The gardener's eye

The Gardener's Eye

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.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Aster 'Little Carlow'

Aster 'Little Carlow' is my favorite autumn perennial. It lights up the garden with masses of violet-blue daisies with yellow centers. It has a beautiful billowing habit that is very graceful. The trick is to cut it back in early July. My experience is that 'Little Carlow' also benefits from extra watering during dry periods to get the best results. With a little effort, 'Little Carlow' will reward the gardener for the first two weeks of autumn.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

The Garden the Last Day in September

My belief is that an autumn garden in New England should shine and be at its best when the weather and light is the most beautiful. Most gardens feel spent at this time of year. I want my garden to feel fresh and vibrant as the fall foliage season begins. I use annuals for both flower and foliage and late season perennials, most notably asters and grasses. What can say New England better than asters in autumn? Here's what the garden looked like this week. We had a light frost earlier this week which did little damage. I am hoping for another couple of weeks of this before a hard frost hits. I don't see temperatures below the upper 30s in the next two weeks...time will tell.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Another View

A slightly different view of the terrace in the Lower Garden photographed by my son, Teddy.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Garden After Another Tour

I had a garden tour from Albany, NY visit my garden and the Peterborough public gardens on Wednesday. We are having a severe drought here in New Hampshire but the garden has held up reasonably well. Here are some photos of the garden and some plant IDs for the visitors.

The Lower Garden from the terrace

Lower Garden head-on from the opposite direction

From another angle in the Lower Garden

The granite, yew and boxwoods in the Hall with Balls illustrates how strong structure in the garden can be very useful during a drought as well as in winter.

'Peterborough' Adirondack chairs in the Woodland Garden

Dahlia 'Happy Single Juliet' is turning out to be one of the few dahlias that I can rely on in southern New Hampshire. It is sturdy and produces many single bright pink flowers that pop visually in the garden against the dark foliage. There are other colors of single anemone-type dahlias in the 'Happy' series that I am thinking of trying next year.

I got this gomphrena called 'All Around Purple' from Helen O'Donnell at Bunker Farm in Dummerston, VT. Helen propagates an exciting list of plants each year. You can find her plant list for 2016 here. She specializes in unusual plants, many of which she learned about at her time gardening for Fergus Garrett at Great Dixter.

I let this tuberous begonia called 'Sparks Will Fly' go dormant in my basement last year and it came back beautifully. I love the tangerine-colored flowers against the lightly-veined dark foliage.

This is Clematis tangutica 'Bill MacKenzie' in the crabapple tree in the Upper Garden. I have noticed several seedlings of this clematis in the garden which I will let grow to see what the progeny look like.

I never tire of the fresh foliage of Amicia zygomeris. I may attempt taking cuttings this year. I found some excellent instructions, again from Great Dixter,  on how to do it here.

This annual red-leafed hibiscus called 'Mahogany Splendor' is also from Helen at Bunker Farm. By the end of the season, it turns into a robust shrub which looks a dwarf Japanese maple.

Here is another Helen O'Donnell plant, a variegated kiss-me-over-the garden-gate called  Persicaria orientalis "Shiro gane Nishiki'. It is just beginning to flower but the foliage has been an eye-catching feature throughout the season. I will be getting this plant again next year!

Melanthus major is my all-time favorite annual for the garden. The pleated glaucous foliage smells like peanut butter when it is rubbed but its best attribute is that it gets bigger and better throughout the season and survives the first wave of light frosts in autumn.

Cuphea llavea 'Bat Face' is a useful front-of-the-border plant that looks great for an extended season with little effort and no dead-heading.

Mina lobata 'Exotic Love', aka the firecracker vine, again from Helen

Finally, a volunteer seedling of Nicotiana sylverstris. This fragrant tobacco plant lands exactly where I need it every year. This time, it emerged from the brickwork at a corner of the Lower Garden that wasn't quite living up to expectations. Nicotiana sylverstris always exceeds expectations wherever it pops up. The huge, and oddly sticky, foliage is a dramatic feature that quickly identifies this plant as being from the tobacco tribe. I am a big fan of self-seeding nicotianas in the garden. I probably have 7 or 8 different species and/or cultivars, many of them are also intoxicatingly fragrant.


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