Long Distance Gardening

I’ve talked a little bit about my old garden and I would like to do a post about several of my old gardens or gardens I have designed but that will have to wait a bit.  Tomorrow is my trip and I should really be packing and getting ready. I still have a lot to do.

But I was looking at some old pictures and I also asked for some current ones to be sent to compare (a task that took my seventy two year old father three days to complete; first he accidentally sent me black and white photos, then video, and finally after an email and an explanation on the phone on how to operate his Droid the color photos were sent).

It is always fun to see what has held up over the course of six years and the results of long distance or intermittent direction in the care of the garden.  The first few years after I left the garden was just neglected and quickly fell into ruin.  Then my father hired a part time handy man to help with other jobs around the house and my friend and classmate Emily who runs an estate in Connecticut came a few times to do some work, make some suggestions, and teach the handy man the difference between perennials and weeds. Of course I visit once or twice a year and give whatever guidance I can from three thousand miles away.

The front garden is not very big. It is a suburban lot and probably about a third of an acre.  My father has a home office so much of the front yard has been converted into a parking lot.  There is a perennial border along the driveway, several mixed shrub and perennial borders that run the length of the sidewalk, then a small strip of lawn separating the final long border that flanks the neighbors property to the north.

The driveway border used to belong to my fathers wife but when he divorced her in 2004 I saw it as the perfect opportunity to pull everything out and start over.  The plan was to create a mostly late summer border with lots of native coneflowers and grasses and the like and a few other large specimen plantings of plants that interest me.  My favorite thing about this garden was mid to late May when it is full of Alliums to bridge the spring and summer flowers.

The garden was renovated in 2004 and this is how it looked in May of 2005.

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The Alliums in the foreground are 'Purple Sensation', in the right center are some A. 'Gladiator', and the center bed houses a huge clump of A. 'Globemaster'. There are also several hundred A. christophii.

Some of the perennials in the border include a large Persicaria polymorpha which had been transplanted from the backyard,  a big clump of Eupatorium, a huge specimen of Echinops ritro and Rudbeckia maxima that I salvaged from the old bed, and some oriental poppies, Echinacea, Veronicastrum, Amsonia, Achillea and Baptisia.

Six years and much neglect later it is fun to see what remains and what has changed.  The same area in 2011 in late May.

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This picture was taken a little later so some of the Alliums have already faded but you can see that they are still going strong.

To the right you can see some of the plants that are climbing the house.  They are a bit unruly because when I was home in March it snowed the day I planned on cutting them back.  But in the center you can see how huge the Persicaria polymorpha.  The Eupatorium has spread but the Echinops is gone.  The Amsonia and a Limonium still remain but the Echinacea and Veronicastrum are gone.  The Purple Sensation Alliums are still there though this picture was taken a bit later so they are fading but you can see on the right behind the Persicaria where I added some more A. ‘Gladiator’ and to the left I added some A. ‘Mount Everest’ because I felt like I needed some white spheres to go along with all the purple ones.  The big clump of  A. ‘Globemaster’ in the middle bed is still looking pretty impressive as well.

The red mulch (shudder) was a huge weedy grass that I had pulled in March before it got too tall. I’m not even sure exactly what it was but I know it wasn’t ornamental and had to come out before it took over any more of the garden.  It wiped out a bunch of perennials that were in that area.  The poor handy man thought it was supposed to be there so it just got bigger and bigger.

I’m hoping to visit again in the fall and maybe do a little work on this border.  Since it flanks the parking lot it is important that it looks nice or at least presentable.

This garden was far from perfect but I do miss it a little bit so it is nice that I still get to see it even though I have moved away. I’m hoping I’ll have something even more impressive here in California some day. I just wish I could grow all those Alliums here.

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Nostalgia for England part four

This is the finale for this series.  A few more shots of gardens I visited followed by a few flower shots from 2004. I promise the next time I post about England it will be at the end of May when I am there again and the photos will all be current.

Hadspen House Garden. I'm so glad I got to visit Hadspen because the entire garden was torn out a few years ago by the new owner.

Private garden of Derry Watkins of Special Plants Nursery in Chippenham. I like to think of it as the Annie's Annuals of the UK.

Tintinhull. The design of the garden wasn't as grand as the days when Penelope Hobhouse was in charge but the bones of the garden were still impressive.

Allium giganteum and Eryngium giganteum 'Miss Wilmott's Ghost'. Because the weather stays so cool flowers bloom much longer than they do in the northeast US. This photo was taken in July and these alliums were still going strong. This makes plant combinations much easier to plan. In New Jersey where I am from it often gets so hot that plants only bloom for a few days.

Perovskia atriplicifolia with Kew Palace in the back ground. These flower beds were called The Colour Spectrum garden. Nine beds shaped like a flower with each bed representing a different color in the spectrum. My favorite garden at Kew but sadly maintained by an outside company.

The exotic border in the Duke's Garden where I worked that summer.

Echinacea sanguinea in the rock garden at Kew. I thought it was kind of funny that I had to go all the way to England to learn about this beautiful U.S. native plant. I have still never seen this species of cone flower planted here in the states.

The bumblebees loved this Papaver orientale 'Patty's Plum' as much as I did.

Clematis integrifolia is one of my favorite plants and is the basis for my screen name entire leaves.

The colors are insane on this Penstemon 'Catherine De La Mare' at Wakehurst Place. I have planted a few of these in a garden here in west Los Angeles last September. They are getting ready to bloom now and I only hope they are that same shade of shocking electric purple.

Lathyrus odoratus 'Painted Lady'. Who doesn't love sweet peas?

Digitalis 'Spice Island' at Wisley. This cultivar which was new at the time knocked my socks off.

Nostalgia for England part three

One Saturday I rented a car and drove south with some student friends to visit two of Englands most celebrated gardens.  Our first stop was Sissinghurst Castle Garden in Kent.  Sissinghurst was the home of writer Vita Sackville-West. I had written a paper on Vita for my history of landscape design class so I was really looking forward to seeing this garden.  She sounded like quite a character always running around having affairs with both men and women.

Another interesting character was Christopher Lloyd whose garden is Great Dixter.  When I first started gardening his books were some of my favorites because he was so opinionated.  If a plant sucked he wasn’t afraid to say so and he loved bold color combinations that more genteel designers stayed away from.  He passed away in 2006 so I feel very fortunate that I got to meet him while I was shopping in the plant nursery.  For me it was better than meeting a movie star and my only regret is that I was too shy to ask to have my photo taken with him.  We chatted about Clematis and when I told him I was from New York he smiled impishly and said “Isn’t that where all the crime is?”.

The tower at Sissinghurst where Vita Sackville-West wrote.

Roses and lupins in the much celebrated white garden.

Stipa barbata (silver feather grass) in the white garden.

Me posing with alliums and poppies. I look much the same seven years later but with even less hair.

View of the various garden rooms from the tower at Sissinghurst.

Great Dixter.

Mosaic dog at Great Dixter.

Lupins and Geraniums in the mixed border at Great Dixter.

Mixed border at Great Dixter with a clipped hedge backdrop.

Alliums, Achillea, and Delphiniums form a nice contrast in the mixed herbaceous border at Great Dixter.

Nostalgia for England part two

While I was in England I spent most of my time at Kew where I was working in the Duke’s Garden as an intern.  I wouldn’t exactly call Kew the most beautiful of gardens as far as design is concerned.  It is mostly a botanical collection of plants and any nicely designed parts depend on the staff working in that section or just luck that a grouping of fine specimens happen to be blooming near each other.  It is rather a hodge podge.

So it was nice to take some field trips and visit some other gardens.  The first was Wakehurst Place which is Kew’s country estate and a National Trust Garden.  It is also home to the Millenium Seed Bank.  As far as design goes it is the complete opposite of Kew.  The landscaped lawns and collection of trees are breathtaking.  The walled Sir Henry Price Garden is done in a cottage style and was my favorite of all the gardens I visited in England.

After Wakehurst I went to Wisley which is the premiere garden of The Royal Horticulture Society and it takes garden design to the extreme.  It felt overly designed to me. With every group of plants I imagined a committee of a dozen people voting on which plants should be included.  Still it was impeccably maintained and the trial gardens are fun.  There were Delphinium trials going on while I was there and I have to admit it was pretty impressive.

The Sir Henry Price Garden at Wakehurst Place.

There is something about walled gardens that I find irresistible.

Mixed border featuring roses and alliums at Wakehurst Place.

The Elizabethan mansion at Wakehurst Place.

I love seeing these Sequoiadendron giganteum dominating the landscape at Wakehurst Place.

Delphinium trials at Wisley. Take note of the committee.

So impressive. I wanted to hug them.

A double row of Delphiniums. The wee ones on the left are either little bedding cultivars or something went horribly wrong. They must feel so inferior.

I even like the white ones.