Friday's Flights of Fancy - Armchair travels
'All Creatures Welcome' is what the sign would say if Kris Green had one inviting passersby into her garden. The chairs sit empty but inviting in the center of the garden. They are begging for a rump or two to sit and survey the quiet complexity of this verdant space. There is the resident pup, Nino, seen here surveying the kingdom and then there is the pollinator condo Kris has devised to provide an invitation to visit and a bit of security for nature's winged critters. I imagine some crawlers lodge here as well. All are invited. Kris is a fellow blogger, an Interpretive Horticulturist at Blithewold and a friend and this past summer I was invited to visit her garden in Bristol, RI. Now, we both live in the same state and the smallest state at that but Bristol is right on the ocean and my garden sits in the western hills a full zone colder than Kris's garden. That is one reason it is such a fun to visit. She easily grows this Clerodendron shrub which would succumb to cold in my garden. (Perhaps I should give it a try.) There are other treats as well. Monarda punctata adds subtle color and wonderful form to the front border. Kris has a creative eye along with busy hands making a small but sensory packed jewel of a garden. She has an artist's eye as evidenced by her clear mastery of texture and color. The echo combination of agastache and cleome is just one example. She knows full well that August can be a tired time in the garden and she has embraced the nuances of lace and leather here in the borders. If you happen to sit in the chairs, there is a lovely view of the deck complete with perfectly potted plants and upon entering the house, it is clear that an artist and gardener lives inside. The living room even has a living wall. Kris was born with her unique perspective which she has honed in life along with her horticultural skills. She works in the greenhouse and gardens at Blithewold Mansion and Gardens and she writes their blog with wit and wisdom and always a quick turn of phrase which you can read here. We can all look forward to more of Kris's writings as she is completing work on a new book, the contents of which remain a mystery. Due out in the fall, it promises to be filled with a fresh approach to the age old art of gardening. While Kris is never in anyones shadow, she prefers to keep a low profile but should you stop in at Blithewold, take the time to talk with Kris and also with Gail, Dan and Fred. You will recognize her from her smiling picture above and herestanding just behind and to the right of the enigmatic and always interesting Michael Dirr. Thank you to Kris for a lovely day in her garden with her, Nino and the critters.
Come, Walk With Me
November 30, 2012
I am working at making a commitment to walking five days per week. Cooper, the 2 year old lab, needs more exercise than he is getting. He is not alone. Tucker, the Job Supervisor, is 14 and after a short romp around the yard, he is ready for a nap. Well, so am I but I need to get walking. I am very lucky. I have rural and scenic roads on which to walk. Currently, Cooper and I are walking two miles but we do hope to double that distance as we get a bit fitter and faster. There is much to see along the mile stretch and back and if one looks closely, there is always something new along the way. There is also a lot of old. The road is bounded by stone walls which once enclosed the open rocky fields. The fields may have held cows or sheep or been used as hay fields to supply necessary fodder for the animals in winter. Now the fields are filled with oak and white pine but the walls remain. We pass old houses on our walk. The first was built in 1797. The road takes us past two ponds. The first sits right across from this old house. I call it Charlie's house but Charlie is gone after having lived here over 40 years. The next pond is one in which I swam as a child. Those days are long gone but the pond remains and now I enjoy just walking past. We turn off the gravel road and pass the rather large, right on the road, Tyler House which was a general store and post office in the 1800's.It is hard to imagine there may have been a bustling business here at one time. A lovely woman named Lila lived and grew up here. Years ago, she told me that, on hot summer nights, she would sleep outside on the upper porch. Lila is also gone and several other owners have enjoyed this house. Further along the route the road rises and turns and on the right is this beautiful barn. The barn has three levels which all can be accessed from a ground level since it is built into the side of the hill. My nephew had his wedding in this barn. It was beautiful. The house in the front is traditional and, again, old. I don't know the original building date but it has this field opposite with a quarried stone retaining wall. The return trip reveals a red barn keeping an eye on the swimming pond. I do remember it contained a sleigh many years ago. We walk, literally, over the river/stream and through the woods returning home via the back path which has escaped the heavy load of snow. It wraps up to the back of the house where Cooper can have free reign. The ground is still warm although cooling quickly with sudden cold temperatures. The shorter, colder days are difficult motivators for walking. I do find that I always feel better after though. Thank you for taking this mornings walk with me. Not everyone has such lucky views. I am grateful for them.
Wickets in June
March 02, 2012
The view of a bridge can evoke many different responses depending on the style, setting and size of that bridge. The bridge at Wickets leads one into green pastures, quite literally. The handrails are a serene robin's egg blue with a graceful arch which spans a small pond. It can be seen from the formal garden where it teasingly beckons but one can't leave the garden rooms quickly. There is much too much to see within the portals of the gate. The gateway into the garden or, rather gardens, is on the side of the fairytale cottage. From the front of the cottage there is little to indicate the many garden rooms, lush borders and verdant pastures waiting for exploration behind the house. I saw this garden in two stages. The first lasted a good hour before our group was ushered across the street to enjoy tea and treats in a lovely community room as storm clouds gathered. During our tea the wind blew and the rain fell and once it stopped, I ventured back across the street to further explore the now rose petal laden paths. I had missed the chickens and the back seating area. It is not unusual to find several chickens clucking about a garden in England. In fact, it is unusual not to find them. Most pictures were taken before the storm in the filtered light of a cloudy day which always produces better photographs. The exception is the one of the petal strewn grass paths and the one above of these chickens where the color difference is dramatic. The shadows are longer and darker and the colors very bright. No English garden is complete without a gravel area and the gravel garden at Wickets is home to a lovely sculpture which views the garden from a thoughtful pose. It is off to the left side of the property. Directly behind the house is just one of the many inviting sitting areas. Breakfast on this patio would be more than divine. Lady's mantle spills across the pavers with frothy green flowers while shrub roses embrace the table. The scent is divine. The borders are impossibly lush with alliums bigger than basketballs although the full spectrum of different sized globes are well represented. Winding paths lead one through the garden and there is always something to see along the way as the grass path travels around the property. We visited in June and there was no lack of color. I have never seen such large purple leaf elderberry shrubs or roses so lush. The elderberry grow eight to ten feet in height in this part of Essex. Mine have never reached higher than three feet. It must be a testament to longer days and milder winters. The grass paths meander through room after garden room until finally leading over that beguiling bridge. The bridge is in the 'wild' zone and leads to a grassy knoll with a bench almost hidden by that swaying grass. It was impossible not to take a moment to sit on that bench and enjoy the view which the garden owners, Susan and Doug Copeland, admirably framed with pines on the left. Mowing the field grass in front of the knoll directs the eye to the view beyond. This garden was created with love and plant knowledge and also a keen knack for framing a view. This is a view one could ponder season upon season, year after year. I would never tire of it, would you?
Magic in the Air
February 17, 2012
Can you name the happiest place on earth? I happen to think that Disney World might be in contention. While visiting Mom in FL last week with my son and his almost 3 year old daughter, Hailey, we had occasion to visit The Magic Kingdom. One might question the sensibility of taking a not even 3 year old to Disney World. My son and I questioned our sanity but little Hailey loves Mickey Mouse. She sings the song...not M-I-C-K-E-Y, sadly, but the new one and she dances to it and she asks for the TV show as it is her very favorite. Hailey's love of Mickey coupled with free passes and free parking sealed the deal.The smiles begin right inside the gates. Not all of us would want a planting of annuals bedded out in the likeness of Mickey Mouse but it looks quite appropriate right here. Who wouldn't smile at that face? I witnessed only acts of kindness by all employees I observed and encountered which seems an impossible task given the quantity of people who visit and who were there that day with the exception of this guy. I knew that I would be checking out plants and plantings but that did not take away from the day since pictures can be snapped quickly under the guise of looking at the sights. Gardening is regional and a trip is always an occasion to learn some new plant names. While February in RI means cold, hard ground and little color, in Florida there are some trees which are in full and glorious bloom. This tree, I cannot find the name so help me out, was blooming. It looks similar to the orchid tree but I think it is something other than that as it is blooming with no leaves present. My Mom has a book on some of the trees growing in Florida but this one was absent. This matched the pictures in the book of the orchid tree which has blooms and leaves at the same time. The Disney World crew beds out quite a few annuals and I did enjoy seeing color at this time of year. I know it is expected in Florida but it was a nice relief from the drabness of this year's RI winter with limited snow. No snow on the ground means less light in the landscape in New England. It has seemed ever so dark this year. These cyclamen swirls in the midst of wax begonias were quite pretty. I'll bet it would look nice on a wall as a vertical planting as well. I could use a few of these Trees of Gold to brighten the garden but, alas, they are not hardy for me. I will enjoy them here. The flowers are bourne in clusters before the tree leafs out. They are the bright yellow of that famous mouse's shoes.
Clinging to an arbor, this lovely lavender blue vine caught my eye. It looks like the pictures of the Queen's Wreath but if you know if by another name, let me know. Some people embrace the thought of going to Disney World and some people cringe at it. I am talking about adult people, of course, because I have never met a child whose eyes did not light up at the mention of this wonderland. Disney World does not come cheap even when you have free tickets. My son and I are still laughing about the 'free' part of it since we did purchase a few items which added up quite quickly. There is no price to be put on the smile and awe on a little girl's face at the sights and wonders within the walls of the Magic Kingdom. If little Hailey is too young to remember this trip, I only have to pull out these pictures to prove she was there. Have you been to Disney World? What do you think is the happiest place on earth?
Addendum: Many thanks to Francis for identifying the lovely pink flowered, deciduous tree in the above pictures. It is the Pink trumpet tree or Pink Lapacho tree, Tabebuia impetiginosa. More can be read about that tree here.
An Orchard View
February 03, 2012
It is Friday and time for another garden trip. Today takes us to the garden of Heather and Harry Brickford which is another beautiful National Garden Scheme garden. The NGS is an organization which features over 3,700 gardens. You can read more about this organization here. The Brickford garden is located in Essex is a bit north and east of London. This garden surrounds a very photogenic home which is made of brick with diamond shaped, leaded windows. A gravel drive sweeps up to the front of the house, the crunch of tire or shoe treads announcing visitors. The wide front step is an invitation to enter the house but all our eyes were on the sharply edged beds overflowing with flowers and shrubs. These frame a perfect lawn which leads around the house to the slightly sloped and terraced back garden. A brick wall provides privacy and continuity of style to the house. The sweet scent of lavender permeated the air as trousers brushed the foliage and yellow columbine skirted the opposite edges of the path.The back garden wraps around the property and includes flowers, shrubs and trees. There is a central water feature perfectly framed by brick and a terraced garden which divides the garden into loose rooms. Many of our group were enticed into this beautiful summer house. I don't know the English term for this building but many gardens our group visited had a serene little building such as this one. Robin's egg blue never looked as good as on this respite with its soft yellow interior. The summer house has a view all its own.The back of this home has this lovely patio which would have been even more inviting if the rain had held off but water makes plants and surfaces shine in photographs and no spirits were dampened. This grouping of hostas set off the beautiful stonework and the hostas are thus out of the reach of any slugs which might want to chomp on the luscious leaves. Who could blame them? I may have actually heard about the origin of the name of this garden, Orchard Cottage, but I don't remember it.
The view was delightful from both the outside and the inside where tea was graciously served.
There is nothing like English tea and English hospitality.
Of Gnomes and Dragons - 45 Waterhouse Lane, Chelmsford, England
January 27, 2012
This week's Flight of Fancy takes us to the town of Chelmsford, Essex, England. In June of 2011 the garden at 45 Waterhouse Lane was visited by twenty plus avid American gardeners. The busy street in front of the house was a challenge to negotiate for those of us used to looking to our left for oncoming traffic. With the help of one of our own, we all managed a safe crossing to the saucy salmon colored home situated between two lovely but less distinctive dwellings. In addition to the color, the front garden of our destination home also stood apart from its neighbors with carefully pruned boxwood shrubs. This might lead one to suspect a very traditional clipped garden in the back of the house. One would be wrong with this assumption.The walkway into the back garden is to the left of the home and is bordered on one side by a fence whose presence was minimized with carefully placed containers filled to the brim with white cosmos. I didn't really see the fence for the flowers and the trees. On the right side of the walkway the wall of the house was used as a foil for three container plantings shown in the first picture - a minimalist painting quite pleasing to the eye. If there had been nothing beyond the gate, my senses were already quite satisfied. Still, the walkway enticed one into the garden beyond where our group was greeted by the Richmond family. Peter and Julie (Julie is missing from the above picture) moved into this home in 1983 bringing with them no gardening experience. They have learned a thing or two since then and have cut their teeth right along with their two sons, Luke and Harry. They were right there in the garden with their Mom and Dad obviously enjoying the group and they seemed to be willing garden enthusiasts in their own right which is a lot to be said for anyone let alone for teen aged boys. The back garden gave the illusion of size as the space was divided into very individual areas yet it could not have been a hundred feet deep and less than that wide. There were at least three distinct seating areas and numerous container gardens. Each space transitioned from one to another quite smoothly, sometimes with a change in paving and always with surprises along the way. I took the path along the back wall of the house. All space was well utilized in this small garden and the wall was no exception.
It contained numerous gardening tools and even a fanciful gnome. Who tied that bunch of fresh lavender he is holding? I would love to hear the story behind the addition of each of these items to the lattice work. An arbor separated a shady garden from the sunlit gravel garden overseen by a graceful muse adorned with a swaying grass gown. Tucked around the corner to the right of the statue, the sound of water beckoned. This water garden has nautilus shells, fish and a shallow edge which allows the birds to use it as their own private bath. We observed several birds doing just that.Beyond the pond sunlight pooled, lighting the gray garden. Transition, not only from one theme to another but also from shade to sun and back again does make a garden seem much larger than its actual square footage. I particularly liked the shape of the fence in this garden area pictured above. Holding court in this garden in June was the Oriental poppy 'Patty's Plum' looking luscious and perfect.The most difficult part of visiting a small garden, even when it feels large, is negotiating it with two dozen others and getting some pictures which can show its individual and unique beauty. Peter and Julia give great attention to every detail of their garden. I saw no stray seedlings, weeds or stones although I am sure there were a few when we left, certainly by chance and not intent. This garden was obviously borne from a loving commitment to gardening and shared passion. I found it to be intrinsically English. Copious amounts of plants, containers, secret scenes and inviting sitting areas were all designed with artistic, creativity but they also contain components not found in American gardens. We would see gnomes and statuary but rarely these decorative chimney flues.I would love to find a chimney flue such as this one and I would not waste it on a roof either.
Many thanks to the Richmonds for their wonderful hospitality and obvious joy in sharing their garden with our group.
Where Chickens Reign Supreme
January 20, 2012
Almost two months ago I posted about a rather famous garden with a rather famous garden blogger, Susan Harris, of Garden Rant fame. I had the pleasure of visiting Susan's garden while visiting with another famous garden blogger/author. The week's Flight's of Fancy - Armchair Travels takes us to the garden of my hostess, a multi-talented person who has become a friend, a travel companion and a confidant. This garden has been seen by many of us in pictures but we have only seen a portion of the garden. We all do edit our garden through our pictures, picking just the best to show. I find that it is difficult to show any garden as a whole with still shots. Imagine my delight when I found so many interesting garden spaces which I cannot ever remember seeing in this blogger's pictures. The gardens surrounding this home are well planned and just plain pretty if pretty can be plain. Attention to detail is seen at every turn. The approach to this home is along a winding, sloping drive bordered by woods on the right and a field on the left with hawthornes flanking the drive. In November, the red berries were in opulent profusion and the appreciative birds were seen enjoying these jewels. The field is kept neat and tidy by a neighbor who hays it during the season.The top of the house comes into view first and the reveal is slow, anticipation building for what is to come. This blogger has a few chickens but in addition she also has a cat, a pig, some dogs and many vegetables. Well, yes, the pig is not alive but I don't remember seeing it before. There are always treasures to be found if one looks closely. The front garden was a surprise to me. The entrance to any home should be approachable and inviting. This entrance has a nice wide walkway of brick with a color coordinated and dog friendly entrance. The front chair matches the fall color on the maples, the azaelas are re-bloomers, the hellebores are immense and the view from the front step is expansive.You may remember seeing this view but now I can place it in this landscape as a view from the red chair on the front step. Another surprising feature of this garden is the garden seating. I have seen at least one of these sets of chairs but the others were a surprise. I am fairly sure that this gardener rarely sits for very long in any of these seats but they are all inviting, all placed in wonderful spots and all ready for a warm body or two as the size would indicate(the chair/bench, not the body). The vegetable garden is classic and even in November it is yielding flowers, foliage and vegetables. The fencing and welcoming gate with arbor are the perfect complement to the traditional architecture of this home. This gardener is a serious cook and greens were picked for the wonderful meals I enjoyed here. You may have identified this gardener by now but here are a few more traditional views I have seen on her blog.
First, The Chicken Castle and next the chairs which we see most often facing the woods. I call this the Serenity Spot but my dear friend probably has another name for this special place. One of the great perks of garden blogging is the unexpected pleasure of developing friendships with others who have similar interests. If you don't recognize the beautiful haven featured here, it belongs to Robin of Bumblebee blog. Thank you so much, Robin, for a wonderful visit.
Addendum: Since visiting, the beautiful white rooster pictured in the first collage, the beloved T. Boone, has passed on to his next perch. He was a regal and beautiful cock. He will be missed.
Rhode Island Spring Flower & Garden Show - 2011
February 25, 2011
The 2011 RI Spring Flower & Garden Show opened Thursday, February 24th. I predict there will be record crowds. This prediction is based on the fact that Rhode Island has been besieged by snow storm after snow storm and the endless expanse of white landscape leaves the spirits weary and the senses underwhelmed. This year the flower show committee has partnered with the American Heart Association to feature the Heart Association's campaign 'Go Red for Women'. Red is the dominant color this year and red is a great and warm relief for weary New Englanders. There are 28 exhibit gardens, a Standard Flower Show put on by the RI Federation of Garden Clubs, a marketplace featuring over 200 vendors and many lectures and demonstrations taking place at various times during the show hours. The Rhode Island Nursery and Landscape Association has a prominent position on the left side of the main garden entrance and they have outdone themselves this year with a walk through design featuring a shed with green walls and a green roof, a natural pergola and bench seating area, a rain barrel, and compost bins. Another garden contains a moon gate which is quite a feat of engineering and it also has plantings of foxgloves and delphiniums which are not the easiest of plants to force into bloom and then transport and install. The tall spikes are sensitive to damage but these look inviting and pristine. This garden relies on four season interest and the yucca complements the door to the greenhouse. The back side of the greenhouse is open to reveal a wonderful workplace and potting area. I have to say that this greenhouse with gardens and potting room is also one of my favorites. There are pergolas, statuary, water gardens, sitting areas, and stunning forced plant material. This azalea is part of a design implemented by a school and it looks as though it is related to the garden behind it with the scarlet doors. It is not but they do complement one another. Attention to detail always wins awards and this umbrella is festooned with leaves and mosses. This design relies on texture and the cool serenity which the color green provides. There is a garden with chickens which is only fitting given their current popularity with home gardeners these days. The chickens are kept company by a small goat and their chatter is a delight and certainly will draw the kids to this design. Hearts abound in many of the displays and some of the gardens are quite small. Small, but elegant, such as this bamboo garden. The exhibition by the RI Federation of Garden Clubs is really a competitive art exhibit. There are different classes, usually open to four competitors. Each exhibitor/competitor interprets the design criteria for that category with their own, unique design. Here are two examples of the Artistic Craft section- swimwear class. Exhibitors were given the mannequin torso and the swimsuit was created with fresh and/or dried plant material. It is amazing how different each design was and this one just begged to be touched. I did catch someone in the act. This flower show is at just the right time of year. The cold temperatures of New England are still with us and the spirit is weary. I think that many of the people who attend flower shows go for entertainment. From a horticultural or gardener's point of view my biggest disappointment is always with the vendors as there seem to be less and less garden related booths at these shows. Do you go to flower shows and if so, what do you look for at these shows? Do you look for unusual plants, unique paving designs, interesting stone work, garden art to buy, or just the gardens as a whole?
The Whim, Newport, RI - Newport Secret Garden Tour
February 18, 2011
Garden tours are always sources of inspiration for evolving gardeners and both spring and fall offers tours of some of the gardens of Newport, RI. Newport is a well known travel destination for the rich and famous. Perhaps not so much now as in the gilded age of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries but still, a more beautiful location is hard to find. This city by the sea offers historical properties located on the water with sweeping lawns, majestic views and lovely gardens. Not all of the homes are palatial but many along Bellevue Avenue are of grandiose proportion. There is a small garden tucked away on a side street which dead ends at the shoreline. The Whim is a privately owned garden with a modest house by Newport standards. The garden is a horticulturist's paradise. Billowing borders,shady nooks, and windswept coastline all are elements within the garden's gates. The narrow property extends from the road with the house sitting an arm's reach from the lane.
The tool shed
The postman must just pass an arm out the car window to reach the mail slot. The property was optimized for garden views one suspects and the lane is not well traveled keeping privacy intact. The narrow gardens on either side of the house expand past the back patio and while the eye sees to the ocean there are several separate garden rooms slowing the passage to the shoreline. I have visited The Whim on three separate occasions. An ocean property offers up a breeze at the best of times and gale winds at the worst of times and these currents are reflected in the ocean in the form of tranquil swells or crested, foaming waves. A garden must be designed with these elemental factors taken into consideration. There are walls and hedges built to provide shelter from the tossing and turning of turbulent air and sea spray which carries with it desiccating and sometimes injurious saltiness. The actual design features of combating nature are not immediately apparent to the visitor as all sensory systems are overloaded already with the content of the garden rooms. Each year the annuals change a bit. They provide a constant flush of color to the exuberant borders. The boxwood in the above border and its matching counterpart on the other side of the strip of lawn are clipped in an undulating pattern which is reflective of the waves in the distance and the breeze in the air.
The repetition of groups of plants provide a cohesive pattern punctuating these borders. There are grade changes from one level to another as the land slopes naturally toward the sea. Within each separate garden there are changes in the plant palette and there are also areas to sit and reflect. The Whim is a delightful garden to visit. I do wish I could see it in the winter with the bare bones of the walls and hedges standing in stark relief to the winter ocean. I will have to close my eyes and try to visualize. I don't know if the garden will be on the next Secret Garden Tour but the schedule is up and the dates posted here. It is a tour well worth the price and the proceeds go to benefit the Arts Education programs in the local schools. You never know who you might see at a garden tour. I hope to see you there in June.
Looking Inside The New England Grows Show - 2011
February 04, 2011
This year I attended the New England Grows Show in Boston not as a Sales Rep exhibiting product but as part of the Garden Writer's Association which held a meeting during the show. The trade show floor can be exciting as one looks for new, innovative, and appealing items which will sell well at an independent garden center. I found just a few. This year's show had its difficulties with the opening day shrouded in snow and ice. Attendance was dismal on Wednesday and very light on Thursday. That made checking product easier as the aisles were not crowded. Campania Statuary is always interesting and unique. I am not a big gnome fan but these little guys are quite cute and without garish colors, they could fit right into a little garden crevice. The lucky cricket is a bit oversized but then it would need to be in order to be noticed by some of the large outdoor fireplaces gracing the patio of a home with substance. I wouldn't expect to see them anywhere near this colorful tin tree which I know would appeal to the other gardeners of the world. There should be something for everyone at a garden center. There should be prices which keep everyone happy and that means bringing in the caviar with the popcorn. I think the fact that these little critters are carved from real stone keeps them from being too cutsy. They would make a good paperweight, at least the smaller ones would, and who doesn't like a hedgehog, penquin or an owl? Plants were in evidence at the show although much less so than in past years. It used to be easy to bring plants into a show, or at least economical, but with the unions controlling the docks smaller stock which can be rolled in on a cart is shown and not much of it. There was color at the Proven Winners booth and their forced material always looks pristine. The trend is vegetables and these vegetables come with a great tag and an easy carry tray.The tag comes with a recipe. If you buy a pot or two of mint, you can stop at the liquor store on the way home and pick up the ingredients necessary for the mojito recipe. Vertical wall systems were also being displayed in different size units by several vendors in response to the new demand for them. I find them interesting but wonder if they will catch on or are just a fad. It could be a good repeat sale of plants as some decline and have to be replaced. In keeping with the fruit and vegetable theme, there were a few people in interesting apparel. Some of them were even smiling and why not? A smile begets a smile. The most unique item in the plant world was the blue phalaenopsis orchid. It is very blue. It will re-bloom white. I am just not sure. What do you think?