Posted tagged ‘garden ornament’

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.


Iron in the Garden

March 28, 2014

I have a thing about ornamental metal work in the garden. I like it a lot, if it’s well designed and works with the space it’s in.

There are so many ways to use it – benches for a start. OK, so they probably aren’t as comfortable as wooden benches, but they can really smarten up the space. The Victorian style of this iron bench works well with the Ripley Garden.

ornamental ironwork, garden benches, Ripley Garden, Smithsonian Museum

A heavy, well-painted iron bench invites visitors at the Smithsonian’s Ripley Garden.

More commonly, you may come across beautiful garden gates and fences to add a special touch to the garden; to let passers-by look but not touch, or just to serve as a backdrop to a glorious planting area.

ornamental ironwork, garden gates, Charleston gardens

This circular design on a gate leading to a small garden in Charleston SC is inviting. I wanted to step inside!

ornamental ironwork, garden gates, Charleston gardens

Detail of an ornamental gate in Charleston. Love the brass insets in the shape of a star and flourishes.

garden gate, Corinna Posner, ornamental ironwork

A custom-designed iron gate in a northwest DC garden designed by Corinna Posner of European Garden Designs.

ornamental ironwork, fences, Magdalen College

A glorious iron fence with decorative panels at Magdalen College, Oxford sets off the herbaceous border in front of it with style.

ornamental ironwork, Blenheim Palace

Blenheim Palace’s gates are very grand and have lots of nice glittery gold bits.

Then there are opportunities to think outside of the box a little bit, either practically or to add a stand-alone sculpture to a space.

ornamental ironwork, Chanticleer Garden

A custom-made bike rack near the parking lot at Chanticleer – where form mimics function perfectly.

ornamental ironwork, Morris Arboretum

Another iron bike rack, this one at the Morris Arboretum outside Philadelphia.

ornamental metal sculpture, University of Georgia Botanical Garden

A freestanding metal sculpture (OK, probably not iron!) that would look right at home in someone’s garden. This, however, is found at the University of Georgia’s Botanical Garden (in Athens, Georgia).

What about the front garden, you say? Small space? How about an interesting railing or two?

ornamental ironwork, railings, Chanticleer Garden

Chanticleer’s magic includes a whimsical iron railing with supports that look like plant tendrils.

ornamental ironwork, railings, Georgetown gardens

Iron railings enclosing a front stoop in Georgetown are designed along a musical theme – a lyre.

For something really out of the box – if you have a sizeable garden – consider rusted ornamental orbs like these or commissioning something from Andrew Crawford’s ironworking shop in Atlanta. Or let me know if you’ve come across something in your travels you’d like to share, and I’ll add it to the list!


An Artist Down the Road

April 19, 2013

In early March, the day of our “kick-off” meeting of all the crews and staff at Landscape Projects’ Poolesville, MD location, the other designers and I took a small road trip. Two miles away from our company’s physical plant, in Beallsville, sits Alden Farms, a local annuals-and-perennials garden center that happens to be owned by an accomplished sculptor.

David Therriault, the sculptor/gardener/entrepreneur in question, has been working with various kinds of “found” stone and metal for a number of years. What I loved about his work was its variety and how he combines different materials into a beautiful, cohesive work of art. Some of them are stand-alone sculptures of different sizes; some are water features. I saw at least a dozen I could envision incorporating into a garden.

If you’d like to contact David about his work, he can be reached via the Alden Farms website. If you live in the Montgomery County area, it’s worth a trip. But don’t be surprised if some of these works are gone when you visit, because I’m planning to take a client there soon, and she has a very large garden.

Art in the Garden, Bay Area-Style

February 22, 2013

One of the most enjoyable stops on the September 2012 “garden tour” APLD conference was a Bay area garden owned by Gail Giffen and Chris Pisarro in Lafayette, CA. Our tour materials gave this garden the title “Playing for Art’s Sake,” and that felt pretty accurate. The sculpture selections are eclectic and whimsical – from tiny metal marching “ants” at the foot of a large tree draped in a Marcia Donahoe “necklace” of carved wooden spheres, to a “motorcycle creature” hiding in the grasses on the outskirts of the back yard. The garden was designed by Michael Thilgen at Four Dimensions Landscape Company. Pisarro and Giffen, who sits on the Board of the Ruth Bancroft Garden, were incredibly gracious hosts – mimosas and snacks were on hand! I’ll let my photos tell the rest of the story.

Fourth of July Garden Furnishings

July 8, 2011

Over the Fourth of July weekend, I found myself in the vicinity of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, spending time with a friend exploring little towns in Shenandoah County. We stumbled on a cute little store in Mt. Jackson, Virginia called Wetlands Trading Company. “Ponds, Carpentry, Landscaping,” reads their business card, and “Garden/Gift Shop, stone, Mulch, Pond Supplies.” In other words, something for everyone.

So this week, no in-depth look at plants, just some fun ideas you might like for your own garden. Enjoy!

Garden Benches for All Seasons

June 25, 2011

Sitting down in your garden is a feat to be worked at with unflagging
determination and
 single-mindedness —
for what gardener worth his salt sits down. I am deeply committed

 to sitting in the garden.
– Mirabel Osler

I’ve been working on a couple of garden designs recently that seem to call out for a space for a bench. It’s made me think of some of the gardens I have created, or visited, that include a space for sitting.

As Osler’s quotation shows, benches aren’t always for sitting. Sometimes a bench is really just a “focal point,” giving a garden room or area a place to draw the visitor’s eye. Other times, the garden owner, or someone visiting them, will actually use it. Take my own front yard bench, for example. My older son often liked to sit in this this bench under the crabapple tree in our front yard during high school, studying or reading.

garden bench, Malus floribunda

A small 4' bench nestles under the crabapple tree in my front yard in summer.

But I really included it in the design as a visual focal point – and I hardly ever use it. It’s most visible – and striking – in the winter, I think.

winter, garden bench

The bench in winter.

A bench can be painted to provide some zip in a garden”room,” like this small yellow two-seater in Gay Barclay’s garden in Potomac. This bench looks inviting and as though it’s used often.

Garden Conservancy, garden bench, Gay Barclay

A small seating area in a private garden welcomes visitors on an Open Days tour in Potomac, MD.

In a more formal garden, a bench against a wall with climbing plants provides structure. But take a look at the bench below, which although lovely, has no path leading to it other than grass in front of it. How often do you think garden visitors sit here? But without it, the effect would be completely different.

British Embassy garden, climbing rose, garden bench

A climbing rose above a teak bench adorns the wall of the British Ambassador's residence in Washington DC.

Doesn’t this small seating area with a teak bench look more inviting? It’s in the front yard of a garden in Cleveland Park, designed by Lynne Church. I could definitely cozy up with a book here.

garden bench, Lynne Church Landscape Design, shade gardens

A small seating area with teak bench under an old cherry tree, in a garden designed by Lynne Church.

All these benches are wooden, but you don’t have to limit yourself to that material alone. Here’s a stone bench from the same garden, under a large tree in the back yard. It seems to blend in more naturally with its surroundings than teak, at least to my eye.

Lynne Church Landscape Design, garden bench, stone bench

A curved stone bench lets the plantings behind it shine through.

Finally, here’s Corinna Posner’s garden, from the Garden Conservancy Open Days tour here last year. Note the stone bench area built into the retaining wall – as well as bistro seating in the foreground.

Garden benches, stone benches, landscape design

Two seating areas, separated by a gravel area, in Corinna Posner's garden. The "built" bench is just barely visible across the gravel space, in the retaining wall under the coppiced Catalpa tree.


The possibilities are endless, and you don’t need a large space. So if you’re planning changes to your garden, think about the value a bench – or other seating area – can add, for the eye, the visitor, and the gardener.

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