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The third week in June was soggy. In fact, the whole month of June, 2009 was soggy.  I thought I was being prepared for English weather.  English weather, at least in Cornwall which is noted for being dryer and sunnier than most of England, was not just sunny but hot and sunny.  What a welcome change.  The garden I left looks very much like the garden I came home to although the roses on the fence, New Dawn, are blooming and bedraggled.   As far as the gardens I visited on the way to Cornwall and in Cornwall let's just say they were humbling.  While there is no place like home, the gardens of England served a major portion of humble pie to this gardener.  I have always believed that each garden is a true expression of the gardener who tends it and the English gardens I visited did have full time gardeners and the private gardens were all tended by retired people. 
The first garden I saw was that at Mottisfont Abbey which lies between London and Cornwall in Hampshire.  The original building at Mottisfont was built in 1201 by Wiliam Briwere who had connections to Richard the Lionheart, King John, and Henry III.  It is difficult to comprehend 1201 isn't it?  And Richard the Lionheart?  Maybe he walked the very grounds I walked.  Time is fluid in such a place as Mottisfont.   The building has changed since the original structure was built but the Cellarium DSC_0114 stands original and was used as storage space for all manner of things.  I am sure it contained foodstuffs but what exactly?    It has an ancient beauty don't you think?  DSC_0107

This is a beautiful propertyDSC_0049 but nothing prepares one for the assault on the senses, both visual and olfactory, upon entering the walled garden.  Here, in a space of a few thousand square feet, roses and perennials bloom profusely and fragrantly. DSC_0081 There are both grass and gravel paths and the gravel paths have a satisfactory crunch under foot . DSC_0084 The perfume of roses fills the air.  There are roses and clematis trained on the walls and they share a companionable and complementary vertical space.DSC_0090

There are wonderful perennials in this garden many of which I can grow but haven't done so yet.  The Papaver somniferum is the most beautiful poppy I think I have ever seen.DSC_0071 It comes in an array of colorsDSC_0091 with very gray foliage.  The Campanula lactiflora is another plant seen quite often in English gardens but I rarely can find it in the garden centers.DSC_0100   Here it is over six feet tall and makes quite a statement in the garden.  The exhuberant profusion of these gardens is enough to convince a gardener to work a bit harder and pay closer attention to color combinations if she can extricate herself from the fetal position that is.DSC_0085

Is there an estate of this size without a parterre?   DSC_0121 The formality of this parterre fits in well with the stately design of the building.  I will not be adding a parterre to my garden but I can appreciate its' form and linear stability. DSC_0113 I thoroughly enjoyed the visit to Mottisfont and recommend it to any who visit our friends across the pond.  It is always enlightening to visit other gardens and from this one, I gained an appreciation for vertical elements and well used space.  The scent of the rose garden will not soon be forgotten. 


Luther Burbank Gardens

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I feel a special connection to Luther Burbank, renowned botanist, horticulturist and plant breeder.   There are a couple of reasons. One, Luther was born in New England not far from where I live.  Most of his notoriety came to him  once he moved to Santa Rosa, CA but he did develop a hybrid potato on his farm in Lunenburg, MA and he used the extensive proceeds ($150.00) to travel to California where he continued with his work and passion.  The second reason I feel connected is that my maiden name was Luther.  I know that is tenuous at best but still, we did share a name and a love of plants.  Don't you feel a kinship to anyone who gardens even if their achievements are on a grand scale?  I recently visited this small garden in the heart of the town of Santa Rosa which is just north of San Francisco.  There were some interesting plants such as this prickly pear cactus100_0302 (2) and this 100_0307 (2) Mahonia and this 100_0304 (2) tree dahlia, Dahlia imperialis, towering fifteen feet high.  Luther was a plant breeder and not one who kept great records.  He is credited with developing over 800 new strains  of plants and the list would be longer if his records were more meticulous.  I found his garden to be a haven in the middle of the residential area of this small city. 100_0312 (2) The enclosed courtyard was particularly most are when entrance is denied!  I also loved his greenhouse.  100_0314 (2) This is an interesting design which seems unlikely to be able to stand the rigors of the snow now falling in New England.  It is beautiful and functional for the Mediterranean climate Luther embraced. I doubt that he sat here100_0316 (2) looking over his garden.  Most of us who have a garden seat can attest to its' lack of use.   You can read more about his life and garden here100_0296 Thankfully, his small corner of paradise has been preserved for all to see.  I did score a rather great treasure.  I have been planning on planting Nicotiana mutabilis for next season and the seed search has revealed just a few sources.  That is until I came across a huge stand of these plants at Luther's garden.  This is not a great picture.  I can only claim to have been so overcome with seed lust that I neglected to take more than this one picture. You can almost sense that  lust given there are more seed pods visible than flowers which change color from pale pink through the darker pink tones as they mature.  This mass planting was about four and a half to five feet in height.  Frothy pink!100_0300 The seeds were everywhere and a  garden employee granted me permission to shake a few into my  hastily made envelope.  I hope to have my own plants next season to remind me of this garden, the famous gardener and the wonderful trip.


Sonoma's serenity!

One advantage of traveling in December is leaving the inclement weather of New England behind.   We left amidst a spattering of snow which did not amount to anything but we did miss the deluge of rain which arrived later in the week.  The weather in Sonoma was cool and clear and just right for traveling along the wine trails.  The  Sonoma landscape is really farmland. There may be fancy gates such as the one above at the winery, Gary Farrell, but the rolling hills are just made more beautiful by the symmetry of the planted vines.DSC_0067 I have only ever seen these vineyards in December which is the off season.  I love the gnarly look of the old vines.  They are specters in the landscape.DSC_0084   They have heft and presence don't they?  This area is so very different from New England that there is something new to learn every day.DSC_0036   Not that I remember everything but some things stick.  This is a persimmon tree looking glorious in the sunshine even though no leaves remain. Blue and orange!  Poppies in the garden give me this color combination.  The view from the porch100_0290 remains one of my favorite in the world.  The mist in the Russian River Valley is purported to be one of the key ingredients to obtaining a good Pinot Noir wine.  Not the easiest grape to grow I am told.100_0286 The EM enjoys the cool view with a hot cup of coffee in the morning. If you ever travel to Sonoma, The Raford Inn is the spot with this view. DSC_0117 It is a wonderful, warm, inviting Bed & Breakfast with comfortable and well appointed rooms.  100_0284 Beautiful antiques make this Bed & Breakfast unique.  There are many such B & B's in Sonoma but the key to a great vacation is hospitality and none is better than that provided by the innkeepers at The Raford House.   Dane and Rita are more than most and they greet you with a smile,Dsc_0120 (2) cook you a great breakfast,  share their home and, sometimes, their hearts with you!  We now count them as friends.  Thanks Dane and Rita for a great experience. 


Blithewold beckons!

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Well, I am here to tell you that Kris, over at Blithewold, was not kidding concerning Daffodil Days but I was in a daze when I saw them all Dsc_0126 and then spotted the masses of Erythronium aka Dog tooth violets/trout lily,Dsc_0129
Click to enlarge for full effect!
  which have naturalized in the bosquet.Dsc_0133   They really do look like a lily don't they?  There are also drifts of white.Dsc_0156 The white are lovely but have a different impact than the yellow.  Dsc_0137 They look like stars hugging the ground and the flowers of both yellow and white are fairly small and face the earth perhaps looking down on the lowly inhabitants of the bosquet.  I have been trying to get just a couple to grow in my garden and if this happens then I am in big trouble.  I did get a chance to speak with Gail and she said they are everywhere to the point of  'hitting the compost pile' .  Oh my!  Can you imagine?  I told her to let me know when culling out was going to occur.  In addition to these charming little lovelies, Dan directed me to the water garden where the Prunus x yedoensis 'Akebono' is in full bloom.  Kris was not kidding when she said that this tree  Dsc_0145 could 'stop you in your tracks'!  So delicate and lovely with the petals falling softly to the ground. Dsc_0149 I can't imagine seeing hundreds at one time. Dsc_0153 There were lots of daffodil devotees on the grounds today and I cannot imagine that they were disappointed.  There were also a few tulips planted out and soaking up the sun. Dsc_0140  The entry way to the mansion was looking quite patriotic today.Dsc_0164 This was a bit of a side track during the work day.  We should all be so lucky to have such side tracks.   I am just sorry that Kris was not there today but her hard work, along with that of the rest of the horticulture staff, was clearly, and beautifully, visible.   



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The garden at St. Felipe de Neri Church in Old Town

There is nothing like a trip to a different region to make one appreciate the uniqueness of each earthly place.  I spent the last four days in Albuquerque, New Mexico with a side trip to Santa Fe and there is a striking contrast between the New England landscape and that of the desert southwest. I know, that is stating the obvious. The value of travel includes the acquired appreciation of earth's varied landscapes and, for a New Englander, this landscape could have been a lunar one it is so far removed from the familiar.    From the air, Albuquerque spreads out in all directions from the city center and the tracts of houses are unsoftened by any vegetation. Backyards are devoid of all vegetation in neighborhood after neighborhood.   It is only around the Rio Grande river that there is a belt of fading green bisecting the city along its' north/south route with the Sandia Mountain range adding vertical beauty to the east.  It seems a curious and desolate place to build a city but one that is also starkly beautiful. Dsc_0023 I had no time to visit the Botanical Garden as there were work obligations but I did have a chance to walk the city of Old Town with its' adobe buildings and artists shops.Dsc_0054 This is one of the bluest skies I have ever seen! The area surrounding Albuquerque is the ancestral home of over twenty  Native American tribes with nineteen of them being  Pueblo Indians.  There are beautiful bronze sculptures in the town of Albuquerque and Santa FeDsc_0047   depicting the native American's way of life.  There were some interesting plantings of native plants around the area.  I found this one interesting Dsc_0038 and then there were container plantings by the doors of many of the shops.  This one has great contrasting colors and thisRed_geraniums one is a bit ofDsc_0032 added color. The adobe buildings are the soft peach of the native rock and the smooth lines of the architecture blends softly into the landscape. Dsc_0006 Turquoise is a natural complementDsc_0004 to the adobe of the buildings and turquoise jewelry is everywhere!  I'll leave you with one last picture of the 'cameo' bench which I love and which was on the streets of both Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Dsc_0021 I would have loved to bring one of them home.