Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Glorious Disarray

After documenting such outstanding English gardens, it feels startling to suddenly show my unkempt, hedge-less, tiny New England garden. This is me, back to reality! I still cannot manage to cut down the garden. After the last snow storm it is now plastered to the earth, broken stems and grass blooms on the ground, but I keep walking by and admiring it anyway. Here I have tried to photograph it in a short minute of glory, when the late afternoon light pierced through the low lying clouds and illuminated the grasses, bent stems, crumpled foliage, and fraying seed heads.

The back-lit Miscanthus blooms glow in a blinding bright white.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Fall Flowers at Hidcote

 I am one of those people who has been somewhat halfhearted about Dahlias in the past. Recently, I am more appreciative and I have found the world of Dahlias to be vast and varied. For some reason, when I discover an unusual specimen, it makes me love the common, giant double-pink all the more! Pictured above is Dahlia coccinea, in deep burgundy red, with slender stems supporting small, single, silky flowers.

I couldn't quite get over the way that the light hit the vertical, crumpled edge of the Verbascum olympicum.

This is likely Gentiana acaulis, which is very similar to Gentiana clussii. There are subtle differences between the two plants, but I am guessing this one is acaulis based on the more rounded petals and the green stripes. It was blooming in a magnificent blue!

 Erodium chrysanthum seen flowering on the Rock Bank

A wee lady bird tucked in a white (campanula?) flower

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Hidcote Manor

Last stop on the tour was beloved Hidcote. From the early spring to the late autumn, the garden went through some remarkable transformations, from bare ground, ultra sparse, to over flowing, billowing lushness. Many of the tender plants had been lifted, but there were still numerous Dahlias and Salvias trucking along. The Old Garden still remains one of my favorite places in the garden, particularly after seeing it in the fall. The garden felt more enclosed, secret garden-esque, as the plants pressed into the path's edges and the plantings towered above.

Another view of from the Old Garden looking back at the Ceder of Lebanon. The plants were all rather tall, with colorful layers and overlapping textures. I kept standing on tip-toes in order to see more of the garden, to discover the plants I knew were there but couldn't be easily seen from the path's edge.

Looking up and then down the Red Borders in the late light.

The Maple Garden set off against the clean lines of the freshly clipped yews.

Looking down the Acid Border, another favorite place in the garden. The acid loving shrubs and trees under planted with darling ground covering specimens.

Looking through the Old Garden into the White Garden. Beautiful mid morning light on a day it felt like a tropical storm was coming. It was incredible to see how beautiful, full, and alive the garden looked. One of the last jobs I did at Hidcote in March was weed this very garden. We were crawling over the crowns of these plants, weeding large tracks of earth.

Looking up at the Manor

The Pillar Garden

This last photograph is taken from Mrs. Winthrop's Garden and it actually is the most stunning part of the garden this time of year. I took countless photographs (at three different times of day) trying to capture the long view, the overlaid colors and textures, the distant light, and the overlapping forms, structures and shapes. I was unable to capture the spectacular beauty of this perch in a single photograph, but the feeling of it remains.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Some Plants Seen at Kiftsgate

There were numerous treasures to be found at Kifstgate. Here is some striking and unusual peony foliage.

Deutzia setchuenensis var. corymbiflora
This Deutzia had a somewhat wiry shrub-like habit and this one gorgeous bloom.

Toad Lily standing out in front of that blue door!

Anemone 'Pamina'

Hypericum olympicum 'Citrinum' 
I was pretty enamored with all the Hypericums on this trip. I saw all types, from the tall, sticky, overgrown shrubs to dainty little ground covers.  The plant is common and often a thug, but ever so lovely, with blue, waxy leaves, sturdy red-round stems, and silky-yellow blooms.

Lunaria annua
Honesty! In almost all the gardens this was a plant left to shimmer and shine on the edges of things. The flower is quite beautiful too, and bees and butterflies love it, but the seed heads have to be the best reason to grow it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Kiftsgate Court

Ahh, Kiftsgate! All reports on this garden have been superb and so I was prepared for the best. Again, the day, the season, the incredible plant combinations, all contributed to a perfect visit. This is a private garden, a short walk from Hidcote Manor, and its claim to fame is its three generations of women gardeners. Heather Muir started the gardens in the 1920's and was succeeded by her daughter, Diana Binny, and then by her granddaughter, Anne Chambers. Anne Chambers continues to garden with her husband, children, and only a few employees. The house appears to be be climbing out of the garden, the hillside, the surrounding landscape. For all of Kiftsgate's grandeur, there is a lived-in vibrancy to the place and it feels deeply and personally loved. I was reminded of Italy, in the color of the stone, the stately columns, the steep hillside with tall spindly trees, the enclosed courtyards, the maze of hedges and unexpected views, and the veranda carved into the hillside. It was a sensuous garden, with pleasure and beauty entwined.

Vines covered the house and trees and shrubs pushed off the walls.

Incredible blue door with the colors of fall bouncing back.

A perfect late fall hydrangea shinning in its charming surroundings.

The Rose garden, looking back at the house. The day was warm and it felt like it would thunderstorm at any moment. Warm winds and soft translucent light lit the gardens and reflected off the stones.

The old tennis court was replaced by this sculpture designed by Simon Allison. The slender stalks sway in the breeze and water drips from the leaves. The light reflects off the black water and the bronze leaves, and casts shadows on the backdrop of yews.

At the bottom of the hillside is the most inviting pool I have seen.

From the pool looking back up at the house, the tucked in veranda and the hillside plantings.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sibylle Kreutzberger's Garden, Part II

Next stop on the tour was Sibylle Kreutzberger's garden located in the charming village of Condicote, in the Cotswolds. Sibylle Kreutzberger, and her friend Pam Schwerdt, were the head gardeners at Sissinghurst, initially hired by Vita Sackville-West.  After three decades of working at Sissinghurst, Pam and Sibylle retired to the Cotswolds and built a beautiful garden of their own. Of all the gardens I have visited, this garden is the one that suits me the best! I think it is the most intimate garden and it is a direct and personal reflection of Pam and Sibylle. The garden is small and there is no wasted space, and no "filler" plants, every inch is filled with something special. Sibylle told us that there were over a thousand different plants in the garden. Yes, please! The other truly magical thing about spending time in Sibylle's garden is spending time with Sibylle, who comes absolutely alive when talking about her plants. We admired everything and furiously scribbled down every plant name that rolled off her tongue.

When I visited this garden last March I admired the idea of 25 fabulous clematis vines, but in October I actually admired quite a few still in bloom, including this one, Clematis 'Arabella.'

And this one, Clematis 'General Sikorski'

Looking back at the house.

Beautiful light and exciting textures.

This bright spot of blue is willow gentian, Gentiana asclepiadea, and it is a plant I recently bought for myself. It has been really unhappy under my care, but I am hoping that someday it will look like this!

Fall blooming snowdrops! I did not catch the name of this particular Galanthus.

In this small garden, Sibylle has been very clever to plant many things together.  Here the crocus is coming up through the black mondo grass, while the yellow argyranthemum hangs in from behind.

The light catches this Alstromeria 'Apollo' just perfectly. 

Cyclamen purpurascens is a species cyclamen that is deliciously fragrant. We all got on our hands and knees to take in the scent.

In spring I was awestruck by how many bulbs Sibylle had artfully planted throughout her garden, and so many types I had never seen before or since. Of course, this was the case in the fall as well. Here is Sternbergia lutea bursting out from under the boxwood.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Beth Chatto's Gardens

At Great Dixter Deb and I each bought a book of published letters between Christopher Lloyd and Beth Chatto, titled Dear Friend and Gardener. It is a wonderful read on friendship, gardening, and plants.  Now as I sit at home reading this book, it is wonderful to be able to picture the gardens from which both of them wrote. It seemed to take all day to get there, but when we arrived, we had that gorgeous, low light that made the garden glow and, as usual, we practically had the garden to ourselves. Cold, blustery, gusts accompanied us on our walkabout, which enhanced the feeling of fading autumn days.

Pictured above and below is the Gravel Garden, which was initially planted as a water conservation experiment. Her husband, Andrew Chatto, devoted his life work to researching plants in their natural environments and determining the environmental conditions for growing species plants under cultivation. East Anglia, on the Eastern side of southern England, is typically dry and so Beth Chatto planted a garden full of plants that would never be watered. The garden is full of drought tolerant beauties that seem to be thriving under their conditions. The color palette of drought tolerant gardens are always so stunning, desert shades, interspersed with silvery foliage, and bursts of vibrant flowers. Structurally too, these gardens feel different, with the arrangement of sturdy flower stalks and seed heads, spiky succulents and billowy grasses. The closer you look, the more you find, like some small alpine gem tucked under the eaves of some great Euphorbia.

Amicia zygomeris in full flower.

What a glorious grass, inter planted with Verbena bonariensis and Nicotiana mutabilis. When I came home I noticed that it looked very similar to a grass we recently planted in Gordon Hayward's garden, Molina 'Skyracer.'  I do know that I saw this same grass, whichever it is, at Great Dixter and at Kiftsgate, and it was terrific everywhere!

A nice, late blooming combination of Aster and Geranium.

A wonderful full border with trees, shrubs, grasses, and perennials.

Chartreuse colored Tropaeolum speciosum clambering through the evergreens.


The wonderful tree leaning in from the right is Eucalyptus pauciflora subsp. Niphophila and catching the dramatic light is the much revered Calamagrositis 'Karl Foerster.' Those large pine trees arching in complete the scene.

This garden was different from Great Dixter in many ways, but I do think that Beth Chatto and Christopher Lloyd were doing some very similar things, just on different scales. Beth Chatto was equally interested in plant combinations, color, texture, foliage, design, and contrasting shapes and forms, but I think she was doing it on a much larger scale. At Great Dixter I was immersed in the intimate jumble of plants, and at Beth Chattos I had to step back, lift my head, and take in the long views. This garden is one I would like to see again, in the spring, to witness the emergence of new early green leaves, the spring flowering shrubs, and to admire the lushness of her woodland garden.