Saturday, March 23, 2013

Wave Hill

 Friends and I visited Wave Hill last weekend and were given the grand, back door tour by three great gardeners who work or worked there for years. I first heard about Wave Hill from the great head gardener himself, Marco Polo Stefano, now retired, but who worked for 34 years creating the world renown garden- both in terms of design and plants. I have heard Marco Polo Stefano speak one other time since and what comes through in his talks is his love of plants, but more importantly, is his love of using them well, interestingly, and in combination with other plants. Even for the devout plantsman, a garden is not just a collection; it is about being creative with plant material, manipulating and combining them with other great plants.  There is a wonderful tension, a balance between, imitating and manipulating nature. Marco Polo Stefano used the term 'Hand of Man' to describe techniques in pruning and controlling plants, while simultaneously working to mimic the natural tendencies of plants to combine, intermingle, and scramble through each other.

The sculptural aspects of plants was one of Marco Polo's founding ideas- shape and texture often preceded color. His use of conifers, trees and shrubs was paramount in building a garden. I was happy to see the garden in March when the bones were most visible. Wave Hill is one of the best gardens I have ever seen in winter, especially up in the Wild Garden. In the above photo, the beautiful renovated glass house stands against an artful canopy- full of wild and unusual shapes.

The Wild Garden, the highest point in the garden, looks across the Hudson River to those glorious cliff faces of the Palisades. It was a strange sensation to be in the Bronx, but looking out to an unobstructed view of nature.

Crocus vernus 'Pickwick,' a stout and elegantly stripped, large flowering crocus.

These sumac were here when Marco Polo started gardening this site- these common scrubby plants are beautifully incorporated- pruned to show off their floppy trunks and under planted with treasures.

Iris reticulata coming out of a Carex flacca 'Blue Zinger.' The grass roots must be delicate enough to not out compete the iris.

Lace Bark Pink (Pinus bungeana)
This one was badly marred by people carving their names in the bark. This sounds dramatic, but I don't know if I ever saw such scars from weeping. The sap made long lines running down the trunk. Don't carve into trees!

We were all immediately sold on this Cotoneaster drammeri 'Coral Beauty.' It has a beautiful burgundy color to its leaves, prolific berries, and nice lateral growth.

Inside the conservatory was one of the best container displays I have ever seen.

Thunbergia mysorensis, with its lovely hanging clusters.

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