The gardener's eye

The Gardener's Eye

Monday, June 30, 2014

In Honor of My Sister, Mother and Grandmother

I planted Clematis  'Honora', a velvety rich violet-purple flowered vine in my garden for two reasons. The first was the name, Honora. The second reason was the description in the original Heronswood catalogue: "moderately vigorous stems to 12 feet...lovely grown through yellow-foliaged shrubs and small trees." I had already planted Ligustrum sinense 'Variegata'  in the Upper Garden and thought they would make perfect companions.

Dan Hinkley describes Honora as a Maori name but I know it as the girl's name brought to England and Ireland by the Normans which means honor or valor. My maternal grandmother was named Honora Glynn and went by Norie, my mother was named Honora Patricia Scanlan, and went by Trish and, most recently, my sister was named Honora Glynn Gordon and goes by the nickname, Honnie.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Boccelli Garden: the Continuation of a Public/Private Partnership Project III

The shrubs arrived yesterday. Yours truly moving a clethra shrub from the truck to the garden. The shrubs, landscaping, terrace and tree pruning were a private donation. The town paid for the new fence.

The Public Works Department provided much of the labor to plant the shrubs and water them. Volunteers have designed and will maintain the gardens. Here Lenny and Mike from the town, unload a yew shrub for the project.

The majority of the shrubs have been planted.

Four Taxus media 'Hicksii' will create a wall perpendicular to the retaining wall behind The Boccelli Garden.

Shrubs below the retaining wall. The herbaceous layer will be planted in the next two weeks.

A view from the terrace to the new building across the Nubanusit River.

The newly pruned apple tree in the park

Boccelli Garden as seen from the new terrace

The first two photographs are courtesy of Shelley Osborne

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Boccelli Garden: the Continuation of a Public/Private Partnership Project II

Today the site was graded and hydroseeded.

Tomorrow shrubs arrive to be planted below the retaining wall. Stephandra incisa 'Crispa' and Taxus baccata 'Repandens' were chosen to help hold up the steep bank beyond the garden and nestle the retaining wall into the land. Plants including Clethra anifolia, Hydrangea anomala petiolaris and Fothergilla major 'Mt Airy' were selected to echo and harmonize with existing plantings at the adjacent park, Putnam Park, and the newly renovated building across the Nubanusit River that prompted the project.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Bunker Farm: A New Source for Choice Plants

Helen O'Donnell, garden buddy and fellow blogger (Anemone Timeshas started a working farm with her husband and another couple in Dummerston, VT. Helen has studied at Great Dixter under the tutelage of Fergus Garreett on two occasions. She has become a knowledgeable and enthusiastic plantsperson. As part of the farm, she has started a nursery that has some cool Dixter plants (non-Dixter annuals and perennials too).

These plants are mostly perennials

Most of the annuals are in super-sized 6 packs, so the plants are nice beefy and ready to plant in your garden

Helen's greenhouse

My Loot.

This little gem called Salvia 'Crown Jewels' caught my eye. I have never seen before but Helen said the seeds of this plant, called Chia in Mexico, were used as a food crop by Native Americans and it is now a popular health food product. 

Helen's nursery is small and just in the very beginning stages but she has some choice plants to offer. The nursery is open Saturdays 12:00 to 5:00 or by appointment. It is located about 10-15 minute drive north of Brattelboro, VT. It is a little tricky to find, so be sure to have a navigation device. Note the farm doesn't have a sign yet. Helen is a delight. If you live in the area, please check Bunker Farm out!

Helen O'Donnell
The Bunker Farm
857 Bunker Road
Dummerston, VT 05346

email for appt:

The mission of The Bunker Farm is to:

Produce and market naturally grown meat, vegetable, nursery and forestry products in a sustainable and profitable manner.

Develop innovative and purposeful connections between producers and consumers in order to strengthen Vermont’s local food system and the social and community connections that nurture it.

Invest in community outreach and on-farm education to foster a sense of place, heritage, and identity for local students and community members.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Vademecum: Go With Me

When I was visiting New York City earlier this year, I noticed a small book at the MOMA Bookstore called Go With Me: 50 Steps to Landscape Thinking. This book, written by a landscape architect named Thomas Oles, was "designed as a tool for students of landscape architecture and planning, and all those who share their curiosity about landscape." The title, go with me, is the literal translation of vademecum, which is latin for a handbook that is designed to be carried with someone as a reference; in this case, as a  reference for landscapes.

Oles created 50 entries divided into five categories: sensing, reasoning, showing, changing and testing. Each entry was invitation to explore the landscape. During my recent trip to England, I asked the participants to do an exercise each day we visited a garden. At Stourhead, we followed the instruction to "look up" i.e. " to lift your eyes above the horizon. Look into the branches above, then to the sky beyond. Crane your neck, hold it there until you swoon. Plunge upward, add this to your knowing of the place." At Hidcote, an almost maze-like garden, I asked to group to "unpack the map."  to wonder and explore the garden without trying to figure out exactly where they were. In another garden, we were asked to "draw; to leave time for drawing. Wrest it from other tasks if you must. Forget rules and conventions; draw incessantly, furiously, painstakingly. Choose an implement and make it your fifth limb. Let your arm and hand lead your mind." Another day we were asked "to transgress" but my favorite exercise was one we also did at Stourhead, was "breath deep" to "stop, close your eyes and mouth and inhale. Draw in the landscape, pass it over your olfactory receptors. Turn it over there. Exhale, take five steps forward, and do the same thing. Repeat endlessly. Learn once more to think with your nose."

I plan to bring this little book with me when I am visiting gardens, when I am hiking in the White Mountains and when I am doing eye mission work in Haiti. It will encourage me, as it did while I was in England, to take time, to be present, to observe and to explore the landscapes that I have opportunity to visit.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Dixter Being Dixter

A fitting ending, in my mind, to the Best of English Gardens Tour was a visit to Great Dixter, the garden of the late Christopher Lloyd, now overseen by his Head Gardener, Fergus Garrett. Great Dixter was my personal favorite. It has inspired me in my own private garden and most notably at the Boccelli Garden, a mixed border modeled after succession planting style of the Long Border at Great Dixter.

Last year, simple English cow’s parsley thread itself through the borders. This year the red poppy, Papaver commutatum 'Ladybird' seemed to be a unifying element throughout the gardens in late May.

The entrance to the garden is a meadow rather than the compulsory perfect lawn. It often surprises, and sometimes startles, visitors who often object to its apparent untidiness. By the end of the tour, most visitors have gotten over this unusual, but ecologically forward-thinking, approach to the front lawn.

The combination of potted plants aound the Porch are changing constantly just like the plants in the garden.

The pink flowers of Geranium manderense were the crown jewel of the planting this year. Geranium manderense is monocarpic; the plant dies after it finishes flowering.

Potted plants are also displayed in the Wall Garden.

The vertical spires of this red lupine echoed the 'Ladybird' poppies nicely here.

The combinations in the Barn garden were fresh and exciting.

Again, the 'Ladybird' poppy, this time with and Gladilus byzantinus; a clashing combination which is classic Christopher lloyd.

The Peacock Topiary Garden seemed fuller than I remembered it in previous years. 

Hidcote, Sissinghurt and Great Dixter all rely on hedges and walls as a backdrop to the borders. I know that I prefer strong bones, or structure, in a garden. The contrast of architecture (green, stone or brick) and fluffy and frothy plantings have endless permutations that are pleasing to me. But its Great Dixter's exuberance and constant creativity; sometimes following convention, often defying rules, that gives me the courage to constantly keep growing, experimenting and learning. What more can I want from a garden?

Monday, June 2, 2014

Barnsley Being Barnsley

The highlight of the trip to Barnsley House was seeing the Laburnum Walk, in the late Rosemary Verey’s garden, in full bloom. We had a tour with the head gardener, Richard Gatenby, who also authors a blog called The Gardens at Barnsley House. Richard worked under the tutelage of Rosemary Verey for the last two years of her life and has continued to develop the garden in her spirit after the house and garden were sold and became a boutique hotel.

We were particularly fortunate to se the Laburnum Walk looking so lovely because Richard is in the very difficult position of needing to renovate the allee of labrnum and wisteria, underplanted with Allium aflatunense, in the next year or two. The laburnum trees are in decline and need to be replaced. He noted that if the garden is serious about a long-term future, the five-year period required to rejuvenate the picture is a necessary evil.

This is not the first project Richard has taken on to keep the garden looking good for the future. Two years ago, the pavement in the Temple Garden, which was uneven and unsafe was redone. I visited the garden last year when the project was being completed. Now, you would never know anything had changed since Rosemary Verey's time.

A relief sculpture of a pair of Cotswold rams, carved from spangled Purbeck, by Simon Verity was also meticulously replaced last year, at Richard’s insistence. This year, he has been encouraging moss to grow on the sculpture to replicate the patina it once had.

The Potager Garden, which Verey created in 1978, was continuing to achieve her initial goal of productivity paired with the beautiful design.

The Cornus controiversa ‘Variegata’ tree in Parterre Bed no. 3 was looking particularly lovely.

Rosemary Verey believed in the importance of well-executed corners in her borders. She felt that people were less likely to cut the corner of a border when it was planted beautifully. Here Richard continues Verey’s longstanding combination of purple ajuga and echeveria. Richard acknowledges that this unlikely pairing is not correct in nature but asserts Mrs. Verey’s tendency for the hierarchy of beauty over ecology in certain circumstances.

I have seen Barnsley House for the last four years and it looks better with each passing year. I wish I had seen the garden when Rosemary Verey was alive but I am happy to see it supervised by such a talented and dedicated head gardener as Richard Gatenby.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

May I Offer you a Handkerchief?

When we visited Stourhead, an 18th landscape garden during our garden tour last week, the Davidia involucrata trees were in bloom. Davidia involucrata is also known as the handkerchief or dove tree because of the large white blowsy flowers, was brought to England from China in 1900 by the plant hunter E. H. Wilson. I suspect that the seed that he collected was also sent to the Arnold Arboretum in Boston where I have seen a magnificent specimen. 

On the right side of the picture, with the Temple of Apollo in the distance, is a Davidia involucrata  tree in full flower.

A closer view of the same Davidia involucrata tree

My favorite memory of this tree was when I visited Sakonnet Garden in Rhode Island about a dozen  years ago. The Davidia involucrata tree was in bloom and I pressed one of the papery flowers in my gardening journal. It is a wonder reminder of a beautiful garden and an unusually lovely tree.

Chiffchaffs, a Plantsman’s Cottage Garden in Dorset


The Best of English Gardens tour took an unexpected detour to a delightful private garden called Chiffchaffs, another NGS Garden open to the public by appointment. The owner is an 87-year-old plantsman named Kenneth Potts. Mr. Potts studied forestry but later opened a nursery, called Abbey Plants, specializing in unusal plants. We had a wonderful morning in his garden.

One of his proudest moments was showing his Acer griseum tree which had self-seeded to produce two new offspring. Acer griseum is notoriously difficult to propagate because each tree produces a very low percentage of viable seeds.

There were extensive plantings of choice woody plants surrounding the house as well as a woodland garden which had enormous gunnera specimens.

The woodland garden had an especially nice Cornus alternifolia ‘Variegata’ tree, a North American native. Chiffchaffs, although a complex garden, is on a very human scale. It gives the impression that maybe, if you work very hard for many years, you might be able to create something like this in your own plot.


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