Sunday, January 30, 2011

Favorite Garden Combinations of 2010 (Part 2)

     Although May and June are beautiful and more full, I think I would have to say that  
               April is my most favorite month of all.

     In our horticultural zone, April is Mid-spring. Everything is fresh and new.  The weather is finally not so frigid!  And maybe... probably... because it always makes me think of rainy spring walks under an umbrella... like the first ones that my now shrub-trimming husband and I took one mid-spring long ago.

    At this point in time, the most influential garden designers in my little garden world are Rosemary Verey, Claude Monet and Christopher Lloyd.  They are all long "gone to seed" as they say, but in my reading and re-reading of their writings, the viewing and pondering of their gardens, they have left a mark here at Gilmore Gardens... as they have in many others around the green earth.

     In Mid-spring we have some great examples of the principles I have taken away from each gardener, all represented in this four week period.  It is not that I rigidly set out to incorporate all their ideas, but in most cases I later found that what I had done, by mistake or on purpose, was done also by these three.  And they all add up to a garden that I love to work in.

      When I think of Rosemary Verey and her garden at Barnsley House in the Cotswolds of England, I remember luxuriant plantings within formal boundaries and the use of long views in the garden.  

     Here in our side-yard between the house and sidewalk, we have created a Shade Path Garden ending in the Circle Lawn (right).  The path is narrow at the gate entrance and widens to three-and-a-half feet at the connection to the Circle.  This change in width visually lengthens the space. There is a view all the way from the rear of the property to the Circle and the weeping cherry tree that graces it.  The geometry of the design gives everything a orderly feel, though it is filled to overflowing from the end of April til November.

     In mid-spring, it is an endless patch of forget-me-nots (Myosotis sylvatica) dotted with Narcissus 'Thalia' (the orchid daffodil) that overflow the formal path. Thus we borrow not only from Rosemary Verey, but also from the two most prominent characteristics of Claude Monet's gardening: long sight lines of color and the impressionist shimmer.

     Monet's Clos Normand garden in Giverny, France was planted with long thin beds of massed flowers to help give an exaggerated sense of perspective. To this he added shimmer, points of light, usually using white or pastel flowers. This is of course seen in his paintings as well as his plantings.  His garden was very often his art studio, with his easel moving from location to location depending on where the flowers were in peak bloom.

A few lovely combinations each with our river of forget-me-nots (from top left): Dicentra spectabilis 'Alba'; Narcissus 'Thalia'; an unidentified Epimedium hybrid.

     The Hill Garden at the front of our driveway has hundreds of grape hyacinths (Muscari armenicum) in bloom along with a growing carpet of creeping phlox (Phlox subulata) in a light purple hue and the peeping grey foliage of lamb's ears (Stachys byzantina) between them.  More forget-me-nots sparkle in the background. Again, a play of light and dark colors, like an impressionist painting. This planting has filled in dramatically in just a couple of years.  I work each spring and especially in fall to spread the phlox on the garden to cover the bare earth under the roses and retain the soil. 

   The same creeping phlox has filled in the Driveway Garden to greet us every time we come home. This garden functions to divide the grassy yard and paved patio area from our large driveway.  Here the purple color is echoed almost perfectly by the Persian lilac bush (Syringa x persica) which will fill in the gap above to block the view of parked cars.

     Seen from further away, Tulipa 'Cum Laude' joins in the purple parade at the right. 

     Finally, a lesson from Christopher Lloyd.  His garden at Great Dixter in Sussex, England is known for daring plantings, particularly those of bold color combinations.  

     The Front Path contains a great example of this, with the rather unexpected combination of purple Tulipa 'Shirley' and T. 'Cum Laude' with the brassy emerging leaves of Spirea 'Goldflame'.  This yellow-and-purple is soothed by the blues and greys of mixed-in forget-me-nots and the edging of Dianthus 'Firewitch', which will be in bloom in May.

     In the Lower Driveway Garden, mid-spring also boldly combines the purple tulips from the Front Path with the dark Tulipa 'Queen of the Night' and a red Darwin tulip.


  Tulipa 'Shirley' and the red Darwin in front of the purple Phlox subulata, seen just a few weeks before the photo above. 

Other pretty picks from Mid-spring (clockwise from top left): Scilla siberica in a tiny rock garden beside one if our old silver maple trees; Tulipa 'Shirley'; Anemone blanda 'Blue Shades' flowering along with the just emerged shoots of variegated loosestrife (Lysimachia punctata 'Alexander'); inside Tulipa 'Cum Laude'; Muscari armenicum in the 4-inch crevice behind our back porch; Trillium grandiflorum in the Woodland Garden.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Favorite Garden Combinations of 2010 (Part 1)

After four-and-twenty hours at a balmy 38 degrees - oh how relative temperature is - I am starting to feel like spring again! Of course, I know that it will be fleeting (this weekend should be back to 16), but it is a good excuse to garden-dream all the same.

My excellent husband suggests that I take a closer look at Gilmore Gardens 2010 and enjoy some of the beauty from last year. 

I once read that the late, great English gardener Christopher Lloyd was partly considered so great because the simple descriptors of spring, summer, fall, winter were not good enough for him.  He knew the minute nuances of the seasons and called them accordingly.  So he talked of late winter, early spring, mid-summer etc.  Here we will follow his example, for how can the 12 weeks of floriferous spring and all that ensues be labeled only as "spring"?

Early Spring
 In 2010, the bloom did not begin until March because February was entirely covered with a foot of snow.  No flowers, but thanks to my husband and girls there were two giant snow-people. When they and the rest of the snow finally went away, everything exploded at once.  (So after all that explanation, we will skip late winter anyway.) No long savoring of the first snowdrops, looking everyday at the hellebores buds.  Nope.  But having those late winter gems plus sheets of crocuses, iris reticulata and daffodils all at once was not so bad either, I guess.

Here between our yucca and the last remaining snow are the first crocuses of early spring, which in our clime was all of March.  These are Crocus chrysanthus 'Goldilocks', which are said to bloom in late March, but in this micro-climate by the driveway do better than that by instead starting the first week of March.

One of my favorite new combinations:
Crocus tommasinianus roseus, a wonderful naturalizer, with Cornus alba 'Elegantissima' in the Back Woodland garden.  These shiny red stems will only get better if I just remember to prune them back severely each spring to insure new red stems will grow.  

First year planting: Crocus vernus Jeanne d' Arc growing through Hens and Chicks (Sempervivum tectorum) and Ajuga reptans.  This will look nicer as the ground covers fill in.  Idea adapted from Rosemary Verey.

 View of driveway garden from patio: shrubby silver lavender complimented by the white markings on Iris reticulata 'Gordon'; surrounded by new tulip foliage and creeping phlox (Phlox subulata).  

Some solo acts from early spring:

Crocus sieberi Firefly in the middle of the Circle Lawn

Galanthus 'Flore Pleno' on the Shade Path
a Hellebores hybrid by the picket fence

...and frosted Anemone blanda 'Blue Shades' beside the Circle Lawn.

Read Part 2: Mid-Spring

Monday, January 17, 2011

Nursery Poems

   Here are some lines that began in my sleeplessness with my first child, which inspired me to try to write some more for the next two. What I love about them is somehow I was able to make them whimsical, contain part of what I loved about them as babies, but also speak a little tiny something about the big grown-up people they will be someday.

   To me, this an important part of mothering that not too many people talk about- the letting go.  Yes, hold them, love them, treasure them now! But also know that they were not meant to stay this way, but to grow as the Lord chooses.  He knows best, though it makes a mommy wonder how the world will keep spinning when they are gone. 

The kids never tiring of hearing "my poem about me"...

Little Grace
had a face
as sweet as apple pie.
She laughed and played o'er all the place
and grew up by and by.


Anna Rose,
a flower that grows
in the garden sweetly.
Give her some love
like that from Above
and she will bloom, 


Logan James, 
a strapping young lad
right from the beginning.
He set out to conquer the world one day
and brought it back, 
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