Friday, August 31, 2012

Deb Shumlin's Garden

My favorite time of year is late summer through to the beginning of winter. The pace of work is slightly slower, gardens and plants don't need me quite as much, and this is the time when so many of my favorite plants are coming into their full glory. I particularly love the height and fullness of the plants, crashing into each other and filling all the available space.  Gardens can start to look "tired" this time of year, due in part that you start to see some of the ratty parts, spent foliage and gaping holes left from a spring time beauty that couldn't pull through. This is where the Great Dixter succession planting ideas and bedding out techniques help keep the garden vibrant through till frost. This year I ran annuals, bienniels, and tender plants (Salvias and Dalhias) through many of the perennial plantings and I haven't seen much bare earth since June. At Deb's house, the two of us have dug sod, made new beds, re-worked old beds, and brought in lots of new plants all over the property. The gardens are putting on a good show, but something tells us this is just the beginning...

The above photo is of the front walk. This garden has something happening in it through every season. Here it is in mid July showing off burgundy heads of the Drumstick Allium (A. sphaerocephalon), the gentle spindles of Sidalcea malviflora 'Party Girl,' and the pink hats of the Echinecea flowers.

The great thing about this giant Miscanthus sinensis 'Gracillimus' is seeing it from inside the house looking out. On a sunny day, the sunlight filters through the wispy grass, casting a limey green on the scene. It is such a beautiful vantage point to actually be inside the grass, looking out onto the world. 

Eryngium 'Blaukappe,' Helenium autumnale 'Morhiem Beauty,' tall Agastache 'Black Adder,' Verbena bonariensis, and a Cotinus.

The same scene highlighting the bronze fennel, Foeniculum vulgare 'Purpureum.'

Nicotiana sylvestris is coming into its own. The manure and freshly dug beds contributed to the size of this specimen. Nicotiana langsdorfii pokes its head into the picture, with structural, cut leaves of the artichoke. Echium 'Blue Bedder' was a terrific plant this summer and something I started from seeds brought home from England.

This photo gives some sense of the flow of the Deb's gardens. At the far end you can see the Yew hedge recently planted and thriving. I have dreams of slowly shaving away more and more of Deb's lawn.

In the late light we can see the first red flower on the Salvia confertiflora. These plants were extremely beautiful in October in England and I was so moved by them I wanted to have them in Vermont. I spoke to a plant genius friend and she told me it just does not get hot enough for these plants to flower here in Vermont. I did what every obsessed gardener does when they find a plant they completely love and cannot grow- they order plants from far away and try to grow them! These came in a truck from California and we planted them once the danger of frost had passed. We had a very hot summer and I have buds on most of the plants I put in. I will try my hand at propagating these plants and dig a few to see if I can get them to overwinter. I do like this photo with the dark purple flower heads of Angelica gigas and the white moppy head of Nicotiana sylvestris.

I particularly like this photo, especially seeing the emerging flower heads of the Actaea/Cimicifuga arching over and framing the windows, while the flower heads of the bronze fennel stand out like exclamations against the bright wall.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Michael Gordon's Garden

After a visit to Juniper Hill Farm, I went to see Michael Gordon's Garden in Peterborough, New Hampshire. Michael Gordon is gardener, a garden designer, a garden blogger (The Gardener's Eye), and he is one of the reasons Peterborough, New Hampshire is one of the most beautiful towns on the planet. Sure the town has some great New England architecture and a picturesque river running through it, but it also has incredibly beautiful gardens and public spaces- due in a large part to Michael's efforts. Michael has been one of the leading forces for gardening these public spaces. He has written grants, brought in garden designers such as Gordon Hayward, and has organized volunteer groups that maintain the gardens. On top of all this, Michael is also responsible for most of the plant design, particularly the herbaceous material. He was kind enough to show my friend Deb and I around all of these gardens a few weeks back.

Michael has a wonderful collection of plants. His trees and shrubs are carefully chosen and placed his herbaceous combinations are thoughtful and exciting. Michael gave a great tour, telling us about the evolution of the garden, his design decisions (and intentions), and he managed to tell us a great deal about plants and answer our many questions.

Above: Centaurea autopurpurea

I like this compositional slice, so many good things happening in the shapes, colors, and textures.

I was pretty enamored with this burgundy shrub. In this photo it looks a bit like a Japanese maple, but it is actually a thornless honeylocust, Gleditsia tricanthos var. inermis 'Ruby Lace.' I think if left to its own devices, it would be a gangly tree, but Michael cuts his back to form a shrub. Those lacy, small leaves cast a coppery glow on the scene. It brilliantly sets off the pale flower heads of Eryngium giganteum 'Miss Wilmott's Ghost.'

There are very exciting plants in the mix here, with interesting contrasts in texture and form, but the whole is unified by a delightful color palette of grays, blues, and pale pinks.

Argemone grandiflora, a prickly poppy.

Here is a wonderful example of one of Michael's carefully chosen and expertly placed trees. This is an Acer griseum x Acer nikoense. It has a beautiful bark and a gorgeous overarching canopy. It sits in the middle of Michael's steep hillside, providing shade to a sitting area and helping to frame the view out to distant mountains.

The sitting areas with brilliant blue benches with the light perfectly illuminating this coleus.

After the tour of his garden, Michael showed us four gardens he has helped develop in Peterborough. This is the newest project called the Ruin garden. To read more on Michael's gardens, at home and in town, click here! Thanks Michael for such a great tour!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Juniper Hill Farm

I recently visited Juniper Hill Farm, Joe Valentine and Paula Hunter's garden in Francistown, New Hampshire.  Joe is a fellow blogger (click here!) and is interested in all things garden related: garden history, different gardening styles, England, and, of course, plants. Joe and Paula together have created a beautiful garden in the rolling and rocky hills of rural New Hampshire. They have traveled all over England and America visiting the best gardens, attending lectures and symposiums, buying plants, and bringing many of these ideas home to their garden. There are English style hedges, Japanese inspired garden rooms, and American meadows. Through these different ideas, Joe and Paula have developed their own style, while always incorporating the natural landscape- not always an easy task.

Their garden has the most wonderful collection of conifers and evergreens, designed beautifully to create lines and layers of hedges and undulating forms.

One of Paula's container displays. Euphorbia 'Diamond Frost,' Aparagus densiflorus 'Meyersii,' and a Japanese maple.

And now, the Verbascum conundrum. I LOVE these things every time I see them, from the roadside ditches to the formal topiary garden, their gangly spires make a statement. The trouble for me is figuring out who is who. The one pictured above is Verbascum 'High Noon,' which looks a bit like the one pictured below, Verbascum 'Yellow Lightening' (one, I believe, was named by Fergus Garrett) I would love to line up all the Verbascums, side by side, and really study their differences.

A newly designed pool garden, already full of frogs!

Looking from the lower pool garden up to the house. I love the vase- like sprays of brightly colored grasses against the tight, dark green box and lilac topiary.