Mytoi: A Serene Island Garden

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There are few Japanese gardens in New England, so it is unusual to find one gracing the tiny island of Chappaquiddick for almost 70 years. In 1954 Mary Wakeman purchased land in Chappaquiddick for a summer home, and hired Edgartown architect Hugh Jones to design her a Japanese-style house. As payment, she sold him a 3-acre parcel across the road from her house for $1.

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Jones had developed a love of Japanese gardens during his military service. He began his own Japanese-style garden by scooping out a pond in the midst of the pitch pine forest, and building a little red bridge. He planted rhododendrons, azaleas and junipers. He did all of the landscaping and planting himself, and spent so much time on his garden that he referred to it as his "toy." He named the garden "my toy," which he spelled “M-Y-T-O-I” as we see it today.

When Jones died in 1965, his heirs sold the property back to Wakeman, who managed the garden and provided free access to the public. She donated the garden along with an endowment and an additional 11 acres of land to the Trustees in 1976.

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When Hurricane Bob descended on Chappaquiddick in 1991, it decimated more than 70% of the plantings. Only a few of the original pitch pines, azaleas and rhododendrons survived the onslaught. The Trustees hired the team of Don Sibley and Julie Moir Messervy to develop and implement a reconstruction plan. Sibley is an artist with a strong interest in Japanese culture and gardening practices. Messervy is a renowned landscape designer who studied in Japan and was the first Western woman to be apprenticed to a Japanese master gardener.

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Stewartia blossom in July

Stewartia blossom in July

The new Mytoi garden is divided into Japanese-inspired garden rooms, with Asian plants and traditional Japanese garden elements. The entry gate is modeled after one you would find at a Japanese temple, but crafted from local black locust trees. As you stroll through the garden, you find azaleas and rhododendrons from the original garden, complemented by new birch alles, Stewartias, threadleaf maples, mountain laurels, camellias, and paths lined with Japanese primroses.

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The pond is still there, but with a new zigzag-shaped bridge bordered by winterberry and beach plum. On a hill opposite the pond, a path leads to the azumaya, or traditional shelter where one would wait before entering a teahouse. A second hill topped with a bench provides a serene view of the water. The pond is stocked with koi, but due to local otters and osprey, the fish supply has to be supplemented with fresh donations every year. Mytoi invites you to slow down, to appreciate the nuances of Japanese design, and to contemplate the beauty of nature.

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Hours: Daily dawn to dusk, admission $3

Mytoi, 41 Dike Rd., Edgartown, MA 02539, (508) 627-7689

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Osborne Homestead Museum: The Home and Garden of an Extraordinary Woman

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By today’s standards, Frances Osborne Kellogg was an extraordinary woman. By the standards of the late 1800s, she was a force of nature—a successful industrialist, cattle breeder, philanthropist, and conservationist. When her father died in 1907 and the probate judge suggested that his companies be sold so that the family could live off the profits and Frances could go to college, the 31-year old young heiress replied, “Sell them? No. I intend to run them.”

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A gifted violinist from an early age, Frances was expected to study music in college. She loved attending opera, theater and musical concerts in New York City. But an accident with a sewing needle damaged her eyesight, and Frances’ life took a different direction. Her father had taught her how to run the family business, and Frances took on the unusual challenge as a woman CEO of four different companies. All of them prospered under her leadership.

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When she married New York architect Waldo Stewart Kellogg in 1919, the couple’s focus became the family dairy. The Kelloggs developed a reputation for their selective cattle-breeding program. As the family fortune grew, Frances invested in her community, supporting local organizations and building the Derby Neck Library.

Derby Neck Library

Derby Neck Library

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Waldo enlarged and remodeled the house in the Colonial Revival style in the 1920s, and Frances added the ornamental gardens. She had a deep love of flowers from childhood, and enjoyed attending annual flower shows in New York City. In 1910 she hired Yale architect Henry Killam Murphy to design her formal flower garden, and employed Robert Barton from Kew Gardens as her head gardener. 

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French doors lead from the house and conservatory to this lovely garden, which is also visible from the street. The garden is bisected by a white trellis fence accented with red roses, purple clematis, and yellow honeysuckle. A central arbor provides benches where you can sit and enjoy the beauty and scents of the flowers. One half of the garden is dedicated to Frances’s favorite flower, the rose. Four rectangular rose beds are enclosed by long borders of old-fashioned favorites such as foxgloves, irises, goats beard, and salvias. The other half of the garden is a formal perennial garden of bearded iris, peonies, daylilies and sedums. Four beds of standard roses, weigela and boxwood surround a circular bed accentuated with a sundial.

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The garden is bordered on one side by a long stone wall, with steps that lead to beds of lilacs and other ornamental shrubs and trees. On the slope above the formal gardens, a rock garden has been created with conifers, ferns and perennials. Peak time to see the garden is mid May to mid June.

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Frances’ love of gardening and nature continued throughout her lifetime. She was an active member of local garden societies, and became a sponsor of the Connecticut College Arboretum. As her interest in conservation grew, she became the first female vice chair of the Conn. Forest and Park Association. Frances lived in the family home until her death in 1956. Before she died, she deeded her entire estate to the State of Connecticut, including 350 acres for Osborndale State Park.

Photo courtesy of Connecticut Weekender

Photo courtesy of Connecticut Weekender

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In addition to the garden, you can tour the restored historic home with its collection of original furnishings, antiques, ceramics, artwork and personal mementos. Frances’ doll still rests on her childhood bed and the opera cape that she wore to performances at the Met is draped over a settee.

Osborne Homestead Museum, 500 Hawthorne Ave., Derby, CT 06418, (203) 734-2513
Hours: May 5–Oct. 28: Thurs.–Fri. 10–3, Sat. 10–4, Sun. 12–4

Presby Memorial Iris Garden: A Rainbow on the Hill

Van Gogh’s Irises

Van Gogh’s Irises

Cultivated in New England since early colonial times, irises have a long and revered history. The Greek goddess Iris was the messenger of the gods and the personification of the rainbow. The fleur-de-lis is derived from the shape of the iris and is the symbol of the royal family of France. In Japan, the rhizome was ground to create the white face makeup for the geisha. Iris flowers were a favorite subject of Impressionist painters. And in New Jersey, irises are the stars of this memorial garden.

Claude Monet, Iris Garden

Claude Monet, Iris Garden

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Frank H. Presby (1857–1924) was a leading citizen of Montclair and an iris hybridizer, collector, and founder of the American Iris Society. It was his expressed wish to give a collection of his favorite flower to Montclair’s newly acquired Mountainside Park, however he passed away in 1924 before he could carry out his plan. The Presby Gardens were established thanks to local resident Barbara Walther, who led the effort and watched over the garden for 50 years. 

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Located at the base of the 7.5-acre Mountainside Park, the gardens were designed in 1927 by John C. Wister, a Harvard University landscape architect. He designed the garden in a bow shape, and Presby Gardens is now referred to as the “rainbow on the hill.” The iris garden contains more than 10,000 irises of approximately 1,500 varieties, which produce more than 100,000 blooms over the course of the season.

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Peak bloom time is mid-May through the first week of June. Many of these irises were donated from Presby’s and Wister’s gardens, as well as from private Montclair gardens, the American Iris Society, and hybridizers all over the world.

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Every iris in the garden has a marker indicating the name of the iris, the hybridizer, and the year the iris was registered with the American Iris Society. Twenty-six beds contain bearded irises, each dedicated to a particular decade. Be sure to look for the Heirloom Iris bed (bed 5a & b) with plants dating from the 16th to 20thcentury. Also look for the dwarf irises, growing only to 8 inches in height. They are the earliest of the bearded iris to bloom, and are ideal for rock gardens and fronts of borders.

Beds running along the creek bed contain a collection of non-bearded Spuria, Siberian, Japanese, and Louisiana irises, which prefer a wetter setting. Purple weeping beeches, fringe trees, katsuras, stewartias, redbuds, and ginkgos provide an interesting border for the iris gardens. A bee sanctuary with seven hives was added in 2000.

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Growing Bearded Irises

Irises can be planted in the spring, in early fall, or in July and August when they are dormant. Plant your irises at least four to six weeks before your first hard freeze so that their roots are well established before the end of the growing season. Plant rhizomes 12 to 24” apart to avoid overcrowding.

Irises require at least a half-day (6-8 hours) of direct sunlight. Provide your irises with good drainage: a raised bed or a slope are ideal. Keep beds free of weeds and leaves.

It is a common mistake to plant Irises too deeply. Plant your rhizomes at or just barely below the surface of the ground. The tops of the rhizomes should be visible and the roots should be spread out facing downwards in the soil. Tamp the soil firmly to anchor the rhizomes until new roots begin to grow, and water well. 

Divide and replant iris that have become overcrowded (usually after three to five years) in July or August when the plants are dormant.

For more information or to join a local Iris Society branch, visit the American Iris Society.

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Presby Memorial Iris Gardens, 474 Upper Mountain Ave., Montclair, NJ, (973) 783-5974, presbyirisgardens.org. Hours: Daily dawn–dusk.

Best Spring Bulb Displays in the Northeast

Tower Hill Botanic Garden

Tower Hill Botanic Garden

Ready to welcome spring after a long Northeast winter? Nothing lifts the spirit like a stroll among masses of daffodils, tulips and other spring bulbs. Here’s my list of wonderful spring bulb displays to enjoy this year.

Tower Hill Botanic Garden

Tower Hill Botanic Garden

Tower Hill Botanic Garden

Mid-April to late May, Boylston, MA

Enjoy a changing bulb display at Tower Hill Botanic garden, beginning with Reticulated Iris and Hyacinths in mid-April, fields of 25,000 daffodils in late April to early May, and gorgeous tulip displays in mid to late May. Daffodils Day May 4-5. towerhillbg.org

Tower hill Botanic Garden

Tower hill Botanic Garden

Tower Hill Botanic Garden

Tower Hill Botanic Garden

Nantucket Daffodil Festival

Nantucket Daffodil Festival

Nantucket Daffodil Festival

April 26-28, Nantucket, MA

Nantucket’s annual daffodil celebration includes the Nantucket Daffodil Flower Show, a window decorating contest, antique car parade, tours, and art shows. Come in costume to the Daffy Hat Contest and children’s parade. daffodilfestival.com

Nantucket Daffodil Festival

Nantucket Daffodil Festival

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

Late April–late May, Boothbay, ME

Coastal Maine’s display gardens feature thousands of tulips, daffodils and other spring bulbs from late April to late May in one of New England’s premier public gardens. mainegardens.org

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

Blithewold Daffodil Days

Blithewold Daffodil Days

Blithewold Daffodil Days

April through Mid-May, Bristol, RI

The Bosquet, a cultivated woodland, features more than 50,000 daffodils at Blithewold Mansion Gardens and Arboretum. You will also see many woodland wildflowers in bloom.  blithewold.org

Heritage Museums & Gardens

Heritage Museums & Gardens

Heritage Museums & Gardens

Mid April–mid May, Sandwich, MA

A spectacular Bulb River of 35,000 grape hyacinths highlighted with 1,500 white daffodils flows on the grounds of Heritage Museums & Gardens in spring. The grape hyacinths begin to open in mid April and reach their peak around Mother’s Day. heritagemuseumsandgardens.org

Wicked Tulips (photo by Beth Reis)

Wicked Tulips (photo by Beth Reis)

Wicked Tulips Flower Farm

Late April–mid May, Johnston, RI

Wicked Tulips has the largest u-pick tulip field in New England, with 600,000 early, mid, and late blooming tulips. Enjoy the fields of color, and bring home a fresh hand-picked bouquet. The early tulips begin blooming in late April, followed by waves of later blooming tulips until Mother’s Day. The website Bloom Report provides important updates and allows you to see what is in bloom. Advance tickets are required and must be purchased online. wickedtulips.com

Newport Daffodil Days

Newport Daffodil Days

Newport Daffodil Days Festival

April 13–21, Newport, RI

Now in its 6th year, the Newport Daffodil Festival has beautified the city with more than 1 million daffodils. The week-long celebration includes a garden party, classic car parade, concerts, tours, dog parade and much more. Don’t miss the display of 11,000 daffodils of 29 varieties and the Green Animals Topiary Garden. newportdaffydays.com

Elizabeth Park

Elizabeth Park

Elizabeth Park

Mid-April–mid May, Hartford, CT

Daffodils in mid-April give way to a beautiful display of 11,000 tulips that peak on Mother’s Day. elizabethparkct.org

Colorblends

Colorblends

ColorBlends House and Spring Garden

April 1–May 12, Bridgeport, CT

 Stroll through an evolving display of color as snowdrops, crocuses, daffodils, tulips and other spring-flowering bulbs come into bloom at the ColorBlends House and Spring Garden. Located in Bridgeport’s  Stratfield Historic Distric, the 1903 Colonial Revival  mansion is surrounded by an intimate garden designed by distinguished Dutch  garden designer Jacqueline van der Kloet for Colorblends Wholesale Flowerbulbs..colorblendsspringgarden.com

Bartlett Arboretum & Gardens

Bartlett Arboretum & Gardens

Bartlett Arboretum & Gardens

Late April–mid May

Enjoy planting of early bulbs, daffodils and tulips blooming in 93-acres of formal gardens and natural habitats. bartlettarboretum.org

Meriden Daffodil Days

Meriden Daffodil Days

Meriden Daffodil Festival

April 27 & 28, Meriden, CT

One of Connecticut’s favorite celebrations, the Meriden Daffodil Festival features a juried craft fair, rides and food vendors, and an amazing fireworks show, all set against a spectacular display of 600,000 daffodils. daffodilfest.com

New York Botanic Garden

New York Botanic Garden

New York Botanic Garden

April–May, Bronx, NY

Explore the Rock Garden for tiny species daffodils, and Daffodil Valley, where the Murray Liasson Narcissus Collection is located. See the latest hybrids on the Daylily/Daffodil Walk, and antique cultivars planted in a seal of yellow and white on Daffodil Hill. nybg.org/garden

Reeves-Reed Arboretum

Reeves-Reed Arboretum

Reeves-Reed Arboretum

Mid April, Summit, NJ

Celebrate spring with a "host of golden daffodils," as poet William Wordsworth wrote, at Reeves-Reed Arboretum and enjoy one of the largest daffodil collections in New Jersey. The collection, planted in the Arboretum's glacially carved 'kettle' or bowl, was started in the early 1900s by the original owners of the property. Today the collection boasts more than 50,000 bulbs and the annual Daffodil Day brings visitors from all over the tri-state area. Daffodil Day is April 14, 2019. reeves-reedarboretum.org

Reeves-Reed Arboretum

Reeves-Reed Arboretum

Deep Cut Gardens

Deep Cut Gardens

Deep Cut Gardens

Mid-April–mid May, Middletown, NJ

Beautiful tulip and daffodil blooms are on display in this 54 acre formal garden. monmouthcountyparks.com

Deep Cut Gardens

Deep Cut Gardens

Frelinghuysen Arboretum

Frelinghuysen Arboretum

Frelinhuysen Arboretum

Mid April-mid May, Morris Township, NJ

The formal gardens at Frelinghuysen Arboretum feature gorgeous bedding displays of tulips. arboretumfriends.org

Frelinghuysen Arboretum

Frelinghuysen Arboretum

Chanticleer

Chanticleer

Chanticleer

Early April to mid-May

Chanticleer is ablaze with spring bulbs from species tulips, miniature daffodils and grape hyacinths on the hillside, to formal bedding of tulips and daffodils around the mansion. A sloping lawn, punctuated by flowering shade trees, features 80,000 white or pale yellow narcissus running in two rivers to the bottom. Virginia bluebells, trilliums, grape hyacinths and camassias create gorgeous displays in the woodlands. chanticleergarden.org

Chanticleer

Chanticleer

Longwood Gardens

Longwood Gardens

Longwood Gardens

Longwood Gardens

Longwood Gardens

Early April to early May, Kennett Square, PA

Early spring bulbs like glory-of-the-snow, winter-aconite, and crocus first herald the season’s arrival, with gorgeous tulips, wisteria, and flowering trees creating a lush spring tapestry of color, fragrance, and warmth. longwoodgardens.org

Longwood Gardens

Longwood Gardens

Bamboo Brook—a Beaux Arts Beauty

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Women landscape designers were a rarity in the early 1900s when Martha Brookes Hutcheson began her practice. I was fortunate to visit the Bamboo Brook Outdoor Education Center in Far Hills, New Jersey, which had once been known as Merchiston Farm—the home of Hutcheson and her husband from 1911 to 1959. Built in the late 18th century, the house was enlarged and remodeled by the Huchesons in 1927.

Hutcheson was one of America’s first female landscape architects and attended the School of Architecture and Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, along with Marion Coffin and Beatrix Farrand. She created landscape plans for dozens of estates in Massachusetts and Long Island. Hutcheson’s design for Merchiston Farm was completed shortly after the publication of her book The Spirit of the Garden, in 1923. 

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Native white dogwood underplanted with green hostas and white daffodils in early May

Native white dogwood underplanted with green hostas and white daffodils in early May

Hutcheson’s European travels inspired her to design her own garden in the Beaux-Arts style popular in the early 20thcentury. Drawing on European Renaissance and Baroque gardens as well as those of Islamic-era Spain, Beaux-Art gardens used formal geometry, allées and hedges, long vistas, reflecting pools and fountains, and native plants and materials. You see these design principles immediately at Bamboo Brook when you come upon the circular drive at the front of the house, punctuated with white dogwoods underplanted with green hostas. Hutcheson used a restrained color palette of greens, blues and whites, and repeated the circle motif throughout her landscape. 

Sunken circular patio in front of the house

Sunken circular patio in front of the house

Circular motif repeated in the architecture, with deutzia and centaurea montana

Circular motif repeated in the architecture, with deutzia and centaurea montana

The path from the driveway leads to the Upper Water—a pond designed to appear as a naturalized body of water. The pond has a practical use as well as an aesthetic one. It collects rain water runoff from the upper part of the property. It was placed to take advantage of both the topography and the architecture of the house, and, importantly, it reflects the plants, the house, and the sky. A winding stream leads from the Upper Water to the rest of the garden. Hutcheson was fascinated with water features and constructed an intricate system of cisterns, pipes, swales, and catch basins to supply her house, pools, and gardens with collected rainwater. 

Upper Water: a pond created to collect rainwater runoff and reflect the sky and plantings

Upper Water: a pond created to collect rainwater runoff and reflect the sky and plantings

Brook connecting the Upper Water to the circular pond

Brook connecting the Upper Water to the circular pond

When Hutcheson bought the house, she remodeled it and changed the front entrance to what was originally the back of the house. In the new back yard, the East Lawn and Coffee Terrace were designed with formal axial geometry. Informal plantings circle the oval East Lawn, which connects to the Circular Pool—a slightly sunken reflecting pool with six paths radiating from it and plantings of iris, phlox, ferns, dogwoods, and vinca. The Circular Pool was originally a farm pond in a natural hollow, which provided water for livestock. 

Coffee Terrace with lilacs and centaurea Montana

Coffee Terrace with lilacs and centaurea Montana

Garden in back of the house with amsonia, lilacs, boxwood

Garden in back of the house with amsonia, lilacs, boxwood

Amsonia and boxwood create quiet beauty

Amsonia and boxwood create quiet beauty

the Circular reflecting pool was used by the family as a swimming pool. it is 5’ deep and lined with native stone.

the Circular reflecting pool was used by the family as a swimming pool. it is 5’ deep and lined with native stone.

Beyond the lawn lies an axial garden with a white cedar allée and parterres adjacent to a tennis court and the children’s playhouse. Hutcheson placed rustic wood benches and chairs at spots where views could be enjoyed. She was a big proponent of native plants, and adapted species such as dogwood, lilac, sweet pepperbush, and elderberry to an Italian Renaissance-inspired design, and used native stone to create walls, patios, and steps throughout the garden. 

this garden connects the circular pool to the east lawn and coffee terrace.

this garden connects the circular pool to the east lawn and coffee terrace.

A semi-circular stone bench is built into the stone wall and repeats the circle motif.

A semi-circular stone bench is built into the stone wall and repeats the circle motif.

The Little House was Hutcheson’s quiet getaway. It was built over a small stream, which Hutcheson embellished with spillways and a lily pool, providing a home for water lovers such as sweetfern and iris. 

Little House built over a small stream

Little House built over a small stream

Geranium, phlox and ferns

Geranium, phlox and ferns

A straight road lined with elms and oaks extends from the house to a farm complex including a barn, garage, farmhouse, and various work yards set in an informal landscape of fields and woods. 

Buckeye in back garden

Buckeye in back garden

In 1972 Hutcheson’s heirs gave the property to the Morris County Parks Commission, and it has been restored to its 1945 appearance. In addition to the formal areas, there are numerous trails that wind through the fields and along Bamboo Brook, and connect to the Elizabeth D. Kay Environmental Center and Willowwood Arboretum. A self-guided cell phone tour provides valuable information. Bamboo Brook is located at 11 Longview Rd., Far Hills, NJ. It is open daily from 8 am to sunset.

For more gardens in New Jersey, see The Garden Tourist: 120 Destination Gardens & Nurseries in the Northeast.

The Lost Gardens of Heligan

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I first saw this image of the mysterious Mud Maiden circulating on Facebook, and was very excited to learn that I would see it in person at The Lost Gardens of Heligan during my tour of Cornwall gardens.

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Tim Smit, a successful composer and musical entrepeneur, and two acquaintances were looking for a suitable piece of land in Cornwall to start a rare breeds farm when they stumbled upon this derelict garden in 1990. The ancient shelter belts had come crashing down in the storms of 1987 and 1990, crushing everything in their path. Overgrown with vines, bamboos, and self-sown trees, the property was basically inaccessible.

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 As Smit wrote: “It was the silence, the unearthly silence, that struck you first…you could hear no birdsong, no rustlings, not even the far-off murmur of life elsewhere. This dank, dark place had its own strange beauty. We had cut our way through what had once been a formal laurel hedge, which had grown massive, and was now thirty yards wide. Having crawled on hands and knees, climbed, cut, pulled and pushed our way through the hedge, we found brambles snaking everywhere…”

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photo by Herbie Knott

photo by Herbie Knott

Smit and his companions stumbled upon the decaying remains of walls, buildings and greenhouses, with their roofs caved in, glass smashed, and walls obscured by brambles and vines

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On the wall of what was once the Thunderbox, or privy, they found the barely legible signatures of the men that had worked in this garden, and the date August 1914. This historic estate, belonging for hundreds of years to the Tremayne family, lost the great bulk of its staff to the First World War, and it never recovered.

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As the gardens were excavated, it looked as though the gardeners had left in the midst of their work one day, and never returned. Those same names found on the Thunderbox wall were later discovered on World War I memorials in neighboring burial grounds.

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Smit and his partners, along with crews of volunteers, spent several years cutting, clearing, burning and replanting. Much of the property was steep valley, inaccessible to large machinery, so the work had to be done by hand. When you visit Heligan today, you find a stunning garden and an archealogical resurrection of an old way of life in an affluent country house.

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The core of the estate was this magnificent kitchen garden, which was painfully restored to its original design.

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Brick and stone walls were carefully rebuilt, wooden panes and frames were milled to the original profiles, and glass mullions were replaced. The gardeners replanted cold frames, mellon houses and the antique pineapple pit with heirloom plants. After many attempts, they successfully grew pineapples using the traditional method of heating the pit with freshly rotting horse manure. 

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Heligan’s gardeners employ the gardening methods that were used in the 1800s, when the garden was in its prime. Our tour guide even demonstrated the correct way to use a Cornish shovel.

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The southfacing walls of the kitchen garden were planted with espaliered stone fruit trees. The walls absorbed the warmth of the sun and created a mild microclimate for the delicate trees. One of the walls was filled with alcoves for bee skeps that ensured pollination of the gardens.

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Heligan’s goal is to champion and conserve heritage varieties, so the vegetable gardens are planted with crops that would have been there in 1910. The vegetables are used for meal preparation in the café and sold to the public.

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Sumptuous flowers are grown in the kitchen garden as they would have been historically for decorating the manor.

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The Tremaynes were keen botanists and plant collectors. Many of the rhododendrons encircling Floras Green were grown from seed collected by plant explorer John Hooker in India and the Himalayas in the 1850s.

The Jungle garden was created in the late 1800s in a steep valley. Jack Tremayne wanted a wild place that contained as many exotic plants as he could find. He dug three ponds, and planted swaths of different bamboos, huge gunneras, exotic palms, and conifers from all over the world.

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Heligan has the largest collection of tree ferns in Britain. These arrived stowed as ballast on boats from Australia. When they arrived in Cornwall, the large dry rooty stumps were thrown into the river to be rehydrated before distribution among the Cornish gardens.

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Smit wrote: “When we first entered the Jungle, we felt like explorers coming on a lost world. Hundreds of self-seeded sycamores and ash trees obscured the landscape. Ferns, mosses and lichens covered everything in this dank place. The trees were so dense, it was easy to get lost.”

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Some of us faced our fears and crossed the Jungle valley on this rope bridge.

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These are some of the beautiful gingers growing in the Jungle garden.

This is just a quick preview of The Lost Gardens of Heligan. The vast estate has other formal garden as well as pastures, woodlands, a farmyard of heritage livestock breeds, poultry, and horses, and a cafe. It takes a full day to tour the entire property. For more information, see heligan.com. Tim Smit’s book, The Lost Gardens of Heligan, provides a fascinating account of the resurrection of this garden.
















Holiday Events for Gardeners

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November and December offer amazing holiday displays and fun events for gardeners in the Northeast. From Candlelight Walks to Christmas teas and majestic trees made of dried flowers, you will find a wealth of inspiration for your own holiday celebrations. Below is just a sampling. If your organization has an event that is not listed, please feel free to add it in the Comments.

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Christmas at the Newport Mansions

Newport Mansions, Newport, MA
November 17 - January 1

The Breakers, The Elms and Marble House are once again decorated 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. 

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A gingerbread model of each house, created by amazing local pastry chefs, will be on display in its kitchen. 


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Christmas at Blithewold

Blithewold, Bristol, RI
November 23 - 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! This year’s theme is “A Family Gathering”, recreating the Christmas weekend at Blithewold in 1910 based on the family’s diary entries. Enjoy a winter marketplace, holiday teas and musical performances.


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Candlelight Stroll and Vintage Christmas in Portsmouth

Strawberry Banke, Portsmouth, NH
December 1–22

Museum grounds glow with hundreds of lighted candle lanterns, the houses are adorned with thousands of hand-made decorations crafted from live greens and dried flowers and herbs collected from the Museum gardens, and the air is filled with the sound of holiday music and scent of woodsmoke from the bonfire. Visitors stroll from house to historic house, greeted by costumed role players and performers who recreate the traditions of times past.


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Festival of Trees and Snow Village

Massachusetts Horticultural Society, Elm Bank, Wellesley, MA
November 23-December 9

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 an enchanting display of model trains winding through villages and vignettes, including Christmas in the Boston, 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.


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Christmastime Teas

Florence Griswold Museum, Lyme, CT
December 11–29

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. The special blend is created over a two-day process by Sundial Gardens in Higganum, Connecticut.


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Gardens Aglow

Heritage Museums & Gardens, Sandwich, MA
November 23 - December 30

Heritage’s expansive gardens will be aglow with beautiful light displays, extensive indoor holiday décor and numerous activities around the grounds and galleries. This year visitors can expect expanded lighting displays and outdoor interactives, along with all of your favorites from previous years!


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Night Lights: Winter Reimagined

Tower Hill Botanic Garden, Boylston, MA
November 23 - December 30

Outside, visitors have the opportunity to marvel at glittering lights displayed throughout 15 acres of formal gardens, including the Fairy Light Walk through the forest that ends at the Wild Rumpus. Inside, you can see trees decorated with hand-made, nature-inspired ornaments, a model train village, and two conservatories brimming with subtropical plants and seasonal music.


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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.

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Holiday Marketplace

Berkshire Botanical Garden, Stockbridge, MA
December 1–2

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


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Holiday Open House

Peckham's Greenhouses, Little Compton, RI
December 1 & 2, 9am-5 pm

A special sale of handmade gifts and holiday plants set in Peckham’s many greenhouses.


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Winter Lights

Naumkeag, Stockbridge, MA
Thursdays-Sundays beginning Nov. 23, 5-8 pm

Enjoy the spectacular garden of Naumkeag lit with thousands of shimmering holiday lights. Each weekend features performances and activities for the whole family, from the young to the young at heart.  See something new throughout the season.


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Vanderbilt Mansion Christmas Open House

Vanderbilt Mansion, Hyde Park, NY
December 2, 10am-7 pm

The Mansion will be lavishly decorated for the holidays and refreshments will be provided by the Roosevelt-Vanderbilt Historical Association.


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Holiday Train Show

New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, NY
November 17–January 21

Marvel at G-scale locomotives humming past 175 New York landmarks on nearly a half-mile of track. This year’s exhibition showcases Lower Manhattan—the birthplace of New York City—featuring the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and iconic skyscrapers sharing the spotlight among old and new favorites. Making their debut this year are One World Trade Center and the historic Battery Maritime Building along with two vintage ferry boats.


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A Longwood Christmas

Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, PA
November 22–January 6

This holiday season pays homage to the Christmas tree with an imaginative display featuring traditional favorites and inspiring new twists, from festive firs suspended from above to towering tannenbaums created from books, stained glass, and other unexpected materials.

Outdoors, gloriously illuminated trees lead you on an enchanting holiday journey through our Gardens. Sip cocoa and warm up by our welcoming firepits, listen to carolers sharing the melodic sounds of the season, and relish in the beauty and wonder of A Longwood Christmas.


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Yuletide at Winterthur

Winterthur, Winterthur, DE
November 17–January 6

Each delightful room on this year’s Yuletide Tour tells a story reflecting the ways in which Americans have celebrated the winter holiday season from the 1800s to the present.  Other decorations and displays recall H. F. du Pont’s family traditions during Christmas and New Year’s at Winterthur—including the family Christmas tree, glittering with glass ornaments and fringed by baskets brimming with gifts, one for each family member. Of special note is the majestic dried flower tree, on view in the Conservatory and featuring some 60 varieties of flowers.

English Exotica: Tresco Abbey Garden

photo courtesy of tresco.co.uk

photo courtesy of tresco.co.uk

On a recent garden tour of Cornwall, England, I was delighted to visit the glorious Tresco Abbey Garden on Tresco Island, one of the Isles of Scilly. The Isles of Scilly are an archipelago of five inhabited islands and many rock outcroppings located off the southwestern tip of Cornwall. Reaching Abbey Garden was no small task—a meticulously orchestrated journey by rented van, small airplane, airport transport bus, ferry boat and tractor-pulled trolley. The journey was well worth the visit to this amazing tropical garden filled with exotic horticulture.

The gardens at Tresco were founded by Augustus Smith, who built a house on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Abbey ruins in 1838. He was a man of independent means and spirit, and the isolation of the island suited his temperment. The remains of the Benedictine priory, built a thousand years earlier, captured his imagination, and he became determined to create a magnificent garden.

photo courtesy of cornwalls.co.uk

photo courtesy of cornwalls.co.uk

Thanks to the Gulf Stream, Tresco has a very mild climate, virtually free of frost. It is however extremely windy and subject to Atlantic gales, so a shelter-belt of quick-growing and salt-tolerant trees was imperative. Smith found the best trees for this were from California - Monterey Pines and Cypresses. He also built a granite wall around his garden to protect it from the elements.  He began by planting collections of pelargoniums and mesembryanthemums – fifty of each – and later acquired plants from all over the world through his connections with other plant collectors. At his death in 1872, the garden was essentially in the form that you see it in today.

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The garden has remained in the same family for five generations, and each generation has made its contribution. Augustus’ nephew Thomas Algernon (Dorrien) Smith continued with the garden, as did his son Arthur who collected plants from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the Americas. Those contributions include the grevillas, leucanthemums and the many varieties of proteas that we saw in bloom during our visit, as well as huge American agaves, African aloes, and aeoniums native to the Canary Islands.

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The garden is protected on the north and west sides by Abbey Hill. It is laid out on 17 acres and bisected by the formal Long Walk surrounded by tree ferns and palms which grow lush in the deep soil of that area. Above the Long Walk are two terraces that span the width of the garden. The Top Terrace has the hot dry conditions and free-draining poor soil of South Africa and Australia. It is perfect for many varieties of Protea, Aloe, Cistus, and succulents, and offers beautiful views of the garden and the sea beyond.

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The Middle Terrace is the heart of the Garden, with fishponds, a summerhouse and the stone Gaia sculpture, all nestled in a botanical paradise. Thousands of colorful plants from all over the world provide a lush backdrop, and even at the winter solstice, there are more than 300 species of plants in bloom. 

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The lowest level is the Mediterranean Garden, with its Agave Fountain and the Shell House decorated with seashell mosaics created by the current owner. Here you will also find the Valhalla Museum started by Augustus Smith which contains a collection of 30 ship figureheads, name-boards and other decorative carvings. Most of the figureheads date from the late 19th century, and come from merchant sailing vessels or early steamships that were wrecked on the Isles of Scilly.

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I may never see the gardens of Australia, New Zealand and South America, but thanks to a wonderful visit to Tresco Abbey Garden, I feel like I have traveled to many corners of the world and seen the richness of the plant species that they hold.

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Chesterwood: A Sculptor's Garden

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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

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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, chesterwood.org

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

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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

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. www.masshort.org.

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. www.towerhillbg.org

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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. www.epimediums.com

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. www.newfs.org

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. www.berkshirebotanical.org

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. www.thetrustees.org

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 www.thetrustees.org

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. www.blithewold.org

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. wickedtulips.com

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Connecticut

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. www.obrienhosta.com

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 florencegriswoldmuseum.org

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 www.hillstead.org

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. www.fullergardens.org

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. www.njbg.org

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. vanvleck.org

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

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 herbacious.www.crossestategardens.org

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. www.reeves-reedarboretum.org

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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.

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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.) 

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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. 

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Come in From the Cold at the Roger Williams Botanical Center

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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1000 Elmwood Ave., Providence, RI 02905, (401) 785-9450
providenceri.com/botanical-center

HOURS: Tues. –Sun. 11–4
ADMISSION: $5

Garden Style Holidays

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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 cantongcmembership@gmail.com.

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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.
 

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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 villagegardenclubofdennis@gmail.com

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Holiday Open House

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

Holiday plants and unique gifts for sale.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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, www.fairyhouses.com, 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.

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

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

The Magical Garden of Green Animals

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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 rgbe.org.uk/edinburgh for more info.

Roses Bloom at Elizabeth Park

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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.

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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.
 

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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 hillstead.org