Posted tagged ‘fall’

A Visit to Kenrokuen Garden

December 1, 2016

Last month, I took a photography trip to Japan led by the incomparable Sam Abell. Our itinerary was unusual since most of the cities we visited were off the beaten track for most tourists, and I didn’t expect it to include any memorable gardens, especially since we weren’t headed to Kyoto, known for its stunning public and private gardens.

To my delight, I quickly discovered how wrong I was. In almost every city we visited, there was at least one breathtaking garden, often associated with a local temple, whether small or large. And in Kanazawa (located on the Sea of Japan in north central Honshu island), we spent most of a day exploring Kenrokuen, which is considered one of Japan’s three most beautiful gardens.

In 1985, Kenrokuen was designated as a National Site of Special Scenic Beauty by the government (having been merely a “place of scenic beauty” for several decades prior to that). Its construction began in the late 1600’s as part of the feudal lord Maeda Tsunanori’s creation of a garden adjacent to Kanzawa Castle. “Kenrokuen” means “having six factors,” and refers to six attributes considered by the Chinese and Japanese to create a perfect landscape: spaciousness, tranquility, artifice, antiquity, water sources, and a magnificent panoramic view. This garden, which extends over 25 acres in size, has them all.

Although we encountered rain off and on during our visit (not surprising given Kanazawa’s reputation as a “distinctly wet” city with over 190 days of rain a year), we enjoyed taking in the peak fall color of the leaves and watching the gardening staff taking part in yukitsuri. Yukitsuri, which literally means “snow hanging,” is the name for the annual process in which garden staff erect ropes in a conical shape over garden trees and shrubs in order to create structure to keep their branches from breaking in the wet, heavy snow the region gets every year. The resulting structures are not only practically useful but aesthetically appealing – a ‘win-win’ situation for garden visitors. The pine trees, in particular, are carefully taken care of; there is one that is over 200 years old and has many of its lower branches supported by sturdy wooden ‘props.’

Kenrokuen is visited year-round by many people, especially now that bullet train service is available from Tokyo. In the winter, the landscape must be breathtaking in snow. Spring brings cherry trees, azaleas and irises in bloom, and in summer the landscape views are all green and lush. In fall, when we visited, the trees are ablaze with golds, reds and yellows of countless varieties of Japanese maples. And year-round there are ponds to visit, paths to stroll, and teahouses placed for their views and to offer sustenance and contemplation for the visitor. By the time I left, at the end of the day, I had resolved to return in another season, and I hope you will be intrigued by these images to consider a similar resolve.

Kenrokuen Garden is located in Ishikawa Prefecture in Japan. It is open year-round from 7 am to 6 pm during March to mid-October, and from 8 am to 5 pm from October 16th to the end of February. Admission fees vary (free for senior citizens with ID). More information can be found on its website.

Beauty Within and Without – Visiting the Franciscan Monastery

November 21, 2015

In Northeast Washington DC, in the Brookland neighborhood, sits the lovely Franciscan Monastery.  Earlier this week, a group from my camera club took a field trip there.

Although I had been to the Monastery before, it was only in springtime, and I didn’t venture inside.  That time of year, tulips are lavishly planted on the grounds and around all parts of the garden areas.

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A statue of Mary, arms full of flowers, in the lower level of the gardens, the week before Easter.

Franciscan Monastery

More tulips near the Church, with the Rosary Portico in the background.

On my more recent visit, although there were still a few roses in bloom here and there near the Portico, most of the visual interest outside the Basilica came from the Rosary Portico, the statuary, and magnificent trees in the last stages of fall color.

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A magnificent oak (I couldn’t identify the kind) serves as a backdrop for the Rosary Portico, which frames the main area surrounding the Basilica, and the Ascension Chapel (right background).

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The Rosary Portico contains plaques (not visible here) with the text of the Hail Mary shown in nearly two hundred ancient and modern languages.

Around the corner from the Basilica, planted next to a stone building that was closed when we visited, I spotted what seemed to be Ilex verticillata (winterberry) shrubs in fall color, still hanging on to their berries.

Franciscan Monastery

Ilex verticillata with berries. Guess the birds hadn’t discovered these yet!

Eventually we made our way into the Basilica and before starting to photograph, had a fascinating tour about the history of the building – including a walk through some catacomb areas. Then we re-emerged into the sun-lit interior, where for an hour we were allowed to photograph to our heart’s content, using tripods as we looked for large vistas and small detail images. Hope you enjoy what I came home with.

For more information on the Mount St. Sepulchre Franciscan monastery, visit its website or read more about it in Wikipedia.

Cylburn Arboretum and the Vollmer Center

November 6, 2015

Several weeks ago, my friend Sarah and I drove up to the Baltimore area to visit the Vollmer Center at the Cylburn Arboretum and walk the grounds. (We were also there to take in an exhibit of photos by my colleague Roger Foley, from a recently published book called On Walnut Hill, about a private garden in Baltimore.)

Cylburn Arboretum, over 300 acres in size, is open to the public year-round, with an historic mansion (available to rent for events) and miles of woodland walking trails. There are some cultivated garden areas up near the mansion, including one small garden space with a gazebo that was serving as the setting for a wedding when we saw it. Cylburn Arboretum

There were also a number of beautiful old dissected Japanese maples on the grounds.

A shot from the inside of an area where four Japanese maples had grown up in a circular planting area, making them look like a single, enormous tree.

A shot from the inside of an area where four Japanese maples had grown up in a circular planting area, making them look like a single, enormous tree.

It was the area nearest the Vollmer Center (and the Center itself), however, that I found most appealing the day we visited. The Center, designed by GWWO Architects, is nestled down in the landscape below the Cylburn Mansion, built into a slope and boasting views into the surrounding trees that were nothing short of spectacular the day we visited. It is modest in both size and aspect but extremely well designed, and has a number of  “green” features, including geothermal heating and cooling and composting toilets. Hope you enjoy these photos of it and its surroundings, and do plan a visit if you’re in the area.

Perfect Gardens in Virginia’s Piedmont Area

October 23, 2015

In mid-October, the Association of Professional Landscape Designers held their national design conference here in Washington, DC. In addition to a full day or more of sessions on sustainability in gardens, marketing, design topics and the like, the conference included three full days of visiting gardens, two in the DC suburbs and one in the Piedmont region of Virginia, outside Charlottesville.

I had been involved in helping select the Maryland and northern Virginia gardens conference-goers visited, so I didn’t sign up for those two days. But I was really curious about two gardens scheduled for the Monday ‘Piedmont region’ extension of the conference, and so joined a number of good friends for a day trip to see them.

Our first stop was Mt. Sharon Farm, in Orange, VA. Designed by landscape architect Charles Stick in collaboration with the owners (Mary Lou and Charlie Seilheimer), the garden sits on a hilltop overlooking beautiful vistas that Mrs. Seilheimer described as thinking she is “lucky to come home to” every day.

Association of Professional Landscape Designers, Mt. Sharon Farm, APLD

One of the views from a path at Mt. Sharon Farm.

The garden itself was begun in 2000 but feels as though it has been there for many decades, in part because of the massive boxwoods that help create several ‘rooms’ and which Stick insisted should remain (another landscape architect whom the Seilheimers interviewed recommended removing all the boxwoods on site; he was not hired). Stick designed the garden with the principle in mind that all aspects of it should relate to the surrounding views outward, and it shows, even in spaces like the rose garden and the adjoining boxwood parterres.

Mt. Sharon is probably at its loveliest in the spring, and occasionally has been open to visitors during Virginia’s Garden Week. For more images of it during that time of year, visit Roger Foley’s website or check out his wonderful book, A Clearing in the Woods, which includes a chapter on Mt. Sharon.

After a too-short stay at Mt. Sharon, our bus took us onward to Warrenton, where we visited Marshfield, a 40-acre estate whose 12-acre garden has been designed by C. Colston Burrell. The current owner’s grandmother, Mrs. Samuel Appleton, was a founding member of the Garden Club of America, and so the gardens have been named the Appleton Gardens in her honor. The modest brick house at the top of the drive is tucked in among old oak trees and Japanese maples, but it was Burrell’s magic farther away from the house that drew me and my camera. We had plenty of time here, and ate dinner outside in the outer reaches of the garden. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves, but this was for me the highlight of the trip.

Autumn Vistas at Dumbarton Oaks

November 15, 2014

One of the most amazing gardens in the Washington DC area is tucked away at the top of Georgetown. I’m speaking, of course, of Dumbarton Oaks, designed over a period of thirty years (more or less) by Beatrix Farrand. Farrand, the first woman landscape architect in the United States, worked with Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss to create an expanse of garden “rooms,” and designed every aspect of the landscape, from the plantings down to the finials and stone benches you find throughout. (For those of you who follow such things, National Geographic just ranked Dumbarton Oaks as one of the top ten gardens in the world.)

On the first of November, I went to visit the gardens. The last time I saw them, several years ago, I had been disappointed in the herbaceous borders. But this time the whole place looked spectacular; and there was a new “performance art” installation in the form of sound pipes in the Lovers Lane Pool, by Hugh Livingston. The Dumbarton Oaks website describes them as “an imaginary chorus on a watery stage.”

Dumbarton Oaks, Hugh Livingston, Lovers Lane Pool

“Pool of Bamboo Counterpoint,” by Hugh Livingston, at Dumbarton Oaks.

Livingston’s sound “piece” follows on other temporary art installations that have graced other parts of the garden in past years, including Patrick Dougherty’s “Easy Rider” installation in the Ellipse, which I wrote about in an earlier post.

After investigating the pool installation, I spent several hours in the rest of the garden – the weakening fall sun was low enough that photography was less challenging than I’d anticipated. Hope you enjoy the show.

Dumbarton Oaks is located at 31st and R Streets NW in Washington DC. From now until March 15, 2015, the gardens are open only in the afternoons from 2 – 5 pm and admission is free.

 

October at Longwood – Part 2 – the Meadow Garden

November 1, 2014

When my friend Sarah and I planned our trip to Longwood earlier this month, one of the destinations I had in mind within the gates was its new Meadow Garden. Opened in June of this year, the 86-acre expanse was designed by Jonathan Alderson Landscape Architects and boasts three miles of walking trails and boardwalks that take visitors from the edge of Hourglass Lake up to the Webb Farmhouse and Galleries. We covered a lot of territory (and continued to struggle with the strong sun, photographically) and marveled at how beautiful and wild the garden is. Some friends who had visited in September had been able to see goldenrod in flower, at the end of the summer season, and we were a bit early for strong fall color in the trees. But these images should give you a good idea of how magnificent the space is.

For more information on the Meadow, visit Longwood’s website and this excellent article published by the American Society of Landscape Architects earlier this year when the Meadow Garden opened.

October at Longwood – Part 1

October 17, 2014

Last week a fellow photographer and I took a day trip up to Longwood Gardens. From where we live it’s less than two and half hours’ drive, so we got up early and were at the doors when they opened.

Longwood Gardens

Seasonal plantings – including ‘towers’ of mini-pumpkins – welcome visitors to Longwood Gardens in October.

We were there to explore the new Meadow Garden (the subject of my next post) and see what the Flower Garden Walk and conservatories had to offer before the Chrysanthemum Festival kicks off on October 25th.

The day was beautiful – a virtually cloudless sky and pleasant temperatures. Which meant NOT a good day for trying to photograph the gardens where sunlight was involved. Even with a polarizer, we struggled. Longwood doesn’t allow anyone in before 9 am, and so lovely, soft early morning light wasn’t an option.

We did the best we could, and had a good time. Here are the best shots I could get. Next post – the Meadow Garden.

 


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