The gardener's eye

The Gardener's Eye

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

The Late Summer Gardens of Southern England 2019

The Late Summer Gardens of Southern England Tour will be September 5-14. This year, I will be leading the tour in which I hope to add a North American perspective on English gardens and give participants an insight into what ideas they could bring back to your their own gardens. I will be encouraging everyone to enter each garden with an inquisitive eye and will be a source of information about horticulture and garden design. I will also be giving a series of garden talks during the week. 

Tailored for the discriminating gardener, our tour will visit some of England’s most famous gardens as well as unique private gardens. From William Kent’s masterpiece landscape garden, Rousham, to Christopher Lloyd’s innovative garden at Great Dixter, to the contemporary private 
garden at Pettifers, we will see English garden design from the traditional to the cutting edge. Late summer is the perfect time to time of year to visit other people’s gardens because, as gardeners, we have a lull at the end of summer and also a period when our own gardens tend to be a little lackluster. On this tour you will see how the English end the gardening season with a resounding bang! The Itinerary can be seen here


Planting at Pettifers

Rill at Rousham

Statue of Apollo at Rousham

Barnsley House and Garden

Glasshouse Borders at Wisley


Great Dixter

Prospect Cottage

Whichford Pottery


Red Border at Hidcote

Gravetye Manor

Border at Gravetye Manor

Gravetye Manor

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Two Views from the Garden Room

The Blue Bench Terrace as seen from the French Doors in the Garden Room and the Lower Border from out a window in the Garden Room.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Dying Gauls

A life-sized bronze statue of The Dying Gaul at Iford Manor

The Dying Gaul at Rousham Garden was made by Peter Scheemakers in the early 1740s

It wasn't until I was looking through all my photographs of the Passionate Gardener's Tour last May, that I noticed two of the gardens had versions of the same statue called The Dying Gaul. I had vaguely heard of The Dying Gaul from the 2005 film with the same name, but I needed to do some research to understand the historical significance of the statue in these gardens. 

The most famous Dying Gaul statue was created from marble during the first or second century AD, and is located at the the Capitoline Museum in Rome. It is a copy of a bronze Greek original made a century earlier. The original statue, which was lost, or more likely melted down, was made by by the Hellenistic sculptor, Epigonos. The Dying Gaul was a monument to commemorate Hellenistic victories over the invading Gauls in what is now Turkey. The statue depicts the final moments of a Gallic warrior. When the Roman statue was brought to the United Sates, Earl A. Powell III, director ofNational Gallery of Art stated that, "the Dying Gaul is a deeply moving tribute to the human spirit. An image of a conquered enemy, the sculpture represents courage in defeat, composure in the face of death and dignity.”

William Kent, who designed the gardens at Rousham from 1733-1740, chose this statue to highlight the military background of his client, General James Dormer-Cottrell. The statue at Iford Manor, an Italianate garden designed by Harold Peto in the early part of the 20th Century, was a much newer reproduction made of bronze. Petro was a devotee of Italian gardens and liked to use ancient fragments of masonry and old buildings to create a feeling of the past in his gardens.

You can see both gardens and statues this September, when I will be hosting a tour called Late Summer Gardens of Southern England. For the itinerary, look here. For more details, visit the Discover Europe website here. If you have any questions, you can reach me directly at

Saturday, January 21, 2017

You Are Welcome Here

I have just returned from a visit to New York City to hear a lecture by Bill Noble on the gardens of the Cornish Colony in New Hampshire. I purposefully choose a hotel near the High Line when I am in New York and I had a nice walk there on Thursday morning. The grasses and perennials had not been cut down yet and looked spectacular gently blowing in the breeze.

I go to the High Line for inspiration. When I was designing public spaces in Peterborough, my goal was to create gardens of the highest quality possible with the resources available. As I studied public spaces, especially under the mentorship of my friend Lynden Miller, I began to learn the importance of making public spaces available to everyone. Lynden, who has designed many remarkable gardens in New York City, taught me many lessons about making everyone, no matter what their socioeconomic situation, welcome in public spaces.

The Friends of the High Line have taken inclusiveness a step further. At every entrance to the High Line, there are new placards welcoming all people to this public space. They are making a political statement against "the divisive, hateful speech we are hearing and witnessing across our country." I agree with the Friends of the High Line, this is a crucial moment to take a stand and I applaud their commitment to make "equitable and open spaces" that reflect not only the diversity of their community, but of our country and our world.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Making a Positive by Accentuating the Negative

As the yew hedges have matured in the last 15 years, the scale and proportions of the plantings have shifted. In the meantime, saplings have become trees. As the height of the hedges rises, I have become much more interested in the negative space that the borders in front of the hedges have created against dark green foliage of the yew walls. I am reminded of a Dan Kiley quote that "proportion is everything." Above is a photo of the garden last week during our first snowfall. The yew hedge has finally created the room of my dreams and I am trying to keep the scale and proportion of all the elements in check for the best effect.

Here is the same view of the Upper Garden, 'Hall with Balls' and Lower Garden in October. I am planning to add another wall of yew along the street (replacing the picket fence) to the far left of the photograph to enclose the 'Hall with Balls'.

The enclosure with make the 'Hall with Balls' a stronger, more unified, space. I will continue to prune up the trunks on the Cornus officinalis to contrast the dark yew hedge. I am also editing the placement of the box balls to form the most pleasing visual arrangement. They have grown more quickly than expected and have become more crowded than I had imagined.

As I mentioned in my last post, I am transforming a pair of symmetrical stewartias into a grove of stewartias.

It is the texture of the bark and the sinew of the trunks that interest me most.

I am beginning to lower the height of the under-planting of perennials and shrubs beneath the stewartias in order to better display the buff-colored trunks which contrast beautifully with the dark yew hedges. I am enjoying the negative space that is created by the trunks from a distance and at close examination.

The Right Border in early spring

The Right Border in the summer. I want to adjust the texture, height and color of the plantings to best feature the negative space of the backdrop of the yew hedge.

The Left Border in early spring

Plants with dark foliage will contrast the granite wall best. The plantings will be fine-tuned in the next couple of years to accentuate the line between the plants and the grey wall.

I have been also working on limbing up the crabapple tree in the Upper Garden to have the most elegant shape possible. As the garden matures, the way in which trees are pruned becomes an important feature in the garden against hedges, walls and fences.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Garden Visitors: Sharing Plants and Ideas

Morgan English, Helen O'Donnell, Laurie Merrigan and Maggie Tran

Helen O'Donnell, brought three of her gardening friends for a visit last month. Helen had just returned from a stay at Great Dixter and Maggie was the 2012-13 Christopher Lloyd & Historic Botanical Garden Bursary Scheme (HBGBS) Scholar at Great Dixter. I was flattered that they made the trip to see my garden in October.

I was happy to share this bergenia that I got from the late, great Joanna Reed about 20 years ago. That is one of the best parts of gardening: sharing plants from beloved gardening friends. Joanna was an important mentor to me and I was pleased to pass along her plants to a new generation of gardeners.

Helen snatched a few seedlings of Heleborus foetidus. I think I got this plant from Charles Cresson's Swarthmore, PA garden around the same time I got Joanna's bergenia.

Giacomo Guzzon, an Italian Landscape Architect working in London, also came for a visit last month. Giacomo has shown me around several public gardens in London and I was pleased to have him come for a visit. He is standing in front of one of my stewartias that he has long admired on my blog.

I have been playing with the idea of adding smaller stewartias with the two established trees to create a grove, rather than a pair of symmetrical verticals. Giacomo liked that idea especially because the trees are not exact clones.

He suggested that I support this smaller tree to encourage growth vertically rather than horizontally.  I staked the two main trunks, hoping to encourage a multi-stemmed tree, soon after Giacomo left to visit the New Hampshire White Mountains.

Another excellent suggestion was to move, remove or screen the door in my deer fence at the lower boundary of the Woodland Garden. The unsightly door is an unintended focal point that I stopped noticing many years ago. It was very helpful to have a friend critique strengths and weaknesses of the garden. Thanks Giacomo!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Disanthus cercidifolius: A Star in the Woodland Garden

The deep red-purple foliage of Disanthus cercidifolius can be seen from every angle in the Woodland Garden right now. It suffered slightly during our summer drought  but looked spectacular today.  Disanthus cercidifolius has heart-shaped bluish-green leaves during the summer which are subtly attractive in the garden. It should mature to about 6-10 feet in height over time. I have under-planted it Helleborus foetidus, the stinking hellebore. The deeply-cut dark green foliage compliments the round leaves of Disanthus cercidifolius nicely.  Disanthus cercidifolius has done well for me in dappled shade planted in humus-rich, moist soil.

Lindera glauca var. angustifolia was not looking too shabby today either.


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