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:

And you can check out the plant list here:

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Spring at the Bunker Farm

Happy Spring, I think it is finally here in Vermont. With the arrival of 10 lambs, with more to come, it is not hard to feel a little more springy and hopeful. One sheep dropped quadruplets and was so worn out we bottle fed the babies in the kitchen the first night. She took two back and we continue to feed the other two bottles six times a day. In the last week I learned how to milk a sheep, tube feed, and encourage nursing.

Gardening only just started for me, so for the long month of March we focused on harvesting locust posts, splitting firewood, and milling for various building projects. Mike has been very busy in the sugar bush. We had a slow start, but ended on a high note, delivering around 15,000 gallons of sap to a local sugar maker.

Noah has spent a fair amount of time logging trees on the property and running the mill. Here he is making siding for our barn restoration project.

Luckily our friend Avery arrived on the farm for a month and we put him to work replacing old carrying beams and siding.

I spent the month in the greenhouse building benches, setting up the heat, and sowing seeds. My father came and helped build a prototype bench and I built the remaining seven. I found galvanized, heavy gauge, woven panels to use as tops and built sturdy frames under them. I am very pleased with my tables!

And I have quickly outgrown the space!

On the other side we have greens galore, planted last autumn they all survived the arctic temperatures with no heat. They continue to amaze us and sustain us! The farm will be open Saturdays 10-5 all spring and summer. It is a good time to come and check out the animals and we will have meat, greens, and plants for sale. Hope to see you soon.

We also have a website (still under construction):

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Alonsoa 'The Rebel'


Recently, I found this picture of Alonsoa 'The Rebel,' an annual I grew from seed last year. I ordered this seed, not knowing the plant at all, lured in by the description of an old fashioned plant with coral colored flowers. It was smaller and more sprawly than I imagined it would be, looking a great deal like a Diascia, but with an intense orange pink bloom and shrubby ground covering foliage. The plant crawled about, but the stems curved upright, carrying their little flowers. As the days shortened and the temperatures dropped, the plant seemed to come into its own. I don't know if it was because of the changing season, or the plant just needed more time to develop, but it was wonderful to see a plant at its best in October. I guess I am a sucker for those late bloomers.

Here the Alonsoa gives a nice footing to the Northern Sea Oats grass, Chasmanthium latifolium.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A Project at Juniper Hill

Photo credit: Joe Valentine

Last summer Joe Valentine from Juniper Hill, and his wife Paula Hunter, asked me design a small border. They have a gorgeous garden and are already incredibly accomplished gardeners, so I wasn't sure what I could possibly offer. Joe said he wanted an exuberant border, packed with interesting plants and full of late season flowers.  I drew up a design and sent a plant list; it was a go. The above photo is of the garden space dug over and prepped by Joe and Paula.

On a hot and humid day in June I laid out the plants and planted.

Photo Credit: Joe Valentine

 After I planted, I didn't see the garden again until October.

I like the foreground/background pictured here. The view is framed in coppery-red, with the Acer and Syringa 'Tinkerbell' on the left and red crab apple dots on the right. In the middle is a lively green Miscanthus and a topiaried Syringa meyeri 'Palibin'. In the foreground is purple Verbena with Zinna Bearny's Giant Lime, Bronze fennel in full flower, and the white flowers of Boltonia asteroides 'Snowbank.' The beautiful design and structure of the larger garden offers contrast in scale, style and from to the intricacy and wildness of the perennial and annual planting.

One of my favorite Dalhia's, 'Karma Prosero'- a mellow light pink for this time of year, but on very dark, erect stems. Here the Tagetes 'Cinnabar' weaves through.

The Tagetes all leaned over the wall towards the sun, and luckily the rocks helped prop up and show off its wandering habit.

Photo credit: Joe Valentine
 And presently, the garden in winter.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Latchis Fundraiser: Garden Inspirations Workshop

During this winter cold snap, I have been spending some time indoors, pouring over pictures of Great Dixter in preparation for the Garden Inspirations Workshop, a fundraiser for the Latchis Theater in Brattleboro, Vermont. On January 25, Gordon Hayward, Julie M. Messervy, Dan Snow, and I will give talks about gardening and design.  I will be giving a talk about my experience volunteering in the garden at Great Dixter, sharing about the gardens, the work, the people and the plants! To read more about the day and how to purchase tickets, click here:

Above is a picture of the front lawn at Great Dixter, one of the few places that a traditional, short mown lawn still exists. In the center of the lawn is a small, oval shaped garden, always full of interesting plants. Two of my favorite newly discovered annuals, Scabiosa autopurpurea 'Beaujolais bonnets' and Nigella hispancia, happily wave about. The central plant is a bamboo (the tips poke into the picture from the upper left), Chusquea culeou, and it was grown from seed at Great Dixter. Because this plant has a lot of variability from seed, head gardener Fergus Garrett grew fifteen different plants, and selected one that most closely resembled the parent plant. Fergus chose this particular plant for the prehistoric way it came out of the ground (the stems are very dark and the new shoots zigzag off the central stem). For seven years it only produced fluffy new shoots until finally the sought after characteristic emerged. Fergus said he kept the plant for so many years, because he believed that this particular plant had good form in it. Those kinds of long haul lessons are so valuable to hear, that some of the most exciting gardening comes from years and years of working in the same beds with the same plants, watching them, waiting for them, and encouraging them.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Gravetye Manor

One of my favorite evenings in July was spent with Great Dixter students at Gravetye Manor, the famous old home and landscape of William Robinson, a pioneer of wild gardening.   A few years ago, Tom Coward was hired as head gardener and began an extensive renovation of the neglected gardens that were overrun with bindweed. Prior to his arrival at Gravetye, he was the deputy gardener under Fergus Garrett at Great Dixter. It was very exciting to see Great Dixter influences in plantsmanship, creative combinations and full plantings, but it was also inspiring to see Tom Coward's own style emerge in the spirit of Robinson. We arrived in the early evening and just caught the last rays of light on exuberant plantings.

Looking out the meadows from the main borders. This geranium feels like it is calling out to the meadows- it is a perfect transition plant, connecting the cultivated borders to the wild.

Stipa gigantea, a plant I never got tired of. Everywhere I saw it, it was spectacular.

This combination of plants keeps crossing my mind:  Stipa gigantea, Foeniculum vulgare 'Purpureum', Cephalaria gigantea, Digitalis, and Cirsium rivulare 'Autopurpureum.'

Always amazing to have foxgloves blooming at odd times of summer. Since they are biennials, gardeners can often sow them in the fall, and get them into bloom in the spring. If they are sown early-late winter, you can get a later bloom time, pushing them into summer. In Vermont for the past few years, I have purchased digitalis starts from Walker Farm. Every year they put up blooms in August and September. It is a little shocking to take in the fall garden with foxgloves in full bloom.

The perennial bineweed is so tenacious that the borders have to be dug out and over each year. This makes planting foundation plants and more permanent plantings difficult. Tom Coward has creatively used plants like the biennial Angelica archangelica to add substantial structure to his borders.

This was my first sighting of Silene 'Blue Angel,' a plant I sowed, handled, and planted at Great Dixter in March 2011, but never saw bloom. I was immediately drawn to it and then when I was told who it was, I had one of those exciting recognition moments of putting a face to a name. It is interplanted with lacey Orlaya grandiflora.

At the grandest entrance facing the meadows is this very grand Rheum specimen.

A very tall foxtail lily (Eremurus) in the walled kitchen garden. It was likely eight feet tall, dwarfing Makiko and Rachael.

Nigella hispanica in the kitchen garden.