I have been shrinking the size of my already small front and back lawns steadily over the years, although I’ve been doing that by expanding traditional flowerbeds, adding wildflowers, and creating small groves of understory trees that include native dogwoods. I do still love and plant non-natives, but I try also to plant consciously to attract and support birds, pollinators, butterflies. I inherited a garden full of old, well-established azaleas and have left them, but have started underplanting them with plants like pink evening primrose and native ferns, and adding native azaleas to their numbers. I am fortunate in that I live in an historic neighborhood where every house and garden looks different, and creative gardens are prized. I can think of more than one home where Benjamin’s prairie garden would fit right in!
I live in a Southeastern state that is not particularly progressive, but one thing it does very well is to use roadside plantings to cultivate meadow-like swathes of native wildflowers. I appreciate both the beauty and the effort.
Though I’ll not be able to visit the Royal Horticultural Society’s Chelsea Flower Show, my thoughts always swing back to it at this time of year. This is a glimpse into one of my favourite gardens from a few years ago: The Arthritis Research UK Garden, designed by Chris Beardshaw and Keith Chapman Landscapes. I […]
Susan Rushton reminds us that the Chelsea Flower Shows begins this week! I went for the first and only (so far …) time in 2014. It was such a highlight of all my travels! I would dearly love to go again. In the meantime, I will have to content myself with this beautiful gallery of photos from the Telegraph. Enjoy!
I haven’t posted here in a while because I have been traveling in the UK with my family. We visited many beautiful gardens, but one of my favorites was The Lost Gardens of Heligan.
Heligan is an old estate that once had hundreds of acres of formal, informal and tropical gardens, maintained by a staff of twenty-two. After World War I, when many of the workers did not return from the war, the estate slowly declined. The gardens were abandoned by the 1970s, while the main house was sold and divided into private apartments.
In 1990, a man named Tim Smit (who later created the Eden Project) was shown the property by one of its owners, a descendant of the Tremayne family that had owned Heligan for 400 years. The property was held in a trust for him and his sister. They hacked their way through brambles and old hedges to find the remaining original garden structures and landscaping. The work they did over decades to restore the gardens, install sculptures and make Heligan a unique destination for visitors is described in Tim Smit’s book, The Lost Gardens of Heligan. This week’s Saturday Snippet is taken from that book:
We had cut our way through dense clumps of invasive bamboo, drawn towards a perfectly formed palm that stood sentinel at the entrance to what was obviously a walled garden. John Nelson and I were on another of our explorations, venturing deeper into the gardens each time. Today we were excited; somehow we knew it was going to be a special day. You can feel these things.
Once inside, we paused for a moment. There was a sense that we were trespassing, that we had come upon a secret shrine. In the gloaming we could see dozens of trees growing thickly together, woven into a solid mass by an extremely vigorous climbing plant that covered everything like a furry blanket. We had never seen anything like this before. Under the trees we could make out shapes at once familiar and other-worldly. This was clearly the area of the garden where the real work had taken place.
I haven’t posted Saturday Snippets in a while because of the onslaught of spring gardening “opportunities”! Here’s a short, partial rundown: dozens of Ajuga “Chocolate Chip” planted as groundcovers on a new berm alongside the patio/drainage area we had built last fall, with stones interplanted with Ajuga Metallica Crispa. At least fifteen heucherellas planted under the young Japanese maples we planted last fall in a new “grove” to replace the messy undergrowth in a small sideyard under a huge old water oak. New statue and birdbath also in place. Major pruning back of magnolia hedge in back garden, to edge of mixed shrub and perennial border. New deciduous azalea “Fragrant Star” planted and protected from curious, digging dog. Experimental planting of anemone sylvestris under old azaleas; also protected from curious, digging dog. New heucheras still in process of being planted, including two lovely Heuchera “Purple Mountain Majesty”. To be planted: “Berry Supreme” and “Frosted Violet.”
Today’s chores, in addition to the usual weeding, spraying, watering: plant in containers two new Itoh peonies, bought for half-price from local nursery: “Takara” and “Julia Rose.” Plant nine new Hosta “Blue Mouse Ears” and Japanese painted ferns (they are gorgeous together — try it!). Plant nine new Phlox “David” in sunny border. Plant second “Black Diamond” crape myrtle into pot that matches the first one’s new home. Deadhead David Austin rose “Teasing Georgia”. Spread organic tree fertilizer under recently pruned oak tree. Plant more ceratostigma plumbaginoides under established Japanese maple “Filigree”, the idea being that the leadwort’s red autumn leaves and blue flowers will complement the fall colors of the maple. Finish replanting doorstep containers with summer plants.
However, if I really get a lot done, I will likely treat myself to a field trip to see the new Chihuly exhibit at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, and that will be worth all the effort!
I’ve changed my header image to reflect the current season, which seems appropriate for a blog focused on gardening and plants! What do you think? This lovely photo is an autumn view from the rose garden at Dumbarton Oaks.
I have been trying to learn the art of bonsai for the last few years (off and on, as it is time-consuming when done well, and I have many other demands on my time). A favorite book is Bonsai Aesthetics: A Practical Guide, by Francois Jeker.
All of us can, in some modest way, create something beautiful. Therefore, the aesthetics of bonsai is something learned. The Japanese codified this art and formalized the rules. Let us try to absorb and understand them. These rules will quickly appear natural to us because they were born from observing nature. The day will come when, with rules forgotten, we will be able to explore new paths.”
I think that captures the advanced stage of most arts: once the artist has mastered the fundamentals, s/he is free to explore and express the individual vision with the depth and nuance of having all the tools. Here is one more favorite “snippet” from Jeker’s book, relating a conversation he had with legendary bonsai master John Naka:
One day I asked John Naka if he talked to his trees. He made a look as if he was angry: ‘Who do you take me for? Bonsai has nothing to do with superstition! Of course I don’t speak to them!
I am content with listening to them …’
I think I need to spend more time listening to trees.
A child’s garden should be a place where children are allowed to run, play, climb, and freely experience natural materials and bodily sensations. Flowers and berries for picking can be planted in exuberant swaths, with paths made perhaps of yellow bricks winding through their beds. Climbing trees and hiding bushes should camouflage every corner. Miniature forests and meadows can be planted, miniature hills mounded, places for digging and constructing set aside. Rabbit hutches and doghouses should be designed with whimsical flair instead of utilitarian drudge. And water is essential — it is children’s (not to mention adults’) favorite outdoor feature.
From A Child’s Garden: Enchanting Outdoor Spaces for Children and Parents, by Molly Dannenmaier.
Judy at New England Garden and Thread casually mentioned in a comment on her latest post that she used to take part in the annual Portsmouth Fairy House Tour. How did I not know about this?? Adding this to my bucket list of things to do when next we visit relatives in NH; will have to time visit accordingly! Apparently this tour is the world’s largest fairy houses event.
What is a fairy house, you may ask? From Tracy Kane at FairyHouses.com: “Fairy Houses are small structures for the fairies and nature’s friends to visit. Sticks, bark, dry grasses, pebbles, shells, feathers, seaweed, pine cones and nuts are just some of the natural materials that can be used. Ranging from simple to intricate ‘Fairy Mansions’, these whimsical habitats are built by children, families, gardeners and nature lovers reflecting their creativity, joy and pride.” Tracy and Barry Kane have written and photographed a charming series of books with ideas for fairy houses, as well as a guidebook for children about making their own. You can find a gallery of their photographs here: FairyHouses.com Photo Gallery. We had a couple of these books when my children were small and we had a lot of fun with them.
On a related note, one of our favorite movies has been “FairyTale: A True Story.” It is the film based on the actual incident of two girls who were believed to have taken real-life photos of real fairies in Yorkshire, just after World War I (the “Cottingley Fairies”). They became minor celebrities, promoted by the likes of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Part of the movie’s story involves elaborate fairy houses built by the deceased, artistic older brother of one of the girls, who died at the age of ten.
My children are no longer interested in fairy houses or fairy tales but maybe, as C.S. Lewis once wrote, maybe someday they will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. I think I’m there.
Going back into some older garden photos, I came across this favorite: the “Earth Goddess” mosaiculture installation at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. It was part of the Imaginary Worlds exhibit last year; and ABG was able to keep it. What is mosaiculture? “Each sculpture is a living work of art. Thousands of annuals are planted in colorful, ornate patterns on steel forms covered with netting and soil. A combination of internal irrigation systems and hand watering help the plants to flourish. Each sculpture is meticulously groomed on a weekly schedule to maintain the artistic lines as the plants grow.”
“Earth Goddess” is 25 feet tall and covered with 40,000 annuals. She is integrated into ABG’s Cascades Garden, with some of the water flowing over her outstretched hand. In the winter, during the annual “Garden Lights, Holiday Nights”, she is covered with thousands of shimmering lights. Magic!
We recently visited the Bruce Munro installation at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. Oh my. The most spectacular part of it was the “Forest of Light”, an installation of thousands of optic fiber lights in ABG’s Sforza Woods. It was as if clouds of fireflies had settled among the trees. I can’t wait to go back.