Thursday, February 25, 2016

The World Garden

I have been digging around in the archives and came up with some great photos of a trip I took to see The World Garden at Lullingstone Castle in Kent, England.  The garden is arranged by continent, planted with flora indigenous to each place. It is a plant collectors garden, but really beautifully arranged, not in the standard plant, place, plant, place kind of way; it felt much more meandering, intermingled, and wild. It is the collection and design of Tom Hart Dyke, a plant hunter to the max, who even survived a kidnapping while on an expedition through the Darien Gap in Panama. While held captive, Tom Hart Dyke dreamed up his World Garden scheme. After his release he settled back at his family home (of 20 generations) at Lullingston Castle and started to layout the garden.

I happened to be in England during a heat wave, which is apparently not normal, and so the day was very hot. The garden is walled in too, which helps give heat loving plants a better chance at thriving and surviving the typically mild and wet climate of England.  It was impressive to see how many desert type plants seemed to thrive in The World Garden. It is a gardener's enigma to always be pushing zones and climates, and inspiring to see what can be made to survive by manipulating soil structure, drainage, and protection.

Dianthus carthusianorum
One of my favorite plants, little bright pink spiky flowers on very slender upright stems. I always want it to have more impact and punch, but I still just love its wispy ways.

The frothy white blooms belong to Buddleja loricata, or the South African Butterfly Bush. I am normally not a huge fan of the butterfly bush, but this one was stunning. It was covered in open and airy gray-white blooms and each floret had a small yellow center. Planted en masse, it was just beautiful. Unfortunately for me it is hardy to zone 7, so I have no plans to plant it here in Vermont.

Close up of Buddleja loricata

There was a glasshouse with a few different micro ecosystems. Here a gorgeous cactus in bloom and below the tallest Echium I have ever seen, reaching all the way to the ceiling. I regret not photographing the castle itself- it is dreamy- as well as the surrounding countryside. The place is surrounded by open fields and forests and there is a walking path that runs along a stream for quite a long way. It is a place that you could spend an entire day wandering the gardens and hillsides.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016


In September my good gardening friend, Emma, and I visited Innisfree garden in Millbrook, New York. The weather was perfect and the garden was quiet. Built around a lake, a lovely path winds along the shore where you encounter beautiful scenes, perfectly laid out, wild in feeling, but manicured and exact. The garden was designed and built by a couple, Walter Beck and Marion Burk Beck. Walter was inspired by Japanese and Chinese art and aesthetic, in particular an 8th century Chinese artist, poet, and gardener named Wang Wei. He championed ideas about thoughtfully designed garden vignettes within a larger landscape. Walter Beck called this concept 'cup gardens.' In 1938 the couple teamed up with Lester Collins, a budding landscape architect at Harvard, who worked with the Becks to connect the series of smaller garden compositions into the larger landscape.

"Western gardens are usually designed to embrace a view of the whole. Little is hidden. The garden, like a stage set, is there in its entirety, its overall design revealed in a glance. The traditional Chinese garden is usually designed so that a view of the whole is impossible. [It] requires a stroll over serpentine, seemingly aimless arteries. The observer walks into a series of episodes, like Alice through the looking glass."
Lester Collins, Innisfree: An American Garden (1994)

One side of the garden felt like a beautifully maintained trail or park, and that was where we started, and then we began to come across these "three dimensional pictures," of intentional scenes. The further we went, the more ornate the scenes became, with more structure, stone work and more cultivated plantings.

A stand of Lotus nucifera along the shore. This felt down-right exotic to me!

There was lots of stone work and little scenes tucked into hillsides.

Along with ancient Chinese thoughts and practices, the garden also embodied Modernist ideas. This geometric stone pillar sat in the middle of a wide lawn, continually spraying water.  In the spirit of wandering through a landscape Alice-in-Wonderland-style and encountering "episodes," coming across this fountain fit the bill.

There was never a house built on the site, but there was lots of stone work, patios and terraces giving the garden a feeling of having been lived in. I think foundation gardens, whether real or imagined, are always interesting; it illustrates the juxtaposition between man and nature (and in someways house and garden), the garden will always win in the end!

To read more about Innisfree or to plan a visit, check out their website here!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Bill Noble's Garden

I was lucky enough to visit Bill Noble's Garden in Norwich, Vermont this past October. I was accompanying Claire Takacs, an exceptional garden photographer, on a shoot and while she diligently photographed the garden I got to walk around the garden with Bill Noble and talk about plants and garden design. It was a cold October day, with spitting snow and a punchy cold wind, but then the clouds would blow open and let in rays of spectacular fall light, illuminating the garden.  The garden is great: it is beautifully designed, incredibly varied from garden area to garden area, and chock full of interesting plants. I love this particular shot above with the upright Thuja occidentalis 'DeGroot's Spire' against the pollarded poplars (Populus nigra var. 'Thevestina') waving around in the wind.

The main perennial beds are laid out in quadrants with long, straight axial paths. The plantings were composed of large competitive perennial groups, asters, phlox, joe pye, iris, and sedum, with some anchoring shrubs. This time of year the colors were rich maroons, purple, earthy pinks, and lush greens. There were flashes of white from the phlox and the bleached out Deschampsia cespitosa, as seen here in the foreground.

I hadn't seen this plant before Leucosceptrum stellipilum and it was very stately that cold October day. Any plant just coming into its own late in the fall is always celebrated. This unusual plant came from Ed Bowen at Opus Plants who is a great plantsman growing and selling amazing plants.

The 'Silver and Gold' garden, named after the Cornus, creates an interesting mosaic of foliage colors and textures.

This part of the garden is like an old foundation garden and it is built on the site of an old stable. There is a long evergreen hedge on the left and an old stone wall on the right, giving it a feeling of having walls around it. The plantings are fairly horizontal, and planted in large groups, and it gives the space tapestry of mostly evergreen interweaving foliage.

In this area of the garden, Bill Noble has a nice collection of small, alpine plants and unusual specimens built atop an old milking parlor. Including this rare find, Serratula seoanei, whose name was forgotten until Ed Bowen chimed in (thank you Ed!).

A great garden by a great gardener. Check out his work here!

Thursday, August 27, 2015



 Well, it has been awhile. It is difficult to get back into the habit of writing, recording, and photographing after such a long hiatus: I blame slow internet (until now) and also that cute baby. But now I am back. So here is a hodgepodge of the past week; of gardens I work in, of my own gardens, of plant interests, successes and questions.

That red plant is Lychnis chalecondica, a nice shocking red in early summer and here it is going for a second round of bloom in August. It is plant, that when blooming, stops people in their tracks. It stopped me the first time I noticed it planted in the stock beds at Great Dixter amongst our beautiful, white flowering fleabane, Erigeron annus.

This is Ipomopsis rubra (standing cypress). The plant looks a lot like Eupatorium capilifolium with its fluffy, bright green foliage heading awkwardly straight upwards, but then it has this striking pink flower! I was particularly shocked to see this type of growth when the whole time I thought I was growing that sweet, twining Cardinal Climber Ipomoea sloteri. Haha, what a surprise.

This is a pool garden that Laurie and I planted three years ago using plants pilfered from other parts of the garden, including an Indigofera (possibly 'Rose Carpet?'-hugging the pools edge and doing fantastically against the rocks) and these wonderful Pennisetum alopecuroides seen here in full flower. We planted about 100 drumstick allium (Allium sphaerocephalon) and over the years they have tripled. Last year we cut them back once they went brown, but this year we've let them go to gray and we think they still look good.


I think front-of-the-border annual plants can be a little tricky. I want something lush, full, and interweaving so it is a major success when I stumble across one that I love. Like this Gomphrena 'All Around Purple.' It goes in a little small, but after a few weeks of summer heat the plant takes over whatever spot it is given. It weaves, it bushes, it stays upright (with no flopping) and keeps on blooming and blooming. A great cut too, straight stems of medium length, that can be used in dried arrangements. It is an electric purple so bring on the color. I love it with the silvery Plectranthus 'Silver Shield' pictured here.

Clerodendrum trichotomum
A very exciting underused plant around these parts. This one gives a scary zone rating (zone 6 or higher), but in Vermont it comes back happily from the roots. This spring, after a very harsh winter, shoots came up from the base, and are currently heading into flower. 

Glowing white Euphorbia marginata all self sown.

And who is the plant? My guess is a short, fine leaved Helenium, but I cannot find evidence that this type of Helenium exisits...yet. This was a throw away plant with no label, and now it is doing beautifully. Annual, perennial? It is about 5" high and ever blooming.

And lastly, I am in love with Rudbekia triloba, with its clouds and clouds of airy black eyed susan flowers. Here it mingles with Sanguisorba officinalis which I started from seed last year. I planted it in my gravel garden last fall, just as a holding spot, and it has done so well without water or compost. The stems are super strong and straight and not one has flopped. It is behaving very well in these conditions, even though I would have thought it wanted moisture and rich soil. What a nice surprise! I thought I preferred the cultivar 'Tanna,' but actually the straight species offers a bigger effect, slightly larger leaves, taller stems, and bigger flowers.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Second Annual Garden Inspirations Workshop

For the second year running, the Latchis Theater in Brattleboro, Vermont is hosting a Garden Inspirations Workshop and this year the theme is growing vegetables! The workshop includes talks from professional gardeners and growers, offering practical down-to-earth advice regarding all things growing, from seed selection in late winter, to sowing and planting in spring and summer, to harvesting, and even to cooking and preparing home grown vegetables. It is a great time to get inspired for the coming growing season and all the proceeds benefit the restoration and upkeep of our lovely, historic theater in downtown Brattleboro. See below for program details and information on how to reserve your tickets!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Swift River Meadow Garden

After a long, full, busy summer, I am happy to finally find some time to see gardens, take photographs and post again. The autumn has been beautiful, with the air turning cool and crisp and leaves changing and beginning to fall. Last week I ventured to Petersham, MA to see Bruce Lockhart at Swift River Farm. Last time I was there, we were digging, moving, and planting in the meadow garden, rearranging, adding new plants, and pulling weeds. It was such a pleasure to see the meadow garden in full glory (I would say "peak), with foliage changing colors, all the seed heads upright and fading, and the plants at their fullest and wildest. Not to mention all the grasses now looking their best.

I was complimenting Bruce on the way the meadow felt, like a garden and also like a meadow. He pointed out that there seemed to be a nice balance of large blocks of plants (like large groups of the above Agastache 'Blue Fortune'), but also lots of plants dispersed more wildly through the beds, like the seed heads of the Digitalis ferruginea (also pictured above).

A nice combination of the Agastache with the Amsonia hubrichtii and Oregano 'Rosenkuppel.'

Rudbekia subtomentosa 'Henry Eliers' weaving through the Eupatorium rugosum 'Chocolate.' The Rudbekia can get very floppy in rich soils, but here in the meadow where is it a little more water and nutrient deprived, the plant is better behaved. 

The rest of the garden also looked great such as this spot here with the Yews rising out of a sea of Amsonia.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Plants at The Bunker Farm Nursery

At long last, here are some pictures of the nursery at The Bunker Farm along with some of its good looking plants. The Nursery has done well this spring, thanks to all you avid gardeners out there, and there are still plants for sale! We are open every Saturday from 12-5pm and by appointment (email: Right now we have lots of unusual annuals, but later this summer we will have more and more perennials available for purchase. 

Ursinia speciosa

Panicum elegans 'Frosted Explosion'

Antirrhinum 'Chantilly Bronze'

Antirrhinum 'Appleblossom'

Hibiscus 'Simply Love'
I am pretty sure the name says it all and just the picture of the flower alone made me order the seeds. Each plant is bushy and covered in buds and my guess is that it will bloom in a hot sunny spot all summer.

Asperula orientalis 'Blue Surprise'
I only got two seeds to germinate, but this is one of the seedlings grown up into a gorgeous long blooming ground cover. Apparently it is hardy to zone 4. I will try for better germination next year!

Malope trifida 'Vulcan'
This is one of the many plants I learned about at Great Dixter last year and managed to grow. It is doing beautifully and blooming profusely in my garden.

Helipterum 'Pierrot'
A really nice strawflower, should last all season.

Impatiens namchabarwensis 'Blue Daimond'
Grown from seed this year and growing strong.

Emilia coccinea (syn. javanica) 'Scarlet Magic'
Tassle flower, an all time favorite annual and will bloom, if deadheaded, until frost. 

Cosmidium burridgeanum 'Philippine'
 This is a new annual to me, but according to Diane Seeds, it is one of her all time favorites and will bloom until frost. It does have a wonderful wispy wiriness in the way it grows. Almost all the very good gardeners who came through my greenhouse noticed this plant and bought it based on its foliage and growth habit alone. It is a good plant, thanks Diane!

Linaria triornithophora rosea
Another one of Diane's favorites, the Three Bird Toadflax. She says it is a perennial in her zone 5 garden, so I am hoping that will be true for us as well. The plants are very strong and have beautiful foliage tinged red with a very sturdy upright habit. And a totally beautiful flower!

And a nice Asarina antirrhiniflora coccinea, a climbing snapdragon vine. I saw a whole table of these at Hampton Court and thought, I have to grow this! It took forever to germinate, but now they are here and starting to climb.

 So please come by and see what we are up to! You can check out a blog post by Michael Gordon on his visit to the greenhouse here: