The gardener's eye

The Gardener's Eye

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Monday, September 23, 2013

Garden Workshop in Brattleboro, VT Jan 25, 2014

There will be a Garden Workshop on Januray 25, 2014 at the Latchis Theater in downtown Brattleboro, Vermont. It is part of a fundraising effort to restore the historic Latchis Theater. Fellow blogger, Helen O'Donnell, form Anemone Times, will be giving a talk on her experience at Great Dixter. Other speakers include Gordon Hayward, Julie Messervy, and Dan Snow. Sign up soon as only 100 tickets will be sold. For more information, go to

Monday, September 16, 2013

Freedom Plaza 30 Years Later: Nothing Left to Lose

I've made the pilgrimage to see the work of the late Wolfgang Oehme and James van Sweden at the Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC three times in the last ten years. Each time, I have been sadly disappointed. The last time, about a week ago, it hit me: the plantings that van Sweden considered the birthplace of "The New American Garden" no longer exist--at least not how they were intended. From what I have read in his book Gardening with Nature, the pair began working on the Freedom Plaza, a modernist plaza located a few blocks from the White House, in 1981. They were first asked to plant a dozen huge aluminum containers, designed by landscape architect George E. Patton, on the perimeter of the plaza. The architect, Robert Venturi, requesated that the urns "be planted to look like Edwardian women's hats". There is an iconic photograph of Oehme and van Sweden planting a prototype container in the book Bold Romantic Gardens that has always stuck in my mind as that moment van Sweden was referring to. Today, all that is left in the urns seen in the 1982 photograph of the duo, are the original yuccas surrounded by dead, dried-out plants and trash.

In 1984, Oehme and van Sweden were permitted to remove the solid blocks of yews planted in the twenty-one alcoves along the sidewalk that van Sweden felt looked like "boring concrete". They planted, in their place, a lush mixture of perennials, shrubs and grasses using their newly evolving style. Sadly, many of the alcoves are now empty, several had overgrown shrubs and a handful had the ornamental grasses that were the hallmark of their revolutionary design approach. None of the alcoves were maintained well.

The large fountain at the western end of the plaza was not operating and...

...the proud statue of Kazimierz Pułaski, a Polish soldier who saved the life of George Washington and became a general in the Continental Army looks very sad at the eastern end of the plaza. 

The buzz word of contemporary landscape design is sustainability. But whether it is the High Line in Manhattan or a modest public park in New Hampshire, gardens need to be maintained no matter how low-mainatinance they claim to be. For even a ground-breaking public space designed by masters in their field will be a fleeting achievement without proper maintenance. Lynden B. Miller, the famed public garden designer, states in her book Parks, Plants and People, "Make it gorgeous and they will come. Keep it that way and they will help." We must remember that the "making" may be just as difficult as the "keeping."

More than any other city, more than any other region, the Nation's Capital should represent the finest environment which America can plan and build.

John F. Kennedy, 1961, Freedom Plaza, Washington, DC

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Garden in Late Summer

 Welcome to the Upper Garden

The Lower Garden

The Blue Bench Terrace from the Main Terrace and Woodland Garden Below.

 The Planter on Blue Bench Terrace From the Woodland Garden

A Peek into the Woodland Garden through the multi-stemmed Heptacodium miconioides.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Peterborough Parks: Different Styles and Influences for Different Parks

The recent rains have breathed life and color back into the parks in Peterborugh. This is the Pavilion Garden at Depot Park. It has a very high proportion of annuals. I think of the waved yew hedges bordering this planting like a gargantuan pot for a huge container planting. It changes dramatically each year.

Susannah, Mollie and Laura stop working long enough to pose for a quick photo.

The planter at Peter's Gate at Depot Park

This garden at Putnam Park is three years old and beginning to fill in nicely.

There is a "block" style of planting used here like Piet Oudolf's earlier work which has influenced this planting. This garden is weighted toward grasses and perennials. One of the few annuals, Verbena bonariensis self seeds throughout the garden.

 The planter at Putnam Park

The Boccelli Garden was influenced by the "succession" planting philosophy of Christopher Lloyd and Fergus Garrett at Great Dixter. There is a mixture of cut-back shrubs, perennials, grasses, annuals, biennials and bulbs in this planting.

Teixeira Park's Ruin Garden has mostly native plants that attract birds, butterflies and pollinators. I think of Teixeira Park as the "wild" park in Peterborough. We tend to let the plants "duke it out" in this garden. Calamagrostis brachytricha, was one of the few exotic plants I used in this garden. Early on, I thought it might take over the garden, but as the other plants have filled in, it has not been able to handle the competition of the natives and is slowly being crowded out.

 The sunny East Garden at Teixeira Park is just a year old. It has a high proportion of native American prairie plants-- again attractive to birds and pollinators. It is looking a bit sparse its first season but thankfully almost all the plants survived the winter.

The new West Garden at Teixeira Park is quite shady. Mostly natives, like the rest of Teixeira Park, it has a very wild feel to it. Both the East and West Gardens incorporate a "blended" style of planting much like Piet Oudolf's most recent work.


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