The gardener's eye

The Gardener's Eye

Saturday, May 28, 2011

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The Lower Garden

Lilacs over the yew hedge in the Lower Garden

The Upper Garden

It may not be as nice as the tower view from Sissinghurst, but this is the view from the bedroom window this morning. There is a lot of work to be done but it is good to be home. I have come back with a lot of ideas and inspiration after The Best of English Gardens tour.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Three Favorite Views at Chelsea

The Laurent-Perrier Garden designed by Luciano Giubbilei

Irish Sky Garden designed by Diarmund Gavin

The Daily Telegraph Garden designed by Cleve West

We spent the last day of The Best of English Gardens tour at the Chelsea Flower Show. We arrived on site as soon as it opened and were able to take a look before the throngs of people descended. It was a gorgeous day and a very comfortable temperature.

Almost every display garden had something that I admired but several had elements that I didn't think enhanced the gardens. Diarmund Gavin's beautiful garden employed a distracting "pod" or floating garden that was lifted into the air by a gigantic crane. It came off as more of a publicity stunt than inspiring gardening. That is unfortunate because I liked the rest of the garden very much. The garden consisted of a pleasing combination of yew, boxwood and hornbeam topiaries mixed with drifts of ornamental grasses.

The Laurent-Perrier Garden designed by Luciano Giubbilei was one of the best gardens, I thought. This Italian designer is known for impeccable formal spaces with very little herbaceous material. He broke away from that formula with two tasteful and harmonious herbaceous borders that felt very English. I thought the boulders sculpted by Peter Randall-Page were striking. The garden also had a dozen mature Parrotia persica specimens which were limbed up in a very elegant fashion.

The Best in Show Award went to Cleve West's garden for the Daily Telegraph. West's garden had a Roman ruin theme and had several stone columns created by pair of sculptors from the south of France named Serge Bottagisio and Agnes Decoux. The columns were inspired by the Roman ruins at Ptolemais, in Libya and the garden walls were made of golden Cotswolds stone. The sumptuous and subdued herbaceous planting complimented the wall which was painted a mellow golden color.

I was sad to see The Best of English Gardens tour end but I am anxious to return to my own garden to try put some new ideas, inspired by the tour, into place.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Keeping the Great in Dixter

One of the Cadre of Young Gardeners at Great Dixter

The Long Border which is the Model for the Planting at Boccelli Garden in Peterborough, NH

My Favorite Garden that Day: The High Garden

The Ever-changing Array of Potted Plants Flanking the Front Door

The Yew Gate to the Sunk Garden

The Peacock Garden

The Topiary Lawn

While the tower-room at Sissinghurst is frozen in time, things at nearby Great Dixter, the eclectic garden of the late Christopher Lloyd, are buzzing with vitality. In the last five years since Llloyd died, Fergus Garrett, the head gardener, has been maintaining and developing the gardens at Great Dixter at the highest level. Every corner you turn, there is a young and enthusiastic gardener tending to the plants. It is clear that the Great Dixter is continuing "to inspire and educate and provide opportunities for all people to experience intensive and experimental horticulture" as dictated by The Great Dixter Charitable Trust.

Vita's Tower

The Rose Garden From the Top of the Tower

The Cottage Garden with Four Central Pillars. The Yew Walk in the Foreground

The White Garden and the Tower Lawn

The Entrance with the Main House to the Left and the Long Library to the Right

The Fireplace in Vita's Tower-Room

My favorite views at Sissinghurst, The Kent garden and home of Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicholson, are from the tall tower. The tower was built in the 1560's was the center of the estate at that time. My first task upon reaching Sissinghurst was to climb the 78 stairs up the spiral staircase to the pinnacle of the turret to get a bird's eye view of the garden. It is a journey that would make Jimmy Stewart's character in Vertigo shutter.

Vita's study in the tower-room is on the second or third level. The tower-room is where she wrote her novels and poetry in the late hours of the evening after a full day of gardening. The corner fireplace was apparently never used. She preferred piling coats on her lap and to use an electric heater at her feet in bitter cold. Vita's lover, Virginia Woolf, was one of the few people allowed to enter the tower-room; even her children were forbidden. The room is exactly as she left it when she died in 1962, at the age of 70.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Quiet American Gardener

The Famous Red Border

The Pillar Garden

Alliums and Poppies in the Rock Bank

The White Garden

The Long Walk

The Long Walk Reward

I love the fact that one of the most iconic gardens in England was created by an American. Gavin, my fellow tour guide, likes to point out that Lawrence Johnston, the creator of Hidcote, became a citizen of Britain and had stronger alliances to England at the end of his life. However, although he was born in France, the fact remains he was an American.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Lovely Stourhead

An Iconic View at Stourhead: The Palladian Bridge and the Pantheon Accross the Lake

The Temple of Apollo

The River God’s Cave Seen from the Grotto.

An Ancient Liriodendron tulipifera, the 'Tulip Tree", an American Tree that Grows in my Native Pennsylvania

Crinodendron hookerianum aka the Chilean Lantern Bush

Davidia involucrata var. vilmoriniana known as the Handkerchief Tree. Note the "handkerchiefs" Scattered Beneath the Tree.

Yesterday we visited Stourhead, the 18th century landscape garden with a series of classic temples, mystic grottos and rare exotic trees on a path the takes the visitor around a beautiful shimmering lake. The gardens were designed and laid out between 1741 and 1780 and inspired by painters, in particular Gaspar Dughet, who painted idealized views of Italian landscapes.

Many of the trees are Champion Trees and are the largest or best examples of a particular species in Great Britain. A tree that was new to me was the Crinodendron hookerianum or Chilean Lantern Bush. It is an evergreen tree with unusual red flowers that look like little lanterns on fire. We also saw two very nice specimens of Davidia involucrata var. vilmoriniana or the Handkerchief Tree. They were magnificent in bloom with their characteristic large white pendant bracts that look handkerchiefs. These trees were first introduced to Stourhead in 1935.

Stourhead is world famous as landscape garden and rightly so. Not surprisingly, it is many ancient trees that have long been grown in Great Britain. I had forgotten, since my last visit, what a excellent resource it is for anyone interested in seeing magnificent specimens of rare and exotic trees hardy in England.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Glasshouse Borders at Wisley

The Glasshouse Entrance with Beech Columns in Grass and Garden

New Tom Staurt-Smith Plantings

Stuart-Smith Bed with Carex muskingumensis along Beech Hedge

Glasshouse Border Designed by Piet Oudolf. Salvia in the Foreground and Sambucus nigra 'Gerda' in Flower Beyond.

Pholmis tuberosa 'Amazone' with Veronicastrum Waiting to Bloom

A River of Molina caerulea 'Transparent' With Red Foliage of Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple'

Calamagrostis brachytricha and Sanguisorba menziesii Provide Texture Before Bloom

The Best of English Gardens tour began yesterday with a visit to Wisley, the flagship garden of the RHS. A new glasshouse has been completed since I last visited in 2007. The Glasshouse Borders, designed by Piet Oudolf, had already been installed when I was last there. I was impressed at how the new gardens surrounding the glasshouse designed by English gardener Tom Stuart-Smith complimented and transitioned from the Oudolf borders so well.

The Glasshouse Borders are a pair of deep gardens that flank a central grass panel leading the visitor from the highest point at Wisley down to the new state-or-the-art glasshouse. The plant palette is typical of Oudolf and is planted in rivers that diagonally intersect the central grass panel. Pholmis tuberosa 'Amazone', Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple, Cornus kousa var. chinensis and Salvia x sylvestris 'Dear Anja' were the primary plants in bloom yesterday.

The new gardens designed by Stuart-Smith embrace a semicircular pool adjacent to the glasshouse. Near the entrance to the Glasshouse, he designed a series a rectangular panels of lawn and herbacous plantings punctuated by tall geometric beech columns. The beech theme is repeated in the low sweeping hedges that follow the curves of the paths and beds around the pool. The gardens are planted in interlocking drifts in a style very reminiscent of the Oudolf.

Tom Stuart-Smith's planting is a bold, yet simple, design that seamlessly transitions to the Glasshouse Borders and is an indicator, in my mind, of Stuart-Smith's respect for Oudolf and lack of ego.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Garden in Mid-May

The Blue Bench Terrace

The Shed

The Upper Garden

The Lower Garden From Below

The Lower Garden From Above

Succession on River Street

April 28, 2011

May 2, 2011

May 6, 2011

May 9, 2011

May 13, 2011

There is a garden on River Street, here in Peterborough, that I pass each day as I walk to work that I have always admired. The stucco house on the Nubanusit River, which can be seen on the far right of these photographs, is called "Beside Still Waters" and was built in 1931. The original garden was designed by Fletcher Steele and had several American elm trees in the design. Steele's plantings are long gone but the replacement planting is quite beautiful.

Each spring, there is a succession on flowering trees blooming in the garden. the first tree to flower looks to be Magnolia loebneri 'Merrill', followed by Prunus subhirtella 'Autumnalis', Amelanchier x grandiflora, Magnolia x soulangiana and an unnamed crabapple. In the foreground, there is a kousa dogwood waiting in the wings to bloom. To my eye, the forsythia at the far end is a minor distraction to the white and pink parade of color that heralds spring each year.


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