Welcome to Rooting for Ideas

My Name is Don Statham and this is my garden blog. (Seasonal Photos of Don’s Garden)

I am mad about plants, some might say obsessive! One of the points of this blog is to connect with other passionate gardeners who also like to talk about plants, garden design, garden writing and all things horticultural.

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Open Garden Days 2016

The Garden Conservancy

Open Garden Days, July2, 2016  from 10:00- 4:00

My garden will be featured on Saturday, July 2nd  along with many other wonderful gardens in our area. I have been editing the garden for the past two years and there are many changes.

Totem Farm

Totem Farm

 

Totem Farm – Don & Henrietta Statham

581 Rathbun Hill Rd,  East Meredith, NY

On four acres of sloping land, the garden at Totem Farm has expanded outward from the old farmhouse and ice house, towards the fields of wild flowers that surround the place on three sides. A big leaf room, a moon garden, a very young lilac walk, a very old apple orchard, a recently planted plum orchard, a pond walk, a patterned meadow walk and some living willow tunnels for the chickens, are defined by fences, stone walls and hedges, and connected by paths and stone stairs.

I will be showing my Oil Paintings in the evening of the same day from 5:00- 7:00 in Delhi, NY. Please see information below:image

 

 

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Hitch Lyman- Galanthophile

Spring has come a month early to the Catskills. I am re-posting an old post on Hitch Lyman’s wonderful collection of snowdrops. If you haven’t been it’s worth the trip. This year Hitch will open his garden on Saturday, March 19, 11a.m-3p.m.

It was early April when we left our house and the garden was under several inches of snow. Down the valley, just a few miles away, there was no snow at all. It’s very upsetting to find out that you not only have worse weather than anyone else in your region, but that even within spitting distance others are enjoying an early spring that has yet to reach your door. After driving two hours west we arrived outside Ithaca on a beautiful spring day, at the garden of Hitch Lyman, snowdrop collector extraordinaire. The Garden Conservancy’s Open Days Program was featuring Hitch’s garden that contains 400 varieties of snowdrops. A passionate Galanthus-snowdrop collector, Hitch has the largest snowdrop collection in the U.S., which is no small feat. He began Temple Nursery 20 years ago, which boasts five acres covered in a variety of plants including his extensive snowdrops collection and, needless to say, a classic Greek temple. Hitch also collects lilacs, Saunder’s hybrid peonies, species peonies, colchicums, Anemone nemerosas, Ranunculas fiscaria, horse chestnuts and fritillary species, and unusual perennials.

Mixed snowdrops.

We were there to see the snowdrops and boy did we see snowdrops. Planted at the base of many shrubs and trees, along a garden path winding through a wooded area, there were hundreds of clumps of them coming up through decaying leaves. Hitch took a group of us around his garden and in no time at all we were on our hands and knees looking up at a multitude of patterns of green, white, and yellow markings that distinguish one of these drooping beauties from another. Galanthus has 19 species and about 500 cultivars. Each group was marked with plastic labels because in a few weeks they would be dug up, divided and sold “in the green,” as the British refer to it. “Selling in the green” is considered by many to be a better way of establishing the plants than from planting them from bulbs. When I asked Hitch what his favorite snowdrop was, he replied, “the one in front of me!”

When Hitch got his Greek Revival farmhouse it was sitting on a flat piece of land. He built a pond and after finding four Doric columns in a salvage yard, he proceeded to make a temple. A true Classicist, Hitch needed a temple and, in this climate, one with a roaring fire in it to sit next to while taking a break from gardening. On the temple’s interior walls surrounding the fireplace Hitch had sketched murals of landscape scenes in charcoal. Outside at the back of the temple and concealed behind two large wooden doors we were shown a small room stuffed to the ceiling with garden tools. Hitch quickly closed the door for fear of a garden missile falling on one of us! Beyond the temple we walked into a garden surrounded by mature yew hedges, tall lilacs, fruit trees and many other plants still dormant. Barely out of winter nothing was showing any signs of life except for the snowdrops and snowflakes (Leucojum vernum). At first glance snowflakes- look similar to snowdrops but are, in fact, a different genus.

Hitch began his horticultural journey at Cornell in landscape architecture, part of the Horticulture Department, and then switched to fine arts in the college of architecture. After completing his studies he moved to New York City. He had been helping on the side to make gardens, and when the gallery that showed his work closed this became his primary way of earning his living. He had gardened as a boy and along the way picked up plant knowledge working in nurseries.

He became specifically interested in snowdrops when in 1975 he read My Garden in Spring by E.A. Bowles. On a visit to London in 1988 and at one of the monthly Royal Horticulture Society shows he saw Foxgrove Plants’ snowdrops display. Behind the booth was Audrey Vockins who would later become his friend and snowdrop mentor. Hitch admitted to her that he thought all the snowdrops looked alike. She showed him the intricate patterns on each of the groups of snowdrops on display and from that time on he was hooked.

Interior of temple- murals by Hitch.

Interior of temple- murals by Hitch.

Hitch explained that when he began a study of snowdrops there was still a lot of confusion in the literature due in part to F.C. Stern’s Snowdrops and Snowflakes (1956). Over the last 15 years there has been very good work taxonomically and horticulturally done on the genus. The confusion spurred the likes of Richard Nutt, who Hitch was pleased to know, to write a great survey for the Alpine Garden Society’s Encyclopedia of Alpines in 1993. Also Aaron David published in 1999 The Genus Galanthus and cleared up much of the taxonomic confusion. Matt Bishop in 2001 published Snowdrops, a Monograph of Cultivated Galanthus, which is known in circles as “The Bible.” He has begun working on a second volume aptly named “The New Testament.”

In his 2011 catalogue, Hitch offered 31 varieties of snowdrops and he aims to increase that number. He has sold about 120 types to American gardens. He sends out his catalogue in January and is sold out by March. He digs the orders in April, washes the plants clean, and sends them in flower or just after by fast mail. When replanted immediately and watered in, they seem to do well. I ordered several and planted them under an avenue of birch trees in a new woodland walk area of my garden. I was very impressed with the plants I received. Each plant was wrapped in bubble wrap for protection, and the roots were still moist when they arrived.

Hitch showing us snowdrops.

Hitch showing us snowdrops.

I went online and ordered the book Snowdrops by Matt Bishop, which showed me how limited my previous snowdrop purchases had been. Most bulb catalogs cannot offer the interesting selection being grown by Hitch, and in my experience the bulbs do not always do very well. Planting “in the green” is the way most Galanthus collectors sell their plants. The prices range from $5 to $75. It might seem a little expensive but in no time the plant will clump up and can be divided for years to come.

The generic name Galanthus, from the Greek gala (milk) and anthos (flower), was given to the genus by Carl Linnaeus. He described Galanthus nivalis in his Species Plantarum published in 1753, which is the most common and widespread snowdrop in Europe. The epithet nivalis means “of the snow,” referring either to the snow-like flower or the plant’s early flowering.Britain has many Galanthus collectors. It is believed G. nivalis, the first snowdrop to arrive to Britain, was introduced by the Romans. In the Middle Ages white flowers were associated with purity, and more snowdrops were brought to Britain where they were planted in places of pilgrimage in honor of the Virgin Mary. In the 1880’s G. elwesii was discovered in Turkey and later imported in large numbers. The Victorians considered snowdrops a symbol of purity and created Snowdrop Leagues for young ladies. They were often planted on graves because of their ability to thrive. Nowadays churchyards are a prime place for galanthophiles searching out new varieties.

Their popularity seems to be growing which was made clear to me when I met some of the people who had driven from as far away as Potsdam, NY (near the Canadian border), to see Hitch’s collection. Another man who had driven some three and a half hours had clearly got the collecting bug. He knew a great many of the names of the snowdrops we were looking at and had come back to the garden to see more.

Hitch ships snowdrops to a wide area of the northern U.S. He said they fail south of North Carolina, flourish in the Pacific Northwest, New England, Philadelphia and Baltimore areas, and upstate New York. They want a cold winter and a cool summer. I love plants that flourish in our arctic conditions and for once I can feel a little smug about having plants that southerners and people in warmer climates can’t have. When thinking of a planting site, good drainage and good light are top priorities. Snowdrops will not survive in stagnant wet soil. Planting them below evergreens will be a bonus because the plants will stand out against the dark green background. It’s fine to plant under deciduous trees because when the plants come into flower the trees have yet to leaf out, and they will get the sunlight they need to thrive. Steep banks are a good place to plant, because of the good drainage a bank offers. Do not use wood or bark chip mulches as they can lead to a depletion of the soil. Bone meal is a good slow release fertilizer to use when the plant is dormant.

Mighty Atom Snowdrop

When I lived in Scotland, which is a much milder climate, the snowdrops flowered in January and February and there were acres and acres of them flowering in the woods. I don’t believe they were ever divided, but naturalize over the years. With our harsh climate, it makes sense to divide them to increase their numbers. By planting a few snowdrops you will be greeting spring as early as possible. I think of this plant as one that joins the two seasons. Its name implies winter, but the small green flecks of pattern suggest what’s coming. donstathamblog.com

To order a catalogue send $3.00 to Hitch Lyman, Temple Nursery, P.O. Box 591, Trumansburg, NY 14886.

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Non Aggressive Plants and the Trials of Editing a Garden

In “Thugs in the Garden” (KL, Summer 2015) I wrote about plants that overtake a border by intensive root systems or by self seeding. Part of an education of a gardener includes figuring out which plants are aggressive and which ones are well behaved. I have been gardening in the same location for 13 years and a list has emerged of plants that know how to have a conversation with the plants next to them. It has taken me a while to figure this out because in a young garden there tends to be plenty of space for plants to grow and fill in. I have been an impulsive buyer of plants. Many of the most aggressive plants behaved perfectly well for the first five to seven years, but once the plants grew into each other all sorts of things start to happen. For years I got along by thinking they will work it out amongst themselves. But after several recent bouts of removing some of these aggressive plants, I realized that it’s not a good idea to put off editing a garden. The longer you avoid these problems the harder the choices are, and the physical work of removing plants gets more labor intensive with each passing year.

Primula 'elatior'

Primula ‘elatior’

Naively, I once believed that a mature garden would be easier to work in than a young garden. But a more established garden is like an old body: it requires more checkups, attention to detail, and tweaking. The knee that worked fine in my youth, can suddenly becoming wobbly overnight. The muscles that hold the knee in place need to be strengthened. An older garden requires the same sort of attention. Plants age and can outgrow their allotted space. We need to make decisions about how to create a pleasing balance so the whole garden doesn’t go to hell in a hand basket. Do I shape the shrub to let in light and leave space for the tree peony? Or do I let the shrub grow to its mature height, choking the peony of all light? Or do I risk killing the tree peony by transplanting it to another area? Our designs need to change as plants fulfill their natural shapes and sizes. Change requires us to give up some of our initial intentions and this can be painful.

Last year, I removed several large clumps of phlox- ‘David’ from several borders. The white flowering phlox had grown so large that a once colorful border had turned into a white garden. By removing the clumps I allowed other plants room to grow into the new space; but in other areas I was left with huge holes. I decided to fill in these gaps with native species, shrubs or well behaved perennials. It will take me several years to get rid of each of the aggressive plants, but I have a plan and clear idea of how to proceed.

Hybrids and variegated plants tend to be weaker plants and so are less likely to spread. Some species seem to be more aggressive such as Astrantia ‘major’, is a meadow plant in Europe. The hybrids- Astrantia ‘Ruby’s wedding’ and A. ‘Roma’ behave very well, but do not bloom as long, nor do they spread all over the garden. A friend grows Echinacea ‘purpurea’- (the native) in her garden and it has self seeded all over the place. I grow the hybrid Echinacea ‘White swan’ and it has hardly moved at all.

Primula Japonica

Primula Japonica

After compiling the list of plants that behave in my garden I Googled “well -behaved perennials” and the list I found online was identical in terms of species. I wish I had thought to do this when I laid out my garden. Gardening, like life, is about constant change and loss. Reacting to the present reality, while difficult, is a whole lot easier than trying to hold onto what was. I have found being present in the garden and meeting those necessary changes, while challenging, is the only way to keep my garden vibrant and myself engaged. I hope the list below provides a good starting point for plants that do know the art of conversation.

Paeonia suffuticosa

Paeonia suffuticosa

Well Behaved Perennials:
Early Spring May- June
Phlox subulata,
Primulas,
Berginia,
Dicentra exima or spectablis Alba – bleeding heart
Papavar Oriental cultivars- Oriental poppies,
Iris germanica.
Mid Summer June- July
Geranium ‘Ballerina, G.Rozanne, G.Dragon Heart, and G.Johnson’s Blue
Veronica Blue carpet,
Nepeta ‘Dropmore blue’, N. ‘Walker’s Low’, N. ‘Sixhills Giant’
Lillium- Lilies
Knautia macedonica
Paeonia-Peony
Iris siberica- Siberian Iris
Echinops ritro -Globe thistle
Late Summer August- September
Sedum
Hosta
Scabiousa
Echinacea hybrids
Day Lilly
Hollyhocks

Iris variegates in front not in bloom, Astrantia 'Ruby's Wedding" far right, Sanguisorba obtusa front left, Nepeta 'Six Hills Giant' center.

Iris ensata variegata – in front, not in bloom, Astrantia ‘Ruby’s Wedding’- far right, Sanguisorba obtusa front left, Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’ -center.

Echinops rito, Dave Turan photo

Echinops rito, Dave Turan photo

Echinacea White Swan

Echinacea White Swan

 

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Private Gardens- Holland

While in Holland in late August, I visited some private gardens located in one of the many polders. A Polder is a tract of low land, especially in the Netherlands, reclaimed from the sea or other body of water and protected by dikes. There’s an English saying: “God created the world but the Dutch created Holland.”

I visited four private gardens in the Northeast-polder that was begun in 1935 and was sufficiently drained for habitation by1942. The land is 10 feet below sea level and the majority of it was designated for farming with the less fertile parts planted with trees. Compared to rest of Holland the landscape is open and empty. There are many long avenues of mature poplar trees and throughout the polder as well as rows of wind turbines. It was hard to imagine that this land was once sea floor, that everything I was seeing had only been there seventy years. The newly re-claimed land in the polders was state-owned during the development process. The new plots were distributed among private parties, with priority given to the early pioneers who had been in the polder since the start. Farmers from all over the Netherlands became eligible for the remainder land. Three of gardeners we met were working farmers; the fourth inherited the farm from her parents.

Each of the gardens was situated in the middle of large agricultural farms with enormous barns surrounded by fields of crops, such as potatoes or tulips. All the gardens were hedged and this provided a much needed break from the North Sea winds. An extremely flat landscape, the hedges also provided a vertical element, structure and backdrop to the plantings.

When we called Lipkje Schat to schedule an appointment to see her garden she told us her garden was closed for the season, but she would allow us to visit. She warned that the gardens were a mess from recent rains and were not looking their best. We arrived and saw no evidence of this, and instead were completely taken aback by the beauty that lay before us. Schat began her garden in 1988 and did all of the work herself, including the hardscape of paths, terraces and reflecting pools. She opened the garden to the public in 1996. Her own sculptures are placed throughout her garden.

I was immediately struck by the perfect proportions of each garden room. Flowering gardens are interspersed by rooms of only foliage; the break with flowering plants provides a breathing space before the next colorful planting. Schat is a master plantswoman with an exquisite eye for proportion, line and shape. On her web site she writes: “…the garden is comprised of succession of nine enclosures each designed with a particular character and color. Beech hedges create external and internal boundaries and shelter both in summer and winter and as well as provides structure to the garden. There are shade gardens, sunny borders, water gardens, terraces, several gazebos, pergolas, out buildings.”

Each of the rooms has a specific palette with the largest room planted in a series of pink flowering plants including: persicarias, echiancea, geraniums, roses and variegated red berberis and the solid green boxwoods repeated and added structure to the planting. Two pink chairs at the end of the long borders look more like sculptures than a place to sit. A hot color boarder abuts the pink room creating the sense of a long corridor where you are brought in very close to the plantings of heleniums and red dahlias at eye level. The contraction of space forces the viewer to see plants up close and this change of perspective is quite brilliant!

Large garden room of pink flowering perennials

Large garden room of pink flowering perennials

Pink/ red berberis repeated through planting

Pink/ red berberis repeated through planting

Detail of planting

Detail of planting

Detail of planting

Detail of planting

My favorite area was a small room with a Pyrus salicifolia –(Weeping Siberian pear) as the focal point. Two Large sculpted boxwoods flanking a side entrance. I had never seen boxwood sheered like this and it really added a sculptural element to the garden. Lots of grey foliage plants such as of Stachys-lambs ear, blue fescue grass, Helichrysum- licorice plant, along with white flowering plants such as Japanese anemone, and my new favorite plant Selinum Wallichianum are combined with plenty of sculptural plants such as boxwood balls to create a richly textured garden with a minimal palette of grays, greens and whites. Opposite the Siberian weeping pear and overlooking the garden room is a black wooden outbuilding – a study, with books and garden plans strewn across a work table.

Entrance to Garden- Pyrus salicifolia- Siberian weeping pear tree

Entrance to Garden- Pyrus salicifolia- Siberian weeping pear tree

Pyrus salicifolia as focal point

Pyrus salicifolia as focal point

Sculpted Boxwood

Sculpted Boxwood

Selinum Wallichianum

Selinum Wallichianum

Panoramic

Panoramic

Studio at the end of the garden

Studio at the end of the garden

Another garden room features a reflecting pool with water lilies. Within the hedged room several boxwood balls are dotted in the corner creating pattern and texture and contrast beautifully with a sheered rectangular boxwood. The play of shapes gives this room a strong architectural theme. The round water lily leaves repeats the shape of the boxwoods and a large planting of bergenias with their waxy leaves contrasts nicely against the flat green of the boxwoods. A fish sculpture suspended over the pool added a bit of whimsy. The play of light some foliage absorbing, other foliage reflecting it made this the most contemplative space within the garden.

If you plan a trip to Holland definitely check out the polders and include this garden on your tour. In the meantime check out Schatt’s website: www.lipkjeschat.nl

Hot border or Red room

Hot border or Red room

Lipkje Schat in the red room

Lipkje Schat in the red room

View into pink room

View into pink room

Reflecting pool with waterlily

Reflecting pool with waterlily

Courtyard abuts reflecting pool garden

Courtyard abuts reflecting pool garden

Deatil

Detail

Windows and blue sculpture

Ivy Windows and blue sculpture

Shade garden walk

Shade garden walk

Helichrysum- licorice plant and sculpture

Helichrysum- licorice plant and sculpture

Pond courtyard

Pond courtyard

Detail: arborvitaes

Detail: arborvitaes

Wind turbine

Wind turbine

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A Wild Idea -The Gardens of Piet Oudolf

This past August, I traveled to the Netherlands.  I’ve been there before, but never explored beyond Amsterdam. It was a great treat to stay in the eastern part of the country at a Dutch friend’s family place and make day trips to various gardens.

Holland is about the same size as the state of Maryland. There are no fallow fields or areas of neglect; roadside plantings, though wild looking, are managed. Old- school forms of mowing, namely sheep, eat the grass and weeds along the roadside. Roundabouts are planted in a variety of garden styles. Every square inch has been touched by man. There is order-to everything here.

That same attention to detail was present in the gardens I visited. Groups of trees were shaped into flat canopies for living pergolas. Remarkable numbers of trees are espaliered,  and not just fruit trees; Ginkgo and Magnolias were carefully trained into mesmerizing patterns on a single plane. I’ve never seen so many shrubs sheared into fabulous forms. Lawns were perfect – no weeds. In villages you could see immaculate gardens in front of every house. It was lovely, but something was missing.

Piet Oudolf is the Dutch Garden designer, who has achieved international fame with his prairie style influenced garden design. Photographs of Oudolf’s garden before he went to America show hedges clipped into waves or used as center pieces within the garden, and there’s a lot of lawn. All that changed after Oudolf came to the US.  Considered the head of The New Perennial Movement after coming to America, Piet Oudolf developed a more natural style of gardening.

By using grasses and meadow plants he pushed garden design forward by casting back and reclaiming what had been tamed. Was he perhaps gently suggesting it was time to let go a little, embrace the ways of the wild meadow?

But American prairie isn’t framed. In those vast spaces, the eye blends the flowering plants and grasses, flattening out the textures and colors. With no verticality, the viewer experiences the plants as a mass. In an Oudolf garden there is an added  element – the frame.

Best known in America for his public work, which includes Battery Park City and The High Line in NYC, and The Lurie Garden in Chicago.  Oudolf ‘s prairie- like plantings are juxtaposed to -and contained by- the city’s buildings. This perspective  heightens the viewer’s awareness of  plant life, and enables us to appreciate plants wild, cultivated en masse and individually in every season.

Like the best innovators what is excellent about Oudolf’s work is what he chose to keep and what he let go.

At Hummelo, Oudolf’s own garden outside Amsterdam, American and European perennials are artfully enclosed within tall hedges (no waves or center pieces) that serve to frame his meadow -style plantings, as sharp background, to  softer plumes of grasses, seed heads and a large variety of wild and cultivated flower shapes. In each instance, Oudolf takes the prairie’s endlessness and contains it within a context. How did Oudolf get to this stunning combination of the tame and the wild?
Oudolf’s was a nurseryman. With his wife Anja, he spent years growing and observing the habits of hundreds of perennials and developed a deep knowledge of how plants behave in each other’s company. This knowledge is paramount in his garden design. He chooses the plants that stay put, don’t spread, root or takeover other plants, and don’t need constant dividing. This is how he creates stunning, sustainable, wild- looking plant “communities” (a word Oudolf often uses) that get along.
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Oudolf and his wife Anja  were standing in their driveway as we pulled up. They came over to greet us as we clambered out of our hired car. Oudolf is white haired and tall. Anja was wearing a batiked hat, although the colors were more Rastafarian than Indonesian. Speaking in Dutch, my friend introduced my business partner Jane and I as a landscape architect and a garden designer. Oudolf’s first question was music to my ears, “But are they gardeners?”

We must have made the grade. First Anja swept us off to Oudolf’s design studio where we saw a mass of planting plans in progress. From there we walked into the newest part of his garden  surrounded a courtyard between old nursery greenhouses, now used for storing carefully covered vintage cars, (I’m pretty sure one of of the cars was a Cadillac.) Two- foot -wide paths, were kept clear of flopping plants by discreet wires, meandered through the plantings. Instead of lawn and formalized iconic hedge shapes.  grasses such as panicum virgatum, and calamagrostis were the largest forms and giving a strong sense of structure throughout.

Many native American perennials: asters, Eupatorium- Joe Pye weed, Helenium -sneezeweed, Veronia -ironweed, and echianceas- coneflower, dotted the landscape. Nothing cut back, rather seed heads are left, their lovely deflowered forms add visual weight, as well as doing the vital job of feeding the birds. As we moved through the garden into a large hedge- framed meadow, I was not prepared for the scale of the plantings. Instead of lawn, vast expanses of plumed grasses , red persicarias abutted clouds of lilac asters, and sweeps of giant Joe pie rose up to six feet. I was surrounded and contained- like the plants, in a living, glowing tapestry.

Returning home, I was bowled over by the chaotic mess of my own ignored garden. I went into a deep decline. My wife had promised to keep the lawn around the borders mown. But completely ignoring the traditional straight lines of classical mowing, she had embarked on her own -“free style pattern”, with varying heights of grass- from bald to tufts six inches high- in random patterns. My once -beautiful lawn appeared to have a bad case of mange! It wasn’t completely her fault. The day I left on my trip, temperatures had soared into the nineties and stayed there for weeks.  She is Celtic, and although she has lived in the States for 20 years, she can’t can’t abide the heat.

As for my borders, I felt equally repulsed.  It was the beginning of autumn, and the party was over.  My plants, while still beautiful up close, looked collapsed and spent. It took about a week for me to see the irony of the situation. I had worshiped at the altar of Piet Oudolf’s American prairie inspired garden and returned home unable to abide the very wildness he had built his designs around!

Gradually, I started to see again the beauty of the wildness around me. As I drove the back country roads, ditches filled with the asters’ blue glow; plants in their various stages of turning, chartreuse, yellow, orange, red and shades of green; a Virginia creeper running amok up an old sugar maple; screamed out confidently.

I realized my trip to Holland was not made so I could return home and copy Dutch gardens, but like all travel it woke me up and showed me what I was taking for granted. Oudolf took the knowledge he’d honed as a nurseryman and his travels to the prairies here, to create a sustainable natural style of gardening that incorporates all seasons.

The popular New Perennial Garden style spearheaded by Oudolf, offers a much- needed romantic version of a once- wild landscape. There is an urgency to reclaim what Europe has lost. In a myriad of different ways, European countries are wonderful, and if we compare our efforts to them, there is bound to be some heart-ache. But these countries are also so crowded, that there’s no room left for the wild. Perhaps the heartache that comes with comparison is more about what we have and aren’t paying attention to, than a desire for another reality. As Americans we can appreciate and protect the savage jewel that we still have. My trip renewed me. I see a wilder path ahead.

Oudolf is generous with his planting plans. You can find a list of the plants he used at the Lurie Garden online. There are also many books written about Oudolf’s design methods.  I encourage you to read some of his collaborations with the English garden writer Noel Kingsbury which are particularly insightful.

Hedged entry to Oudolf's garden

Hedged entry to Oudolf’s garden

Garden outbuildings

Garden outbuildings

Newest garden surrounding courtyard

Newest garden surrounding courtyard

newest garden planting

Newest garden planting

design studio

Design studio

New garden plantings

New garden plantings

Set of plans in Oudolf's design studio

Set of plans in Oudolf’s design studio

Round yew hedge looking through main meadow

Round yew hedge looking through to main meadow

Hedges frame meadow planting

Hedges frame meadow planting

Entry to meadow planting

Entry to meadow planting

Hedges frame garden

Hedges frame garden

inside meadow planting

Inside meadow planting

more views of grasses

More views of grasses

dark colored hedges make eupatoriums pop

Dark colored hedges behind white form eupatorium

Joe Pye weed

Joe Pye weed

Persicaria

Persicaria

detail

Panoramic

Panoramic

 

 

 

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The Gardens Of Mien Ruys

I was invited by my Dutch friend Heleen Heyning along with my friend and business partner, Jane Couch to visit Holland in late August with the plan to immerse ourselves in Dutch Gardens. At the top of our list were the gardens of one the 20th Century’s greatest landscape architects Mien Ruys. Mein Ruys died in 1999, but her gardens created over seventy years and encompassing thirty garden rooms on 6.18 acres lives on. I had seen many photos of her gardens prior to my trip, but nothing could prepare me for the magical experience of walking through the timeline of her ideas and experimentation of her innovative garden spaces on my two feet.

View from Canal water garden

View from Canal water garden

Use of hedges create strong lines in the garden composition.

Use of hedges create strong lines in the garden composition.

Ruys was known for her use of long diagonal lines in the form of garden paths to create the illusion of a larger garden. This device earned her the name of ‘Diagonal Mien.’ I was surprised to see amongst the many garden rooms, one that while on the ground focused on the issues that roof top gardens design has to encompass and all this way before roof top terraces became fashionable. Although the designs look somewhat dated now, she was ahead of her time working out lighter soils for weight issues, shallow planter boxes and plants that required less soil. The different garden rooms demonstrated her exploration of new design approaches, modern materials, and new plant combinations. Her gardens represent seventy years worth of ideas – truly mind blowing stuff.

Experimentation of roof top terrace design

Experimentation of roof top terrace design

Ruys was fortunate to grow up on her father’s Bonnes Ruys’s nursery called Moerhein which translates to ’the house on the peat.’ Bonnes’s first grew crops and shrubs that led over time to the development of a very well known perennial nursery. One of his clients was the English gardener Gertrude Jekyll, who Mien met, and attributed her love of color in the garden to Jekyll’s influence. Mien was exposed to Arts and Crafts gardens known for their highly formalized design of laying out gardens in rooms. Arts and Crafts garden rooms are usually entirely enclosed by walls or hedges. Ruys takes this idea and plays with it by planting a hedge as a backdrop, but leaving a small gap which allows the viewer to see beyond the garden room – a tease of what is to come. Her use of positive and negative space is implemented over and over in her designs. In one of her rooms she planted yews around a reflecting pool leaving gaps between the rectangular shapes; not only playing with negative and positive shapes, but also creating a dark and light pattern. In another garden she laid a brick path along a border that eventually fades fanning out into the grass. In the marsh garden called ‘Gardener’s Garden’ she used equidistant vertical concrete fence posts to create a modern sculptural fence. I loved seeing some pollarded willows repeated over a long stretch enclosing one of the garden rooms. By repeating patterns she knitted the gardens together.

Yew Hedges with openings create positive and negative spaces

Yew Hedges with openings create positive and negative spaces

Concrete fence posted spaced to leave negative spaces and a view beyond

Concrete fence posts spaced to leave negative spaces and a view beyond

Fanned brick path playing with positive and negative space

Fanned brick path playing with positive and negative space

Her use of hedges throughout her design, works to achieve strong lines in her compositions, separating and defining the different garden spaces, and on a practical level, help block the near constant winds! The perennials flowers and shrub foliage planted in front break the lines of the hedge and adds texture against the flat plane of the green hedge, not unlike a Hans Hoffman painting, modern and classical. The perfect balance between architecture and painting.
The gardens are meticulously cared for and what started out as an experiment has become a cultural legacy. Along with the Mien Ruys Garden management and several Dutch organizations they have preserved the gardens, but also allow for new experimentation within the garden complex.

*Over the next month I will be posting many more of the Dutch gardens we saw.

Patterned pavers in lawn lead to opening

Patterned pavers in lawn lead to opening

Pergola divides space overhead into positive and negative space

Pergola divides space overhead into positive and negative space

Plant textures

Plant textures

Miscanthus giganteus

Miscanthus giganteus

Photo of Gardner's garden being laid out

Photo of Gardner’s garden being laid out

Gardener's garden today

Gardener’s garden today

Modern recycled material floating paths through Marsh garden Gardeners garden

Modern recycled material floating paths through Marsh garden Gardeners garden

Pollarded willows create patterns at back of garden room

Pollarded willows create patterns at back of garden room

Yellow garden

Yellow garden

Rich layering of plants

Rich layering of plants

Berberis hedges create more pattern

Berberis hedges create more pattern

Goldenrod and Joe Pye weed

Goldenrod and Joe Pye weed

Catalpa in the empty room before meadow planting

Catalpa in the empty room before meadow planting

Dahlias in the meadow room

Dahlias in the meadow room

Red chairs

Red chairs

Dalhias

Dahlias

Persicaria in flower

Persicaria in flower

 

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Thugs in the Garden

This gallery contains 6 photos.

I was ignorant when I began to plant my garden and I chose plants on the basis of passion. After a while I discovered that quite a few of the plants I had selected possessed thug-like qualities. You know the … Continue reading

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