The gardener's eye

The Gardener's Eye

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Express Yourself

The Main Axis of Sakonnet Garden

An Acer griseum grove smolders in the backlit Orange Room

The grey foliage of Scot's thistle, Onopordum acanthium, in the Silver Meadow

The Red Pavilion from Old Delhi in the Tropical Quadrant

The bold foliage of Petasites through the Meconopsis Ditch into the Central Lawn

View from the Cental Lawn into the Dog Pen

A pine limbed up by Mikel

More Architectural Limbing

Small Sculpture on a Pedestal near the House

View from the Meadow through a Holly Topiary Entrance to the House

The Path in the Wild Wet Meadow

Saturday I spent the day at a symposium called Lofty Aspirations of Down-to-Earth Gardeners hosted by Sakonnet Garden and Wildmeadows (SG&W) in Little Compton, RI. SG&W is the magical garden of John Gwynne and Mikel Folcarelli which has been a collaboration in the works for thirty years. This is their first day-long symposium. You knew that they were serious when the invited Fergus Garrett, the head gardener at Great Dixter and Marco Polo Stufano, the now retired horticulturalist who created the gardens at Wave Hill in the Bronx, to be the guest speakers. To top it all off, add Dominique Browning, the former editor of House and Garden, as a moderator and you have created a splendid day for conversations about "gardening as an inspiring art form."

Marco Polo Stufano stressed the importance of structural plants to create form and, when properly placed, how they can help pull the design of a garden together. As an Italian, he affirmed that he "loved things touched by the hand of man." Fergus Garrett talked about how gardening gave him the sense of freedom to express his thoughts and to be creative. He encouraged the audience to be more willing to be experiment while gardening. At Great Dixter he is carrying on Christopher Lloyd's legacy by keeping the garden the same, that is to say, to keep it vibrant through revision, refinement and change.

Fergus immediately noticed how John and Mikel are having fun in their garden. After the symposium, we were invited to tour the garden which is contained within a wall of hedges and fences and is separated and hidden from the house. It is divided into a series of rooms each reflecting "the owner’s ongoing experiments with lighting, space, color mixing, collecting and growing wonderful plants."

I went away feeling a renewed freedom to continue to express myself in my own garden through, as Fergus stated, style, atmosphere and personality. And, thanks to John and Mikel, I won't forget to have it be fun.


  1. What an incredible opportunity in an extraordinary setting! - Tim

  2. You are absolutely correct, Tim. I had a great day. Thanks.

  3. Good point about having fun! Although this garden puts mine to shame, but I do try to have fun. Thanks for inspiration

  4. I haven't see your garden, Kevin, but you sure seem to be having fun expressing yourself in your home. This garden collaboration has been going on for three decades, you still have time!

  5. Hi William,
    I suppose we shouldn't forget good horticulture and keeping the plants happy-but that is fun too. Thanks for your comment.

  6. "Style, atmosphere and personality", great words of garden wisdom!

  7. That garden looks great, I especially like how those trees have been treated, and I have always been drawn to paths cut through meadows. As nice as the garden was, so was the line-up of speakers.

    (my word verification was "impress")

  8. Les, you would have loved it, great garden and great garden conversations. I am already thinking of how to limb up all my trees!

  9. Wow. I may have to mow wider paths. And Acer griseum gets me every time. I've planted one and now feel cheated I haven't got a grove!

    You had a grand day out, Michael.


  10. Dave,
    Acer griseum-the more the merrier! Have a great day yourself. Thanks for commenting.



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