressful and time-consuming. If you want to see gardens, this is the way to go. Click on carexTours for more information, and for a special price available until July 8.
Clouds and misty rain only amplify colors, form and atmosphere in gardens. On the day we visited Lianne’s Siergrassen, the subdued light and wet conditions actually deepened the colors of the plants in Lianne’s vast demonstration gardens. A phlox shining out from the darkness within grass heavy with moisture …
… or a fading Rudbeckia standing tall against a multicolored background of beautiful perennials, in fact everything, was saturated with subdued, evocative color .
The gauzy effects of the light heightened the diaphanous quality of some grasses, as here where grass makes an ornamental screen against the blurred background.
Because these are demonstration gardens, Lianne shows many ways to combine the plants she offers, sometimes growing them in large monocultural blocks, as with Hakonechola shown here …
… and in smaller, discrete blocks …
In other parts of the garden she uses mixed plantings to highlight similarities and contrasts in shape, texture, and color …
Nic and Sally, dressed for wet weather, but all smiles as they explore the riches of a nursery like few others.
Such beautiful combinations as this–do they come about through chance or careful forethought? I imagine the former, but sometimes you just have to let the plants do what they do, and appreciate the result.
Here a sea of mixed grasses, carex and sedum.
And Althea cannabina, a plant I first saw in the summer of 2015 in London, a miniature-flowered hollyhock, which has become rather commonplace in Europe, though I have yet to see it in the US (except on the High Line) seen here at full height …
… and here in close-up.
Here a matrix of grasses (Little bluestem) and perennials (Liatris and other things) patterning the ground surface …
… another mixed planting of a Solidago, Pycnanthemum, and grasses …
… and the bold foliage of a Miscanthus contrasted with a cloud of Sporobolus heterolepis in flower.
The combinations of grasses and perennials work at different scales. Below, the gauzy Sporobolus setting off the dark seedheads of what appears to be a Penstemon digitalis.
And Guara lindheimeri, its sharp white flowers ornamenting the soft grasses behind.
The bold seedheads of Veronicastrum offer a dramatic contrast with the background of grasses (and with the dark foliage of trees).
If you look closely, you’ll see Carolyn almost buried among the grasses.
Lianne’s Siergrassen is only one of many destinations on the Dutch Wave tour. You can also visit the iconoclastic Jac. P. Thijssepark, the Piet Oudolf-designed Vlinderhof, gardens of Noël van Mierlo, John Schoolmeester’s work at Kasteel Geldrop, Van Nature, Piet Oudolf’s own private garden Hummelo, Peter Janke’s Hortvs nearby in Germany, the historic Het Loo Palace, the Kröller-Müller Museum, Henk Gerritsen’s Priona garden, the gardens of Mien Ruys, Jaap de Vries’ Jakobstuin, and many other gardens, special nurseries, and other sites. For details, go to carexTours.
As a member of Carolyn Mullet’s Dutch Wave tour in August 2016, I joined an extraordinary group of international garden travelers with a special interest in the work of Piet Oudolf and many practitioners of the garden design movement he largely founded … the Dutch Wave, often called the New Perennial movement. The carexTours itinerary gave us a superb overview of Piet Oudolf’s work and Dutch Wave design, as well as glimpses into work of several other major garden designers, all packed into a week of two garden visits (sometimes three) each day. We also visited a couple of magnificent nurseries, a museum, a garden tool maker, and a palace. Over the next few months, I’ll be telling you about my own experience on this great tour.
I’ve been in love with Piet Oudolf’s gardens since I came across a copy of Designing with Plants by Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury while browsing in Barnes & Noble in 1999. I’d never before seen the kinds of startlingly romantic, lush, naturalistic, absolutely stunning plantings I found in that book. I was smitten, and I haven’t gotten over it since. So when Carolyn Mullet, a well known garden designer from the DC area, gave me the opportunity to join her carexTours‘ Dutch Wave tour last August, I jumped at the chance.
The line comes from W.C. Handy’s St. Louis Blues, composed by the man called the father of the blues. I think the power of this lyric comes from the sheer poetry of words and image. Why did Handy say “hate to see”? The image of the lowering sun is an evocative one, but it contains a hint of the dark to come, one William Faulkner recognized when he named a short story about a husband lying in wait to kill his wife ‘That Evening Sun’.
“The founding fathers of modern environmentalism, Henry David Thoreau and John Muir, promised that ‘in wildness is the preservation of the world.’ The presumption was that the wilderness was out there, somewhere … and that it would be the antidote for the poisons of industrial society. But of course the healing wilderness was as much the product of culture’s craving and culture’s framing as any other imagined garden… The wilderness, after all, does not locate itself, does not name itself… Nor could the wilderness venerate itself. It needed hallowing visitations from New England preachers…, photographers…, painters in oil…, and painters in prose… to represent it as … holy …”
Thanks to Nancy Berner and Susan Lowry, my garden makes a brief appearance in the April issue of Elle Decor. I know Nancy and Susan from their recent book, Gardens of the Garden State, where they featured Federal Twist among the astonishing variety of gardens in New Jersey. Only one small caveat; I don’t agree with Elle Decor’s editor saying I “dispensed with a traditional garden all together, filling the area around the house with a meadow.” I see it most definitely as a garden, not a just a meadow. But that’s just a quibble. I understand a magazine needs to tell a compelling story in very few words.
I’m happy to be paired with Sigrid Gray, who formerly managed Piet Oudolf’s Battery Bosque in Manhattan. I met Sigrid once, in the early days of that garden on Manhattan’s Battery.
Yes, to those of you who’ve seen this on facebook, I’m double posting, just for the record.
If you click on the image below, it should expand.
Time and time again I drove past thousands of flowering Crocosmia on the roadsides of New Zealand, remarking to myself, “I’ll stop in a few miles and take a photo of this.” As a plant of South African origin, Crocosmia apparently loves Kiwi roadsides. I never stopped to take that picture, so the closest I can come is this Crocosmia planting pondside at the Christchurch Botanical Garden, strangely in the native plant section of that garden.