Chesterwood: A Sculptor's Garden


A visit to the Berkshires is not complete without a tour of Chesterwood,  the home, garden and studio of Daniel Chester French. 

“I hope you will come to ‘Chesterwood’ and rest. It is as beautiful as fairy-land here now, the hemlocks are decorating themselves with their light-green tassels and the laurel is beginning to blossom and the peonies are a glory in the garden. I go about in an ecstasy of delight over the loveliness of things.”

—Daniel Chester French, 1911

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One of the most successful sculptors of the twentieth century, French was best known for his statue of Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. French purchased the 150-acre property in the Berkshires in 1896 for a summer estate and studio. He had already achieved national prominence for his bronze Minute Man statue, which resides at the Old North Bridge in Concord, Massachusetts. At Chesterwood he collaborated with his friend Henry Bacon on the construction of a residence and what would become his primary studio space for the rest of his career. The Colonial Revival house with its long veranda was sited to take advantage of the views of Monument Mountain and Mount Everett.


For thirty-five years, the French family spent their winters in New York and their summers at Chesterwood. Family and friends visited the Berkshire retreat all season long, participating in dinner parties, dances, and tennis games. Mary French kept a detailed recipe book to organize her entertaining. 


The main garden area is adjacent to the studio. French would often end a day of sculpting with a couple of hours tending the perennial and vegetable gardens, and taking long walks in the woods. A semicircular graveled courtyard is furnished with decorative planters and a pair of curved marble benches called exedras. Bacon designed the central marble-cement fountain for which French created putti relief.


From the courtyard, marble steps lead to an elevated lawn with a central walk of peonies and Hydrangea paniculata standards. The main axis of the garden features a long perennial border planted with pastel-colored flowers. At its end, a pair of white-glazed terracotta columns mark the beginning of a woodland walk. The garden is enclosed by a lilac hedge and hemlocks, and accessorized with a pergola, marble benches, statuary, and a small square pool of water hyacinths and water lilies.


Chesterwood opened to the public in 1955, and in 1962 French’s nephew, landscape architect Prentiss French, designed a new circulation pattern to better accommodate visitors. Today, Chesterwood is owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and French's house, garden and studio are open for touring.

The grounds are also used as exhibition space for contemporary sculpture as well as works by French. The studio, barn, and other gallery spaces include sculptural studies for a number of his works, including The Minute ManThe Continents, and Abraham Lincoln


Chesterwood is open from Memorial Day to Columbus Day, daily 10 am to 5 pm. Admission is $18. The grounds are 15 acres in size. There are picnic tables, trails for woodland walks, an annual outdoor contemporary sculpture exhibition, and a permanent exhibition of Daniel Chester French's work.

4 Williamsville Rd., Stockbridge, MA 02162, (413) 298-3579,

2018 Plant Sales by Public Gardens and Specialty Nurseries in the Northeast


May is the month of plant sales across the Northeast, as public gardens and specialty nurseries welcome gardeners to shop for unusual plants, natives, and divisions from their gardens. Whether you are home or traveling, you can find a plant sale near you!


Massachusetts Horticultural Society. The Massachusetts Horticultural Society is hosting its annual Gardeners’ Fair on Saturday, May 12 from 9:00 am – 3:00 pm at Elm Bank in Wellesley. The “Society Row Sale” features plants sold by local plant society chapters including the Daylily, Hosta, Conifer, Rose, Herb, and Cactus societies. Dozens of heirloom and hybrid tomato varieties will also be available for purchase from Allendale Farm.

Tower Hill Plant Sale. Outstanding plants of all kinds are offered by Tower Hill, premier vendors and plant societies at the Tower Hill Plant Sale. Saturday, June 2, open to members 9:00 -11:00 am, opens to the public at 11:00 am–2:00 pm. 11 French Drive, Boylston, MA.


Garden Vision Epimediums. Gardeners looking to expand their epimedium collection can visit Garden Vision Epimediums in Phillipston on select days in May: May 4–13 (10 days), and May 18–20, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm, rain or shine. Garden Vision is primarily a mail order nursery, normally closed to the public except for the May sale dates.

Garden in the Woods. Native plants can be found at New England Wildflower Society’s Garden in the Woods in Framingham, which offers the largest selection of native trees, shrubs, vines, grasses, ferns, and perennials in New England. Garden in the Woods is open daily, and plants are available for sale throughout the season.

Berkshire Botanical Garden's Plants and Answers Be-a-Better-Gardener Plant Sale. Thousands of woody and herbaceous plants are displayed by habitat including plants for sunny areas, beds and borders, dry areas, plants for the woodland edge, and woodland plants, as well as annuals (most grown at BBG), tropicals, vines, divisions of perennials dug from BBG display gardens, organic vegetable and herb plants, and hanging baskets. Many plants are donated by 60 nurseries from throughout the tri-state area. May 11-12, 9 am–5 pm.

Long Hill Plant Sale. You'll find a great selection of unusual plants and old favorites, including Tree Peonies, Japanese Maple, Dogwood, Tulip Tree, Stewartia, Forget-me-nots, and more! Arrive by 11am to join us for the silent auction of rare plants, parennials from A to Z, natives, show stopping annuals, propagated Sedgwick Garden specialties, herbs, succulents, Hypertufa containers, and gardening books. Vegetable seedlings will be available from the Food Project and horticultural experts including the Mass. Master Gardeners of Massachusetts will be on hand to answer any questions. The Master Gardeners will also be doing free soil testing. May 12, 10 am–1 pm.

Allan Haskell Plant Sale. Find your favorite annuals, perennials, trees and shrubs, and purchase some of Allen’s signature selections. Colors galore, and horticulturists on hand to help you with your decisions and answer any questions you may have. May 26, 10 am–1 pm

Rhode Island

Blithewold Plant Sale. Come out and support Bristol Garden Club. They will be selling fresh annuals, perennials, herbs, veggies, and handmade flower arrangements in vases. The garden club will be set up in the side yard of our Carriage House. Pick up the perfect Mother’s Day gift or something for your spring gardens. May 12, 8:30–1:30.

Wicked Tulip Flower Farm UPick Tulip Sale. Pick your own tulips on 5 acres of fields sporting 600,000 tulip bulbs. Tickets required, available online. April 25–mid May, see website for admission hours.



OBrien Nursery in Granby, Conn. will feature a different plant family on each May weekend: 
May 4-6 – Diverse, Dynamic and Deliciously Fragrant Daphne
May 11-13 – Enticing Epimediums – Explore our Expanded Choices
May 18-20 – Cypripediums! Yes, we have Lady-Slippers!
May 25-28 – Don’t miss our Itoh Peony Selections in Flower
Open on those dates only, 10 am–5 pm.

Florence Griswold Museum. Join the Museum’s Garden Gang for a sale of beautiful plants and garden specimens, featuring heirloom perennials, roses, herbs, and succulents. May 18 & 19, 9 am–3 pm

Hill Stead Museum. May Market is Hill-Stead’s annual home, garden and gourmet benefit event featuring premium exhibitors, rare and unusual plants, entertainment, children’s activities, food, and a museum open house. May 5 & 6, 10 am–4 pm

New Hampshire

Fuller Gardens Plant Sale: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday,  May 11–13, 10am to 3pm all three days.  Featured for sale will be hundreds of field grown hardy perennials, potted hardy rose bushes of all varieties and herbs. Gift shop will be open.  Come browse our selection and get a plant that will last for Mom.  The Gardens will also OPEN FOR THE SEASON on May 13th.

New Jersey

New Jersey Botanical Garden Plant Sale. Perennials, annuals, vegetables, herbs, trees, shrubs, vines, ground covers, hanging baskets, and potted plants. Knowledgeable Master Gardeners will be on hand to offer advice, and the plants are lush and healthy. May 5-6 & 13, 10 am–4 pm.

Van Vleck House & Gardens Annual Plant Sale. May 4–5, 9 am–4 pm; May 6, 10 am–4 pm; May 7-9, 10 am–2 pm.

Frelinghuysen Arboretum Plant Sale: May 5-6, 9 am–5 pm.

Cross Estate Gardens Plant Sale: Saturday, May 5, 9 am–1 pm. Wide selection of plants: native and non-native; sun-loving and shade-loving; evergreen, semi-evergreen, woody, and

Reeves Reed Arboretum: This year's plant sale features an outstanding collection of plants selected for native lovers and shade gardeners, in addition to our usual eclectic mix of hard-to-find perennials and annuals. Friday, May 18, between 2:00 pm and 5:00 pm, for RRA members only. On Saturday, May 19, the plant sale opens to the general public from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm.


Spring Inspiration at the Leonard J. Buck Garden

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If you are looking for a gorgeous garden to visit this spring, plan a trip to The Leonard J. Buck Garden in Far Hills, New Jersey.

The Leonard J. Buck Garden is one of the finest and largest rock gardens in the eastern United States. It consists of a series of alpine and woodland gardens situated in a 33-acre wooded stream valley. While most rock gardens are man-made and small in scale like the alpine plants they showcase, this rock garden is a series of huge natural rock outcroppings in a 500-foot-wide, 90-foot-deep gorge. The gorge was formed at the end of the Ice Age, about 12,000 years ago, when the water from melting glaciers carved out the valley of Moggy Hollow.


The rocky garden backbone was perfect for Leonard Buck, a geologist who made his fortune in mining. As he traveled the world on business, he collected rare plants. In the 1930s Buck was a trustee of the New York Botanical Garden, where he met and hired Swiss-born landscape architect Zenon Schreiber. Their goal was to develop a naturalistic woodland garden composed of many smaller gardens, each with its own character and microhabitat.

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Buck and Schreiber worked by eye and proportion, without a formal plan on paper. Buck worked the rock—chiseling, picking, and shoveling to expose the rugged face. Schreiber worked the plants, tucking in rare and exotic specimens and planting azaleas and rhododendrons at the base of the valley walls to create a dazzling display in spring. He also established a backbone of dogwoods, crabapples, shadbush, fothergilla, viburnums, and other native trees and shrubs throughout the property.

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The garden’s trails wind past two ponds and a rock-edged stream, through the woods, and up into the gorge. At its spring peak, the garden is a showcase for lady slippers, trilliums, woodland phlox, bergenia, iris cristata, tiarella, epimediums, and columbines, as well as Siberian squill, Spanish bluebells, winter aconite, grape hyacinths, and other miniature bulbs. Japanese primroses line the streambed and masses of azaleas dazzle in the valley. To help plan your visit, the website provides a weekly list of plants in bloom. There is something to see in every season. (For more information about these spring bloomers see the blog articles in the links above.) 


When Interstate 287 was being laid out, the original plans called for Interstate 287 to run directly through Buck’s property. However he invited the officials in charge to visit his garden and succeeded in having the highway rerouted. After his death in 1976, the family donated the garden to the Somerset County Park Commission and set up a trust to fund maintenance and renovations. 


Come in From the Cold at the Roger Williams Botanical Center


If you are looking to come in from the cold in January, New England features several lovely indoor gardens (see related article). One of the newest is in Providence, in a park that has provided leisure, entertainment and education for residents and visitors for almost 150 years.

Roger Williams Park was created in 1870 after Betsey Williams bequeathed 102 acres of farmland and woodland to the city of Providence to be used for public purpose. A portion of the gift included land that was originally purchased from the Narragansetts by her great, great, great, grandfather, Rhode Island’s founder Roger Williams.


Horace Cleveland, a leader in the Urban Parks Movement, created the design for the park. It was intended to serve as an escape for residents of highly industrialized Providence in the late 19th century. Today, the Roger Williams Park contains a zoo, a museum of natural history, a planetarium, the Botanical Center,  Japanese Gardens, Victorian Rose Gardens, the Providence Police Department’s Mounted Command center, the boathouse and boat rentals, historical tours, a carousel, playground, the Temple to Music, the Roger Williams Park Casino, and many miles of walking paths.


The Botanical Center opened in 2007, and at 12,000 square feet is the largest public indoor display garden in New England. It includes two main greenhouses: The Conservatory and the Mediterranean Room. The Conservatory has the feeling of a large courtyard surrounded by elegant tall palms. Unlike most greenhouses, this one is airy and open, with a central area for ceremonies or social events. A fountain bubbles and colorful tropical plants bloom beneath stately trees. Immense birds of paradise hide among the palms, like storks in the jungle.


The Mediterranean Room is built around a long stucco wall with a circular gate. A densely planted pond with giant koi dominates the room. The Orchid Society displays delicate orchids growing in a moss-draped tree in one corner, and the Carnivorous Plant Society exhibits pitcher plants and delicate wild flowers in a raised bog garden. A small waterfall and a Mediterranean fountain provide soothing background music. All in all, there are over 150 different species and cultivars of plants including 17 types of palms. Upcoming projects include a Flavor Lab designed for chefs and farmers to compare the taste of vegetable varieties, and a Journey Through America exhibit featuring plants native to South, Central, and North America.


The Botanical Center’s outdoor display gardens are equally attractive and well worth a visit in the warmer months. The Winter Garden has gorgeous specimens of umbrella pines, a Lacebark Pine, Metasequoia, and other unusual conifers; Sargent cherries and trees with distinctive bark such river birches; hellebores, evergreen ferns, and bamboo. Other displays include a beautiful Perennial Garden, with large plantings of bee balm, balloon flower, phlox, daylilies, coneflowers, and blackeye susans. A Pine and Hosta Dell, Wooded Hillside Garden, Overlook Terrace, and Rain Garden offer interesting plantings to view. Downhill from the greenhouses, gorgeous roses and clematis cover the arches of the Rose Maze.


1000 Elmwood Ave., Providence, RI 02905, (401) 785-9450

HOURS: Tues. –Sun. 11–4

Garden Style Holidays


November and December offer many special holiday events and workshops for gardeners. From wreath decorating to viewing amazing holiday displays, there are plenty of opportunities to get inspired. Below is just a sampling. If your organization has an event that is not listed, please feel free to add it in the Comments.


Bert Ford in his Final Holiday Hurrah!

Holliston Garden Club, Holliston, MA
Friday, Nov. 10, 7:30 pm

A festive evening of music, refreshments, holiday gifts and a demonstration of Bert Ford's floral artistry. Refreshments begin at 7:00 pm at St. Mary's Auditorium in Holliston. Tickets are $15 at the door, $12 in advance at Outpost Farm, Debra's Flowers, Coffee Haven, or at 508-488-6422.


Spice up Your Home with a Grapevine Wreath

Weston Nurseries, Hopkinton, MA
Sunday, November 12

Create a grapevine wreath fragrant with the scents of the holidays – dried oranges, apples, lavender, quince, moss and cinnamon sticks. A perfect way to welcome guests at your door. Registration: $45, includes all materials; bows available for an additional $10.


Holiday Tablescaping Workshop

Snug Harbor Farm, Kennebunk, ME
Nov. 19, 1-2 pm

A workshop focused on constructing centerpieces and tablescapes with seasonal flowers and gourds. We will build out of terracotta or glass bowls, getting your holiday table dressing ready to go through the week. The cost of the class provides each student with their own centerpiece creation. More can be made, paying a la cart for additional dressing. Class size is limited, so sign up early to secure your place. Please bring your own clippers and tools. We’ll provide botanical materials and vessels. Cost is $75.


Christmas at the Newport Mansions

Newport Mansions, Newport, MA
November 18 - January 1

The Breakers, The Elms and Marble House--three National Historic Landmarks and icons of the Gilded Age in America--are filled with thousands of poinsettias, fresh flowers, evergreens and wreaths.  Thirty decorated Christmas trees reflecting individual room decor anchor many of the magnificent spaces.  Dining tables set with period silver and china complete the elegant setting. Windows of each mansion are lit with individual white candles, in keeping with the colonial tradition. New for 2017, a gingerbread model of each house, created by amazing local pastry chefs, will be on display in its kitchen. 


Wayside Inn Holidays

Wayside Inn, Sudbury, MA
November 28 - January 7

Each room of the historic Wayside Inn is decorated by a different garden club with hand-made creations for the holidays. The inn features a holiday menu, and advance reservations are recommended.


Ornament, Decorative Boughs and Wreath Sale

Eleanor Cabot Bradley Estate, Canton, MA
Thurs - Sat., Nov 30 - Dec 9

Ye Olde Bradley Estate Shoppe will be open on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays for the first two weeks of December!  Ornaments, decorative boughs and wreaths made by staff and volunteers will be available for purchase.  Free holiday hot drinks to warm you up for the holidays! Music and raffles for fun stocking stuffers!


Christmas at Castle Hill: The Season of Carols

Crane Estate, Ipswich, MA
December 1 - 2

Visiting Castle Hill at Christmas is a time-honored tradition for many New England families. Don't miss this year's spectacular "The Season of Carols". Each room in our 1920s mansion is festively decorated for a beloved Christmas carol. You'll find live music and dance, fresh baked cookies and cider, a treasure hunt, family activities, and a visit with Santa. Make Friday, date night with evening tour hours, a cash bar, light appetizers, and festive music. Come with friends on Saturday for great decorating ideas, shopping in the Castle Hill gift shop and Harbor Sweets pop up cafe, and more. Bring the children on Sunday to visit with Santa, take photos, and hunt for carol-themed items in our holiday treasure hunt.


A Christmas Home for Everyone

Canton Garden Club, Canton, MA
Friday Dec. 1 - Sat. Dec. 2

Three homes decorated with different holiday themes. They include: “Home for the Holidays” at 34 Century Drive, “A Sporting Christmas Home” at 10 Kings Road and “A Cozy Woodland Christmas” at 5 Bailey Street. For tickets email


Holiday Marketplace

Berkshire Botanical Garden, Stockbridge, MA
December 2-3

A holiday marketplace of one-of-a-kind Christmas decorations and gifts made be a select group of local craftspeople. A Gallery of Wreaths created by volunteer designers, refreshments and goodies from the Garden Shop also included.


Holiday House Tour

Village Garden Club of Dennis, Dennis, MA
Dec. 9, 10-4

The tour features 6 homes in Dennis and East Dennis that are festively decorated for the season. One home will have a small holiday boutique, another will feature a harpist.

Tickets will be $30 the day of the tour at Carleton Hall, Old Bass River Road, Dennis.
Advance tickets are $25 and available starting Nov. 1. Email


Holiday Open House

Peckham's Greenhouses, Little Compton, RI
December 2 & 3, 9am-5 pm

Holiday plants and unique gifts for sale.


Christmastime Teas

Florence Griswold Museum, Lyme, CT
December 5 - 23

As music of the season quietly plays, nibble delectable scones with clotted cream, assorted savory tea sandwiches, and seasonal sweets as lovely as they are tasty. Let the warmth of holiday cheer spread with each sip of Miss Florence’s Tea. Served in a delightfully eclectic assortment of china, the unique and elegant beverage is a blend of superior Ceylon and China black teas enhanced with a touch of vanilla and other delicate spices. It is created over a two-day process just for the Museum by Sundial Gardens in Higganum, Connecticut. Quite a day to remember – and all against the backdrop of the Lieutenant River cloaked in its wintery splendor.


Wreath Making Classes

The Farmer's Daughter, South Kingston, RI
Fri., Nov 24 - Sat., Dec. 30

Cost of the class is $70.00 Class includes: all materials, wine, cheeses, mulled cider, goodies and a great time! Pre-registration is required, call 792-1340. We suggest that yo u bring a light pair of gloves and your favorite shears.


Festival of Trees and Snow Village

Massachusetts Horticultural Society, Elm Bank, Wellesley, MA
November 24-December 10

The Festival of Trees, displayed in the Hunnewell Building, offers beautifully decorated holiday trees that are donated and decorated by local businesses, garden clubs, and individuals. Visitors “vote” with their raffle tickets, in hopes of being the tree winner at the end of the festival. Visitors can also enjoy the decorated buildings and grounds at The Gardens at Elm Bank with a stroll or a horse-drawn wagon ride. For the young at heart, there are Santa Visits and other activities.

Snow Village at Elm Bank is a wonderful addition to the holiday spirit of the Festival of Trees. Bill Meagher of Needham graciously donated the product of his thirteen year "hobby" of building Christmas villages and trains.  It is a bit different each year as he continues to tweak the arrangement.  Massachusetts Horticultural Society is delighted to share his enchanting displays with model trains winding through villages and vignettes, including Christmas in the City (Boston of course!), Fenway Park, and hundreds of decorated houses and lights. This amazing scenery in miniature is sure to get kids of all ages excited about the holiday season.


Winter Reimagined 2017

Tower Hill Botanic Garden, Boylston, MA
November 24 - January 7

As evening falls at Tower Hill, visitors have the opportunity to marvel at glittering lights displayed throughout acres of formal gardens. The prized collection of trees and shrubs, along with illuminated paths, sculptures, and fountains, come to life in the glow of the lights. Inside, guests will see hand-made and nature-inspired ornaments, a wishing tree forest, an up-cycled igloo, and two towering conservatories brimming with subtropical plants and seasonal music. Stop in the Garden Shop for unique plant-centric gift ideas.


Christmas at Blithewold

Blithewold, Bristol, RI
November 24 - January 1

Every year, Blithewold transforms into a dazzling display celebrating the magic of Christmas. Each room of the Mansion is filled with elaborate holiday decorations, and the gardens become a glimmering winter wonderland! Enjoy a winter marketplace, holiday teas and musical performances.

If your organization has an event that is not listed, please feel free to add it in the Comments below.

New Hampshire's Garden of Whimsical Sculptures

 Photo courtesy of Bedrock Gardens

Photo courtesy of Bedrock Gardens

Bedrock Gardens is a 20-acre garden that Carol Stocker of the Boston Globe aptly described as a “cross between Sissinghurst and the Dr. Seuss Sculpture Garden.” In 1980 Bob Munger and Jill Nooney purchased this former dairy farm and began a 30-year transformation of the landscape into a collection of themed garden rooms enlivened by whimsical sculptures.


Nooney is a practicing clinical social worker, as well as an artist and graduate of the Radcliffe Institute Landscape Design program. She uses old farm equipment and repurposed metal to create a variety of abstract sculptures, arches, arbors, water features and “creatures” inspired by nature and her imagination. Munger is a retired doctor and a lifelong tinkerer. Nooney is the garden’s visionary artist and “problem maker.” He is the “problem solver,” the implementer of those visions, including beautifully patterned walkways and patios, and hydraulics for water features.


Nooney and Munger created their garden as a journey with “places to go, places to pause and rest and interesting things to see along the way.” Nearly two-dozen “points of interest,” many with humorous names, are connected by paths that wind through garden rooms, around ponds, and through woodlands.


Closest to the house, a yew hedge encloses a formal parterre planted with white flowers, with a diamond patterned bluestone path and a circular pool and fountain. The Straight and Narrow garden features a cobbled-edged path that runs between beds of native trees, shrubs, and perennials. The Swaleway’s woodland wildflowers welcome spring amidst towers of balanced stones. The Garish Garden’s playful sculptures fit in with flowers in flaming reds and oranges and trees and shrubs with bright gold foliage.


Bedrock Gardens is full of new ideas for gardeners as well as new takes on classic garden forms. The Wiggle Waggle is a wavy 200-foot long water channel, planted with lotus and water lilies. The Spiral Garden is a “twist” on a traditional maze garden, with twirling roof ventilators on spiral stands that emphasize the Fibonacci-inspired paving laid in a moss floor. Grass Acre is a “painting” of Switchgrass, Hakone Grass, and Little Blue Stem, anchored by a metal sculpture that evokes a mountain range. The Dark Woods is a grove of dead trees accented with sculptural ghosts, spiders, and other scary creatures. The Wave is a series of 26 small metal characters on pedestals backed by a tall arborvitae hedge. Several ponds and many more gardens await the visitor.


Walking through the gardens is a delightful journey. There are many places to sit and enjoy a vista or a sculpture along the way. The Japanese garden and Tea House offer quiet repose in the woods, and the two thrones at the Termi at the far end of the large pond offer a stunning view along the 900-foot axis through the garden. Nooney has designed the garden with an artist’s eye and her strategic placement of focal points and vistas takes classical garden design concepts into a contemporary setting.


Nooney and Munger want to preserve the garden for future generations and are working with Friends of Bedrock Gardens and new executive director John Forti to transition the property into a public garden.


Bedrock Gardens will close out the 2017 season with a special fundraising Fairy House and Hobbit House Festival Weekend, October 7-9, 11 am to 3 pm. Tracy Kane, award-winning Fairy Houses author,, will read from her books. Visitors can stroll along a Fairy and Hobbit House Trail past houses created by gardeners, artists, and children, and take time to make their own house out of natural materials provided. Chili, books, whimsical handmade creations and fairy fare will be for sale. The entire garden will be available for touring.


Bedrock Gardens, 45 High Rd., Lee, NH 03861, (603) 659-2993,

Excerpted from The Garden Tourist, 120 Destination Gardens and Nurseries in the Northeast by Jana Milbocker

The Magical Garden of Green Animals


Green Animals is the oldest and most northern topiary garden in the United States. The 7-acre estate overlooks the Narragansett Bay, and contains a whimsical garden with more than 80 topiaries sculpted from California privet, yew, and English boxwood.


This small country estate in Portsmouth was purchased in 1872 by Thomas E. Brayton, Treasurer of the Union Cotton Manufacturing Company in Fall River, Massachusetts. It included a white clapboard summer residence, farm outbuildings, a pasture and a vegetable garden. Brayton's daughter Alice gave the estate its name because of the profusion of "green animals" created by property superintendent Joseph Carreiro.


Carreiro was hired to design and maintain the ornamental and edible gardens from 1905 to 1945. He experimented with California privet propagated in the estate greenhouse, and developed a system for training these, without the support of frames, into over-sized animal shapes. Many of the animals took almost 20 years to grow into their final size. Since the Brayton home was a summer residence, it was not a concern that privet was deciduous and sheds its leaves in the fall. His son-in-law, George Mendonca, superintendent until 1985, expanded the gardens to include more than 80 topiaries, and sculpted some from yew and boxwood.


Alice Brayton inherited the estate and made it her permanent residence. She became an avid historian and gardener herself, and bequeathed Green Animals to The Preservation Society of Newport County upon her death. Today, Green Animals remains as a rare example of an estate with formal topiaries, beautiful flower, vegetable and herb gardens, orchards and a Victorian house.


The landscape is a series of garden rooms bordered by mature conifers and magnolias. The fanciful topiaries are the stars of the garden. Favorites include teddy bears, a camel, a giraffe, an ostrich, an elephant, a unicorn, a reindeer, a dog, and a horse with his rider. They are set within lovely flower beds planted with colorful perennials and annuals. Near the house and main entrance, the topiary retains a more formal style of figurative and geometric shapes. A walkway of arched topiary leads around the house to the front porch, where you can relax on a rocking chair and enjoy a view of the bay. The topiaries are all trimmed by hand using garden shears and require weekly hand trimming. Some conservation metal supports have been discreetly positioned inside the forms to provide stability in wind and snow.


The rest of the garden is equally magical. Grape arbors, fruit beds, orchards, cutting gardens and an extensive vegetable gardens sport decorations and whimsical scarecrows that delight children.


The Brayton house museum contains a display of vintage toys including a large collection of toy soldiers and vintage dollhouses. Adults will appreciate the original Victorian family furnishings and decoration.


Ribbons for prize-winning dahlias and vegetables, dating from about 1915, line the walls of the well-curated gift shop. Green Animals Topiary Garden is a delight for gardeners of all ages!




Edinburgh's Beloved Botanic Garden

Armed with an umbrella, sweater and raincoat, I toured Edinburgh's Royal Botanic Garden on Sunday. While July temperatures in the mid-50s and scattered downpours do not deter traveling gardeners from visiting botanic gardens, I was amazed to find the garden packed with city residents and tourists enjoying their Sunday outdoors. Mothers pushed babies in prams, dads chased after runaway toddlers, elderly couples strolled arm in arm admiring the delicate alpines, Spanish tourists snacked on sandwiches in the Chinese pavilion, a group of American teenagers chatted about their European adventures, and a Japanese bride and groom kissed for the photographer while the caterer distributed flutes of champagne to their guests. I walked around marveling at the 4' tall hardy geraniums, the swaths of Japanese primroses, the towering monkey puzzle trees, and the many plants from all corners of the world that I had never seen before.

 The 500-foot long Herbaceous Border, created in 1902, is backed by a commanding hedge of 158 beech trees. The hedge is pruned annually to retain its 24' height.

The 500-foot long Herbaceous Border, created in 1902, is backed by a commanding hedge of 158 beech trees. The hedge is pruned annually to retain its 24' height.

 Himalayan poppy (Meconopsis grandis) is popular in Scotland and grows to 4' with beautiful sky-blue flowers in June.

Himalayan poppy (Meconopsis grandis) is popular in Scotland and grows to 4' with beautiful sky-blue flowers in June.

Showcasing 128,000 plants from 156 countries, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) is a living encyclopedia of horticulture that brings out the "plant geek" in all of us. The garden was founded in 1670 as a "physic garden" by two adventurous Scottish doctors who returned from a 'grand tour' of Europe determined to grow, study and identify plants for treatment of disease. Medical students were schooled in botany by the Head Gardener until the mid 1800s. With the expansion of the British Empire, the plant collections grew rapidly, and the garden was relocated several times to accommodate new acquisitions. It has been at its current site on the outskirts of the city center since 1821.

 The Chinese Hillside is the result of plant hunter George Forrest's seven trips to Yunnan between 1904 and 1932. Winding paths, a waterfall, bridge and pavilion are placed among 16,000 plants collected from Yunnan, many rare and endangered.

The Chinese Hillside is the result of plant hunter George Forrest's seven trips to Yunnan between 1904 and 1932. Winding paths, a waterfall, bridge and pavilion are placed among 16,000 plants collected from Yunnan, many rare and endangered.

 Young monkey puzzle trees in the Biodiversity Garden which illustrates the evolution of plants.

Young monkey puzzle trees in the Biodiversity Garden which illustrates the evolution of plants.

One of the first things that you notice when visiting the garden are the magnificent and unusual trees set in a stately, park-like setting of 70acres. Some of these trees were moved from the garden's previous location and are more than 200 years old. Others were acquired as seeds from habitats that no longer exist, such as the extremely rare Catacol whitebean. Only one other specimen of this tree exists in the wild - in a ravine on the isle of Aran.

 A stand of coastal redwoods planted in the 1920s creates a cathedral-like atmosphere and is a popular site for weddings.

A stand of coastal redwoods planted in the 1920s creates a cathedral-like atmosphere and is a popular site for weddings.

RBGE's glasshouses offer ten distinct climatic zones with thousands of flowering plants, cycads and ferns. The Temperate Palm House, currently under renovation, was built in 1858 and is one of the tallest in the world. The Plants and People House showcases plants that are integral to our daily lives - sugar, cocoa, rice and coffee, as well as giant water platters. Other glasshouses feature plants of the desert, the rainforest and mountain regions. My favorite was the Lowland Tropics House and its collection of gingers that sported the most unusual flowers (see red pinecone below).

Themed gardens illustrate various habitats from around the world. The Alpine Garden exhibits plants from high mountain tops which are a real challenge to grow in Edinburgh's maritime lowlands climate. Alpines are important to RGBE's conservation work, as they can be indicators of global warming. The Alpine House and Tufa House protect these tender plants from the wet Scottish climate. Troughs are used to create individual landscapes representing miniature mountain tops.

The Rock Garden features 5,000 plants from the great mountain ranges of Chile, China, Europe, Japan, South Africa and North America. Dwarf conifers, bulbs and rhododendrons complement true alpines. The neighboring Scottish Heath Garden shows off Scotland's iconic shrub.

The Queen Mother's Memorial Garden was formally opened in 2006, and reflects the Queen Mother's love of gardening. A Celtic-style labyrinth planted with bog myrtle is surrounded by perennial beds and a charming pavilion.

 The Memorial Pavilion within the Queen Mother's Garden is decorated with shells collected by schoolchildren from around Scotland. The ceiling is lined with pine cones from RBGE's gardens.

The Memorial Pavilion within the Queen Mother's Garden is decorated with shells collected by schoolchildren from around Scotland. The ceiling is lined with pine cones from RBGE's gardens.

 The Demonstration Garden is used by local schools and students in RGBE's Horticulture and Herbology courses to experiment with growing crops and medicinal plants.

The Demonstration Garden is used by local schools and students in RGBE's Horticulture and Herbology courses to experiment with growing crops and medicinal plants.

 Swaths of primroses, trilliums and other shade lovers thrive in the woodland garden, along with rhododendrons and magnolias. Many of these plants look like they are on steroids: Edinburgh's mild, wet climate provides ideal growing conditions.

Swaths of primroses, trilliums and other shade lovers thrive in the woodland garden, along with rhododendrons and magnolias. Many of these plants look like they are on steroids: Edinburgh's mild, wet climate provides ideal growing conditions.

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is open daily except Christmas and New Year's Day, and features a restaurant, cafe, shop stocked with gifts and plants, and seasonal exhibitions and events. Admission is free, with a small fee for the glasshouses. See for more info.

Roses Bloom at Elizabeth Park


June is the best time for visiting gardens that feature roses, and there's no place better in New England than Elizabeth Park in Hartford, Connecticut - the home of our country's oldest public rose garden.


The property was once called Prospect Hill, the Hartford farming estate of wealthy businessman and politician Charles Murray Pond, and his wife, Elizabeth. When he died in 1894, Charles left his entire estate to the City of Hartford for a public park in his will. The estate consisted of 90 acres and a generous fund to purchase additional land, hire a park designer, and for maintenance. He requested that the park be a botanical park and named after his wife, Elizabeth, who was an avid gardener.

Swiss-born landscape architect Theodore Wirth was hired as the park superintendent, and he worked with the firm of Frederick Law Olmstead to design this new space. Elizabeth Park reflects a combination of both schools of landscape design with European formal gardens and Olmstead's natural setting with serpentine roadways, sweeping vistas and peripheral trees.

The rose garden is the centerpiece of Elizabeth Park, 2.5 acres in size with 475 beds and over 15,000 rose bushes and arches. The arches are in full bloom in late June to early July, and are just spectacular. They only bloom once. Many of the other roses continue to bloom until the fall.

If you visit in June, be sure to see the separated Heritage Rose Garden —one of the few in the country. Also known as Old Garden Roses, Heritage Roses—Albas, Bourbons, Centifolias, Damasks, Chinas, Gallicas, Hybrid Perpetuals, Moss, Noisettes, Portlands and Teas—are extremely fragrant and bloom only in June. These roses are exhibited in raised beds that form a five-petaled rosette symbolizing a centifolia or 100-petaled rose, which is the typical form of a heritage rose.


I grew up just a few miles from Elizabeth Park, and have a personal connection to the rose garden. My neighbor and friend Donna Fuss became a stay-at-home mom when her children were born, and developed a passion for gardening, especially for roses. She and her husband Mike planted a small formal rose garden in a corner of their backyard, and as their passion for roses grew, added more and more rose beds throughout the yard. They started entering rose shows, judging, and co-founded the Connecticut Rose Society. Donna’s hobby evolved into a second career, and she became the consulting rosarian to Elizabeth Park Rose Garden. Knowledgeable, outgoing, generous, and funny, Donna became an ambassador for Elizabeth Park - fondly known as the “Rose Lady.” She shared her garden enthusiasm with everyone she met, and I owe some of my garden passion to Donna.

In addition to its rose gardens, Elizabeth Park has several other notable gardens. The Perennial Garden is formal in design, with a central wooden pavilion adorned with Clematis Jackmanii. Enclosed by a hedge of dwarf Japanese yew, the garden features 1,600 perennials arranged in “cool” and “warm” color beds accented by silver grey foliage.

The Tulip and Annual Garden is planted with 11,000 tulips each fall for a spectacular spring display, and features a American Flag in summer.

The Shade Garden features mixed plantings of herbs, perennials, ornamental grasses, woody shrubs, and small evergreen and deciduous trees. Several horticultural groups design, plant, and maintain gardens in the park. These specialty gardens include the herb garden, dahlia display garden and iris garden.

After touring the gardens, you can have lunch at the Pond House Cafe located withing the park. The cafe features eclectic cuisine made with fresh, local ingredients. The menu changes to reflect the seasons.

Elizabeth Park is open 365 days of the year, dawn to dusk, and is FREE to the public. There are no admission fees.

Elizabeth Park is one of the gardens profiled in The Garden Tourist, a book of 120 destination gardens and nurseries in the Northeast, which will be published in fall 2017.




Spring Ideas from Blithewold

Joan and I had the pleasure of presenting our lecture "Spring Ephemerals and Other Delights" at Blithewold last April. For those of you that have never been there, Blithewold is a 33-acre estate with a 45-room mansion framed by a series of lovely gardens overlooking Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island. The property was purchased in 1895 by Augustus and Bessie Van Wickle, and served as the family summer home. The gardens were designed in the late 1800s, and feature a 10-acre lawn, an arboretum of specimen trees, perennials gardens, and a "bouquet" or scenic woodland. Bessie and her daughter Marjorie were ardent gardeners and turned the estate into a horticultural showplace. 

Blithewold is beautiful in all seasons. In the spring, the rose garden, framed by an Asian-inspired moon gate, blooms with colorful bulbs and early perennials.

Tulips, leucojum, grape hyacinths, bleeding hearts, euphorbia and other perennials welcome you to the Blithewold estate. 

Century-old trees present a sculptural beauty even in early spring, before they leaf out. Some are underplanted with shade and drought-tolerant perennials such as epimedium (below).

The chartreuse leaves of ginkgo trees are a delight when viewed against the mature deep green conifers.

The Bosque is planted with thousands of daffodils and a carpet of spring ephemerals including mayapples (above) and erythronium, also known as trout lilies (below). These woodland plants bloom while there is ample sunlight before the trees leaf out, and become dormant in the summer.

The Van Wickles used stone from their property to create rock gardens and garden ornaments such as the whimsical stone bench below.

Flowering crabapples frame the view of Narragansett Bay. In April, you can view more than 50,000 daffodils in bloom. In May, see the Magnolias, Flowering Cherries, Honeysuckles, Weigelas, Lilacs, and Viburnum, along with hundreds of blooming perennials.

Joan and I will be back at Blithewold on Monday, May 8 at 1:00 pm, presenting our "Propagating Perennials" workshop. Hope you can join us!

Falmouth Estate Offers Gardens and Art

If you are on the Cape this summer, I would highly recommend a visit to Highfield Hall in Falmouth, MA. Highfield Hall and Gardens is the magnificently restored 1878 estate of the Beebe family, with a dramatic history and a vibrant present-day existence. It offers something for everyone – the gardener, history buff, antique collector, art lover, theater fan and nature lover.

Highfield Hall was one of the early summer mansions built on the Cape, and is one of the few remaining examples of Stick-style Queen Anne architecture in the Northeast. It was one of two mansions built on nearly 700 acres by the James Beebe family, which gathered on the Cape for the summers and entertained in grand fashion. When the last Beebe family member died, the estate was sold and used for a variety of purposes by subsequent owners – from health resort to religious retreat to hotel. In 1949, the estate was purchased by DeWitt TerHeun, a great patron of the theater and opera, who created a theater on the grounds for college students. The theater remains the home of Falmouth’s much-loved summer stock company from Oberlin College, the College Light Opera Company.

From the late 1970s to 1994, Highfield was abandoned and suffered two decades of neglect and vandalishm. In 1994, a demolition permit was filed by the owners, which propelled a group of Falmouth citizens to organize to save the mansion. The group, now the Highfield Hall & Gardens non-profit organization, was embroiled in years of legal battles to stave off demolition. Volunteers cleared the property and secured the building from further decay and vandalism, while raising money and public awareness of the mansion’s plight. Finally, in 2000, the Town of Falmouth took Highfield Hall and 6 acres by eminent domain, and authorized the non-profit grout to renovate and operate the property. The extraordinary restoration effort that followed was made possible through donations totaling in excess of $8.5 million, almost all of which were contributed by private individuals. In 2006, the first stage of restoration was completed, and Highfield was opened to the public.

For the garden afficianado, Highfield Hall provides two formal gardens, a labyrinth, as well as walking paths through a rhododendron dell, heritage beech plantings and nearly 400 acres of woodlands. When Highfield Hall was built, there were far fewer trees on the property than there are today, since wood was the main source of building materials and heat. To design their property, the Beebes enlisted renowned landscape designer Ernest Bowditch, and later Frederick Law Olmstead. The Beebes were passionate about their plantings, and many of their favorite beech trees remain on the property.

Two formal gardens were part of the original plan. The West Garden, originally a cutting garden, supplied fresh flowers for the house all season long. Franklin Beebe was often found in this garden, tending his favorite flower, the carnation. Today, this garden is planted with shade and sun-loving perennials, from hostas to daylilies, rudbeckia, sedums and scabiosa.

The Sunken Garden was restored in 2011 according to a design by noted landscape preservationist Lucinda Brockway. Lucinda based her design on evidence of the Beebe’s original garden, but created a planting scheme that would offer more seasonal color and easier maintenance. The gardens are maintained by volunteers. The central boxwood-bordered beds bloom in shades of purple and blue in the summer with hundreds of salvias, ‘Rosane’ geraniums, and verbena bonariensis, accented with the silver foliage of artemesia, circling spiky yuccas. The outer beds feature peonies and re-blooming daylilies. The focal point of the garden is a tall whimsical tree scupture named “The Spirits of the Garden” by Alfred Glover, representing the passageways between the spiritual and the living in the garden.

When you visit Highfield Hall the summer, you will be treated to a wonderful art exhibit which is on view through September 14: “Kanreki: A 60 Year Journey. The 60th CWAJ Exhibition of Contemporary Japanese Prints”. This exhibit features more than 200 contemprorary Japanese prints by established and emerging artists. The prints encompass diverse techniques from traditional woodblock to intaglio, lithography, etching, aquatint, silkscreen and more contemporary digital innovations. The show debuted in Tokyo, and Highfield Hall is its exclusive US venue.



Poetry, Garden and Art

In addition to wonderful botanic gardens, New England is rich with historic estates and their beautiful gardens. If you are traveling through Connecticut on Rte. 84, you can visit one such estate located west of Hartford - Hill-Stead Museum in Farmington. Hill-Stead offers a unique glimpse into the lifestyle of a well-to-do family at the turn of the 20th century. Set on 152 acres, the estate houses a fabulous art collection including Impressionist paintings by Mary Cassatt, Edge Degas, Edouard Manet, Claude Monet, and James McNeill Whistler, as well as a print collection spanning 400 years.

Hill-Stead was the first architectural project of Theodate Pope Riddle (1867-1946), who was the fourth registered female architect in the country, an early proponent of historic preservation, and caretaker of the family art collection. She designed Hill-Stead as a country home for her parents, and the 33,000 square foot Colonial-Revival mansion was completed in 1901.

When Theodate died in 1946, her will stipulated that Hill-Stead become a museum as a memorial to her parents, and "for the benefit and enjoyment of the public." She called for the house and its contents to remain intact: not the be moved, lent or sold.

Theodate's vision for Hill-Stead was not limited to the architecture - she was equally interested in the surrounding landscape. The original gardens at Hill-Stead included an expansive Walking Garden for strolling, and a Sunken Garden designed by Beatrix Farrand.

The octagonal Sunken Garden occupies nearly an acre, and boasts a summer house, brick walkways, and a stone sundial inscribed with "Art is Long, Life is Brief" in Latin. More than 90 varieties of perennials in shades of pink, blue, purple and white accented with silvery-gray foliage mimic the color palette of the Impressionist paintings found within the mansion.

July and August are perfect for visiting Hill-Stead. The tour of the home showcases beautiful antiques, decorative arts, and of course the art collection. In addition to the gardens, Hill Stead's three miles of walking trails feature a pond habits, meadows. lowland, and forests, and are a nature enthusiast's and bird watcher's paradise. The museum also hosts an annual poetry festival with five nationally acclaimed poets, poetry writing workshops, and musical entertainment. For more information, visit

Tranquil Beauty in the Seattle Japanese Garden


One of my favorite April vacations was a visit to an old friend who had relocated to Seattle. Although my friend is not a gardener, he was a gracious and generous host who accompanied me to several public gardens that were on my "must-see" list. I was particularly anxious to visit a Japanese garden since there are few of those in the Northeast, and I was not disappointed.

There are two main Japanese gardens in Seattle - the Kubota Garden and the Seattle Japanese Garden. The Seattle Japanese Garden is a 3.5 acre garden tucked into the southern end of the Washington Park Arboretum. This small, perfectly designed jewel of a garden is one of the oldest Japanese gardens in North America, and is considered one of the most authentic and beautiful Japanese gardens outside of Japan.

The garden was conceived as a bridge between the Japanese and American people, and was created in 1960 by world-renowned designers Juki Iida and Kiyoshi Inoshita. Construction of the garden included bringing 580 granite boulders, ranging from 1,000 pounds to 11 tons,  from the Cascade mountains. These boulders were personally scouted and selected by Iida, wrapped in bamboo matting and transported to the garden where they were carefully arranged to complement the plantings.

Traditional Japanese gardens are all about form and structure, developed through the thoughtful  juxtaposition of stone, water, plants and decorative elements. The gardens are designed for tranquility and quiet contemplation. Seasonal interest is achieved through flowering trees and shrubs - cherry blossoms, azaleas, rhododendrons and tree peonies in the spring, and the colorful foliage of maples and ginkgo trees in the fall. Cedars, pines, ferns and mosses provide serene green backdrops and textural interest.

The Seattle Japanese Garden features a pond with turtles, giant koi, and herons that fly in from the neighboring arboretum. Winding paths allow you to slowly enjoy the unfolding vistas and intricate details of sculptural tree trunks, ethereal blossoms and gracious lanterns. With the gentle background melody of birds and running water, the Seattle Japanese Garden is a beautiful place to spend a few hours in perfect tranquility.

Flower Show Fever

By late February, most gardeners are just itching to be surrounded by green foliage and fragrant flowers. Seed trays beckon at Home Depot, though it's way too early to start most seeds indoors. You can feel the magnetic pull of primroses at the grocery store. You visit nurseries with greenhouses just to be around plants. Even though it's been a mild winter, cabin fever is rampant.

It's no wonder that flower shows are thronged in late February and March. This year I squeezed in both the Rhode Island and Connecticut flower shows into a two-day flower show marathon. Both shows are held during the same weekend every year, which coincides with the end of February school vacation. Both are smaller than the Boston Flower Show, but feature landscape displays, floral arranging competitions, horticulture exhibits, lectures and vendors. 

This year's theme of the Rhode Island show was "Spring Fling" - delighting all the senses. Visitors could "see" and "smell" the flowers, "touch" spring's bounty through interactive exhibits, "hear" a variety of live musical performances, and "taste" goodies prepared by local chefs through a new "Garden to Table" culinary series. One of our favorite exhibits was this "She-Shed" pictured above - everyone needs one of those!

We heard several entertaining and informative talks, including one on the garden design process, Roger Swain's "Vegetables for All", rose gardening in New England, and how to adorn the garden with trees, art and stonework.

Both the Rhode Island and Connecticut shows are held in large convention centers with attached parking garages, and are easy to access from the interstates. They both offer refreshments and lots of shopping options. The Rhode Island show was heavier on jewelry and home improvement vendors, and we were accosted by gutter guard salesmen at least 3 times.

The Connecticut Show was located in a larger hall, and as a result the landscape exhibits were larger in scale and complexity. 

Several exhibits were geared toward children, such as this whimsical garden tea party.

Others illustrated beautiful use of stone, water and decorative objects. The Connecticut Show had three lecture halls with simultaneous seminars all day, so there was more content to choose from. I learned more about roses and was entertained by the headliner Mar Jennings, a self-described "America's top lifestyle expert" and TV host who illustrated "Casual Luxury" in the garden.

The best feature of the Connecticut Show were the 300+ exhibitors, many of whom actually sold PLANTS, garden tools, and garden decorations. Needless to say, I saw no one departing empty handed. So mark your calendars for the third weekend in February 2017 and look forward to this respite from winter!

Hampton Court's Romantic Gardens


The sixty acres of gardens and grounds surrounding Henry VIII's Hampton Court Palace in Britain are majestic and inspiring. 

The earliest gardens, relatively modest gardens, were created for Cardinal Wolsey, but it was under the auspices of Henry VIII that today's ground plan largely took shape. Henry VIII was not much interested in beautiful flowers - he was more keen on the sport that took place in the Deer Park and Tiltyard, the scene of jousting competitions.

The gardens were formalized in the baroque manner under William and Mary and subsequent changes were made as 500 years of royals gardened on the property. Today's gardens may not be true to one particular era, but they are stately and awe inspiring. Even if your own garden is a small plot, you can learn from the lovely plant combinations, the cultural practices in the vegetable and herb garden, and appreciate the beauty and pageantry of the garden and palace.


The walled formal rose garden is punctuated with beautiful statuary and was in full bloom in September.


The herb garden's formal layout is reminiscent of Victorian-era bedding gardens.


The Kitchen Garden grew all of the produce and fruit for Henry VIII's court.


The ornamental bed decorated the river gateway to the palace grounds.


Ornate Victorian-style bedding gardens decorate the Fountain Garden, a strolling garden that original showcased 13 magnificent fountains and clipped yews.


The Orangery Garden (above) shows Queen Mary II's passion for rare and exotic plants. She had an orangery built to house her orange and lemon trees and cactuses.


The Privy Garden (above) has existed on the south side of the palace since it was first created by Henry VIII in 1533. The recreation that is seen today has all of the original plant varieties, statues and hedges that were installed by William III.


The Knot Garden (above) was laid out in 1924 to show the type of garden that Henry VIII may have had at the palace.


These sunken gardens (above and below) were originally ponds used to hold freshwater fish such as carp, to feed Henry VIII and his court.


Hampton Court is easily accessible from London by train. You can also visit the palace by Thames riverboat - just like the court members and royalty of centuries past.

September in Kew Gardens


Thanks to my daughter's decision to spend a Semester Abroad in London, I was able to visit several wonderful English gardens in September. The first was the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew - regarded as the world's number one botanical garden with the largest and most comprehensive plant collection. What began as a "physic garden" of 9 acres in 1759 is now a 300 acre property with an arboretum, woodland, rock garden, Holly Walk, Winter Garden, numerous perennial beds and formal display gardens.

In addition to the plants, the garden is home to beautiful conservatories, museums, palm houses, Kew Palace and several temples. Since we had only one afternoon to spend there, we focused on the horticulture. Below are some views of the fabulous garden in September.


Kew's arboretum is a living library of trees that stretches over the majority of the Gardens and is a wonderful place to see many different species of trees including rare and ancient varieties.

 This specimen monkey puzzle tree was planted in 1978. The first monkey puzzle trees were brought to the UK in 1795 from chile.

This specimen monkey puzzle tree was planted in 1978. The first monkey puzzle trees were brought to the UK in 1795 from chile.


There are more than 2,000 species of trees in the vast arboretum including a collection of "Old Lions". These magnificent trees are the oldest trees with known dates in the Gardens, dating back to 1762.


Grasses and perovskia sway in the breeze and create a soft foreground for the collection of trees and shrubs.


The Duke's Garden showcases perennials with beautiful foliage such as the bergenia and heuchera above.


The large rock garden displays a range of mountain plants, Mediterranean plants, and moisture-loving species from around the world.


The beautiful Japanese Garden is comprised of three areas. Above we see the Garden of Peace, reminiscent of a traditional Japanese Tea Garden with stone lanterns and a dripping water basin.

Below, is a glimpse of the Garden of Activity, symbolizing the elements of the natural world such as waterfalls, mountains and the sea. The raked gravel and large rocks represent the motion of water as it swirls and tumbles.


Bunny Williams' Garden Style

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of visiting Bunny Williams' Litchfield County garden during one of the Garden Conservancy's Open Garden days. Bunny is a renowned interior designer and author of several books that I have enjoyed, including "An Affair with a House" and "On Garden Style". Her garden was at the top of my tour list for the day, and I was not disappointed. There was plenty of inspiration for anyone interested in plants, garden design, antiques and interior decor.

Bunny's fifteen-acre estate surrounds an eighteenth century New England manor house in Falls Village, Connecticut. A long gravel drive lined with gracious old trees brings visitors to the front door.

A rustic patio on the side of the house is welcomes guests from the parking court.

The back lawn is bordered by a whimsical yew hedge.

A small fishpond is the centerpiece of a sunken perennial garden.

Arborvitae line an alle to the upper garden.

The guest house with its adjoining conservatory looks out over this formal parterre.

A working greenhouse and elegant service barn border a beautiful vegetable/herb garden decorated with potted figs.

A cutting garden for house bouquets is included among the veggies.

An aviary with unusual chickens and fantail doves provides fresh eggs for the household.

Meandering paths lined with hundreds of mayapples, trilliums, ferns, solomon seal, tiarella and epimedium bring you to a large pond with a waterfall in the woodland garden.

Wandering uphill through an apple orchard of mature trees brings you to a swimming pool with eighteenth-century French coping.

A rustic Greek Revival-style pool house "folly", built to the exact proportions of a classical Greek temple, features a dining and lounging area for people and pets, and a small kitchen.

Private gardens such as this one are a treat to visit through the Open Garden Days program. For more information and a schedule, see the Garden Conservancy.

“Buy Local” for Your Garden

May is a prime time to buy plants for the garden, and local plant sales offer hardy stock, reasonable prices, and sometimes plants that you cannot purchase commercially. Years of gardening have taught me that the plants that thrive best in my garden are grown close to home. Commercially produced plants are propagated and grown in highly controlled conditions, in greenhouses hundreds of miles away, and forced for early bloom. They are often pot-bound, with roots compacted in a soilless mix that dries out quickly and is difficult to rehydrate. I have had the best success with perennials, trees and shrubs that are grown locally in a climate and soil that is similar to my own. These plants are generally hardy, reliable, and quickly adjust to their new home in my garden.

I try to attend several horticultural society and garden club sales every year, and am always pleased with my new finds. So mark your calendars and make some room in your beds!

The Massachusetts Horticultural Society is hosting its annual Gardeners’ Fair on Sunday, May 16 from 9:00 am – 3:00 pm at Elm Bank in Wellesley. The “Society Row Sale” features plants sold by fifteen local plant society chapters including the Daylily, Hosta, Conifer, Rose, Herb, Lilac and Cactus societies. Dozens of heirloom and hybrid tomato varieties will also be available for purchase from Allendale Farm.

The American Rhododendron Society will be participating  in the Gardener’s Fair with its plants for sale from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm. You can admire the wide array of beautiful rhododendron blooms at the Society’s truss show, which opens after completion of judging at about 11:00 am.

Thousands of outstanding plants of all kinds are offered by Tower Hill, premier vendors and plant societies at the Tower Hill Plant & Garden Accessory Sale. Saturday, May 30, open to members 9:00 -11:00 am, opens to the public at 11:00. 11 French Drive, Boylston, MA.


Gardeners looking to expand their epimedium collection can visit Garden Vision Epimediums in Phillipston on two May weekends in 2015: May 8-10, and May 15-17, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm, rain or shine. Garden Vision is primarily a mail order nursery, normally closed to the public except for the May sale weekends. On Saturday, May 16, nursery founder and epimedium expert Darrell Probst will be on hand at the nursery to answer your plant questions. Many of the hybrids are his introductions, and many of the plants sold at the nursery are clones of wild plants collected by him in China, Japan and Korea.

Native plants can be found at New England Wildflower Society’s Garden in the Woods in Framingham, which offers the largest selection of native trees, shrubs, vines, grasses, ferns, and perennials in New England. Garden in the Woods is open daily, and plants are available for sale throughout the season.

For four days only, Sister Plants, a collaborative of passionate perennial growers, holds its yearly spring plant sale in Reading, Massachusetts. New England plant lovers can choose from hundreds of varieties of lovingly nurtured perennials, shrubs, trees, and herbs. The majority of the plants are grown in local garden plots and are sold at a fraction of catalog and garden center prices, starting at just $3. May 16-17, Reading, MA,

Most garden clubs hold plant sales in May to fund their operations. Below is a partial listing, and others may be found on the Garden Club Federation of Mass. website calendar pages (

Holliston Garden Club, Saturday, May 16, 9:00 – 12:00, Congregational Church Green, Holliston,

Ashland Garden Club, Saturday, May 9, 9:00 – 12:00, Montenegro Square, Front St., Ashland,

Hopkinton Garden Club, Saturday, May 16, 8:00 – 11:00 am, Hopkinton Town Common,

Framingham Garden Club, Saturday, May 18, 9:00 – 12:00, Cushing Park, Winter Street, Framingham,

Fairbanks Garden Club, Saturday, May 16, 9:00 – 12:00, historic Fairbanks House, 511 East St, Dedham

Greenleaf Garden Club of Milford, Saturday, May 16 8:00 – 12:00, Louisa Lake parking lot, Dilla St., Milford

Groton Garden Club, Saturday May 9, 8:30 – 12:00, Main Street (Rt. 119), in front of Town Hall

Foxboro Garden Club, Saturday, May 16, 9:00 – 12:00, Foxboro Common

Hortulus Farm – Where History and Horticulture Meet

I discovered Hortulus Farm quite by accident, browsing the internet for interesting places to visit on my way home from Philadelphia. It turned out to be a terrific discovery, truly “off the beaten path” - a place I will return to on future trips to the area.

Located in beautiful Bucks County, Hortulus Farm is a historic homestead with beautiful gardens and a large nursery. The heart of Hortulus Farm is the Isaiah Warner house, a classic Pennsylvania stone house built in the mid 1700s. It is surrounded by two immense dairy barns and other outbuildings that were added in the mid 1800s when the farm operated as a large dairy. The current owners, author Jack Straub and garden designer Renny Reynolds, acquired the property in 1980. and set about the restoring the buildings and creating the present garden.

Hortulus Farm’s 100 acres of gardens are based in part on English models, but American in personality. They take their inspiration from American architecture as well as our native woodlands that surround the more formal gardens close to the house. Meandering paths and gracious alles pass between ponds and over bridges, connecting more than 20 individual gardens that surround the “village” of buildings at the center of the property. These include a breathtaking woodland walk, lush flower borders, a raised-bed potager, herb gardens and a stunning pool garden, all enhanced with hedges, topiary, statuary, follies and water features.

When you visit Hortulus Farm, you are immediately impressed by the pastoral beauty of the landscape, the gracious layout of the gardens, and the animals that call the farm “home”. Set amongst the formal gardens are dovecotes, an elegant cage with three peacocks, an chicken coop with a wisteria arbor, and horses grazing in the surrounding pastures. A large pond is home to ducks, swans and a resident blue heron. Unlike other “public” gardens, Hortulus is teaming with life.

I look forward to seeing the garden in other seasons – when the hundreds of daffodils and woodland perennials bloom in the spring, or when the vast peony alle is in full bloom (the owners supply cut peonies to the New York flower markets). Hortulus Farm can be toured from May to October, along with its museum and large nursery, which offers unusual tropical, topiaries, perennials, shrubs and preplanted containers.

To learn more about Hortulus Farm, visit

Longwood’s Lovely Waterlilies

The metropolitan Philadelphia area is a gardening mecca, and I always squeeze in a few garden tours when visiting my daughter at school. So when Parent’s Weekend concluded last week, I headed off to a wonderful afternoon at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA.

 Late September is a great time to visit many public gardens, and I was overwhelmed with the beautiful borders of cannas, dahlias and grasses, a Dahlia Society show, and the stunning greenhouses. But the most awesome spectacle at this time of year are the water gardens of Longwood, whose peak bloom time is from late July through September.

Tucked into a protected courtyard within the Main Conservatory, five pools feature more than 100 types of day and night-blooming tropical waterlilies, hardy waterlilies, lotuses, giant water platters and other aquatic and bog plants, such as papyrus and rice plants.

The waterlilies bloom in hues ranging from blues to whites, yellows, reds, and oranges. Some have striking foliage streaked with maroon. I was duly inspired to try my hand at growing waterlilies in my humble home pond next year. But the most dramatic plant at Longwood defies home use, and is cited as one of the wonders of the plant kingdom: the giant waterlily ‘Victoria’.

This Amazonian wonder (below) features leaf pads that grow to a diameter of 6-10 feet, and each lily may have 10 pads at one time, consuming an area 30 feet across. The leaves emerge as prickly shells and then unfurl at a rate of as much as two feet per day. Fully open, they can support the weight of a grown man, and the undersides are covered in spines, apparently to protect the plants from fish and manatees.


Victoria's flowers are enormous and a little bizarre. As full buds, they begin to generate their own heat, and then open to attract pollinating beetles with a tropical perfume reminiscent of pineapple, oranges and jasmine. The lilies start out as female flowers but develop into male flowers on their second night, at which point they have changed in color from white to a rose pink. On their third day, pollinated, they sink to the river bottom to grow seeds that, when mature, float.

Since the Victorias crave the heat and humidity of the tropics, they are difficult to grow in our northern climates. At Longwood, these giants are started from seed in late winter and planted in submerged planters at the end of May. They grow rapidly in Longwood’s heated pools where the water is maintained at a constant 86 degrees. In an unheated pond, you would see them run out of steam in September with cooling temperatures, but at Longwood, the heating system allows robust displays as late as November.

Victoria water lilies were first observed in Bolivia by the Bohemian botanist Thaddaeus Haenke in 1801, and brought to Europe in the early 1800s. They were named in honor of Queen Victoria, who visited the first flowering plant at Kew in 1852. The two original species of Victoria (amazonica and cruziana) were brought to Longwood in the 1950s. Longwood’s aquatic plant expert, Patrick Nutt, succeeded in crossing the two species to produce a third Victoria lily, Longwood Hybrid, that is even more vigorous than its parents and produces a pad that is larger, with a pronounced and colorful rim. This fantastic waterlily draws throngs of visitors to Longwood every summer, and spurred the publication of Victoria: The Seductress by Dr. Tomasz Aniśko, curator of plants at Longwood Gardens, who oversees the proper naming and identification of plants, coordinates plant trials, and leads plant exploration efforts.

To see a time-lapse video of Victoria blooming at Longwood, visit