The gardener's eye

The Gardener's Eye

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Intention and Restraint

Lisa Brooks' drawing for the Gardening on Slopes chapter of Joe Eck's book, Elements of Garden Design

My garden is terraced on a hill and has three distinct sections, each on a different level. I am working on the design of the lowest third of the garden, a woodland garden under development, which I call the Wild Garden in honor of Irish writer William Robinson's legendary garden Gravetye Manor in West Sussex, England. The two upper levels are designed formally with hedges and axes but this lower garden, I want to feel much more naturalistic. There is a newly installed 5-foot-tall granite post that is as a focal point calling the visitor to the next room, but once entered, I want it to feel very different from the other parts of the garden.

As I am planning my Wild Garden, the garden's intention is at the forefront of my thought process. I first heard of a garden having an intention in Joe Eck's book, Elements of Garden Design. In the first chapter, he calls intention "the clearest idea of what one wishes to create." I think of intention as a sort of mission statement for the garden.

The intention of my Wild Garden is based on a compilation of gardens I have visited and read about over the years. Robinson's classic book, The Wild Garden inspires me as does the more contemporary writings of European designers Dan Pearson, Noel Kingsbury and the late Henk Gerritsen. The American, author, Rick Darke's book The American Woodland Garden is another influence. My garden is also inspired by the hikes I have taken here in the Monadnock Region of New Hampshire and the great White Mountains of my home state.

Eck writes that a garden's "success will lie in its concrete realization, in the arrangement of treasured plants within a framework of less transitory elements of trees, shrubs, hedges, pavement, architecture." That success is dependent on restraint. For every decision made about the garden needs to be consistent with the plan. Anything that strays from the plan will weaken the final overall effect and therefore the success of the garden.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Peterborough Parks and Gardens: An Overview

The first year anniversary of this blog has come and gone and it seems like a good time (better late than never) to give an overview of the parks and public gardens that I work on here in Peterborough, New Hampshire. There are three main parks in Peterborough, each with their own distinct character: Putnam Park, Depot Park and Teixeira Park. Adjacent to Putnam Park on Grove Street, there are two smaller parks, Putnam Park II (Boccelli Garden) and Nubanusit Terrace.

The Entrance Garden at Putnam Park on Grove Street

Tulips Blooming at Putnam Park

Putnam Park II, across the street from Putnam Park, with Seating and the Boccelli Garden Behind

The Boccelli Garden in Putnam Park II on Grove Street

Nubanusit Terrace across the bridge from Putnam Park on Grove Street

Nubanusit Terrace in the Late Summer; Russian Sage replaces White Bulbs

The Pavilion Garden at Depot Park in Downtown Peterborough near the Depot Square Shops

The Pavilion Garden in Late Summer

Peter's Gate at Depot Park

The Ruin Garden at Teixeira Park on Union Street in West Peterborough

Granite Bench along the Nubanusit River in Teixeira Park in West Peterborough

Putnam Park is the oldest Park in Peterborough. The two acre parcel on Grove Street was deeded to the town in 1862 by Cathryn Putnam. Miss Putnam was a resident of Peterborough and loved this piece of land which had a stand of hemlock, maple and beech trees along the Nubanusit River. When she was 84 years old, she wanted to see it protected and bought the land and deeded it to the town two weeks before she died. In the late 1950's the neglected park was professionally redesigned and paths and new plantings were added.

Little was done to the park until the late 1990's. It had become tired, dark and the trees and shrubs were overgrown. The Parks Committee opened up the park and created more light by removing and replacing overgrown shrubs and having tree work done to the mature trees. Delapidated benches were replaced with signature granite benches and Adirondack chair seating areas were added. The entrance garden was renovated and an invasive Euomymus alata hedge was replaced with Fothergilla major 'Mt Airy'. Most recently, a rain garden was added in 2010 to help drain the storm water from an adjacent parking lot that often flooded the park and eroded the paths.

Putnam Park II is a small half acre piece of land across the street from Putnam Park which was acquired by the town in 1983. A house was on the site which was in state of disrepair and was removed. The Parks Committee created a 60 foot x 16 foot mixed border, named Boccelli Garden, in 1999 along a granite wall abutting the GAR Hall. The garden has a combination of vibrant shrubs, perennials, annuals and bulbs planted for seasonal interest throughout the year. The garden was named in honor of Michael and Maria "Ma" Boccelli, Italian immigrants who lived in the house in the first half of the twentieth century. Michael planted the horse chestnut and apple trees that continue to grace the park.

Nubanusit Terrace is a pocket park across the Nubanusit River from Putnam Park on Grove Street. Nubanusit Terrace was once the site of a building that burned to the ground in 1941 revealing an exceptional view of the Nubanusit River and waterfalls. The lot was bought by a group of concerned citizens and deeded to the town. A tree lilac , Syringa reticulata, was planted in 1989. In 2002, the Parks Committee added the formal hedged garden which has a white-flowered bulb show in the spring and Russian sage in bloom throughout the summer. It is a very simple and elegant garden.

Depot Park is the newest and most widely used park in Peterborough. A group called Downtown 2000 raised money to buy the land, a former parking lot, to form a park at confluence of the of the Nubanusit and Contoocook Rivers. Gordon Hayward, the VT based garden designer and writer, was commissioned to lay out the park which was installed in the lated 1990's. I think of Depot Park as the "in town" park and it correspondingly has the most urban feel to it. The final act of Downtown 2000 was to erect the pavilion which was meant to recall the feeling of the former train depot building that once stood near the site. The Parks Committee added the the entrance garden at the path leading to the pavilion in 2000. The yew hedges have been clipped into waves to create a more whimsical feel.

Teixeira Park was donated to the town by Pearl Teixeira, wife of former selectman, Louis Teixeira, in his honor in 1971. The one-and-a-half acre plot between Union Street and the Nubanusit River in West Peterborough was recently developed in the last five years. The Ruin Garden and a dozen Malus ' Prairiefire' were installed in 2006. A walkway was added in 2010.
The intention of Teixeira Park is for the park to have a wild feel and attract birds and butterflies. Slowly we are revealing views of the river for the passerby.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Two Terraces and Some Snow

The Main Terrace: A Pair of Chairs and Boxwood Hedges

The Blue Bench Terrace

After our recent snow, I took a look out the windows at the two terraces covered in snow. I thought they made beautiful compositions.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Prized Tree Gets a New Name

My favorite maple (AA#124-67) at the Arnold Arboretum

Once Acer maximowiczianum x griseum now Acer maximowiczianum

An Acer griseum specimen at the Arnold Arboretum

Acer griseum x 'Gingerbread' in my garden

On Sunday, I took a drawing class at the Eliot School in Jamaica Plain, MA. The class started at 1:30 PM and that gave me an opportunity to visit the Arnold Arboretum which is located about three blocks away from the school. I spent many hours in the late 90's searching for and studying interesting trees and shrubs that I hoped to use in my garden. One of the most beautiful trees that I discovered was called Acer maximowiczianum x griseum, hybrid of the paperbark and nikko maples. In June, 1998, I made a note in my garden journal describing this tree, accession #124-67, which was acquired by the Arboretum, as a seed, in 1967. Several months later, I found a cross of these two maples, a cultivar called Acer griseum x 'Gingerbread' and planted it in my garden near the terrace.

I was surprised, when I located the tree again on Sunday, to see it labeled as a pure nikko maple, Acer maximowiczianum. When I returned home, I confirmed that this was indeed my beloved tree but with a new name. Monday, I called the Arnold Arboretum and the puzzle was solved by Kyle Port, the Plant Records Manager. After conferring with Arboretum Curator, Kyle reported that "AA#124-67, has been determined to be Acer maximowiczianum by three different researchers/plantsmen in 1986, 1987, 1999. That said, one individual in 1988 applied the hybrid name A. maximowiczianum x griseum. The weighted evidence suggests the current name (A. maximowiczianum) applied to the Acer in question is correct. Determinations are ultimately hypotheses so perhaps the name applied to the Acer in question will change yet again!?"

Mystery solved. But for me, that tree will always be Acer maximowiczianum x griseum.


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