Posted tagged ‘private gardens’

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.

The Guests That Won’t Leave the Garden

June 12, 2015

Now that I can work in the garden again, I am overwhelmed. Spring’s abundant rains here have encouraged lush new growth not only of hydrangea buds (which were sadly absent last year)

Hydrangea 'All Summer Beauty,'

Hydrangea ‘All Summer Beauty’ began to bud last week.

but also of what I call “garden rogues” – plants I planted in small numbers (or not at all) which have become travelers all over my garden. There used to be a modest bed in my side yard between my arbor and a thriving Styrax tree, originally planted with selected shrubs and hostas, Carex, a few Heuchera, and a couple of toad lilies purchased from a local nursery. The other day I photographed it stuffed full of those plants and a million ‘volunteers.’

Mayhem in the borderl

Mayhem in the border

The toad lilies have gaily seeded themselves everywhere, as have a species Geranium (G. maculatum). Both have the good grace to be easy to remove (once the temps drop below 92, I’ll think about it . . .). What bugs me most is the constant proliferation of spiderwort (Tradescantia), which spreads by runners all over the damned place. It’s the blue-flowered perennial below. You can’t get rid of it without digging out the roots, which is an almost impossible task. I’ve settled for cutting it back at the base, knowing it will come back.

Tradescantia (spiderwort) and Indian pink have spread in this border without any encouragement from me.

Tradescantia (spiderwort) and Indian pink have spread in this border without any encouragement from me.

I’m happier about the spread of the Indian pink (Spigelia marilandica), shown above with the red blooms. I ordered three plants of it many years ago from an online nursery. Today I find it throughout the garden. It likes shade – what a surprise to see such a strong red color in a shade garden!

Felix-femina 'Lady in Red'

‘Lady in Red’ fern has red stems.

Another perennial with a little red in it that has spread unexpectedly in my garden is the fern ‘Lady in Red’ (Athyrium felix-femina ‘Lady in Red’). It was a new introduction when I splurged on it (having lots of deer who wander through the garden has increased my interest in and respect for ferns, which they avoid). But now I’ve found it a hundred feet away from where I first planted it. No problem for me.

Other plants I’ve been happy to see self-seed in my garden include dwarf goats-beard (Aruncus aesthusifolius), another stalwart for the shade, and – to my great delight – the lacecap hydrangea H. macrophylla ‘Blue Billows,’ which has appeared in two locations other than the two where I originally planted it. Now there’s a real bargain.

 

Hydrangea serrata 'Blue Billows'

‘Blue Billows’ in my back yard, with ferns and a variegated boxwood in the background.

 

Green Screens for Small Spaces

March 7, 2015

Garden Shoots is on a hiatus while I let my left hand heal. . .  Until I can type again with both hands, I hope you will enjoy one of the blog’s 
most popular posts from the past. Hope to be back in action sometime in April!

*

One of the requests I hear most frequently as a designer who lives in a suburban area is for screening plants. Maybe your neighbor’s house is a McMansion, or perhaps you just don’t want to look out your porch or the dining room window and see the street or – whatever. If you’re lucky, you have a large enough yard and enough sun that you can accommodate a mixed grouping of trees – some conifers (no Leyland cypresses, please!), a holly or two, and some deciduous but ornamental trees mixed in.

In some cases, however, the space available is more limited. Here is where I make a pitch for a tree that may not be as well known as the American holly or even the Japanese cryptomeria. Ladies and gentlemen, I present Carpinus betulus ‘Fastigiata,’ or the fastigiate hornbeam.

Before looking at the slimmed-down version, the straight species deserves its own moment of glory. I first encountered Carpinus betulus on the grounds of the Biltmore Estate outside of Asheville, North Carolina many years ago on a glorious early autumn day. Although the fall color is only hinted at in this photo, it’s a glorious golden hue and a real plus.

Carpinus betulus, European hornbeam

A mature Carpinus betulus starting to show fall color on the grounds of the Biltmore Mansion in Asheville, North Carolina

At the time, I didn’t know what kind of tree it was, but I made it my business to find out later. Since then, while I haven’t had clients with the kind of space needed in their gardens to plant one of these “regular” Carpinus, I’ve discovered the merits of its smaller cousin.

Carpinus betulus 'Fastigiata'

Young Carpinus betulus

Fastigiate hornbeams (‘Fastigiata’ or a supposedly even narrower version, ‘Franz Fontaine,’) have a branching structure that is so tight it stops the eye, even when the tree isn’t in leaf. I’ve seen them planted as close together as 4′ on center, although I prefer to space them out six to seven feet apart (measured from trunk to trunk). This photo shows three ‘Fastigiata,’ planted along a six-foot fence in a back yard in the District of Columbia about seven years ago. Today they are fully grown together, about twenty feet high, and the garden owner loves them, especially since she can no longer see the car parked in her neighbor’s back yard.

I have seen them planted more formally (and seemingly “topped”), as a backdrop for a parking area at Muddy Rugs in Connecticut last August on a Garden Conservancy Tour.

Carpinus betulus, fastigiate

Fastigiate hornbeams, looking like lollipops, screening a parking area at a Connecticut house.

They can be kept relatively short and used as a hedge in smaller suburban spaces between houses, although I’m not sure how attractive I find them when treated that way if the height is seriously curtailed.

Carpinus betulus, hedge

These fastigiate hornbeams have been clipped into a kind of hedge between two new houses in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

(Of course, the Ellipse at Dumbarton Oaks is the most famous use of a clipped hornbeam hedge that I know of, but there the height at which the trees are kept is probably closer to 30-40 feet.)

Dumbarton Oaks, Ellipse, Patrick Dougherty

The hornbeam hedge at Dumbarton Oaks (shown here with Patrick Dougherty’s  ‘Easy Rider’ installation).

So you probably get the picture. The added bonus is that hornbeams can “take a little shade,” as designers like to say. That allows them to be used in less than ideally sunny sites, either mixed with other kinds of screening trees or on their own. And the fastigiate varieties can be utilized where space is very tight (a narrow space between two houses, for example); over time you can limb up the lower branches so that they can clear a low fence, or prune them to keep them tight.

But truthfully? I prefer situations where you can give them some breathing room, even when using them for screening. Here’s a perfect example, where local landscape architect Guy Williams has used matching pairs to great effect on one side of a somewhat formally designed back yard, both to screen the house next door but also to set off the space with grace.

Carpinus betulus

Four European hornbeam trees act as a screen but also as a focal point in this garden.

So the next time you’re contemplating how to screen a view – or just add some beauty to your garden – give some thought to a hornbeam. You won’t regret it.

Garden Shoots will take a brief holiday break over the Christmas weekend. See you in the New Year!

70 Days of Photos

June 6, 2014

As most of you know, I’ve spent most of my time behind the lens capturing garden images. Loving gardens and wanting to capture them on film (and later, digitally) is what propelled me into my current profession as a photographer. And since I retired from designing gardens in late December, I’ve been delighted to continue photographing them for other designers and garden owners. In March, however, fueled by lots of non-garden photography while I was in Cuba, I enrolled in a workshop run by local fine-arts photographer and teacher Colleen Henderson that required participants to commit to taking photographs every day. For us, that amounts to a total of seventy days (the workshop ends tomorrow). Regardless of where we were, what the weather was like, whether we had a tripod or not, we agreed to pull out our cameras (DSLR, point-and-shoot, or iPhone) and capture an image (or more) to share on a private Facebook group page. There are many such “photo a day” projects – if you Google the phrase you’ll find links to many websites, Facebook pages and blogs exploring that theme. Today I’m going to share a range of photos from those I took. These are flower or garden-themed, although in fact the majority of the images I took weren’t taken in gardens. And in the next post, when I show more of the images, I’ll share what I think I learned from this exercise, which was a real eye-opener and an inspiring process.

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!

 

Small Treasures in Charleston

June 1, 2013
Charleston

Part of the “skyline” of downtown Charleston not far from Battery Park and Rainbow Row.

Time to visit Charleston – at least as I saw it in mid-March this year. This city is truly a photographer’s paradise in terms of the diverse subject matters there are to explore and try to capture with your lens(es).

Although I first visited this area in 2009, this workshop exposed me to so much I had not seen before. And this time I was using a new camera, bought only two weeks beforehand, a Nikon D600. Shooting full-frame at last, and with images captured at 24 MB each, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Fortunately, I wasn’t disappointed – the D600 is a champ! Aside from needing to clean some dust spots off the sensor one night (in my hotel room, under controlled conditions, thankfully), I was really impressed by the detail it captured.

One of the afternoons (and one morning) were spent wandering around downtown Charleston on our own. Most of the houses are townhouse style and sit right on the sidewalk. So the homeowners seem to take pride in dressing up their windows with beautifully-planted containers. Even in relatively chilly conditions, the plants seemed to be doing just fine, and brightened up the scene quite a bit.

Charleston gardens, window boxes

A window box on a townhouse near Rainbow Row

Another window box, immaculately kept.

Another window box, immaculately kept.

Charleston gardens, window boxes

Even businesses “dress up” their window boxes.

This image was one of my favorites, not so much for the flowers as the overall ensemble.

Charleston

The shutters and door colors match, but the anchor on the wall makes this image. At upper left, a crape myrtle that has yet to leaf out adds an air of mystery.

Charlestonians who live downtown have small gardens that are not unlike those here in Georgetown. They may be postage-stamp-sized but quite glorious. In spring each year, the city holds a “Festival of Houses and Gardens,” which allows entry into some of these wonders. And this year, for the first time, The Garden Conservancy held an Open Days event which included a baker’s dozen of what are surely fabulous gardens, on May 25th.

I had to be content with small glimpses into some courtyard gardens, which were lovely indeed.

Charleston gardens

A carefully and beautifully-designed courtyard garden visible from the street in downtown Charleston. Captured with Camera+ by my iPhone5 and processed in Photoshop.

Part of a small Charleston garden, visible through a gate.

Part of a small Charleston garden, visible through a gate.

Another peek into a courtyard garden.

Another peek into a courtyard garden.

Crabapples in bloom in a side garden.

Crabapples in bloom in a side garden.

That’s it for this post. Next time – a visit to two “Magnolia” locations: Magnolia Plantation and Magnolia Cemetery.

Glowing Embers – A Winning Japanese Maple for Sun

May 3, 2013

As many readers know, a couple of years ago I had to take down a gorgeous crabapple tree in my front yard that was failing. And because I also had lost a 90-foot beech tree shortly before, on the other side of the front yard, the site had turned from shade to fiercely sunny.

In considering what to plant to replace the crabapple, I did some research and settled on a Japanese maple called ‘Glowing Embers.’  Usually you don’t plant Japanese maples in full sun – they prefer dappled shade. But this one is different – it takes full sun and high heat, and is a vigorous grower to boot. Developed by Dr. Michael Dirr, the dean of woody plants, ‘Glowing Embers’ received the Georgia Gold Medal Winner award in 2005. Ultimately it will reach 20-25′ high, a bit smaller than my crabapple was, but it will help provide shade to the eastern side of the house.

I planted it in November 2011, when all I could see to appreciate was its bark, which in winter has kind of a reddish cast to the branches, something I haven’t read about in online descriptions.

Acer palmatum 'Glowing Embers'

Taken with my iPhone, this image of the tree with its branches tied up on its way to the planting hole shows a reddish tint to the bark.

I’ve even had one designer colleague ask me if this was a ‘Sango Kaku’ maple, which are noted for their red branches. It’s not that intense, but it’s pretty impressive.

I loved the shape of my tree in winter, and took this image of it during a light snowfall.

‘Glowing Embers’ in snow.

In spring and summer, this tree has lovely light green leaves (a choice I favored because my house is red brick and I wanted it to stand out against that background).

Acer palmatum 'Glowing Embers"

A close up of the leaves as the little “whirlybirds” (oops, technically that’s “samaras” to us plant geeks ) start to appear. (iPhone 5 photo)

Acer palmatum 'Glowing Embers'

Acer palmatum ‘Glowing Embers’  last spring. I gave it extra water during the summer.

But it was in the fall that I fully appreciated ‘Glowing Embers’. The leaves can turn a variety of shades on the same tree, which explains how it got its name. And from tree to tree, it can take on a different aspect. Here are two photos, one from my specimen and another from a ‘Glowing Embers’ planted in a client’s garden.

Acer palmatum 'Glowing Embers'

A close-up of the leaves on my tree as they started to turn.

Acer palmatum 'Glowing Embers'

A ‘Glowing Embers’ planted in a landscape client’s garden, showing a slightly different range of colors on the leaves in autumn. Some of the reddish leaves had a purple tone to them.

What will the future bring? I’ll close with an image provided courtesy of the Georgia Botanical Gardens, of a mature ‘Glowing Embers’ in the fall at its Callaway Building.

Acer palmatum 'Glowing Embers,' Georgia Gold Medal Winner 2005

© Contributors to
The State Botanical Garden of Georgia, 2007

I have no idea how long mine will take to get this large, but I hope it will be while I still call Thornapple Street my home.


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