Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Swift River Farm

For the past twenty years or so, Bruce Lockhart and his partner Gus Block have tirelessly worked to create a little slice of paradise at Swift River Farm. At times, they have hired garden designer Gordon Hayward for big projects, but they have done a great deal of the work themselves along with their fearless gardener and caretaker Beverly.  I deeply admire the work they have all done. The greatest thing about the garden is that it actually has everything- all parts of gardening that I love are flourishing. Bruce has built an impressive rock garden- chock full of hundreds of alpine, rocky treasures, a full-field meadow garden in the spirit of Piet Oudolf, plus formal English style gardens, a wandering woodland garden, and an orchard, bees, sheep and a vegetable garden! Even with all these different ideas, the place flows beautifully with the landscape, each area sliding into the next. They truly have it all.

In June, the garden will be on a garden tour to raise money for the East Quabbin Land Trust. The garden tour is scheduled for June 15th (rain date June 16th) from 10-4.  For more information, click here. In order to get ready for the tour, I was hired in to do some garden renovation in the more formal "English" style gardens near the house. Initially planted in the late 90's and early 2000's, it had been some time since they had been dug up, turned over, soil amended and re-planted. So that is what I (with the help of Bruce, Beverly, Matt and Laurie) did! We dug up all the old plants, placed them on tarps, excavated rocks and bolders, pulled out quack grass and vetch, dug and turned over the beds twice, mixing in beautiful, black composted goat manure. I ordered plants from Van Berkum Nursery, then taking the new and the old plant material, we reconfigured the layout. In the Pleasure Garden (pictured above), we kept to a theme of old fashioned classics, like Verbascums, Alcea, Campanula, but added some meadow-y twists- including the towering Helianthus salicifolius and Sanguisorba 'Tanna.' Next, we will thread annuals through the gardens. Unconsciously, but I think happily, I turned one of the gardens into a red and yellow garden. Most people scrunch their noses, trying to be  polite, but you just wait- it is (hopefully!) going to be gorgeous.

After everything was planted and watered in the Pleasure Garden...

This area, above the Willow garden was an annual/holding bed. Bruce suggested making a bed of beautiful grass. We dug this up and planted  Eragrostis spectabilis, Purple Love grass. I was trying to mimic the plantings of pink Mulenbergia that I have seen at the Denver Botanic Garden and at Chanticleer, but this grass is not hardy in MA. Then I came across the Purple Love Grass- which happens to be a Piet Uduolf favorite and one that they grow and sell at Great Dixter. So we can't go wrong here!

Across the way, under the upright Yews, is a mass planting of Amsonia hubrictii that Gordon Hayward designed. These areas of mass plantings offer a nice break and resting point, in between the packed in perennial borders.  

Looking up The Willow Garden to the house. This area was also dug up and turned over. The Willow Garden is also a blue garden so we stuck to the theme of purple, blue and silvery plants. Bruce wanted to move a row of boxwoods from an area of the garden and wondered where to put them. I suggested we move four of them to the interior of this garden to frame the bird bath. 

We did that, and then planted new and old plants into the freshly turned soil.

 A view from the Pleasure garden, down to the Willow garden.

Around the pond we planted Panicum 'Heavy Metal' on both sides. We needed to transplant the bright pink Lychnis coronaria that Bruce started from seed from the holding bed to somewhere... I thought the clouds of magenta would looks exciting with the steely blue grass. I tried to plant it to look self-seedy.

And now, Bruce's woodland garden.

Magnolia kobus 'Wada's Memory' with its sweet smell of vanilla.

Dangling yellow clusters of Corylopsis, which I did not know could survive our climate!

Bruce is part of a seed exchange, so he grew this little Primula frondosa from seed.

This is by far the best stand of Jeffersonia dubia I have ever seen, glorious and happy in the rock garden. There are countless treasures here and I hope to post more on Bruce's garden as the seasons change.

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