Tag Archives: unknown gems

Visiting Loomis Creek Nursery & Hudson, New York

I promised I’d write about the rest of our trip to New York state for the Open House days with the Garden Conservancy (see post on Margaret Roach’s garden).  Well, we drove for several hours from Ottawa and arrived at our quaint accommodation called the Union Street Guest House in Hudson, New York.

This was a really nice place to call home for the long weekend that we were away.  The building is a heritage clapboard construction typical of the town; the place, indoors and out, had been impeccably restored, freshly painted and decorated with comfortable antiques and gently used furniture (and a very good mattress). 

Photo: http://hudsonurbanism.blogspot.com/2010/11/windows-doors-and-fences.html

Our room was right on the first floor, with one window facing the street and the others along the side alleyway:  it was a one bedroom suite with a sitting room that had an exquisite fireplace and lots of books about the history of the Hudson River Valley.

There was room for both of us to stretch out on comfortable chairs after a full day of driving and garden looking; one of us could even go to sleep while the other stayed up and read on the other side of the french doors.

The room was listed as having a Queen bed, but they very graciously exchanged it for a King so both of us girls could have enough space!

And what did I say about the bathroom?  Cute, eh?

There was no kitchen and no real cooking facilities; just some things to make coffee or tea.  But this is not a bad thing because there are plenty of places to eat in Hudson.  Breakfast, lunch, dinner, after dinner drinks — they’ve got it all covered.

And gorgeous architecture that is continuously being renovated and revived.  Hudson is a bit of a mecca for the disillusioned New York City art and antique dealer, and is chock full of personality.

So after our trip to Margaret’s garden (see previous post), we headed to Loomis Creek Nursery, the inspired plant provider that she gets to haunt that is about 15 minutes away.  Lucky neighbours!

This place is special:  a really interesting and exotic selection of plants (annuals, perennials, tropicals, shrubs AND trees), gorgeous pots and unique gardening accessories.

Do you recognize the low oval pot?  That’s the one that Margaret uses as a water feature.  I love the tall ones too especially when they’re planted like this with a key architectural plant (a variety of  Taro or Elephant Ear plant — Alocasia sp.).

And lots of beautifully clipped myrtle (Myrtus communis) topiaries:  my favourite.  I first saw them on an old episode of Martha Stewart Living when she visited Allen Haskell at his nursery in New Bedford, Massachusetts.  Mr. Haskell was known as a somewhat crusty but extremely talented nurseryman who, of course, was anything but cranky with Martha.  He was a lover of myrtle and had a vast collection of topiaries that he tended, some for sale and many others for his own enjoyment.  He died in 2004 (his NY Times obituary is here) but the nursery goes on.  I would love to visit it next!

Alas, I couldn’t bring plants home across the border but I did leave with an obelisk –

The same one in the pot to the left of the door …

Reluctantly, we left as it started to rain and ventured back to our place in town.  The following day we adventured out to Kykuit.  That is a story unto itself.  Stay tuned…

Margaret Roach’s Upstate New York Garden

If you’ve been a Martha Stewart Living magazine reader like I have for years or if you’re an active gardening blog reader, then chances are you’ll know the name Margaret Roach.  She worked for MSL for 15 years, first as Gardening Editor and then as Editorial Director.  Today she oversees a very readable and comprehensive gardening blog called A Way to Garden.  Her country garden in Copake Falls, New York, had been her retreat while she worked in Manhattan and it was often featured in the magazine.  When she retired from the magazine in December of 2007, she embraced this home and surrounding land with both arms. 

My friend Patti and I visited her beautiful garden during the Garden Conservancy’s Open House Days two years ago and I thought you’d like to see what we saw during these snowy days.

Walking up the driveway past the garage we’re first greeted by this exhuberant display of flowering violas, pansies and osteospermums, as well as a phormium (New Zealand flax) that would have been overwintered indoors (or in a frost-free spot).  The table to the left is where Margaret’s local plant provider, Loomis Creek Nursery, is selling plants (I see from the website that it’s for sale — eek!  Who wants to own a stunning nursery?).  I’ll give details on our visit to this  nursery in a later post. 

This cluster of pots and ‘stuff’ shows off Margaret’s collection of tender plants (Begonia rex and Clivia), a beautiful Chinese trough pot acting as a water feature and the so-called ‘Wavehill’ chair in chartreuse mimics the golden Hinoki falsecypress peaking in from the right.

You can see from the potted displays that beautiful terracotta pots are common here.  I remember reading that Margaret is a firm believer in continuity when it comes to pots — they must all relate to one another, that way they don’t end up looking like a hodge-podge.  

You can also see that she has excellent colour sense, as evident by the paint treatments on both the house and shed.

Her plantings and planting beds were impeccable; everything was so tidy and well designed.  Margaret would be the first to say how, when she started her garden, she was a novice.  Through her association with the magazine she was lucky to be able to meet and forge friendships with some of the most experienced and influential gardeners in the country, who helped develop her skills with plants and design.  P.S.  The big clay bowl on her porch is usually lined with a blanket making it one of the favourite resting places for her cat!

Margaret once wrote that she considered removing this rhododendron!  Can you imagine?  We’d die in Ottawa for one that grew to be that size.

Everywhere you look you see beautifully designed combinations with big, healthy plants (that’s thanks to her gargantuan compost pile!)

The generous pile is in an area not very visible from the garden, but conveniently right behind the vegetable plot!

The variegated shrub in the mid-ground on the left is a variegated Japanese kerria (Kerra japonica ‘Picta’); it is a suckering shrub with a delicate presence and fairly loud yellow flowers in the early summer.  It’s considered Zone 5 and has been available sporadically at nurseries here in Ottawa.  I grew it several years ago in my protected garden but eventually removed it (before I realized how hard it would be to find it again!) when it got too enthusiastic…

Here is a view of her pond, inhabited by her beloved ‘frog boys’ …

Sorry for the quality of the close-up — do you see him?

Margaret over-winters at least two Japanese maples in pots in her garage; they come out in the spring when they re-sprout their tender leaves and one spends the season on this dry-laid stone wall terrace.

Margaret has several of these stylized Adirondack chairs (known as the ‘Wavehill chair’) around the property.  They can be purchased as kits from the Wavehill Garden gift shop

If you are able to at all, do make plans this summer to visit her garden (and others in the vicinity) during Open Garden days.  You’ll need to send away for their directory, costing $21.95;  this is where you’ll find all the gardens’ names and locations as well as their dates of opening.  Then, when you visit a garden, its only $5.00 admission!

Our trip to upstate New York was filled with more gems.  I’ll post later about our stay in the town of Hudson, our visit to Loomis Creek nursery and our harrowing trek to Kykuit, the Rockefeller Estate overlooking the Hudson River. 

Puerto Vallarta Botanical Garden

If you have ever visited Puerto Vallarta on the Pacific coast of Mexico, you may have spent most of your time at the hotel pool, eating and drinking and walking the charming but hilly (and car choked) streets.

Lots and lots of lovely stairs!

Ouch!  This is how your feet feel after a few days…

So if you’re craving a quiet and beautiful spot with fresh air and mountain breezes, take your rental car or hire a taxi and head south down Highway 200.   As you drive twelve miles outside of town, you’ll be enveloped by the Sierra Madre mountains, 1300 feet above sea level.  Here, the environment is dry but lush; this is where the uniquely situated Puerto Vallarta Botanical Gardens were built and planted six years ago and opened to the public in 2005.

This botanical garden was created as a research centre and pleasure garden;  it encompasses 20 acres of land that is comprised of an orchid display, palm and rose gardens, a tree fern grotto, gardens planted with drought-proof agaves as well as a carniverous plant collection and natural displays of Mexican wildflowers.

When I visited in 2006, the gardens were in their infancy but you could tell that it would be a short time before the plants would fill in and flowers would start overflowing.

The bougainvillea that you see starting to grow up the posts are now, five years later, covering the facade in blooms! 

This was the Orchid House with the beginnings of their plant collection.  I wish I could have bought several and taken them home, but alas, Agriculture Canada phyto-sanitary certificates and all that…..

This was my lunch!  And Kent thinking to himself, “You’re not going to eat all that are you?”  Note, you cannot see what he’s eating, but chances are its a burger and fries!

This is the organic vegetable and herb garden.  Their intention is to grow much of their own fresh produce for the  restaurant; you can see the purple leaf basil and some cherry tomatoes under the palm.  If you look closely on the hillside to the rear left you can see it dotted with plants; these are young agave plants that, over time, will cover the slope and colour it blue!

This leads you to the spectacular washrooms! 

Although I don’t have any photos of the walking trails through the gardens to show you (they were newly planted and the specimens were quite immature), I can direct you to other more recent pictures (and visitors’ perceptions)  here.

The charm of this garden is largely as a result of its infancy; you will not find a Kew or a New York Botanical garden here.  This place is a non-profit endeavour, registered as a charity both in the United States and Mexico.  It does not receive any government assistance and relies solely on donations from the public and monies generated through its own initiatives (restaurant, guided group tours, wedding receptions, special events, etc.)  

For a brief bio on Robert Price, the American entrepreneur responsible for this wonderland, you can go here.

If you visit, don’t forget to bring your bathing suit.  The paths lead you down to the Rio Los Horcones, a clear, crisp gentle river (at this location!) that runs through the mountains and valleys.  It’s picturesque and peaceful with softly rounded boulders and placid pools.  And stay for lunch and a drink.  One Tripadvisor reviewer called the pizza and Marguerita they enjoyed ‘the best ever.’

Visitor’s information:

Open 7 days a week, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; closed Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

Admission:  50 pesos (about $4 u.s.); children under 10 are admitted free.

from their website:

Our Vision 

To build Mexico’s greatest botanical garden here in the enchanted highlands of Jalisco, Mexico.

Our Mission 

To create Mexico’s foremost botanical garden for the propagation, study, discovery, conservation and display of Mexican native plants for enjoyment by Puerto Vallarta’s residents and its visitors.