A Walk in the Garden at Follers Manor

Follers-ChairsOn this cool spring day in New England, I invite you to travel with me to a garden which overlooks the village of Alfriston in the Cuckmere Valley located in the eastern portion of the South Downs in Great Britain. I had the great fortune to visit this garden in the summer of '13. It was one of many lovely gardens which I saw that trip. It is an exceptional garden. Designed by the noted Landscape Architect, Ian Kitson, and owned by Anne & Geoff Shaw it is a garden which has been sculpted out of the hillside. It has a maturity which belies its youth. Follers More FieldsThe Shaw's purchased the rundown house in 2006 and renovated it. The garden was developed and planted through 2012 when a copse of trees was added for the Queen's Jubilee. Don't you just love the Brits? They so embrace a celebration. The Shaws had two directives for the architect. One was to make the garden wildlife friendly and the other was that it should be colorful. The final garden, if a garden is ever final, is so much more than those two components. Follers-open fieldThe approach is breathtaking. The walk from the parking area, down the lane to the drive was on an incline but there was no watching one's feet.  Rolling fields laced with wildflowers framed the view of the valley along the lane.Follers-Scenic view Trees and shrubs frame the view from the lower part of the garden. Follers path to the gardenOnce through the small courtyard and down a series of steps, much of the garden is revealed. Follers-sunk patioA nautilus shaped sunken patio with a limestone base is one of the focal points of the garden. Seated in this garden, the breeze is reduced but the view is not. Follers-sitting areaThis is a patio with sections which contain quiet, gentle spots for conversation, cakes, and company. Follers sinuous sedumsThe sinuous walls are made of flint and the top of the wall is planted with sedums and sempervivums. Follers-sunken patioLow growing campanula was in bloom at the time of our visit and it formed purple puddles surrounding the seating area. There is much to see both up close and in the distance. Follers Manor HouseFollowing the curve of the patio a lower natural pool invites one down the path to yet another seating area which looks back toward the house and the pond. Follers-Chairs fieldI would bet that the lounge chairs are often turned around to take in the view of the valley. Who could resist? On one side of the pond garden there is a meadow garden. Follers-DaisiesAlmost every garden I saw on this trip included a meadow garden. They are all the rage and they are a wildlife magnet. Bees and butterflies joined us on our walk through this garden and many of our group paused to sit on this inviting bench. There is a walkway winding through the daisies but it is cleverly hidden by the flowers and meadow grasses. Follers-Lower Garden On the other side of the naturalistic pond, herbaceous borders lead the way to the bottom of the property. This bench provides yet another opportunity to sit and enjoy the shady beauty of the lower garden. Follers-veggiesAt the bottom of the garden, the view is once more revealed just over the raised vegetable beds. To feed the gardens, there are, of course, composting bins.Follers-Compost BinsTucked off in the corner these were filled to overflowing.
Follers shady walk backThe garden paths loop around the garden from top to bottom so there is never a need to retrace one's steps although it was necessary to do so in order to truly appreciate the paths, plantings and views throughout this space.
Follers right pond viewThe picture above is of the right side of the pond garden. This is a garden for strolling, sitting and enjoying the views. It was not easy to leave it. Follers waterlilyMany thanks to Anne and Geoff Shaw for opening their garden to us. It is on the NGS register and is open to the public certain days of the year. You can check here for more information on open dates. I do hope you have the opportunity to someday see this garden on your own. 


Where The Rosemary Grows

Prostrate rosemaryI am feeling a little guilty. Well a lot guilty actually. New England is experiencing record snowfall this winter. It is the winter of the endless storms. Some people pick up and go to Florida to escape the harsh New England winters. My Mom actually loves Florida and she is there right now but I love a place with a cooler climate. A climate in winter where temperatures are usually between 40F and 70F. A climate where, if you owned a plot of land, you could actually garden all year long. Since the EM can telecommute and my skills are limited to the New England gardening cycle, we decided to pack up and head for Sonoma, CA. We have enjoyed this area on several previous visits. Most of those visits were in December and we visited two summers ago in July when the rolling hills of Sonoma were  brown. Now, in February, they are vivid green. Jaxson Keys vineyardThe grape vines traverse the landscape adding perfect geometry to flowing fields. Rosemary and BeeBack home, the icicles reach from roof to ground. Here the rosemary thrives and flowers and bees dance in their blossoms. Camellias and HelleboresThe camellias and hellebores are also providing a dance floor for the bees right along with the daffodils. Healdsburg daffodils I love New England. It is home and this winter it has been harsh. With any luck, I will get to experience spring twice this year. As I said, I am feeling a little guilty. 

Can You Name This Garden?

An inviting entryIt is obvious that a garden lover lives here. But who? Can you guess from the pictures? This past week I had the pleasure of visiting the gardens of two garden blogger friends and the garden of an American President. There will be other posts. I thought it might be fun to show pictures of this garden and have you guess who gardens here. This garden has been pictured on this gardener's blog, in magazines and even on a book cover. I have seen many pictures of this garden but I have not seen it in person before this past week. November is not an optimal time to visit a garden but this gardener showed no reluctance in sharing her (first clue) garden. Front gardenIt has a very small front garden on a quiet street in a cozy neighborhood. The lower gardenThe side garden leads down a slope to the back garden but the best view of the back garden is from the deck on the house. From the deck one can look down into garden which elbows up to the woodlands. The above view has been seen by many of us but I don't remember seeing the birdhouses on the tree or, at least, noticing them. It is a climbIt is a climb down many steps to the lower level. When you are down in this garden it feels secluded and very private. Contemplative bench in the Susan Harris gardenThere is a bench for contemplation which sits along a path to the woods. There are chairs at the top of the garden which look like they are actually used since the umbrella has been added for comfort during hot, sunny days. The chairsIt was a rainy day but the foliage was glowing yellow, amber and copper while the evergreens provided green contrast. You can see the textures of this garden right through the fallen leaves. DSC_0024Textures carry a garden through the seasons and this garden is full of texture which shows the skill of this gardener. Behind the Blue WallThis view was a surprise to me as I don't think that I have seen this photographed.  From a distance, this looks like an underwater scene with the ivy mimicking seaweed. The watering cans might give it away upon closer inspection but this is a clever treatment for a dark, under the deck, area.  Have you guessed whose garden I visited on this day? Susan HarrisIt was the garden of the always smiling, ever energetic and daring Susan Harris. Daring because she is leaving this garden after 26 years of nurturing. I call that daring. I have known Susan for three years and while she is famous for many things,The Lawn Reform Coalition, Garden Rant, Gardener Susan and Garden Center Blogging, her commitment to gardening, the environment and her friendship are what make her famous to me. Thank you for the visit, Susan. I thoroughly enjoyed the view and can't wait to see what you do with the new garden.

Seattle Flingers

Seattle Flingclick on collage to enlarge
Garden Bloggers Fling 2011 was held the weekend of July 22-25th in beautiful Seattle, WA. There are many reasons for attending a Garden Bloggers Fling. Seattle Fling4
For me, first and foremost, is the opportunity to speak with other gardeners, garden professionals, garden writers and just plain garden addicts. Seattle Fling1There is synergy in a group of like minded individuals no matter what their interest but gardeners are special. Gardeners are well rooted people and this Seattle Fling brought a great mix together for fun, laughter, conversations and garden touring. I had hoped to meet all bloggers but the group is large and time and energy are limited. Have you ever seen a happier group of people than those in these pictures?  Seattle Fling2
I did manage to get some photos of the participants although not all of them. My apologies to those of you who are missed in the photos. I will work harder to capture you next year so be forewarned. Seattle Fling3
I look forward to meeting you in Asheville, NC for the 2012 Garden Bloggers Fling. For a list of all participants for 2011, click on this link.

Summer in Seattle

Space needleI was in Seattle for summer this year. On Sunday, July 24th, the temperature in Seattle reached 81F under sunny skies. The day after, the newspaper headline read 'The Day After Summer' as temperatures plummeted to fifties and sixties under cloudy, rainy skies. No matter, in any weather Seattle still shines. Hanging sunshinePerhaps it is from the glossy coating of moisture on trees and leaves or the abundant bright hanging plants everywhere in the city but, shine it does. It is hard to believe that Seattle receives less rain than Rhode Island, 37+ inches to our 42 inches but those are the facts. Seattle residents are purported to buy more sunglasses per capita than any other city in the U.S. When the sun does shine, it is very bright compared to the 280 gray days of usual weather. Seattle was the location for the fourth Garden Bloggers Fling which drew over 70 garden aficionados from all over the U.S. and even two from England. Spending time with other plant lovers is magic. Plant lust is the norm and if there is a plant one doesn't know, someone in the group does and shares the name easily with others. Seattle is home to the longest continuously operated Farmer's Market in the U.S. Farmer's market At the Public Market Center, one can find an abundance of fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers and fish all looking tantalizingly tempting. The fish market had some surprises in the form of entertainment. I think the action in the video serves to tenderize the fish. Well not really but this group at Pike's Fish Market know how to entertain the masses.  Grapes at marketThe Rainier cherries are ripe and available and the market was crowded with people when I was there on a Thursday afternoon. Seattle sculpture parkAs a group, we enjoyed the Olympic Sculpture Park which is situated in the sharp shadow of the space needle. SculptureA former industrial site, this park is filled with dramatically large sculptures. Mt RainierWinding paths lead visitors around the park in a multi level landscape which brings Mt. Rainier into view on the southern edge along with Cascades and sculpturethe Cascade Mountains a bit to the north. Tree sculpture - SplitThe sculptures are varied and interesting and this park is well used as evidenced by the crowds of people during our visit. Seattle was the perfect setting for the Garden Bloggers Fling this year. Seattle skyline from ferryI had not been to Seattle prior to this trip and what could be better than seeing a city for the first time with great friends and great gardens?       

The Glass Flower Exhibit - Harvard Museum of Natural History

My father used to say,

"Superior people never make long visits,

have to be shown Longfellow's grave

nor the glass flowers at Harvard..."   

excerpted from the poem 'Silence' by Marianne Moore

There are many wonders of the world which I will most probably never have the opportunity to see.  The Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China, the Pyramids of Egypt. Not all wonders of the world are as large and prominent as these and some are closer to home than you might think.  So it is with the Glass Flower Collection at the Harvard Museum of Natural History, (HMNH), in Cambridge, MA.  DSC_0050An exquisite and one of a kind collection of blown glass comprised of anatomically correct flowers complete with their various private parts and cross sections.DSC_0013 There are pistils and stamens along with ovaries, pollen, and even some pollinators caught in the act or the clutches.  DSC_0015a How can one resist such an exhibit?  It has beauty, sex, and historical significance.  My excuse is ignorance which I have remedied.  I resisted visiting the collection for quite a while.  I had seen those glass flowers tucked in a vase in the gift shops and those were not for me.  A gardener, plant lover and trained horticulturist, I am embarrassed to say that I did not research, before dismissing, the 'Glass Flower Collection'.  I should have heard 'at Harvard' at the end of the description and realized the import of the exhibit.  It just takes some of us a little longer to see, really see, that which is right in front of us, 'Superior people' or not.  The glass flowers were commissioned by Dr. George Lincoln Goodale, the first director of HMNH appointed in 1888 and as such, he wanted to exhibit plant specimens.  DSC_0081Plant specimens for study in the late 1800's consisted of wax or paper mache neither of which had much longevity or detail.  Dr. Goodale had seen marine specimens made out of glass by German glassblowers, Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka.  This father and son team were as much artists as technical glassblowers and at the time of Dr. Goodall's visit they were making a living creating sea creatures which were unique, detailed, and instructive.  A bit of arm twisting ensued which resulted in a collection of over 4000 models which includes 847 life size models of different plant species and their various plant parts.  The production of the specimens spanned a quarter of a century and only came to an end due to the death of one and the age of the other artisan.  The collection was funded over this period of time by Mrs. Elizabeth C. Ware and her daughter, Mary Lee Ware in memory of Dr. Charles E. Ware, husband, father, and Harvard alumnus.  DSC_0065There is much about the collection, other than its ethereal and exacting beauty, which is of interest.  Packaging of the glass which had to travel from Germany to Boston, MA, was initially a challenge.  The packaging was a marvel of engineering.  There was no styrofoam in 1887 when the first flowers were shipped.  Straw and tissue paper helped encase the pieces and improvements were made in the packaging and transport after the first shipment arrived quite damaged but beautiful still.  At one point pieces of the collection were sent by hearse to be part of a 1976 Steuben Glass Company Exhibit in New York city.  It seems that a hearse had the best suspension of any vehicle available at that time.  Some specimens sent for an exhibit were lost in a flood at the Corning Glass Museum Exhibit in Corning, NY in 1972 which also resulted in much damage and destruction at that museum.  Much more concerning the history of the collection can be read on the HMNH website but nothing there can describe each individuals reaction to the exhibit.  For those of us who grow plants and have grown many of those in the exhibit, the reaction is one of wonder, familiarity, and awe. DSC_0024The fragile tendrils and intricate flowers of the twining sweet pea are replicated in exacting detail.  The fragrance of sweet peas was brought to mind while viewing this specimen but, alas, it was just an olfactory illusion.  DSC_0077The pollen collected on the aging catkins of the pussy willow looks just as if it would stain your fingers and clothing if picked but it is just a magic act and one well employed by the skills of the artisans Blaschka.  DSC_0027The color of the swamp maple leaves match the color of the spring flowers which is a good lesson in botany since they are not seen at the same time except in this specimen form.  Mountain laurel is a native in New England and is rendered in glass with painstaking detail.  Mountain Laurel
It is a welcome sight when it blooms in late spring in this area.  It is forever blooming behind the glass doors of the exhibit room.   DSC_0048
From honeysuckle orange to iris blue DSC_0066
the color spectrum is covered in this exhibit as well as these plant species. Every visitor to this exhibit will find at least one specimen which is familiar.   IMG_3241
I offer you this fothergilla flower to view next to the exhibit flower.  One is soft to the touch, the other would be cold and hard if one could touch it. DSC_0020It has been a very long winter here in New England and in many other parts of the country but at the Glass Flower Exhibit, the dogwoods are eternally blooming along with many plants of summer and fall.  DSC_0035
Should you be as starved for greenery and blooms as I, this exhibit will not disappoint you. It is a flower show where the blooms never fade.  It is a marriage of art and science. It is one of a kind.  The Ware collection of glass flowers is close to home if you live in New England and compared to visiting the Taj Mahal it requires little travel effort.  Have you been to see the Glass Flower Exhibit?  If not, when will you go?  You are one of the 'Superior people', I know you are.  

Farmer's Market, RI

DSC_0012 I went to the Farmer's Market a couple weeks ago.  My garden still has a bit of lettuce, arugula and parsley but this past week the temperatures dipped to single digits and there is little left to harvest.  The Farmer's Market in Pawtucket, RI hosts dozens of vendors selling everything from root vegetables DSC_0019 to cupcakes.  There is maple syrup, farm raised beef and chicken, sprouts, mushrooms and flowers. DSC_0014 One of my favorite finds were these tiny turnips.  DSC_0032 I know, they look like radishes but they are turnips.  I bought two bunches and roasted them. If you like turnips, these are tender and delicious. The romanesco broccoli was pretty with its lime green spirals but I held off and will have to take a trip back with the hope that there are some left.  DSC_0022 I had a week's vacation between the visit and this post so meal planning was at a standstill.  Watching the people at a Farmer's Market is just as interesting as checking out what is available.  It is an eclectic and fascinating group.  Who visits a Farmer's Market?  I will have to conduct interviews next time but it is safe to say that the shoppers at the market are interested in supporting the local farmers and securing fresh produce for their meals. There is color, noise, energy and fragrance at the farmer's market.  November 27, 2010
Have you visited a Farmer's Market lately and if so, where?  Were you satisfied?

More Buffalo

I so admire those diligent bloggers who have been posting regularly about the Buffa10 Fling last weekend.  I am well behind and it is a challenge to find photos which have not been seen.  It is interesting how many pictures we take that are similar but also interesting that there are pictures of scenes which I just did not see.  So, a big thank you to all for sharing your special views.  I have a confession to make.  While most of our group was outside the History Museum listening to the staff talk about the new garden which was being dedicated that very day, I was hunting down the cake.  I love cake (sad truth) and when I heard one mentioned, I had to take a look.   There were lots of people standing listening to the speeches IMG_2322
and the cake was on a table behind all of them.  I found it. IMG_2321
  It really doesn't look like a cake at all.  Note the pictures on the bottom and the log rounds which mimic those in the garden.  I guess I have to believe that this was a cake as it looked just like the granite lantern in the garden IMG_2325
and sadly I did not get to taste it which was probably a good thing since we headed off to Rue Franklin for a lovely lunch.   IMG_2335
It was then on to Urban Roots, the city garden center. IMG_2349
Always smiling Kylee, from Our Little Acre, tempts fate by climbing up on the bales of mulch for the perfect shot.  IMG_2340
I am sure she got more than one of all the colorful umbrellas in the nursery as the rain was coming down.  This garden center had great plants IMG_2346
and very interesting items to purchase.  This familiar book, Wicked Plants by Amy Stewart has its' own special little creature trying to read its' pages. IMG_2352
Perhaps it is confused and thinks that it is her new book, Wicked Bugs.  There is so much more to share but tonight time has run short.


There is an energy surrounding Buffalo which is palpable to gardeners in particular.  This city, which has a curious name if one thinks at all about it, is situated in an optimistic location at the eastern edge of Lake Erie and the head of the Niagara River.    It is undergoing a revitalization which comes, in part, from having a positive group of people at the helm.  In 2010 Forbes rated Buffalo as the 10th best place to raise a family.  It is evident in the attitude and the actions of its' inhabitants two of which, Elizabeth and Jim, organized this seamlessly run event. Seventy or so garden bloggers and garden enthusiasts who had the opportunity to attend this year's Garden Bloggers Buffa10 will agree.  IMG_2214
The first full day of garden touring included the Cottage District which must contain the happiest people on earth.  Who could live in this house without smiling every day?  The houses in the cottage district are painted in the colors of the rainbow and much reminiscent of this gardener's past vacations on Martha's Vineyard which has a collection of similarly painted houses in the Campground Compound of Oak Bluffs.  They look like this.  The tiny gardens were inviting, unique, and packed with plants.  Wandering in and out of the side alleys IMG_2226
to the back gardens IMG_2239
and then along the streets could not have been more fun especially in the company of other plant and garden lovers.   There was, for the most part, a gentle rain which was sporadic. Strolling was possible between the drops.  IMG_2248
Attention to detail was the order of the day.  I love the way this house IMG_2261
has its' hose matching the window boxes.  The back yard was just as detailed.  The use of mirrors in the small enclosed spaces gave added depth to some of the gardens and the images captured were impressionistic from the rain.  IMG_2300
Here is Pat, who also blogs from New England, captured in this mirror's watery depths.  There was also a mirror in the very back of this garden which caught many a blogger's eye. IMG_2305
The winding path leading to this back area was narrow but invited further inspection and upon the return route, one was treated to a view of this hydrangea in bud and the bee balm which seems to be a signature Buffa10 plant. IMG_2306
  It grows tall and lush and not a spec of powdery mildew was seen on any in any garden.  The Cottage District was just the first part of our day but what a way to start.  In tribute to today's Flag Day, here is one final image.  IMG_2249